A select number of people took home the gold statue at the 2019 Oscars, but there was one true winner at the show tonight: Spike LeeWell, more specifically, Spike Lee’s facial expressions.
Lee won the award for Best Adapted Screenplay for BlacKkKlansmen and gave an empowering speech about love and equality. After thanking his family, he said, “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 director continued, “The year, 2019. The year, 1619. History, her story. 1619, 2019. 400 years, our ancestors were stolen from Mother Africa and brought to Jamestown, Virginia, enslaved. Our ancestors worked the land from can’t see in the morning to can’t see at night. My grandmothers, who lived to be 100 years young, who was a Spelman College graduate even though her mother was a slave.”
Towards the end of his speech, Lee encouraged his fellow attendees and viewers to “mobilize” and get ready for the 2020 elections.
“The 2020 presidential election is around the corner. Let’s all mobilize, let’s all be on the right side of history,” he said. “Make the moral choice between love versus hate. Let’s do the right thing!”
Lee was also nominated for Best Director and Best Picture at the awards show.
While people loved his thought-provoking speech, Lee’s candid moments really captured the viewer’s hearts.
The Best Adapted Screenplay award was his first Oscars victory, and it was all too appropriate that his close friend Samuel L. Jackson was the one who handed him the gold trophy. When he and Brie Larson opened the envelope, Jackson couldn’t hide his excitement and essentially whooped when he read Lee’s name and his co-writers.
The two men shared a huge bear hug and Lee even wrapped his legs around Jackson as the Avengers star lifted him off the ground.
Jackson went a bit off-script before reading off the teleprompter to name the nominees. He said he was glad Lee was “sitting down” because the New York Knicks defeated the San Antonio Spurs after an 18-game losing streak at home. Lee is, of course, a notoriously huge Knicks fan. He yelled out at one point, “We’re trying to tank!”
He clearly trusts the process.
Earlier in the show, Awkwafina and John Mulaney presented an award and the Crazy Rich Asians joked about meeting the Do The Right Thing director. He looked extremely perplexed and made a face that quickly went viral across the internet.
The 61-year-old had another great moment when Barbra Streisand gave a short monologue while introducing BlacKkKlansmen. She called the film “so real, so funny and yet so horrifying” before explaining that she and Lee really developed their friendship via Twitter. “I had to tweet about it, about how good it was and then I got a lovely thank you from Spike himself. And the conversation after that was very easy because we were both raised in Brooklyn. And Spike, we both love hats,” she said.
To that, he stood up once again and clapped his hands enthusiastically.
The Daily Show host Trevor Noah captured a photo of Lee sitting next to an Oscars statue with a pen and paper in his hands. “While walking around backstage, I noticed a small figure hunched in a corner writing something. I got closer and realized it was Spike Lee writing an acceptance speech for his Oscar nominations,” Noah wrote on Instagram. “I asked him if I could take this picture to remember the moment and he said yes and ‘I hope I get to use this.'”
Noah concluded, “Well you got to use the speech @officialspikelee and it was a long time coming!”
Lee’s all purple outfit was symbolic for the director. He explained to Ryan Seacrest on the red carpet before the show that the ensemble was a tribute to Prince. He made sure to stay comfortable at the show, too, and wore custom gold Jordan 3 sneakers.
According to Deadline, Lee’s euphoric night was spoiled a bit when Green Book was announced as the Best Picture winner. He reportedly got out of his seat and stormed towards the back of the theater, but wasn’t allowed to exit. When he returned to his seat, he apparently turned his back to the stage while producer Jim Burke spoke his thank yous. The film previously sparked some backlash and anger. Mahershala Ali and other stars of Green Book have denied it being a “reverse Driving Miss Daisy.”
Driving Miss Daisy and Do The Right Thing were both Oscar nominees in 1989, with Miss Daisy winning Best Picture that year.
Despite that unhappy moment for Lee, he kept the celebrating going throughout the evening. According to Variety, he threw back a flute of champagne before giving a speech backstage. “This is my sixth glass and you know why,” he joked.
Congratulations on your first ever Oscar, Spike!
Check out the full list of Oscars winners here.