Spike Lee, Director   4 comments


Spike Lee

Shelton Jackson “Spike” Lee (born March 20, 1957) is an American film director, producer, writer, and actor. His production company, 40 Acres & A Mule Filmworks, has produced over 35 films since 1983.

Lee’s movies have examined race relations, the role of media in contemporary life, urban crime and poverty, and other political issues. Lee has won numerous awards, including an Emmy Award. He has also received two Academy Award nominations.

Early lifeSpike Lee was born in Atlanta, Georgia, the son of Jacqueline Carroll (née Shelton), a teacher of arts and black literature, and William James Edward Lee III, a jazz musician and composer.[1][2] Lee moved with his family to Brooklyn, New York when he was a small child. (The Fort Greene neighborhood is home to Lee’s production company, 40 Acres & A Mule Filmworks, and other Lee-owned or related businesses.) As a child, his mother nicknamed him “Spike.” In Brooklyn, he attended John Dewey High School. Lee enrolled in Morehouse College where he made his first student film, Last Hustle in Brooklyn. He took film courses at Clark Atlanta University and graduated with a B.A. in Mass Communication from Morehouse College. He then enrolled in New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts, where he earned a Master of Fine Arts in Film & Television.[citation needed]

Film careerMain article: Spike Lee filmography

Lee in 2007Lee’s thesis film, Joe’s Bed-Stuy Barbershop: We Cut Heads, was the first student film to be showcased in Lincoln Center’s New Directors New Films Festival.

In 1985, Lee began work on his first feature film, She’s Gotta Have It. With a budget of $175,000, the film was shot in two weeks. When the film was released in 1986, it grossed over $7,000,000 at the U.S. box office.[3] The reception of She’s Gotta Have It led Lee down a second career avenue. Marketing executives from Nike[4] offered Lee a job directing commercials for the company. They wanted to pair Lee’s character from She’s Gotta Have It, the Michael Jordan-loving Mars Blackmon, and Jordan himself in their marketing campaign for the Air Jordan line. Later, Lee would be a central figure in the controversy surrounding the inner-city rash of violence involving Air Jordans.[5] Lee countered that instead of blaming manufacturers of apparel, “deal with the conditions that make a kid put so much importance on a pair of sneakers, a jacket and gold”. Through the marketing wing of 40 Acres and a Mule, Lee has also directed commercials for Converse, Jaguar, Taco Bell and Ben & Jerry’s.

Awards, honors and nominationsMain article: List of awards and nominations received by Spike Lee
Lee’s film Do the Right Thing was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay in 1989. Many people, including Hollywood’s Kim Basinger (who announced her feelings live during that year’s Oscar telecast), believed that Do the Right Thing also deserved a Best Picture nomination. Driving Miss Daisy won Best Picture that year and according to Lee in an April 7, 2006 interview with New York magazine, this hurt him more than his film not receiving the nomination.[6]

His documentary 4 Little Girls was nominated for the Best Feature Documentary Academy Award in 1997.

On May 2, 2007, the 50th San Francisco International Film Festival honored Spike Lee with the San Francisco Film Society’s Directing Award. He was the recipient of the 2008 Wexner Prize.[7]

Use of actorsRecurring actorsA number of actors have appeared in multiple Spike Lee productions. Spike’s sister, Joie Lee, and John Turturro lead the list at nine films, followed by Roger Guenveur Smith and the late Ossie Davis, with seven films.

 Isiah Whitlock, Jr. N N

Public figures as actorsSeveral well-known public figures have appeared in Spike Lee films portraying characters other than themselves. They include

Lee in September 2011After the 1990 release of Mo’ Better Blues, Lee was accused of antisemitism by the Anti-Defamation League and several film critics, who pointed to the characters of club owners Josh and Moe Flatbush in the film, which have been described as “Shylocks”. Lee denied the charge, explaining that he wrote those characters in order to depict how black artists struggled against exploitation. Lee further expressed skepticism that Lew Wasserman, Sidney Sheinberg or Tom Pollock, the Jewish heads of MCA and Universal Studios, would have allowed antisemitic content in a film they produced. He also said he could not make an antisemitic film because Jews run Hollywood, and “that’s a fact.”[8]

In the Knicks’ 93–86 loss to the Indiana Pacers in Game 5 of the 1994 Eastern Conference Finals, Reggie Miller scored 25 points in the 4th quarter. Lee was apparently taunting Miller throughout the 4th quarter, and Miller responded by making shot after shot. Miller also gave the choke sign to Lee. The headline of the New York Daily News the next day sarcastically said, “Thanks A Lot Spike”.[9] This was parodied in the Seinfeld episode “The Susie”, in which Kramer, Lee and Miller ultimately reconcile and go to a strip club together.

