Oscars 2019: In a Night of Firsts, the Ghost of Miss Daisy Rides Again

Academy Award winner for Best Picture and Best Actress (1989) “Driving Miss Daisy
starring the late Jessica Tandy and Morgan Freeman.

First, I was 20 for 24 in my Oscar predictions. That’s 84% correct! Go me!

Second, the awards were a wonderful night for diversity. African-Americans, Asians, Latinos, and Caucasians from all parts of the world were represented. It’s hard to overstate the importance of last night. But…I’ll get to that later.

It was a night of firsts.

Spike Lee finally won an Oscar!!

An elated Spike Lee, Samuel L. Jackson, and Brie Larson. He won for Best Adapted Screenplay for “Blackkklansman.” Kevin Winter/Getty Images

Ruth Carter won for Best Costume Design for “Black Panther.” YES!!!! Those were the most original costumes ever seen on film. Carter has been around a long time. She designed costumes for “Malcolm X,” “Do the Right Thing,” “Amistad,” “What’s Love Got to do With It,” the pilot episode of Seinfeld, and much more in her 30 year career.

Ruth E. Carter
Valerie Macon/AFP/Getty Images

Hannah Beachler, along with Jay Hart, won for Best Production Design for “Black Panther.” Her credits include Beyonce’s Lemonade, “Creed”, and 2017 Best Picture winner “Moonlight.”

 Jay Hart and Hannah Beachler, winners of Best Production Design for “Black Panther.”
Frazer Harrison/Getty Images

Both women are the first Black women to win in their categories. They are also only two of three Black women to win in a non-acting category. In 1984, Irene Cara won for Best Original Song “Flashdance….What a Feeling,” which she also co-wrote.

Irene Cara at the 1984 Oscars.
Courtesy of the Academy of
 Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS) /YouTube

Peter Ramsey, the first Black director nominated for an animated feature, won for “Spider-Man: Into the Spider Verse.” (YES!!!)

Becky Neiman-Cobb and Domee-Shi won for the Pixar animated short film “Bao.”

Becky Neiman-Cobb and Domee Shi, winners of Best Animated Short Film for Bao.
Frazer Harrison/Getty Images

Rami Malek, a first generation Egyptian-American, won Best Actor for “Bohemian Rhapsody.”

Rami Malek
Rob Latour/REX/Shutterstock

Mahershala Ali won his second Best Supporting Actor award for “Green Book.” (I’ll get to that movie in a minute.)

Mahershala Ali
Kevin Winter/Getty Images

And Regina King, who I’ve followed since she was on 227, won Best Supporting Actress for “If Beale Street Could Talk.”

Regina King
Kevin Winter/Getty Images

The host-less show was moving along. The energy in the room was electric. The audience was still in shock over Olivia Colman winning Best Actress out of nowhere. (What does Glenn Close have to do to win an Oscar??) Best Picture was anyone’s game. Could “Black Panther” actually win Best Picture??

And then Julia Roberts said, “The Oscar goes to….”Green Book.” The energy went flat. I prayed to the Gods that she had opened the wrong envelope a la Warren Beatty. No officials came from backstage to give Julia the correct envelope. That’s because the ghost of Miss Daisy snatched Best Picture out of the hands of more worthy contenders.

(I predicted this win. I wrote if “Roma” won Best Foreign Language film, “Green Book” would win Best Picture. “Roma” was not going to win in both categories. That is exactly what happened.)

The ghost of Miss Daisy asked Hoke drive her up to that microphone and said, “F@#! those self-sufficient Wakandans. “Black Panther” is a fantasy. Ya’ll need us to show you all how to behave. Best Picture goes to my grandbaby “Green Book!” Hoke, step on it before they catch us!”

Black people do not need to be shown by white people how to experience our blackness in this here United States. Now THAT’s a fantasy. And that is the ridiculousness “Green Book” presents.

Nor do we need to be the Magical Negro who show white people the way back to themselves. I’m talking to you “Driving Miss Daisy,” “Green Mile,” “The Legend of Bagger Vance,” “Field of Dreams,” and a hundred other movies. That antiquated attitude is, and felt like, a dinosaur after a beautiful awards ceremony of inclusiveness. 

Also, Donald Shirley deserved a movie about HIM. About HIS life. Not the guy who drove him around. To make a movie about THAT guy is a travesty.

And Mahershala Ali deserves better too. (And so does Morgan Freeman.) I’m thrilled he won Best Supporting Actor. He deserves more complex, meaty roles like the character of Wayne Hays in HBO’s True Detective, which he will indeed win an Emmy for later this year. (Update: Ali was nominated for Lead Actor in a Limited Series or Movie, but he didn’t win.)

#OscarsSoWhite was not this ceremony. Thank God. But it was a two steps forward, one step back moment. Congratulations to all the winners…except one.

This is America.

Up next: the documentary Backs Against the Wall: The Howard Thurman Story

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