Last year, a number of amazing movies tackled the tricky topic of race in America. There was Blindspotting, Sorry To Bother You, Minding The Gap, Black Panther, If Beale Street Could Talk, The Hate U Give and BlacKkKlansman. Then there was Green Book, a white savior narrative about racist white dude teaching a Black man how to eat fried chicken. It’s absurd this movie that is grossly regressive and profoundly mediocre won Best Picture last night. And while we were shocked from the comfort of our homes, Spike Lee and Samuel L. Jackson were there, expressing our disbelief and exasperation on national television.
Here’s how it went down.
Green Book’s first surprising win for the night was for Best Original Screenplay, an honor it took over such critically heralded films as Roma, First Reformed and The Favourite. An honor that gave penis-flasher Peter Farrelly and Islamaphobe Nick Vallelonga their first Oscars. Adding insult to seriously wtf, Samuel L. Jackson was the one to announce the win.
The look in Sam Jackson’s face when he understood Green Book won speaks for us all.— roxane gay (@rgay) February 25, 2019
You can almost hear him say, “You know you don’t deserve this, right?” pic.twitter.com/i4ciY6Syre— amber ruffin (@ambermruffin) February 25, 2019
By contrast, observe how Jackson responded when he got to announce the winner of Best Adapted Screenplay.
Charlie Wachtel, David Rabinowitz, Kevin Willmott, and Spike Lee won for BlacKkKlansman. Lee has been nominated five times and was awarded an honorary Oscar in 2016, but this was the first time he won one outright. It was a big moment.
Spike Lee hops on Sam Jackson pic.twitter.com/2HEUG5mV0j— CJ Fogler (@cjzero) February 25, 2019
And in case you’re wondering what they Lee said that they cut from the broadcast:
Everyone is texting me asking what Spike Lee said that was bleeped… he began his speech by saying “Do not turn that motherfucking clock on!” And they sure didn’t— Kyle Buchanan (@kylebuchanan) February 25, 2019
After they cut to commercial, Samuel L. Jackson was waiting there patiently to hand Spike Lee his Oscar pic.twitter.com/QTjdKG4Gdf— Kyle Buchanan (@kylebuchanan) February 25, 2019
Green Book went on to win Best Supporting Actor for Mahershala Ali and Best Picture. And of all the people who took to the mic on behalf of the movie last night, how many of them mentioned Dr. Don Shirley, the Black man who used his talents as a tool for Civil Rights activism and by extension apparently gave white America a way to feel cozy about being less racist by comparison white Southerners in the ’60s? One. Ali thanked Shirley in his speech. Farrelly and Vallelonga never did.
You're making pretty good time on the Oscars and then director Peter Farrelly decides to read a list of 56 names to thank — not a one is the memory of Dr. Don Shirley or his surviving family. #GreenBook #Oscars— Bobby Rivers (@BobbyRiversTV) February 25, 2019
Retweet if you are not shocked dot gif. https://t.co/NMrU1nbznf— Kristy Puchko (@KristyPuchko) February 25, 2019
THANK DON SHIRLEY YOU FUCKHOLES— Inkoo Kang (@inkookang) February 25, 2019
BLESS THIS SHADOW & ACT REPORTER WHO JUST ASKED WHY THEY DIDN'T THANK DON SHIRLEY FROM STAGE AND WHAT LESSONS THEY'VE LEARNED FROM TELLING THIS STORY! A LEGEND!— Kate Hagen (@thathagengrrl) February 25, 2019
Why didn’t they thank Shirley? Vallelonga’s answer:
You get nervous up there. Don Shirley, obviously we all thanked Mahershala, gave him a great thank you. If you’re discussing the Don Shirley family thing, it falls on me, but Don Shirley himself told me to not speak to anyone. He told me the story that he wanted to tell, he protected his private life and all the other things about him. … He told me, ‘If you’re going to tell the story, tell it from your father, me, no one else, don’t speak to anyone else, that’s how you have to make it.’ And also he told me, ‘Don’t make it until I pass away.’
So one, they thanked a Black guy, what more do you want from them? Two, Vallelonga is now putting the blame for one of the biggest criticisms of Green Book—the filmmakers’ neglect to reach out to Shirley’s family for their side—on a dead man who cannot defend himself. Pretty on brand for Vallelonga and his colleagues, one of whom was harassing entertainment journalists who dared to call their film racist.
here’s the email I received about Green Book from one of the producers. I censored the name of the editor he cc’d, which I guess was supposed to be a power move? anyone who has received something similar, feel free to reach out. pic.twitter.com/LIiV4CEp3Z— Jenni Miller (@msjennimiller) February 25, 2019
But let’s get back to Spike Lee, whose reaction to the Best Picture announcement drew instant attention. He stood up, and it appeared he tried to leave.
After the awards, Lee told the press he wasn’t leaving, and said, “The ref made a bad call” in regards to Green Book’s win.
Lee went on to say, “I’m snakebit. Every time somebody’s driving somebody I lose.” That’s a reference to Driving Miss Daisy, another Best Picture-winning tale of white people solving racism. That was 1993, the same year Lee was nominated for Best Original Screenplay—and nothing else!—for Do the Right Thing. And Lee wasn’t done spilling the tea on Green Book.
BBC MAN: Did GREEN BOOK offend you?— Mike McCahill (@mike_mccahill) February 25, 2019
SPIKE LEE: Offend? [pause] Are you British? Let me give you a British answer… It wasn't my cup of tea.
Green Book win aside, it was a night of Black Excellence at the Oscars, having set a new record for individual Black winners. Lee won his first Academy Award. Regina King’s If Beale Street Could Talk victory made her the third Black woman in history to win Best Actress. Having previously won for Moonlight, his Green Book win made Ali was the first Black actor to take home two Oscars in the Best Supporting Actor category. Ruth E. Carter and Hannah Beachler became the first Black women to win Best Costume and Best Production Design, respectively, and they did it with the groundbreaking blockbuster Black Panther. Peter Ramsey became the first Black filmmaker to win in Best Animated Feature, and he did that with Spider-Man: Into The Spiderverse, which centered on Afro-Latino superhero Miles Morales.
The Academy is changing. Not as fast as we’d like perhaps, but it’s changing. And Lee took a moment to commend #OscarsSoWhite April Reign and former-Academy President Cheryl Boone Isaacs, noting how the public outcry sparked by the former and the inclusion initiative of the latter has already shown a change in the Academy that had become mostly old white men. “They opened the Academy to make it look more like America,” Lee said, “That’s why three black women, if I counted correctly, won. Like my brother Jay Z says, ‘Facts.’”
Header Image Source: Youtube / ABC