I was one of the ones upset by Green Book winning Best Picture, but after a discussion with Hubert Vigilla I calmed down and remembered that I shouldn’t have been surprised that something other than Roma and some of the others won because I attended some Academy/Guild screenings in December and I overheard the discussions among the members so I knew what was probably going to happen.
Before you ask, no I am neither an Academy member nor a member of any Guild. I was at the screenings because I was allowed to go because of coverage/interview consideration.
The discussions of the films was to say the least interesting. Much of the talk was centered on how Roma was viewed. While everyone loved the film on a technical level there were deep divides and heated discussions as to whether the film was any good. About half the crowd at one screening loved the film and the other half found it to dull and boring and trying too hard to win awards. Those that didn’t like it complained it had been done before. It was funny to see a couple of seeming longtime friends disagree as to was right about the film. The one thing that everyone agreed on was that it would probably win Best Foreign Language Film, with the naysayers saying that was where arty films like that belonged.
Outside of the Roma discussion the talk about the films was all over the place with a great deal of discussion of Mary Queen of Scots being much better than the critics had made it out to be. (From the discussion it was very weird not to see it get any nominations). And while there was no talk about Green Book, I never heard it mentioned once in any screening I attended, all of the better Oscar nominees were also either not mentioned or down played in favor of some other more middle of the road film. The taste of the films for the largely middle age or older Academy audience was more mainstream than you would think.
The same goes for the Guild screening I attended. That screening had an audience of ages across the board and the taste was still middle of the road. And I should point out that after attending the screening there was never any doubt about Rami Malik and Bohemian Rhapsody being loved in Hollywood because most people who were there had seen the film before and wanted to see it again because they loved the film and because they were in awe of Malik’s performance.
Having attended some special screenings with Oscar and Guild voters I kind of completely understand why the films that win do. Honestly outside of the technical level where the art of filmmaking is clearly seen, the voters are not grand movie lovers with refined taste, but rather the same schlubs as you and me, loving the occasional highbrow piece of work but really preferring the more crown pleasing middle of the road stuff. They want to be entertained like everyone else. They want to vote for the films that please them and not ones that are going to move the bar just to move the bar.
Why did Green Book win Best Picture? Because, for better or worse, it was simply enjoyed more by the voters than the likes of Roma.