In May 1999 The New York Post reported that Lee said of National Rifle Association President Charlton Heston, “Shoot him with a .44 Bulldog.” Lee contended, “I intended it as ironic, as a joke to show how violence begets more violence,” Lee said. “I told everyone there it was a joke. I said I did not want to read in the papers, ‘Shoot Charlton Heston.'” Insisting that he had no reason to apologize, Lee further explained that his remark was in response to a question about whether Hollywood was responsible for the then-recent rash of school shootings, saying, “The problem is guns,” he said. Republican House Majority Leader Dick Armey issued a statement condemning Lee as having “nothing to offer the debate on school violence except more violence and more hate.”[10]

In 2002, after remarks made by Mississippi Senator Trent Lott regarding Senator Strom Thurmond’s failed presidential bid, Lee charged that Lott was a “card-carrying member of the Ku Klux Klan” on ABC’s Good Morning America.[11]

Lee sparked controversy on a March 28, 2004 segment on ABC when he said that basketball player Larry Bird was overrated because of his race, saying, “The most overrated player of all time, I would say it’d be Larry Bird. Now, Larry Bird is one of the greatest players of all time, but listen to the white media, it’s like this guy was like nobody ever played basketball before him—Larry Bird, Larry Bird, Larry Bird, Larry Bird, Larry Bird.”[12][13]

In October 2005, Lee commented on the federal government’s response to the 2005 Hurricane Katrina catastrophe. Responding to a CNN anchor’s question as to whether the government intentionally ignored the plight of black Americans during the disaster, Lee replied, “It’s not too far-fetched. I don’t put anything past the United States government. I don’t find it too far-fetched that they tried to displace all the black people out of New Orleans.” On Real Time with Bill Maher, Lee cited the government’s past atrocities including the Tuskegee Study of Untreated Syphilis in the Negro Male.[14]

At the 2008 Cannes Film Festival, Lee, who was then making Miracle at St. Anna, about an all-black U.S. division fighting in Italy during World War II, criticized director Clint Eastwood for not depicting black Marines in his own WWII film, Flags of Our Fathers. Citing historical accuracy, Eastwood responded that his film was specifically about the soldiers who raised the flag on Mount Suribachi at Iwo Jima, pointing out that while black soldiers did fight at Iwo Jima, the U.S. military was segregated during WWII, and none of the men who raised the flag were black. Eastwood also pointed out that his 1988 film Bird, about the Jazz musician Charlie Parker featured 90% black actors, and sarcastically said that Invictus, his then-upcoming film about post-apartheid South Africa, would not feature a white actor in the role of Nelson Mandela. He angrily said that Lee should “shut his face”. Lee responded that Eastwood was acting like an “angry old man”, and argued that despite making two Iwo Jima films back to back, Letters from Iwo Jima and Flags of Our Fathers, “there was not one black soldier in both of those films”.[15][16][17] He added that he and Eastwood were “not on a plantation.”[18] In fact, black Marines are seen in scenes during which the mission is outlined, as well as during the initial landings, when a wounded black Marine is carried away. During the end credits, historical photographs taken during the Battle of Iwo Jima show black Marines. Although black Marines fought in the battle, they were restricted to auxiliary roles such as ammunition supply, and were not involved in the battle’s major assaults, but took part in defensive actions.[19] Lee later claimed that the event was exaggerated by the media and that he and Eastwood had reconciled through mutual friend Steven Spielberg, culminating in his sending Eastwood a print of Miracle at St. Anna.[20]

During a lecture at Concordia University in Montreal, Canada on February 11, 2009,[21] Lee criticized how some in the black community wrongfully associate “intelligence with acting white, and ignorance with acting black”, admonishing students and parents to maintain more positive attitudes in order to follow their dreams and achieving their goals
Personal lifeLee and his wife, attorney Tonya Lewis, had their first child, daughter Satchel, in December 1994.[23] Spike Lee is a fan of the American baseball team the New York Yankees, basketball team the New York Knicks, and the English football team Arsenal.[24] One of the documentaries in ESPN’s 30 for 30 series, Winning Time: Reggie Miller vs. The New York Knicks, focuses partly on Lee’s interaction with Miller at Knicks games in Madison Square Garden.

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Posted February 24, 2012 by pennylibertygbow in Hollywood

4 responses to “Spike Lee, Director

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  1. I’m IN LOVE with Spike Lee! Him, Tyler Perry, and John Singleton!

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