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Mon Jan 28, 2019, 03:12 PM

NYT: Why Do the Oscars Keep Falling for Racial Reconciliation Fantasies?

https://www.nytimes.com/2019/01/23/arts/green-book-interracial-friendship.html

Hard to excerpt -- lots of good stuff here.



(snip)

Not knowing what these movies were “about” didn’t mean it wasn’t clear what they were about. They symbolize a style of American storytelling in which the wheels of interracial friendship are greased by employment, in which prolonged exposure to the black half of the duo enhances the humanity of his white, frequently racist counterpart. All the optimism of racial progress — from desegregation to integration to equality to something like true companionship — is stipulated by terms of service. Thirty years separate “Driving Miss Daisy” from these two new films, but how much time has passed, really? The bond in all three is conditionally transactional, possible only if it’s mediated by money. “The Upside” has the rich, quadriplegic author Phillip Lacasse (Cranston) hire an ex-con named Dell Scott (Hart) to be his “life auxiliary.” “Green Book” reverses the races so that some white muscle (Mortensen) drives the black pianist Don Shirley (Ali) to gigs throughout the Deep South in the 1960s. It’s “The Upside Down.”

Any time a white person comes anywhere close to the rescue of a black person the academy is primed to say, “Good for you!,” whether it’s “To Kill a Mockingbird,” “Mississippi Burning,” “The Blind Side,” or “The Help.” The year “Driving Miss Daisy” won those Oscars, Morgan Freeman also had a supporting role in a drama (“Glory”) that placed a white Union colonel at its center and was very much in the mix that night. (Denzel Washington won his first Oscar for playing a slave-turned-Union soldier in that movie.) And Spike Lee lost the original screenplay award for “Do the Right Thing,” his masterpiece about a boiled-over pot of racial animus in Brooklyn. I was 14 then, and the political incongruity that night was impossible not to feel. “Driving Miss Daisy” and “Glory” were set in the past and the people who loved them seemed stuck there. The giddy reception for “Miss Daisy” seemed earnest. But Lee’s movie dramatized a starker truth — we couldn’t all just get along.

(snip)
By this point, you might have heard about the fried chicken scene in “Green Book.” It comes early in their road trip. Tony is shocked to discover that Don has never had fried chicken. He also appears never to have seen anybody eat fried chicken, either. (“What do we do about the bones?”) So, with all the greasy alacrity and exuberant crassness that Mortensen can conjure, Tony demonstrates how to eat it while driving. As comedy, it’s masterful — there’s tension, irony and, when the car stops and reverses to retrieve some litter, a punch line that brings down the house. But the comedy works only if the black, classical-pop fusion pianist is from outer space (and not in a Sun Ra sort of way). You’re meant to laugh because how could this racist be better at being black than this black man who’s supposed to be better than him?

(snip)
Money buys Don a chauffeur and, apparently, an education in black folkways and culture. (Little Richard? He’s never heard him play.) Shirley’s real-life family has objected to the portrait. Their complaints include that he was estranged from neither black people nor blackness. Even without that thumbs-down, you can sense what a particularly perverse fantasy this is: that absolution resides in a neutered black man needing a white guy not only to protect and serve him, but to love him, too. Even if that guy and his Italian-American family and mob associates refer to Don and other black people as eggplant and coal. In the movie’s estimation, their racism is preferable to its nasty, blunter southern cousin because their racism is often spoken in Italian. And, hey, at least Tony never asks Don to eat his fancy dinner in a supply closet.


