Julia Roberts held the answer to the evening's biggest question in her hand. The name of one the eight movies nominated for Best Picture at the 2019 Oscars was written in the envelope. Spoiler alert: Green Book won — and not everyone in the audience was happy about it.
According to reports from people within the theater, Lee didn't hide his negative reaction. Award columnist Pete Hammond reported for Deadline, "Lee clearly was furious, got up and walked toward the back of the auditorium in a huff. He then turned back and appeared to get into an intense conversation with Jordan Peele, who was behind him. Lee paced the aisle and stormed to the back of the auditorium. When he came back, he turned his back to the stage during the speech." Peele, along with others in the room, declined to clap.
Associated Press reporter Andrew Dalton's tweets added further color to the behind-the-scenes commotion. Apparently, Lee tried to exit the theater but was stopped by staffers at the doors.
Spike Lee was visibly angry when "Green Book" was announced as the winner of best picture at the Oscars, waving his arms in disgust and appearing to try to storm out of the Dolby Theatre before he was stopped at the doors. He returned to his seat when the speeches were over.— Andrew Dalton (@andyjamesdalton) February 25, 2019
After the ceremony, Lee had a chance to explain his reaction. When asked about Green Book's win on the Guardian red carpet, a playful Lee couched it in sports terminology: "I thought it was court side in [Madison Square] Garden and the ref made a bad call."
Many have commented on the undeniable symmetry between the 2019 Oscars and the 1990 Oscars, when Spike Lee's Do the Right Thing was passed over in favor of the film Driving Miss Daisy. Like Green Book, Driving Miss Daisy depicted a Black and white individual transcending prejudice after enough time spent in a car together. Green Book was riddled with controversies, most of them regarding the movie's handling of race. Simply put, Lee said Green Book wasn't his "cup of tea."
Backstage, Lee commented on the parallels between the 2019 and 1990 Oscar races. “I’m snakebit. I mean every time somebody's driving somebody, I lose. But they changed the seating arrangement!” Lee said. Still, he's confident that BlacKkKlansman will endure — just as Do the Right Thing did. “Whether we won Best Picture or not, this film will stand the test of time being on the right side of history,” Lee added.