Spike Lee Talks 'She's Gotta Have It,' 'BlacKkKlansman,' Brooklyn Gentrification

Just days before veteran director Spike Lee would win his first competitive Oscar for the acclaimed biographical crime drama BlackKkKlansman, Hollywood’s most outspoken, singular, and at times maddeningly mercurial visionary was in a surprisingly philosophical mood. This, of course, goes against type for the button-pushing filmmaker who took on Hollywood’s majority white establishment and beat them on his own terms with such bold and unapologetically black statements as School Daze (1988), Do The Right Thing (1989), Jungle Fever (1991), Mo’ Better Blues (1990), Malcolm X (1992), Crooklyn (1994), Clockers (1995), 4 Little Girls (1997), and He Got Game (1998).

So, on a crisp February morning, Fort Greene, Brooklyn’s uncompromising 5’6” Superman was seemingly at peace at his own Fortress of Solitude—the instantly recognizable 40 Acres and a Mule Filmworks townhouse, which doubles for a production headquarters and unofficial retrospective of all things Spike Lee and beyond, from classic movie posters to memorabilia.

“[It’s] an Academy Awards campaign,” the 62-year-old auteur said, describing the minefield-like run-up to his euphoric Best Adapted Screenplay triumph alongside Charlie Wachtel, David Rabinowitz, and Kevin Willmott. “That’s like you’re a politician. There’s a lot of similarities. A lot of selfies. The days of Woody Allen wouldn’t even show up and still getting an Oscar, that doesn’t happen anymore. People want to see you.”

Breaking through with the sobering retelling of the 2014 Ron Stallworth memoir Black Klansman, an absurd but true-to-life story about the first Colorado Springs black police detective who infiltrated the local chapter of the Ku Klux Klan, may not have made up for Lee’s past side-eye worthy Academy Awards snubs. But damn it, it felt good. Following a brief string of missteps between 2013 and 2015 (Oldboy, Da Sweet Blood of Jesus, Chi-Raq), Spike Lee’s epic comeback was complete.

But what do you do after you finally achieve much deserved Oscar reverence? How do you follow up delivering one of the most memorable speeches of the event’s 91-year existence, passionately extolling the meaning of the win on Black History Month as you praise your beloved grandmother, the daughter of a slave, who put you through Morehouse College and NYU grad film school with 50 years of social security checks? What’s next after capping it all off with a heartfelt call to arms to vote in the upcoming pivotal 2020 presidential election (“Make the moral choice between love versus hate. Let’s do the right thing…you know I had to get that in there!”), which managed to piss off Trump and his MAGA hordes?

“I’m on a plane to Thailand to shoot the next film,” said Lee of his next project, a Netflix war drama titled Da 5 Bloods, starring the Black Panther himself, Chadwick Boseman, along with acting vets Clarke Peters, Delroy Lindo, Isiah Whitlock, Jr., and Giancarlo Esposito. “What did Jay-Z say? On to the next.”

But that’s later on down the line. More pressing is the May 24 release of Season 2 of Lee’s Netflix hit She’s Gotta Have It, the sexually audacious series based on his provocative debut black and white romantic dramedy from 1986.

When we last left our ambitious, bold, polyamorous Brooklynite artist Nola Darling, played with joyful ease by DeWanda Wise, she was hosting an uncomfortable Thanksgiving dinner with her three lovers: the smile-inducing Afro-Puerto Rican man child Mars Blackmon (Anthony Ramos), the serious (and still married) Jamie Overstreet (Lyric Bent) and laughably vain biracial photographer Greer Childs (Cleo Anthony).

There’s an existential discussion on Nola’s flip of the male-dominated “player” trope; a holy sh*t artwork reveal (a painting displaying the penises of all three men…awkward); and a surreal dance sequence to Prince’s 1985 majestic, joyous pop gem “Raspberry Beret.”

This next go around, however, Lee raises the stakes. Nola’s romantic relationship with stunning business owner and mother Opal Gilstrap (Ilfenesh Hadera) has entered the leaving-my-toothbrush-at-your-crib phase, which has our free-spirited heroine freaking out. Meanwhile, Mars, kicked out of the apartment by his sister, is forced to finally grow up.