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Arrow 36 replies Author Time Post
Reply NYT: Why Do the Oscars Keep Falling for Racial Reconciliation Fantasies? (Original post)
WhiskeyGrinder Jan 2019 OP
Loki Liesmith Jan 2019 #1
madaboutharry Jan 2019 #2
WhiskeyGrinder Jan 2019 #5
BannonsLiver Jan 2019 #3
scheming daemons Jan 2019 #4
WhiskeyGrinder Jan 2019 #6
scheming daemons Jan 2019 #8
WhiskeyGrinder Jan 2019 #10
scheming daemons Jan 2019 #12
WhiskeyGrinder Jan 2019 #17
scheming daemons Jan 2019 #23
LanternWaste Jan 2019 #28
scheming daemons Jan 2019 #29
DemocratSinceBirth Jan 2019 #13
WhiskeyGrinder Jan 2019 #18
DemocratSinceBirth Jan 2019 #21
scheming daemons Jan 2019 #24
scheming daemons Jan 2019 #14
WhiskeyGrinder Jan 2019 #20
scheming daemons Jan 2019 #25
oberliner Jan 2019 #31
MaryMagdaline Jan 2019 #32
BannonsLiver Jan 2019 #26
lame54 Jan 2019 #7
BannonsLiver Jan 2019 #27
jalan48 Jan 2019 #9
NewJeffCT Jan 2019 #11
Recursion Jan 2019 #19
jalan48 Jan 2019 #34
Recursion Jan 2019 #15
WhiskeyGrinder Jan 2019 #22
harumph Jan 2019 #16
oberliner Jan 2019 #30
Mr. Quackers Jan 2019 #33
WhiskeyGrinder Jan 2019 #35
oberliner Jan 2019 #36


Response to WhiskeyGrinder (Original post)

Mon Jan 28, 2019, 04:39 PM

2. I don't know what to think about this controversy.

I understand this side of the argument and how some may see these types of movies as condescending and can even be angry about it. But when I watched this movie, I really felt that Dr. Shirley was rescuing Tony just as much. At the end of the movie, Tony is a different man. He learned how to be a better person from Dr. Shirley.

Films about real life people are never accurate because real life is usually boring. Screen writers take liberties with a biography in order to make an interesting movie where there is conflict. Sometimes they mess up. A few years ago there was a film about Thor Heyerdahl and the Kon Tiki expedition. One of the men on the expedition was named Herman Watzinger, an engineer who was a pioneer in modern refrigeration. He was also an accomplished athlete who remained fit through his adult life. In the movie, Herman was downgraded to a refrigerator salesman and was played by an overweight and out of shape actor who was scared during most of the journey. It was almost slanderous. In the book written by Heyerdahl, it is clear he and Watzinger worked closely throughout the expedition and Watzinger wasn't anything like he was portrayed in the movie. The writers apologized to his family, but the damage to his memory was done.

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Response to madaboutharry (Reply #2)

Mon Jan 28, 2019, 05:00 PM

5. The issue, as I see it, is that when movies like this get acclaim, it takes the issue of unpacking,

addressing and dismantling racism away from society and places it on individuals, who then feel they can avoid that hard work because they're not anywhere nearly as bad or ignorant as someone like Tony Lip is. A movie such as this one promises white people a false path toward dismantling racism, one that requires no examination of privilege or how it benefits them, and relies only on "love," "understanding" and the reassurance that "both sides" are equidistant from racial reconciliation.

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Response to WhiskeyGrinder (Original post)

Mon Jan 28, 2019, 04:50 PM

3. I saw Green Book over the weekend.

I enjoyed the film. If that makes me an asshole I guess I can live with that.

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Response to BannonsLiver (Reply #3)

Mon Jan 28, 2019, 04:59 PM

4. me too

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Response to BannonsLiver (Reply #3)

Mon Jan 28, 2019, 05:00 PM

6. Pretty sure no one said you are, and I'm sorry that's what you took from the article.

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Response to WhiskeyGrinder (Reply #6)

Mon Jan 28, 2019, 05:14 PM

8. The article is bashing these movies

The article is saying these movies are bad because they portray interactions between people of two different races as how we would like them to be, instead of as they really are.


I disagree..... because I think by showing these intereactions this way they let people know what we should be striving for.

