Monday February 25, 2019
91st Oscars: Spike TV
Spike gets to at least say “Do the right thing” at the Oscars; and then the Oscars did the wrong thing.
I don't really have much to say about the Oscars last night. My wife, Patricia, was sick, I had a less deleterious cold, so the party we planned turned into a handful of people just hanging out and eating snacks and watching the hostless zingers and cupcakes and twinkies. Under the circumstances, it wasn't bad.
I also don't have much to say because I predicted the major plot point a month ago, in a post entitled “2018 Oscar Noms: Is It ‘89 All Over Again?”:
What would be fascinating? 1989 was the year the Academy didn’t nominate Spike Lee or “Do the Right Thing” and then unprecedentedly gave the Oscar to “Driving Miss Daisy” without a director nom. Can you imagine if something like that happened again? This year’s “Driving” is “Green Book.” The racial positions are reversed but it‘s, you know, your grandpa’s feel-good race movie. It's set more than 50 years ago, and based on a true story, in which the big-hearted white guy overcomes racism and helps teach the black guy all about black culture in a supposedly awful but actually cleaned-up version of the American South. And guess what? It was written by the white guy's son!
So can you imagine that winning best picture? Also without a director nom? And with Spike in the audience?
Which is exactly what happened.
Spike got off a good line backstage: “I'm snake bit. Every time somebody is driving somebody, I lose – but they changed the seating arrangement!” But the camera really should‘ve been on him the entire time. Here’s the blow by blow.
He was a joy, really: bowing to Barbra, jumping into Samuel Jackson's arms. We need more Spike at the Oscars. Make better movies, Spike. Someone fund them.
Initially I didn't like his acceptance speech for best adapted screenplay. He's up there with three others but they don't get to say shit. It's all him. He just reads off from a handwritten speech, and the language is stilted:
The word today is “irony.” The date, the 24th. The month, February, which also happens to be the shortest month of the year, which also happens to be Black History month. The year, 2019. The year, 1619. History. Her story. 1619. 2019. 400 years.
Yes, the Black History month joke. Say something! I think when he went back to the 17th century, I went into the kitchen to fix a drink. I should‘ve waited him out:
Four hundred years. Our ancestors were stolen from Mother Africa and bought to Jamestown, Virginia, enslaved. Our ancestors worked the land from can’t see in the morning to can't see at night. My grandmother, Zimmie Shelton Retha, who lived to be 100 years young, who was a Spelman College graduate even though her mother was a slave. My grandmother who saved 50 years of Social Security checks to put her first grandchild — she called me Spikie-poo — she put me through Morehouse College and NYU grad film. NYU!
Before the world tonight, I give praise to our ancestors who have built this country into what it is today along with the genocide of its native people. We all connect with our ancestors. We will have love and wisdom regained, we will regain our humanity. It will be a powerful moment. The 2020 presidential election is around the corner. Let's all mobilize. Let's all 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.
OK, it's still a bit of a mess, particularly for something writtten down, but it's less of a mess than I thought it was. Plus we got his passion. We got him. We got Brooklyn in the house. “BlacKkKlansman” shouldn't have won best adapted screenplay but an honor for Spike was long overdue. Is he the director of my generation?* He was the first director who came into prominence after I became an adult. He roared onto the scene and kept roaring, even as his movies diminished.
Overall, hostless wasn't bad but give me John Mulaney. Opening with Queen + Adam Lambert wasn't bad, but mostly for the reaction from the stars, particularly Javier Bardem, digging every minute of it. Sure, Cuaron. Again. But deserved. It was sad to see Glenn Close not take home the statuette—again. She's now 0-7, the new actress record, and one short of tying Peter O‘Toole’s all-time 0-8 record, but that's pretty good company to be in. Plus she lost to a worthy performance, Oliva Colman in “The Favourite,” who gave an equally worthy speech. It was maybe my favorite moment of the evening. Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper's duet on “Shallow” was another. The three hours sped. The ratings were slightly up. They‘ll think it’s because of the hostlessness, but c‘mon, it’s box office, stupid: Black Panther and Bohemian Rhapsody and A Star is Born.
The Oscars keep getting more open and more diverse. Look at the last Oscars of the 20th century, the 72nd, and it's all white people and mostly men behind the scenes. Not now. Five of the last six director achievements have gone to Mexican filmmakers. More African Americans win acting awards; you see more winning for behind-the-scenes work. Last night, Peter Ramsey became the first African-American director to win, as part of the team behind “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse,” which won best animated feature.
And yet “Green Book.” Miles to go.
* ADDENDUM: Sorry. Coen brothers.