Spike Lee with his Oscar. Via Instagram (@officialspikelee)
There is a counterargument to be made in favor of the separate ceremony, that it gives the honorees (and those honoring them) far more time than the traditionally rush-rush Oscar night, in which filmed tributes and acceptance speeches would be greatly compressed so as not to stop the show. And maybe that’s true; Lee’s acceptance speech reportedly ran 15 minutes, far more time than would’ve been afforded him in the Academy Awards ceremony proper. But something tells me that, given a smaller window, he’d have dispensed with the freewheeling bio and put across the important message of his speech:
I want to commend Academy president Cheryl Boone Isaacs because she is trying to do something that needs to be done. Not sure if you now this, but the US Census Bureau says by the year 2043, white Americans are going to be the minority in this country. People in positions of hiring, you better get smart. Your workforce should reflect what this country looks like.
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! It’s easier to be president of the United States as a black person than be the head of the studio or head of a network.
Who knows — maybe “you better get smart” will make it into the minute-and-a-half highlight reel from Saturday’s ceremony that’ll run during the big show in February. But I doubt it. In the meantime, the AMPAS is treating its lifetime achievement honorees like second cousins at the Thanksgiving kids’ table, shuttling off Rowlands’ and Reynolds’ achievements and Lee’s timely message to the entertainment blogs, rather than one of the largest TV audiences of the year. But it’s cool. I’m sure the Good Dinosaur-themed tap dance number will be worth it.