"Every time somebody is driving somebody, I lose," the director said, referencing "Driving Miss Daisy's" Best Picture win in 1990.
While Spike Lee was ebullient with joy upon winning Best Adapted Screenplay at the 2019 Oscars, he was far less enthusiastic after losing out to "Green Book" for Best Picture.
While Lee's "BlacKkKlansman" wasn't expected to take home the top prize -- many critics predicted Alfonso Cuarón's "Roma" as the favorite -- Lee didn't appear to be upset about not winning as much as he was about which film was winning.
According to Deadline, the director first stormed to the back of the theater before ultimately returning to his seat. He then turned his back turned to the stage during the acceptance speech.
While talking with reporters backstage afterward, Deadline reports Lee's joking-not-joking reaction to his own behavior. According to the report he said, "Oh wait a minute, what reaction did you see? What did I do?" before adding, "No, I thought I was court side at the [Madison Square] Garden. The ref made a bad call."
The director jokingly compared this loss to the 1990 Oscars, where "Driving Miss Daisy" won Best Picture. "I'm snake bit. Every time somebody is driving somebody, I lose. But this time they changed the seating arrangement." Here he's referring to his latest film being up for Best Picture, while "Do The Right Thing" was limited to a screenplay nod in '90.
"Green Book" has been at the center of controversy for a while now, with some feeling it perpetuates the "white savior" mythology that a person of color needs a white person to first blaze the trail for them. They also found it filled with racial cliches as many critics ravaged the film upon release.
More recently, some of the people behind the film have come under fire, with the family of the film's true-life protagonist Dr. Don Shirley denying the close friendship between him and Viggo Mortensen's character portrayed in the film.
Add sexual misconduct claims against director Peter Farrelly and an Islamophobic tweet from co-writer Nick Vallelonga, and many saw the film as a huge underdog coming into the night.
If Spike Lee's purported behavior is any indication, the media was not alone in those thoughts.
Nevertheless, shade and all, Lee was appreciative of being nominated for Best Picture and the growth in diversity and representation in the Academy, telling reporters, "Here's the thing: Without April Reign, #OscarsSoWhite and the former President of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, I wouldn't be here tonight."
And he suspected he might never get on that stage again, which is why he said he opted for a more activist-oriented, politically-charged speech than most stars give.
"I do know that the coda of this film, where we saw homegrown, red-white-and-blue terrorism -- Heather Heyer, her murder was an American terrorist act, when the President of the United States did not refute, did not denounce the Klan, the alt-right and Neo-Nazis," Lee noted. "This film, whether we won Best Picture or not, will stand the test of time for being on the right side of history."
But while he was willing to get political and very direct with some of his thoughts, he refused to take the bait when asked directly what he thought of "Green Book" winning Best Picture. "Let me take another sip," he said holding his glass of champagne. "Next question!"