Jamie has to deal with the painful aftermath of his divorce, Greer is still Greer, and Nola D is blindsided by the political and corporate realities of the art world. She’s struggling to hold on to her artistic integrity as well as her bond with girlfriends Shemekka Epps (Chyna Layne) and Clorinda Bradford (Margot Bingham) under the racial and class backdrop of Brooklyn gentrification.

It’s all a wonderful, intense and, at times, cringe-worthy mess. Spike wouldn’t have it any other way. “Our goal is to have five seasons,” Lee laughed. “So in order to achieve that goal, you gotta mix it up. You have to let it be interesting. [Nola] is trying to navigate life. To me that makes her a much more interesting character because she’s not perfect.”

But Lee isn’t content with just revisiting the indelible characters that launched a 30-plus-year cinematic journey that has been both prophetic (his 2000 criminally-underrated satire Bamboozled, an unfiltered reckoning of white America’s blackface obsessions) and unpredictable (the riveting 2006 heist thriller Inside Man, which diverged from his blueprint but still stands as the highest grossing flick of his career with more than $184 million worldwide). He is also embracing the new.

He is the producer of protégé Stefon Bristol’s intriguing time-traveling sci-fi Netflix drama See You Yesterday (May 17), which follows two high school science prodigies who attempt to stop the murder of an unarmed black man by police. All this and Lee still finds time to keep an eye out for the future prospects of his beloved New York Knicks.

“If certain things happen we are going to rocking like the old days at the Garden,’ he said, flashing an optimistic smile. “We got room for two cap players. We are going to have a chance to get the top pick Zion [Williams] from Duke.”

And there’s more. Spike Lee can’t stop, won’t stop.

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A general view of the video screens before the 69th NBA All-Star Game at the United Center on February 16, 2020 in Chicago, Illinois. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement
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Posterized Celebrates Chicago’s All-Time Starting Five For NBA All-Star Weekend

Chicago has not experienced the excitement of NBA All-Star weekend since Michael Jordan dominated the weekend in 1988 by winning the dunk contest and taking home the MVP trophy. The hardworking, blue-collar city has produced some of the greatest basketball players over the years. To celebrate those players, fans were invited to vote on their All-Time Starting Five through the Posterized Experience app leading up to All-Star weekend.

Verizon Wireless funded the mobile event app with content support from Project SYNCERE students, a Chicago-based non-profit that aids in preparing underrepresented and disadvantaged students for careers in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM). The pool of 55 nominees was stacked with amazing talent and included men and women who attended high school in the Chicagoland area for four years and dominated on the court, including the late Ben “Benji” Wilson, Isiah Thomas, Candace Parker, Tim Hardaway, Quentin Richardson, and many more.

On Friday (Feb. 14), the top 5 were revealed during "Posterized: The Chicago Experience" powered by Jim Beam. Derrick Rose, the NBA’s youngest MVP to date, racked up the most votes, and joining him on the list were Los Angeles Lakers power forward Anthony Davis, Hall of Famer Isiah Thomas, 3-time NBA champion Dwyane Wade, and Antoine Walker.

 

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SPECIAL GROUP ......

A post shared by Antoine Walker (@toinewalker8) on Jan 31, 2020 at 10:06am PST

Walker, an NBA champion and 3-time All-Star when he played for the Boston Celtics, joined NBC Sports Chicago analyst Jason Goff in announcing the most voted players during the invitation-only event overlooking the picturesque city at the Chicago Sports Museum & Harry Caray’s 7th Inning Stretch Restaurant.

In addition to Walker being on hand, several other retired NBA players stopped by to enjoy the afternoon soiree, including Kenyon Martin and Chicagoland natives Tim Hardaway, Shawn Marion, and Mark Aguirre. Former NFL player and Illinois Senate representative Napoleon Harris, 1985 Chicago Bears champion Otis Wilson, rapper Jadakiss, iconic radio personality Ed Lover, God Shammgod and more joined in the festivities as well.

