Oscars recap: ‘Green Book’s’ side-eye, Regina King and Spike Lee’s one shining moment
Hollywood’s biggest night was filled with surprising winners and snubs
Call it prophetic. Call it coincidence. But whatever you do, call it black. On Feb. 24, 1999, Lauryn Hill made Grammys history by walking away with five awards, including the most prestigious, album of the year, for her groundbreaking album The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill. Exactly 20 years to the day, black actors, actresses and films captured a smorgasbord of awards at the 91st Academy Awards in Los Angeles.
Y’all can’t salvage Black History Month by giving Black Panther all the Oscars. pic.twitter.com/J8r8hFp3yM
— Domonique Foxworth (@Foxworth24) February 25, 2019
True indeed, this has been a Black History Month for the ages (not in a good way). Nevertheless, Sunday night’s Oscars presentation is worth discussing for several reasons: In an ideal world, Kendrick Lamar and SZA would’ve performed their Grammy- and Oscar-nominated smash record “All the Stars.” Black Panther, Marvel Studios’ first Oscar winner, would’ve captured best picture in the same parallel universe — which seemed all but a certainty off the strength of the mass hysteria it was causing this time last year. It was even featured in the NBA Slam Dunk Contest!
Speaking of best picture, though, that brings us to the first of three highlights of the evening’s festivities.
Perfect tweet. https://t.co/wXzektcQOG
— Jemele Hill (@jemelehill) February 25, 2019
1. Green Book, really? Here’s the thing. Salute to Mahershala Ali, one of the great actors of his generation and unquestionably a class act. Yet, Green Book winning best picture will forever be one of the more debated Oscars decisions. But, tied for the second-most awards of the night with three, Green Book comes off as a shell of a winner. Especially when you take into account that Ali apologized to the family of Don Shirley (whom he portrayed in the film).
Spike Lee was reportedly so upset by the award that he stormed out of the venue but then came back. For Lee, it likely brought back memories of Do the Right Thing not being nominated for best picture at the 1990 Oscars — the award went to Driving Miss Daisy.
Black Panther and BlacKkKlansman were better films with decidedly better reviews and a decidedly greater cultural impact. Nevertheless, this isn’t an indictment of Ali. But don’t be surprised if years down the road the now two-time Oscar winner speaks his true feelings on the film.
— Sylvia Obell (@SylviaObell) February 25, 2019
2. One time for Spike. Consider it one of those “wait … what?” black history facts. Like Shaquille O’Neal having only one NBA MVP award. Or Tupac Shakur, Biggie Smalls and Jimi Hendrix having a combined zero Grammys. But before Sunday night, legendary filmmaker Lee had never won an Oscar. (And, yes, Malcolm X never winning an Oscar is Hollywood’s equivalent of Roy Jones Jr. being robbed of a gold medal at the 1988 Olympics — which Lee ironically did a documentary all about and through.)
Lee’s BlacKkKlansman won best adapted screenplay, and Lee accepted the Oscar dressed in purple in honor of Prince and rocking LOVE and HATE knuckle rings in remembrance of the late Bill Nunn’s Radio Raheem character from Do the Right Thing. Lee launched into an emotional acceptance speech — he paid homage to his enslaved ancestors, his grandmother and even indigenous tribes who had their land stripped out from under them. In other words, it was Spike Lee going full Spike Lee. And, to be quite honest, he deserved that moment.
3. And one time for Regina King. Maybe it’s because my introduction to her was as Iesha in 1993’s Poetic Justice. Or maybe it’s because of her pulling double duty in one of the truly impactful series of our time in The Boondocks. Whatever the case, King winning awards and being lathered with exorbitant amounts of praise is the sort of black history we could all stand to bask in. She won best supporting actress Sunday night for her role in If Beale Street Could Talk — a victory made all the more impressive given the loaded field of Amy Adams (Vice), Rachel Weisz (The Favourite), Marina de Tavira (Roma) and Emma Stone (The Favourite). With the award, King became the eighth black woman to be bestowed with the honor, and it’s one she didn’t take lightly. Her emotionally charged acceptance speech thanked the late James Baldwin, whose book inspired the Barry Jenkins-directed masterpiece (which was noticeably absent from the best picture category … but that’s another debate for another time). “I feel like I’ve had so many women that paved the way, are paving the way,” King said. “I feel like I walk in their light, and I also am creating my own light, and there are young women who will walk in the light that I’m continuing to shine and expand from those women before me.” She’s a generational talent spanning multiple generations with range perhaps best described as embarrassingly dynamic. Give King all the awards. Because it’s not like she doesn’t deserve them anyway.
4. HBCU connect. Morehouse College’s own Lee made sure to pay homage to his Spelman College-educated grandmother in that long-awaited academy speech. And Hampton University’s Ruth Carter became the first black person to win the Oscar for best costume design. Saying it felt like homecoming is a reach. But historically black colleges and universities played a role in stomping the yard at Sunday night’s show.