LOS ANGELES—The segregation-era road-trip drama “Green Book" was crowned best picture at the 91st Academy Awards, delighting those who see the film as a feel-good throwback but disappointing others who ridicule it as an outdated inversion of "Driving Miss Daisy.”
In a year when Hollywood could have made history by bestowing its top award on Netflix (“Roma") or Marvel ("Black Panther”) for the first time, the motion picture academy instead threw its fullest support yesterday behind a traditional interracial buddy tale that proved as popular as it was divisive.
But Peter Farrelly's “Green Book” weathered criticism that it was retrograde and inauthentic to triumph over more acclaimed films and bigger box-office successes.
It was an unexpected finale to a brisk, host-less ceremony that was awash in historic wins for diversity, including Spike Lee's first competitive Oscar.
More women and more individual black nominees won than ever before.
The Oscars otherwise spread awards around for Ryan Coogler's superhero sensation “Black Panther," Alfonso Cuaron's black-and-white personal epic "Roma," and the Freddie Mercury biopic, "Bohemian Rhapsody.”
Lee, whose “Do the Right Thing" came out the same year "Driving Miss Daisy" won best picture, was among those most visibly upset by the award handed to "Green Book.”
After presenter Julia Roberts announced it, 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 broad 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," he added. "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.”
“I'm snake-bit," he said, laughing. "Every time somebody's driving somebody, I lose!”
Lee's win for best adapted screenplay for his white supremacist drama, “BlacKkKlansman,” an award he shared with three co-writers, gave the ceremony its signature moment.
The crowd rose in a standing ovation, Lee leapt into the arms of presenter Samuel L. Jackson, and even the backstage press room burst into applause.
Lee, whose film includes footage of U.S. President Donald Trump following the violent white supremacist protests in Charlottesville, Va., urged mobilization for the upcoming election.
“Let's be on the right side of history. Make the moral choice between love and hate,” said Lee, who was given an honorary Oscar in 2015.
“Let's do the right thing! You knew I had to get that in there.”
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.
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 theatres.
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 factor Hollywood has ever seen.
Two years after winning for his role in “Moonlight," Mahershala Ali won again for his supporting performance in "Green Book”—a role many said was really a lead.
Ali is the second black actor to win two Oscars following Denzel Washington, who won for “Glory" and "Training Day.”
“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 best actor for his full-bodied and prosthetic teeth-aided performance, and the film was honoured for editing, sound mixing, and sound editing.
“We made a film about a gay man, an immigrant who lived his life unapologetically himself,” noted Malek, who after the ceremony fell and was checked out by medics before making the rounds at post-show festivities.
“We're longing for stories like this," he added. ”I am the son of immigrants from Egypt.
“I'm a first-generation American and part of my story is being written right now.”