Milwaukee – He got opinions.
Filmmaker Spike Lee lashed out at everyone from Thomas Jefferson to rapper Master P in a lively speech at Milwaukee Area Technical College.
Speaking without notes, Lee wielded a handheld microphone like a dagger for his oft-controversial statements.
Lee skewered major college athletic programs when discussing his 1998 film “He Got Game.”
Lee wondered if “Beloved” would have been a better film with an African-American female director; ripped Quentin Tarantino’s excessive use of the n-word in his films; and chided the predominantly African-American crowd of 800 students and staff about the films they support.
Lee asked the audience how many saw “Down in the Delta,” a recent drama about a Black family, starring Alfre Woodward and written and directed by Maya Angelou.
Only a few hands went up.
“Not many, not many,” Lee said. “We’d rather see ‘Booty Call.’
“We as an audience – an African-American audience – have failed our own. We won’t support films that break the Hollywood mold of us.”
Lee listed “Down in the Delta,” John Singleton’s “Rosewood” and his own 1996 film “Get on the Bus” as good movies that struggled at the box office because Black audiences didn’t support them.
At age 41, Lee has made 11 films – from his breakthrough “Do the Right Thing” to the Oscar-nominated documentary “Four Little Girls” – in 11 years. Entering the film business took just about as much time, he said.
A 1979 graduate of Morehouse College in Atlanta, Lee was not accepted to film school at USC or UCLA due to low scores on standardized tests, which he said are culturally biased. He earned admission to New York University’s graduate school on the basis of his portfolio.
Asked what advice he would give today’s young African Americans, Lee said, “Read, write and learn to speak correctly. Simple.”
Lee also urged Blacks to be more vocal about TV, movies or music that they find offensive.
He criticized Fox’s popular new series “The PJs,” a claymation comedy about a family living in an inner-city housing project. The show’s executive producer is Eddie Murphy, Lee’s friend.
“I’m disappointed in my man (Murphy),” Lee said. “We’re going backwards with this. I never thought anything could go lower than (the short-lived sitcom) ‘Homeboys from Outer Space.’ But ‘PJs’ does that.”
During a question-and-answer session, Lee responded to a charge that his film “He Got Game” misrepresented college athletic recruiting. Lee said everything, including sexual favors, happen during recruiting visits. Pro players in the film traded similar stories about their own recruiting experiences.
“We could have shown a lot worse things,” he said.
Lee also ripped historical views of Thomas Jefferson. “African Americans are not all the same; I think Thomas Jefferson would attest to that. The DNA got him. (His slave Sally Hemings) was 14 years old at the time they had sexual relations. People don’t mention that.”
Tarantino received some spite from Lee, too.
“He says he grew up around Black people so that makes it OK to use the ‘N’ word. That’s ludicrous. He leads young white America to believe it’s OK to use that word.”