Johnnie's favorite Spike Lee movies artistically edited.
Cover Image © Johnnie Weathersby III

An Open Letter: Thanks & Congrats to Spike Lee

Yesterday, LinkedIn/Black Enterprise told me “The Directors Guild of America (DGA) will present Brooklyn’s best … with the guild’s top honor, the Lifetime Achievement Award for Distinguished Achievement in Motion Picture Direction. This makes Lee the first Black person to receive this honor.” Well done, sir.

But not just “well done” — no, I feel like I owe you more than that.

To the Man Who Enthralled a Generation

Dear, Mr. Lee (who I’m sure some call “Shelton”, but out of reverence – I call “Spike”) —

A few people may be surprised to see you achieve this… I’m not.

I have been down with you since I first saw School Daze back when I was a kid who didn’t know what he was looking at. Shortly thereafter I’d see Do the Right Thing and learn so much, but I’d still watch that movie at least twice a year through my adulthood wishing I could be wise and brave (yet, well adjusted) like Mookie. She’s Gotta Have It came later for me, although it was released before any of the other movies I’ve already named. Basically staying up and watching movies I wasn’t supposed to with that one… but it taught me so much.

Malcolm X and Crooklyn are two of the biggest movies in my life! Whether it was an iconic scene about how, “that’s too much power for one man to have,” or scared little hood kids all-too-relatably running from, and then eventually overcoming, glue-sniffers… You had me, sir.

I remember seeing Girl 6, Mo’ Better Blues, and She Hate Me (which was much later) at some point – but I can’t tell you any of the plot points of either film — only that Theresa Randle had a sexy voice (I probably wasn’t supposed to be watching that one, either – now that I think about it – but the chick yelling about her feet – LOL!). Sorry to be foggy on the details, but still… You had me, sir.

Get on the Bus let me see something else I didn’t really understand at the time… Brotherhood.

He Got Game and Love & Basketball – both tied to your name – seemed like separate harshly honest love letters from a sports fan speaking of love through a symbolic sports device he knew well. All while still conveying varying flavors of sensitivity that a young Black Male mind like mine needed to see. Each movie frustrated me to no end, but damn… You had me, sir.

Without you, The Best Man probably would’ve happened – but I’m happy you were tied to it. That movie still has one of the most solid “yay, comeuppance”-but-“who was really wrong?” type plots I’ve ever seen.

I never say John Leguizamo’s: Freak, but I remember hearing of it and seeing ads in comic books. I also never saw 4 Little Girls, but that was by choice. The subject matter was just too sad for me (although I may be ready to see it now).

I also may or may not have seen Jungle Fever. If I did, I was too young to remember it. The same with Clockers.

Summer of Sam literally had me afraid to go outside. Again… You had me, sir.

Bamboozled was a masterpiece, ahead of its time.

I had never even heard of 25th Hour (I now need to look that one up).

When I saw your name in the credits for Inside Man, I damn near lost my mind (such a GOOD ending).

Miracle at St. Anna messed with me in a way that no war movie ever had since what? Glory? Something about seeing “us” on-screen die for what appeared to be such a meaningless thing… And you brought that to life in a new place while making it all feel so “Spike”. The story was inspired by actual events, too! That’s insane. Still — Damn… You had me, sir.

I missed Red Hook Summer. Knew about it, just didn’t see it. My bad.

Thank you for bringing Oldboy to the attention of the U.S. masses. It did the Japanese original proud.

Chi-Raq, although ridiculous, still didn’t seem entirely far-fetched. And my uncultured swine ass hadn’t even heard of Lysistrata before, but you brought it to my attention (along with Teyonah Parris — praise Him).

The movie of the year sleeper hit for 2018 for ME was BlacKkKlansman (for live-action movies, anyway – Ready Player One came out in theaters that same year, and I’m a geek for nostalgia). The timing of this movie’s release… And the ending montage (to anyone reading this – if you’ve never seen BlacKkKlansman, click that link)… I still remember people audibly gasping in the audience as we were reminded about the Charlottesville car attack (still fresh in a lot of minds). Sir. Spike. Mr. Lee — it was poignant and more people NEEDED to see that movie at the time (and more people still do). Your allusions to Trump throughout the film didn’t go unnoticed… And then you just did it (for those who didn’t get it). It was bold — and the idea of showing the U.S. Flag in a state of distress at the end?!?!? SIR.

You did your thing with that one, Spike. Once again… You had me, sir.

I saw that your name was tied to American Skin – but I didn’t see that one. And because of the subject matter and the times we live in concerning police brutality, I was confused about whether or not that one would even really see the light of day. That trailer hurt to watch. It hurt.

The last movie of yours I saw was Da 5 Bloods. I enjoyed it.

Through all these years, you took stories and interesting characters, made them human (and sometimes, caricatures), displayed them uniquely, and had my imagination running on all cylinders.

What I’m trying to say is: I’m a fan.

A Non-Distorted Version of The Header Image

I made this with my Top 10 Spike Lee Joints in order from top left going clockwise.

Feel free to download it by clicking the image below. And if anyone wants the actual Header Image file, here you go.

Johnnie's favorite Spike Lee movies.

Mandatory Spike Lee Double Dolly Shot Break…

I don’t care who doesn’t like it. I love it.

I Thank You, Sir

You don’t have to prove anything to anyone. You have earned your spot of honor, and you have earned this Lifetime Achievement acknowledgment.

As a younger-than-you Black Man, I am incredibly proud of you. You are one of my heroes. And as a straight-up fan of movies (especially yours), I’m happy that I’ve gotten to see your catalog unfold over time. I look forward to rocking with you until you officially hang it up.

Some Black People currently have Tyler Perry, Ava DuVernay, Ryan Coogler, or even Jordan Peele as their favorite Black filmmakers. Na — I’ve got Spike Lee.

I have never met you, but sincerely, “Thank you.” Thank you for all of the influence you’ve had on my life, and thank you for all of the years of creativity and thoughtful nuance that you have poured out for the masses through film. I hope you live to see your team win a championship again someday soon.

NEW YORK - SEPTEMBER 7, 2019: American film director, producer, writer, and actor Spike Lee in New York City

Congrats, Spike.

Peace, and thanks for reading.

The soundtrack for this post provided by…

Image Credits:
– Cover Image © Johnnie Weathersby III
– Body Image 1 © Johnnie Weathersby III

– Body Image 2 © Leonard Zhukovsky (Shutterstock)

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