- “Green Book” is the worst-reviewed Oscar best picture winner since “Crash” in 2006.
- Both movies deal with race relations in America, and both have been lambasted by film critics for how they do so.
When “Green Book” won the Oscar for best picture on Sunday, it immediately prompted backlash from film critics on the internet. It’s been 13 years since a worse-reviewed movie won the top prize at the Academy Awards.
That movie was “Crash,” which beat out “Brokeback Mountain” in 2006 in what is considered one of the biggest Oscar upsets of all time.
“Green Book” has a 79% critic score on the review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, while “Crash” has a 74% score. No best picture winner since “Crash” has received a worse Rotten Tomatoes rating than “Green Book.”
In a ranking of all 91 best picture winners based on Rotten Tomatoes critic scores, “Crash” ranks 83, while “Green Book” is 75.
“Green Book” and “Crash” both address race relations in America, and both have been lambasted by critics for how they do so. “Crash,” which was directed by Paul Haggis and won the Oscars for original screenplay and film editing, weaves together several stories of racial tensions in Los Angeles.
“Haggis embeds ‘Crash’s’ script so deeply in allegory that every revelation feels manipulative and programmatic, in spite of some terrific individual scenes and performances,” Scott Tobias wrote in a 2005 review for The AV Club. “Just because a movie is about racial politics doesn’t mean that they should dictate it.”
“Green Book,” which also won the Oscars for original screenplay and supporting actor for Mahershala Ali, tells the true story of Frank “Tony Lip” Vallelonga (played by Viggo Mortensen), an Italian-American bouncer in New York City who drives Don Shirley (Ali), an African-American musician, through a tour in the 1960s Deep South.
“‘Green Book’ is a ‘but also’ movie, a ‘both sides’ movie, and in that, it extends a 50-year-plus tradition of movies that tell a story about American racism that has always been irresistibly appealing, on and offscreen, to that portion of white Americans who see themselves as mediators,” Vulture’s Mark Harris wrote in November.
“Green Book” was also mired in controversy during awards season. Its director, Peter Farrelly, known for slapstick comedies like “Dumb and Dumber,” apologized last month after reports that he flashed his genitals in front of colleagues in the 1990s resurfaced. And the movie’s co-writer Nick Vallelonga, Tony’s son, apologized last month and deleted his Twitter account after a 2015 anti-Muslim tweet in which he claimed Muslims were cheering after the 9/11 terrorist attacks resurfaced.
Additionally, Shirley’s family has said “Green Book” misrepresents him. Shirley and Vallelonga died in 2013.
“They decided to make Don Shirley estranged from his black family, though that was not true,” Yvonne Shirley, his great-niece, told The Hollywood Reporter. “They decided to make him absurdly disconnected from black community and culture, though that was not true.”