Director Spike Lee had some sharp words for the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and the Oscars even as he accepted a different award Thursday night, saying that the #OscarsSoWhite movement had a lot to do with him even having a shot at taking home his first statuette on Sunday, according to The Hollywood Reporter. The superstar director and writer is himself nominated for best picture, best director, and best adapted screenplay for BlacKkKlansman, and the film is up for six awards total.
But during his acceptance speech for a Legacy Award at the Icon Mann gala, Lee called to the stage former Academy president and presenter Cheryl Boone Isaacs and called out April Reign, the founder of the #OscarsSoWhite movement, saying that they "...are the reason why we got nominations... they are responsible for all these black folks getting nominations."
Lee went on to say that it was due to the efforts of the two women and 2015's #OscarsSoWhite movement complaining to the Academy that, with no people of color nominated for a major award that year, something was deeply wrong with the nomination process.
And the Academy does appear to have listened, inviting more women, people of color, and international filmmakers to join each year since, with over 2,000 new invitations sent out in total since 2015.
Lee dryly noted that "it was not like that back in 1990," the year that many think he was undeservedly passed over for a Best Picture nod for his iconic film Do The Right Thing. He added that the process of people of color being recognized seems to run on decade-long cycles, saying "every 10 years black folks get awards."
"Has Hollywood discovered black people? And then it would be a nine-year drought," he said. "So we don't know what's going to happen next year. There's a lot of people who have been nominated, especially the filmmakers, and are they going to have a film next year?"
Lee also noted during his acceptance speech – which he delivered before a group that included Samuel L. Jackson, Ruth E. Carter, Don Cheadle, Angela Bassett, David Oyelowo, and Stephan James – that the importance of people of color seizing control of the machinery of the awards system is key. If films like Black Panther and BlacKkKlansman are going to be more than just another every-decade blip on the Hollywood radar, he said, people of color need to take control from Hollywood's traditional gatekeepers.
"Gatekeepers decide what films they're making and what films they're not making and if we're not in the room we don't got a voice," he said. "If we're not in the room it can be a drought, a feast to famine. We want this to be a continuation where we get our work out, we show it to the world and we demonstrate that black folks are not one monolithic group. We look different, think different, talk different, dress different."