Let that marinate for a second, Spike Lee is 50.
So what you say?
A friend of mine Phil likes to tell this story about when Lee’s movies first appeared in the 80s they were like rock concerts, or rather rap concerts, because previously white movie theatre lines were now teeming with young black moviegoers. When She’s Gotta Have it came out in 1986 The Beastie Boys had people rocking out with Licensed to Ill, we were swooning under Anita Baker’s Rapture, Run DMC was instigating us into Raising Hell, and the Notorious one was Duran Duran not B.I.G.
Public Enemy, the rap group, who Lee was often associated with earlier in his career were signing their first Def Jam contract back in 1986. Now as Chuck D tours college campuses and Flava Flav blurs the line between reality and minstrelsy, Spike Lee instructs us about what really happened with the Levees.
Spike Lee is 50?
As rappers beef between being 80s or 70s babies, make videos about chicken soupin’ it, makin’ it rain, walkin it out, or showcasing how they can get buxom black women to poke it out, Spike Lee turns 50, gives credence to the idea that getting older with dignity beats out fanning the flames of one’s status as a celebrity.
He doesn’t own the Nets or the Knicks, he’s just 50.
Another anecdote: last spring a student in one of my classes was doing a paper on School Daze. Usually when students come into my office to discuss their research papers, I’m good for throwing out a couple of selected readings off the dome. However this time, nothing was coming up. In fact, I had to work to submerge a few smirks and giggles as I thought of the countless hours, dorm rooms, coffee shops, couches and bottles of wine I’ve exhausted with friends over the past twenty years talking that film. These conversations are not documented anywhere else but in fond memories and broken hearts. Spike Lee is 50?
Oh Lee’s films do take and have deserved many of their critical beat downs. He’s been accused of being everything from color-struck to paternalistic, heavy-handed to vain (for his habit of inserting himself as characters in his movies). People will debate for hours whether Girl Six or She Hate Me are perverted, quirky or just outright offensive. More than likely, someone will scream out during any discussion of Lee’s filmography “he got robbed on Malcolm though. That film should’ve won the Oscar.” Was that really fifteen years ago? Is Spike Lee really 50? He is, ain’t he? Spike Lee is 50?
Now that Martin Scorsese has finally won his long-deserved Oscar, and American cinema needs a new legend who has yet to win an Oscar to fawn over, it appears as if Lee is now set to step into the role. He has the long career, the grey hair, ornery personality, and vision that stars flock to regardless of the budget. Now that Spike Lee has turned 50 black cinemaphiles can wait for the glorious day when Lee is feted for his body of work, and not just his latest work. The thought of what kind of film he’ll create to garner this illustrious prize inspires goose bumps. Maybe he’ll do a Thelonious Monk biopic. No, maybe he’ll do a story of a black upper middle-class family whose lives are torn asunder when their eldest son is arrested. I don’t know, but I can’t wait to see it.
Spike Lee is 50….