ROMA is one of the greatest films ever made - a magnificent visual poem, centering an indigenous woman, and women generally, amidst the swirl of family and politics and power and service, repeatedly showing us, and asking us how to love.
GREEN BOOK is a well-intentioned, crisply crafted, well-acted story that can stir people to want to be kinder to each other; and its problem is not so much what it does, but what it doesn't do. It relegates the black gay marginalized character to the margin of its own story. It's not the Best Picture of the year.
So why did the conventional one win, and the masterpiece lose?
Well, the Academy uses rank order voting to determine Best Picture - members rank their choices in preferential order. First preference votes get more points than second, etc., then the points are tabulated, and the film with the most points wins.
I suspect ROMA got more first preference votes than any other film, but perhaps also more last preference votes - it's a film that takes sustained attention, whereas GREEN BOOK does all the work for the audience. (And even then not all the work that needs to be done.)
Rank order voting is a really helpful way to make electoral politics both more accessible to the public, and less dangerously divisive - instead of winner takes all, there's a chance that candidates will be elected whom most folk can live with. It also provides an incentive for politicians to create policies that serve the common good instead of one group over another.
And rank order voting it's not a bad way to nominate films for Best Picture of the year, but may not be the best way to make the final decision.
In short, the lesson from this year's Oscars that could save democracy: use rank order voting for all elected positions from city council to President; and to create the Oscar nominations - but the final vote on those nominations should be one vote for one film.