Spike Lee’s first-ever competitive Oscar award turned a mostly staid ceremony into a joyful, passionate, and briefly profane one.
Lee, who captured the best-adapted-screenplay trophy for “BlacKkKlansman,” jumped into the arms of presenter, longtime collaborator and friend Samuel L. Jackson when he took the stage Sunday to accept his award with Charlie Wachtel, David Rabinowitz, and Kevin Willmott. The audience gave him a standing ovation.
The veteran filmmaker had waited a long time to be recognized by his peers in the movie industry beyond the honorary Oscar he received in 2016 for his contributions to movies. He received his first Oscar nod in 1989 for best original screenplay for “Do The Right Thing.”
After unleashing an expletive as he warned Oscar producers not to put a clock on his speech, Lee noted that his award came during Black History Month, and recited a litany of facts, among them the 400-year-old enslavement of Africans and transport to America. He also said his grandmother was a graduate of the predominately black Spelman College, despite her mother having been a slave.
“Before the world tonight, I give praise to our ancestors who helped build this country,” Lee said. “We all connect with our ancestors … when we love our humanity.”
He also waded into politics, citing the 2020 presidential election and calling on people to mobilize and “be on the right side of history. Make the moral choice between love versus hate.”
“Let’s do the right thing, you know I had to get that in there.”