At the 2019 Oscars, Spike Lee was officially over it. The dude has been screwed by the Oscars before; he was snubbed for Best Director and Best Picture noms for Do the Right Thing (1989), a critically-adored film about racial tension in Brooklyn that’s on AFI’s 100 Greatest American Films of All Time list. Lee was ignored yet again for Best Director with Malcolm X in 1993. He also got nothin’ for She’s Gotta Have It (1986) or 25th Hour (2002).
Last night, though, BlacKkKlansman—a true story about the first African-American detective to serve in the police force in the ’70s—was up for six awards, and won once for Best Adapted Screenplay. Decked out royally in a purple suit, purple hat, purple tie, purple glasses, and LOVE/HATE brass knuckles that paid tribute to Do the Right Thing, Lee took the stage and began his winning speech with: “Do not turn that motherfucking clock on!” (They bleeped this, of course).
But when Greek Book (a film noticeably similar in white-savior tone to Driving Miss Daisy, the film that won the year Do the Right Thing was ignored) took home the award for Best Picture last night, Spike Lee was visibly pissed, attempting to storm out of the theater (according to onlookers) and not returning to his seat until after speeches were completed by a stage full of white men and Mahershala Ali, standing somewhere in the background—plus Octavia Spencer, looking rather lonely).
Asked about “Green Book,” Spike Lee decided it was time for more champagne.
— AP Entertainment (@APEntertainment) February 25, 2019
Spike was hardly the only fella surprised by Green Book’s triumphs, as one of the night’s funniest moments came courtesy of Samuel L. Jackson’s ill-disguised incredulous response to the film’s win for Best Original Screenplay. When Lee won, he leapt into Jackson’s arms like a delighted kid.
Post-awards, in the press room, Spike Lee swigged champagne and brought the sass. When asked about his reaction to Green Book’s win, Lee slyly evaded the question—like a eggplant-clad Rumplestiltskin, mischievous and cheeky—before making an analogy that explained everything: “I thought it was courtside at [Madison Square] Garden, and the ref made a bad call!” he said. In another post-awards carpet interview, Spike was asked whether something about Green Book offended him, to which he first confirmed the interviewers were British, then told them it “wasn’t my cup of tea” before bursting into cackles and trotting away.
There were big wins for black artists last night, including Marvel’s Black Panther, which took home awards for costume design and production design (the first black wins in either category, for Hannah Beachler and Ruth Carter). Mahershala Ali (of Greek Book—ugh, and Moonlight—f*ck yeah) became only the second black actor to win two Oscars following Denzel Washington, who has won for Glory and Training Day.
But the most satisfactory win on Sunday night was Spike, who finally got his Oscar—but more importantly, got to have some fun. He deserved it.
He also annoyed the President, which is always a bonus.
Be nice if Spike Lee could read his notes, or better yet not have to use notes at all, when doing his racist hit on your President, who has done more for African Americans (Criminal Justice Reform, Lowest Unemployment numbers in History, Tax Cuts,etc.) than almost any other Pres!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 25, 2019