Who Is Spike Lee?
According to Wikipedia, Shelton Jackson “Spike”
Lee is an American film director, producer, writer, and actor whose production
company, 40 Acres and a Mule Filmworks, has produced over 35 films since
He has twice been nominated for Academy Awards – for Best Screenplay
for his 1989 movie Do The Right Thing, and Best Documentary for his 1997 feature
4 Little Girls. The year he was nominated for Do The Right Thing, Driving Miss
Daisy won for Best Picture.
Talk about opposite perspectives on race – that was a real commentary
on American society; a real comment on imagery of Black America, stating that
Hollywood was more comfortable with the stereotypical image of the Black male
servant than the confrontational Black male.
Lee’s movie Malcolm X also provoked challenges. The movie about the
controversial Black Muslim leader should have won the Academy Award for Best
Picture and Denzel Washington, who portrayed Malcolm, should have won for Best
Spike’s film Crooklyn, which was about race relations in New York’s
Brooklyn community, received similar pre-movie criticism from New York’s power
elite as CHIRAQ is getting in Chicago. New Yorkers suggested the film would
cause race riots and possible lost of election for local politicians.
I highly doubt that anyone outside of New York gave the title
Crooklyn much consideration one way or the other. But it goes to show that Spike
is familiar with the territory.
Lee is not the typical Hollywood producer and though he is a
tried-and-true New York guy, he is also the Black guy. He discusses racial
issues provocatively. He forces you to think. He is not the comfortable guy
producing smiley faces and i-heart this or that. He goes against the grain of
the stereotype and is authentic.
He and Woody Allen are kin in their cultural philosophical views as
they go deep in presenting authentic lifestyles on the screen. Spike writes
about contemporary issues that others do not dare to approach.
He examines race relations, race issues, and racial controversy. He
looks at “colorism” among African Americans that has its own peculiarity, that
spawns deeply rooted internal discussions that non-Blacks may not even
Lee is from Atlanta and is steeped in Black culture and
intellectualism via his parents. He attended Morehouse, the same school Dr.
Martin Like King graduated from. His mother taught Black literature and his
father was a jazz musician and composer. Their household probably had lively
discussions on Blackness on Saturday nights and at Sunday dinners.
Spike’s first movie was in 1985, when he shot She’s Gotta Have It
with an impossible budget of $175,000 in two weeks. It grossed over $7 million
at the box office. A producer was born. The focus of any movie for the filmmaker
is the art, but for the producer, it is all about the box office.
Spike has opened the door for many Black thespians that have gone on
to become mainstream movie stars. He has a Black sensibility and a Black
intellect. In some quarters this is good, but it is definitely not the Hollywood
norm. This is what makes Spike most interesting, and perhaps, this is what makes
the politicos nervous. He is not a Negro that you can control; he is not a
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