‘Green Book’ Wins Best Picture in an Upset at the Oscars

February 25, 2019 Updated: February 25, 2019

LOS ANGELES—The segregation-era road-trip drama “Green Book” was crowned best picture at the 91st Academy Awards, delighting those who felt the film was a touching and complex film about friendship, but disappointing others who saw it as an outdated inversion of “Driving Miss Daisy.”

Many in Hollywood had hoped the top award would go to Netflix for “Roma” or Marvel for “Black Panther,” but the motion picture academy instead threw its fullest support on Feb. 24 behind the traditional tale based on Peter Farrelly’s “Green Book.”

It was an unexpected finale to a brisk, hostless ceremony that offered wins in other categories to Ryan Coogler’s superhero sensation “Black Panther,” Alfonso Cuaron’s black-and-white personal epic “Roma” and the Freddie Mercury biopic “Bohemian Rhapsody.”

It won’t be known until later Monday if the Oscars topped last year’s record-low viewership of 26.5 million. But early indications from big-city markets are that the audience will be bigger, which would be a significant relief to ABC and show organizers.

Olivia Colman reacts as she accepts the award for best performance by an actress in a leading role for “The Favourite” at the Oscars, at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles on Feb. 24, 2019. (Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP)

Spike Lee, whose film “Do the Right Thing” came out the same year “Driving Miss Daisy” won best picture, was visibly angry by the award handed to “Green Book” instead of his own drama “BlacKkKlansman.” After presenter Julia Roberts announced the award, Lee stood up, waved his hands in disgust and appeared to try to leave the Dolby Theatre before returning.

“Green Book” also won best supporting actor for Mahershala Ali and best original screenplay.

“The whole story is about love,” said Farrelly, a filmmaker best known for comedies like “Dumb and Dumber” and “There’s Something About Mary.” “It’s about loving each other despite the differences and find out the truth about who we are. We’re the same people.”

Backstage, Lee clutched a glass of champagne while reflecting on the 30 years between “Driving Miss Daisy” and “Green Book.”

“Every time somebody’s driving somebody, I lose!” said Lee.

Mahershala Ali poses with the award for best performance by an actor in a supporting role for “Green Book” in the press room at the Oscars, at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles, on Feb. 24, 2019. (Photo by Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP)

However, Lee still won best-adapted screenplay for “BlacKkKlansman,” an award he shared with three co-writers.

One of the biggest surprises of the night was in the best actress category. Olivia Colman won for her Queen Anne in the royal romp “The Favourite,” denying Glenn Close her first Oscar. Close remains the most-nominated living actor never to win, with seven nominations.

“Ooo. It’s genuinely quite stressful,” said a staggered Colman, who later turned to Close to say she was her idol, “and this is not how I wanted it to be.”

The night’s co-lead nominee “Roma” won best director and best cinematography for Cuaron, whose film also notched Mexico’s first foreign language film Oscar. Cuaron and his “Three Amigos” countrymen—Alejandro Inarritu and Guillermo del Toro, who presented Cuaron with the best picture—have had a tight hold on the category, winning five of the last six years.

This image released by Netflix shows Yalitza Aparicio, center, in a scene from the film “Roma,” by filmmaker Alfonso Cuaron. (Carlos Somonte/Netflix via AP)

Cuaron became the first director to ever win for serving as his own director of photography.

The wins for “Roma” gave Netflix its most significant awards yet, but “Green Book” denied the streaming giant the best picture win it dearly sought. Netflix remains to some a contentious force in Hollywood since it largely bypasses theaters. The wins for “Black Panther”—along with best-animated film winner “Spider-Man: Into the Spider Verse”—meant the first Academy Awards for Marvel, the most consistent blockbuster factory Hollywood has ever seen.

The lush, big-budget craft of “Black Panther” won for Ruth Carter’s costume design, Hannah Beachler and Jay Hart’s production design, and Ludwig Göransson’s score.

Rami Malek accepts the award for best performance by an actor in a leading role for “Bohemian Rhapsody” at the Oscars, at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles, on Feb. 24, 2019, (Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP)

Two years after winning for his role in “Moonlight,” Mahershala Ali won again for his supporting performance in “Green Book.” Ali dedicated the award to his grandmother.

“Bohemian Rhapsody,” which kicked off the ABC telecast with a performance by Queen, won four awards despite pans from many critics and sexual assault allegations against its director, Bryan Singer, who was fired in mid-production for not showing up. Its star, Rami Malek, won the best actor for his full-bodied and prosthetic teeth-aided performance, and the film was honored for editing, sound mixing, and sound editing.

Queen launched Sunday’s ceremony with a medley of hits that gave the awards a distinctly Grammy-like flavor, as Hollywood’s most prestigious ceremony sought to prove that it’s still “champion of the world” after last year’s record-low ratings.

Alfonso Cuaron accepts the award for best cinematography for “Roma” at the Oscars at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles, on Feb. 24, 2019, (Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP)

To compensate for a lack of a host, the motion picture academy leaned on its presenters, including an ornately outfitted Melissa McCarthy and Brian Tyree Henry and a Keegan-Michael Key who floated down like Mary Poppins. Following Queen, Tina Fey—alongside Amy Poehler and Maya Rudolph—welcomed the Dolby Theatre audience to “the one-millionth Academy Awards.”

The trio presented best supporting actress to Regina King for her pained matriarch in Barry Jenkins’ James Baldwin adaptation “If Beale Street Could Talk.” The crowd gave King a standing ovation for her first Oscar.

Regina King accepts the award for best performance by an actress in a supporting role for “If Beale Street Could Talk” at the Oscars, at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles, on Feb. 24, 2019, (Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP)

Though the once presumed front-runner “A Star Is Born” saw its chances flame out, it won, as expected, for the song “Shallow,” which Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper performed during the ceremony.

Best documentary went to Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi and Jimmy Chin’s “Free Solo,” which chronicles rock climber Alex Honnold’s famed, free solo ascent of Yosemite’s El Capitan, a 3,000-foot wall of sheer granite, without ropes or climbing equipment. “Free Solo” was among a handful of hugely successful documentaries last year including the nominated Ruth Bader Ginsburg documentary “RBG” and the snubbed Fred Rogers doc “Won’t You Be My Neighbor.”

“Thank you Alex Honnold for teaching us to believe in the impossible,” said Vasarhelyi. “This film is for everyone who believes in the impossible.”

Adam McKay’s Dick Cheney biopic “Vice” won makeup and hairstyling for its extensive physical transformations. The category was one of the four that the academy initially planned to present during a commercial break and as its winners—Greg Cannom, Kate Biscoe and Patricia Dehaney—dragged on in a litany of thank-yous and were the first to have their microphone cut off.

To turn around ratings, Oscar producers pledged a shorter show this year. In the academy’s favor was a popular crop of nominees: “Bohemian Rhapsody,” “A Star Is Born” and, most of all, “Black Panther,” all amassed huge sums in ticket sales. Typically, when there are box-office hits, like “Titanic” in 1998, more people watch the Oscars.

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