Remembering the Time Spike Lee Lost at the Academy Awards

Choose Love, not Hate.

Remember that time (oh, it was about 48 hours ago) when Spike Lee won his first competitive Academy Award for his adapted screenplay work on BlacKkKlansman

Considered a well-deserved prize, Lee's win was viewed as overdue. One of America's best living directors and screenwriters, Lee had previously found more success with audiences than with award bodies. All that finally changed this past Sunday evening.

Was it a makeup win? Many firmly believe that Lee deserved the Academy Award in 1989 for his original screenplay for Do the Right Thing, a nomination (but not award) he went on to receive. Who did Lee ultimately lose to? Tom Schulman for Dead Poet's Society, a screenwriter who you can literally see passing over Spike Lee at the two-minute mark of the video below. 

Before you watch the video, it's of note that the film that went on to win Best Picture that year was Driving Miss Daisy, a film with numerous parallels to this year's Best Picture winner, Green Book. The more things change the more they stay the same? Lee may have lost below, but 29 years later, he can now officially call himself a proud Academy Award winner.

Were you happy to see Spike Lee finally win an Oscar? Let us know in the comments below.      

Your Comment


I have mixed feelings about it. Glad he got an Oscar, but there were multiple films (including BlacKkKlansman) that were leagues better than Greenbook.

February 26, 2019 at 11:37PM


I listened to an interesting podcast (NewYork Times Daily) in which a fair argument is made about white fantasy in Hollywood. These impossible stories like Driving Miss Daisy tell a narrative of a white person’s journey from racist to less racist in order to feel better about our past and present transgressions in America. He argues these feel good movies do more harm than good. A, “look, it’s not that bad. There are good people and we’ve made great progress. I’m not as bad as the people on the screen, therefore I have no racist tendencies myself”. I haven’t seen the Green Book but found Black Klansman to be a great movie.

February 27, 2019 at 6:35AM


I know of the podcast you're talking about but haven't had a chance to hear it yet. It doesn't strike me as a particularly well thought out premise though. It leaves me with a number of questions.

Are stories about people becoming more accepting of another race straight up unacceptable? Or only if they are directed by white people? I mean, American History X did that, correct? I don't remember anyone hating on that film. Is that one unacceptable as well or maybe it is acceptable because it didn't have a happy ending? Would that movie be in the same category? How about Huck Finn? That is essentially a road movie (in novel form) about a young white kid who gradually realizes the shared humanity of the black man he is travelling with. Should we throw that one on the rubbish bin too?

Should films only show the ugly side of racism and not the beauty of racial reconciliation?

Why should any artist of filmmaker feel compelled to tell the story that someone else thinks they should be telling rather than the story they want to tell? Is a story of a racist becoming less racist inherently less valuable or meaningful than the story of racists who don't change at all?

Do you think a movie showing the evils/horrors of racism is going to change anyone's minds? Are racists going to see it and say "Man, now that I have this objective look at myself, I feel like I can do better" or is it much more likely someone sees it and says "Well, that's not me" and moves on?

Just thinking out loud.


February 27, 2019 at 7:43AM, Edited February 27, 8:06AM


Great points. My personal ideas on that are that racial reconciliation is a fantasy. Maybe not on an interpersonal level, but on a systemic one.

Americans are usually pretty damn good at dealing with each other face to face (for the most part), but then look at the racist we elected to lead our country. Look at his response to the homegrown terrorism of Charlottesville. Or how police officers still usually have “get out of jail free” cards for shooting unarmed black men and women, and those who protest them (Kaepernick) are often shit on by the white population.

Overall, Greenbook is a decent movie about overcoming one-on-one prejudices, but it is not a good movie for confronting racism. In fact, it suggests racism is merely interpersonal, which it isn’t.

February 28, 2019 at 7:00AM