Spike Lee On the Academy Snubbing 'Do The Right Thing': ‘Who’s Still Watching Driving Miss Daisy?’

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The Academy’s failure to recognize the greatness of Spike Lee’s third feature film "Do the Right Thing" constituted an injustice. The film has become Lee’s most fondly remembered work, yet it only received two Oscar nominations: best original screenplay and best actor in a supporting role, both of which it lost. To this day, Lee argues that the Academy snubbed his film because of racial bias. He claims that the predominantly white Academy members were unwilling to seriously consider a film that told its story from a non-white perspective and focused on uncomfortable themes regarding race.

This led to an overcompensation with the Oscars showering "Boyz in the Hood" and "Malcolm X" (both great movies) with more love than they would normally have gotten, but the Oscars in general until recently have had a hard time with black movies. The fact that "Hoop Dreams "wasn't nominated for best documentary has still gotta be one of the biggest snubs in oscar history

Lee, who was given an honorary Oscar in 2015, has been vocal in his outrage for the Academy failing to honor his masterpiece. He recently spoke to GQ and doubled down on the historic snub and even threw some darts at the winner that year, "Driving Miss Daisy."

“To be honest, after ‘Do the Right Thing,’ I said, ‘That’s it.’ You know?” Lee said. “That’s not to say I wasn’t happy to get the honorary award, but as far as Oscars, my thing has always been my body of work. What film won best film of 1989? ‘Driving Miss Daisy.’ Driving Miss motherfucking Daisy. Who’s watching that film now?

Meanwhile, "Do the Right Thing" also lost the Palme D'or that very year to "Sex Lies and Videotape," and Lee tells us he heard it was because of then jury president Wim Wenders.

“[Jury members] Sally Field and the late, great Héctor Babenco, who directed one of my most favorite films, ‘Pixote,’ they told me that it was Wenders that did it,” Lee told GQ. “He was not letting it happen. He just lied again at Cannes this year and said jury presidents have no power. I would have left the hatchet buried, but now he lied again.”

"Do The Right" Thing should have won best picture, and Spike should have won Best director and Public Enemy should have won best original song for "Fight the Power." History frowns upon Hollywood for not getting it right that year and rewarding "Driving Miss Daisy," a film which adhered to Uncle Tom moralities when it came to racial divide, the Best Picture Oscar.

At the 1990 Academy Awards ceremony, actress Kim Basinger caused a stir when she used her brief moment on camera to criticize the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences for its failure to nominate what she believed to be the best film of the year for the “Best Picture” prize. 

Before fulfilling her original role of introducing "Dead Poets Society" as one of the nominees for the top prize, she declared to the audience: 

“We’ve got five great films here, and they’re great for one reason: because they tell the truth. But there is one film missing from this list that deserves to be on it because, ironically, it might tell the biggest truth of all. And that’s "Do the Right Thing.”