Thursday, March 3, 2016



Director/Author/Activist/Actor SPIKE LEE answers The VIBE Q to speak on #OSCARSSOWHITE, BERNIE vs TRUMP,  MICHAEL JACKSON and OFF The WALL, and so much more as the really good folks at VIBE Magazine celebrate his 30 YEARS Of FIGHTING The POWER in a SPECIAL EDITION for #BLACKHISTORYMONTH2016!!!

Here are some interview interludes:

VIBE: The defining theme of your Off The Wall documentary is the demystification of Michael Jackson. We have this idea of MJ as this otherworldly performer who was beamed down from another planet. But you present Michael as a gifted singer who also happened to be pretty hardcore when it came to perfecting his own craft and studying the greats. How important was it to get the idea across that Michael Jackson wasn’t just getting by on natural ability and that he was arguably pop music’s most obsessive worker?
Spike Lee: With this Off The Wall documentary we definitely wanted to show how much of a hard worker Michael was. There’s a note that he wrote that we featured in the movie. Michael said: “To be great, study the greats.” Let me just say that I really hope that younger artists see this film because Michael had otherworldly talent, but he worked at his craft. And I think that is something that’s being lost to young artist.
How so?
I’m not trying to sound like some old fuddy duddy grandfather, but it’s about the work ethic; that elbow grease; that get-up-and-go. I think we are losing craftsmanship because everybody wants to get to their destination over night without putting in the motherfucking work. You gotta work. Like Verdine White (of Earth Wind & Fire) said in the documentary: If you love what you do, it’s not work. That’s something that the writer Dream Hampton also emphasized as well in the film.
Black artists, especially, are viewed as having some magical, natural gifts…
Right. So often with black artists and athletes there’s this crazy notion that we just—to coin a phrase my sister Beyonce—woke up like this [laughs]. Nobody didn’t wake up like this. We didn’t come out of the womb dunking or singing or dancing. People put in work. They had the talent, but they put in the work. And Michael embodied that. He was working, perfecting his craft

You made this statement when you received your honorary Oscar in late 2015: “Everybody here probably voted for Obama. But in [Hollywood] offices, I see no black folks except for the man who’s the security guard who checks my name off the list as I got into the studio. So we can talk ‘Yabba yabba yabba,’ but we need to have a serious conversation about diversity and get some flavor up in this.”
Your words have proven to be prophetic with the current controversy involving the lack of diversity in this year’s Oscar race. Were you shocked when this year’s nominations were announced?
I didn’t look at it that way. I was never, “I’m doing this to win an award!” When you do the great work, the awards are gonna come eventually. I just got my honorary Oscar this past year [laughs].
But your past comments were not as diplomatic. You were really upfront over your disappointment that the Oscars were far from welcoming when it came to African-American talent.
Yeah…but here’s the thing though. We talk about the lack of diversity at the Oscars almost every year. Last year people were calling me about Selma and now they are calling me again. Every 10 years we get the nominations….but the other nine years we get a drought. But I had to learn the hard way. If your sh*t is good it’s going to stand the test of time. I have to draw up my own history with Do The Right Thing. You know what film won Best Picture in 1989?

Spike Lee

Spike Lee
You caught a lot of heat from some Chicago politicians and artists who charged that Chi-Raq was making light of the gun violence plaguing the city. There was even pushback from Mayor Emanuel over the title of the film; criticism that Chi-Raq, a play on war torn Iraq, was glorifying the South Side’s violent reputation. How do you respond to that?
People can get mad if they want, but we told the truth with Chi-Raq. Ain’t no lying in that film. Sometimes the truth hurts. The young people did not come up with the name Chi-Raq for no reason. The whole thing with calling us out for using that name was just a misdirection play like in football. They were trying to get people focused on something that wasn’t really that important. It’s the subject matter that’s important. I’m proud of Chi-Raq and I stand by it.
Moving on to a more lighthearted topic, you wear your fandom rabidly on your sleeve as the ultimate New York Knicks fan. Are you shocked at how good Kristaps Porzingis has been as a rookie?
Well, we are going to make the playoffs. And we are going to have the rookie of the year—Porzingis. He’s no joke. He can play. The [Philadelphia] 76ers chose [Jahlil] Okafor. No one knew Porzingis was going to be this good, but thank God Phil Jackson picked the right one. (As of this posting, the Knicks have dropped out of playoff contention. Same ol’ Knicks? Spike is right on one point. That Porzingis is a keeper.)
I can’t let you get away without asking you about Donald Trump, who continues to lead in the Republican primary polls. Are we going to have to accept the realization that an a**hole billionaire and reality show star is going to be America’s next President?
[Laughs] No. That not happening. (Most recently, Spike gave his fully throated endorsement to Democratic candidate Bernie Sanders. And that’s the truth Ruth.

Spike Lee


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