The relationship between Forrest Gump and Bubba.... between Andy Duphrane and Red in Shawshank.... between Tony and Doc in Green Book...... are what we should all strive for.


Sounds like the author of the article is pissed that good movies like Glory and Driving Miss Daisy won awards instead of movies that "kept it real" like Do the Right Thing.


There is a place for both movies..... ones that show things how they are, and ones that show things how they should be.


The article tries to make people feel guilty for liking Green Book, Glory, etc.


Sorry.... I'm not going to do that. I enjoyed the movies.

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Response to scheming daemons (Reply #8)

Mon Jan 28, 2019, 05:23 PM

10. But those aren't relationships between equals who consider each other equals.

As the article points out, the relationship between Tony and Doc or Miss Daisy and Hoke are transactional, based on terms of service of employment. We should be striving for more and better than racial understanding through direct employment.

The article tries to make people feel guilty for liking Green Book, Glory, etc.


It doesn't. It provides a deeper understanding of these movies by viewing them through a critical and contextual lens, rather than an emotional one. Any emotions the article evokes can provide a good opportunity for self-examination.

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Response to WhiskeyGrinder (Reply #10)

Mon Jan 28, 2019, 05:28 PM

12. Read the last paragraph of the excerpts in your OP


It is full of snark and condescending crap aimed at anybody who dared like the movies.


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Response to scheming daemons (Reply #12)

Mon Jan 28, 2019, 05:32 PM

17. I see a lot of snark directed at the movie.

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Response to WhiskeyGrinder (Reply #17)

Mon Jan 28, 2019, 05:37 PM

23. yes... condescendingly implying "if you liked this movie, we're going to show you why you're wrong"


Relationships that begin as transactional can end up as genuine friendships.

That's the message of countless movies with interracial relationships. And it is a *GOOD* message, not a bad one as the author of the article tries to say.


I disagree with the author. You agree with them. That's life.

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Response to scheming daemons (Reply #23)

Mon Jan 28, 2019, 05:57 PM

28. You're confusing imply and infer again.

That's life, part too.

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Response to LanternWaste (Reply #28)

Mon Jan 28, 2019, 05:58 PM

29. again? When did I do it before?

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Response to WhiskeyGrinder (Reply #10)

Mon Jan 28, 2019, 05:28 PM

13. In the movie The Green Book the white guy worked for the black guy

In the movie The Green Book the white guy worked for the black guy and the black guy was better educated, wealthier, and was just a much more dignified presence. The movie showed how all that was obscured by Jim Crow and racism in general.

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Response to DemocratSinceBirth (Reply #13)

Mon Jan 28, 2019, 05:33 PM

18. Which doesn't take away the point that their relationship is transactional.

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Response to WhiskeyGrinder (Reply #18)

Mon Jan 28, 2019, 05:36 PM

21. It began that way.

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Response to WhiskeyGrinder (Reply #18)

Mon Jan 28, 2019, 05:37 PM

24. At the beginning, it is. At the end, it is genuine.

That's the whole point of the movie.

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Response to WhiskeyGrinder (Reply #10)

Mon Jan 28, 2019, 05:30 PM

14. Sometimes relationships are transactional... and sometimes those relationships grow

...from transactional to real.

That's the lesson in each of those movies. By the end of the film, what began as a transactional relationship became a genuine friendship.


That's a good message to portray.

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Response to scheming daemons (Reply #14)

Mon Jan 28, 2019, 05:34 PM

20. Sure, it's just that the issue is that Hollywood loves to address race relations through these

transactional relationships, which essentially results in audiences being propagandized into thinking that seeing people of other races as people depends on getting something from them first, and The Academy seems to love it.

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Response to WhiskeyGrinder (Reply #20)

Mon Jan 28, 2019, 05:41 PM

25. Because that's how real life usually is!

When someone comes into your life, it is usually in a transactional manner. Especially when that someone is from a different culture than your own, otherwise you would have had very little opportunity to begin the relationship in the first place.


