The Golden Globe voters missed an opportunity to do the right thing by rewarding Spike Lee, a towering and influential pioneer in black cinema, by presenting him with their Best Director prize. Yes, Alfonso Cuaron’s visual tone poem to Mexican childhood, “Roma,” is a worthy achievement and deserves praise. But why choose Cuaron as best director, a trophy he previously won for 2013’s “Gravity.”
“BlacKkKlansman” is the best Spike Lee joint in ages, one where he isn’t in a rush to impress while giving his in-sync ensemble cast room to breathe. Given all the on-air talk about diversity during the Globes telecast on Sunday, it is amazing that no black director has yet to win in 76 years of trophy presenting. Of course, no black director has yet to win in 90 years of the Academy Awards, either.
The only other time Lee was in the running as Best Director at the Globes, it was for 1989’s “Do the Right Thing,” a ticking time bomb of much-needed social commentary on racial relations. It was the film that took him to the next level as an infuential artist. But he would lose director, screenplay and drama film to Oliver Stone for his Vietnam-war biopic, “Born on the Fourth of July.” Meanwhile, “Driving Miss Daisy,” whose rather cozy depiction of black-white relations has steadily fallen out of favor through the years, was the best comedy or musical winner and ultimately won Best Picture at the Oscars — albeit with its maker, Aussie filmmaker Bruce Beresford, getting shut out of the directing category. As for Lee, he had to settle for one lone bid for best original screenplay.
One can’t even imagine how the filmmaker felt 30 years later when what has been called a 21st-century version of “Driving Miss Daisy” — the ‘60s-era odd-couple road trip “Green Book” — won the comedy or musical trophy at this year’s ceremony. “Dumb and Dumber’s” Peter Farrelly‘s change-of-pace period piece also won for its screenplay and for supporting actor Mahershala Ali. For now, “Green Book” seems to be putting the pedal to the metal at this point in the awards season and peaking just as Oscar ballots are being filled out.
Lee, who turns 62 in March, is far from past his prime. But it had to be frustrating to sit among the glittery hordes and see the same maddening scenario happen to him three decades hence. Let’s hope the Oscars find a way to reward “BlacKkKlansman” and Lee this year. He did get an honorary award in 2016. But as he has said in the past, “As a people we don’t need anyone else’s stamp of approval.” But when it comes to a competitive honor, many think Lee’s gotta have it sooner than later.
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