Over time... what began as transactional either

A) Stays that way
B) ends
C) grows into something genuine.


I'm not going to fault films for choosing "C" as an inspirational story telling device.

Every romantic comedy..... hell, every Hallmark TV movie.... is full of relationships that began as transactional and became something more.


The author of the NYT article is bitter about movies that make people hopeful.

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Response to scheming daemons (Reply #25)

Mon Jan 28, 2019, 06:02 PM

31. Agreed

 

Well said.

Frozen is like that (without the racial component).

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Response to scheming daemons (Reply #25)

Mon Jan 28, 2019, 06:33 PM

32. I was about to say ... if movies about race are problematic , movies

And books about romance are without hope at all.

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Response to WhiskeyGrinder (Reply #6)

Mon Jan 28, 2019, 05:55 PM

26. I think it's about expectations

I didn’t go into this movie (or any other movie) needing it to right a bunch of wrongs. To Solve problems. What I needed was for it to entertain me. That mission was accomplished. I have total respect for the views of the Shirley family, and thank them for telling their side of the story. I welcome that context. It’s needed. But at the end of the day in my eyes that’s between them and the filmmakers. I’m just buying tickets.

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Response to BannonsLiver (Reply #3)

Mon Jan 28, 2019, 05:02 PM

7. I hope to be an asshole soon

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Response to lame54 (Reply #7)

Mon Jan 28, 2019, 05:56 PM

27. It's worth your time. My advice: form your own opinion

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Response to WhiskeyGrinder (Original post)

Mon Jan 28, 2019, 05:20 PM

9. Have you seen The Wire or Treme? Do you think they do a better job of being more realistic?

I thought The Wire, though very gritty, was one one of the best dramas I have seen. It won no awards I believe.

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Response to jalan48 (Reply #9)

Mon Jan 28, 2019, 05:27 PM

11. no major awards for The Wire

it was nominated for Best Writing - Drama a few times, but did not win.

Definitely a very good show, though.

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Response to jalan48 (Reply #9)

Mon Jan 28, 2019, 05:33 PM

19. The problem with The Wire is that's how people think of Baltimore

The reporting David Simon did that it was based on was in 1987, and the neighborhoods were already unrecognizable when they started filming. Though there were some good community listicles about what Season 6 would look like if they filmed the city in its current gentrified state (McNulty with a handlebar mustache, Bubbles opening up a breakfast cereal food cart, etc.)

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Response to Recursion (Reply #19)

Mon Jan 28, 2019, 07:41 PM

34. I was thinking more along the lines of being a more realistic portrayal of the black community

and black/white relations. I don't know how much that has changed in the last 30 years.

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Response to WhiskeyGrinder (Original post)

Mon Jan 28, 2019, 05:31 PM

15. Green Book was an absolute hot mess

I was really disappointed

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Response to Recursion (Reply #15)

Mon Jan 28, 2019, 05:36 PM

22. Me watching the trailer:

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Response to WhiskeyGrinder (Original post)

Mon Jan 28, 2019, 05:32 PM

16. Movies about white/black reconciliantion made to make whites feel better about themselves.

The Blind Side was one of the worst.

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Response to WhiskeyGrinder (Original post)

Mon Jan 28, 2019, 06:00 PM

30. Can a person be friends with someone who works for them?

 

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Response to oberliner (Reply #30)

Mon Jan 28, 2019, 06:53 PM

33. depends on the kind of work, maybe

 

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Response to oberliner (Reply #30)

Mon Jan 28, 2019, 07:58 PM

35. It depends on how a person defines friendship.

Under my definition, it's very, very difficult to do so fully, even when both parties are on the same page.

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Response to WhiskeyGrinder (Reply #35)

Tue Jan 29, 2019, 08:26 AM

36. That is interesting

 

Something to think about. I feel like I have seen friendships develop that way - but I will reflect a bit more on the question.

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