Throughout the afternoon, guests were treated to all things Chicago including fun stepping dance lessons, the famous Garrett’s Popcorn, and a special “312” screening lounge featuring movies and television shows set in the city. When asked what it meant to be voted a part of the All-Time Starting Five by fans via the Posterized Experience app, Walker answered, “It is an honor to represent my hometown…Chicago and be recognized as a Top 5 player by the fans. Chicago is a town built on hard work. Many basketball stars are born here, and legends are made. I’m glad that I am a product of this amazing city.”

 

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It’s a wrap folks! Thank you Chicagoland for selecting your #AllTimeStartingFive and major thanks to @recothegreat for capturing the perfect portrait of the #Top5! @antdavis23, @drose, @dwyanewade, @isiahthomas and @toinewalker8 is a tough 🏀 squad to beat! #Posterized #PosterizedExperience #AnthonyDavis #DerrickRose #DwyaneWade #IsiahThomas #AntoineWalker

A post shared by Posterized: Chicago Experience (@posterizedexperience) on Feb 15, 2020 at 7:13am PST

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Los Angeles Lakers' Kobe Bryant reacts during the Game 6 of the 2008 NBA Finals in Boston, Massachusetts, June 17, 2008.
GABRIEL BOUYS/AFP

Kobe Bryant Went From Peerless To Peer, And That's Why It Hurts To Lose Him

If you were to list the major events of Kobe Bryant’s life, it would read like one of those cheesy, unbelievable movies on Netflix that you scroll right past every night. Born to an NBA player, grew up in Italy, made it to the NBA at 17 years old, won five championships, won an Oscar, won an Emmy, died in a helicopter crash.

The abruptness of the ending of the list is matched only by the totality of the list itself. As fellow NBA superstar Kevin Durant put it, “You’ve seen Kobe in every situation… he lived life to the fullest.”

Ultimately it was that all-encompassing nature of Kobe Bryant’s life that made his death so tragic and so painful. Kobe was the rare entity that made the entire world feel something about him. Whether it was love, hate, admiration, fear, respect or whatever other emotion he could elicit out of you as a spectator, you felt it. As such, everybody felt something when the news broke that he’d perished in a helicopter crash, even his most feverish haters.

Perhaps you were attached to Kobe the basketball deity, with his insatiable competitiveness that became its own mantra for life: Mamba Mentality. Or maybe you loved Kobe the artist and storyteller, who found new ways to express himself and succeed after leaving the sport most thought he would be miserable without. But the most wide-ranging side of Kobe is surely the father and the family man. That was the most “normal” of his superpowers.

There was a side of Kobe for everybody, and as such he may have lived as the most revered and celebrated athlete in the world. There are others more popular by standard metrics, but the adulation Kobe received in every pocket of the world is the type of devotion that only existed in eras past, before the internet opened up niches for every single interest and gave platforms for every single counterargument.

In the sports world, Kobe may be Patient 0 for that sort of internet native life, as we’ve been privy to almost his entire life since the moment he arrived, arm and arm with Brandy at his high school prom. His entire career exists on camera somewhere, and most of his adult life is Google-able and available at the click of a button, in HD.

As such, we get the feeling we know Kobe, a sentiment that became amplified when he allowed us to get even closer to him with the intimacy of his social media profiles. His random thoughts were strewn across his Twitter account. His adorable family life is plastered on both his and his wife’s Instagram accounts. Plus, there were documentaries, stories, books, Oscar-winning shorts and every other sort of content for all the rest of his life and the arbitrary contemplations that exist between those two worlds.

Kobe was as transparent as any superstar on Earth, and that made him as endearing as any superhero can possibly be. We felt we came to know Kobe, a jarring turn of events after he existed for two decades as the most sinister, malicious and villainous athlete since Michael Jordan, a man so feverishly and obsessively devoted to winning it left him with strained relationships, but five championship rings to warm his bed at night.

 

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My Gigi

A post shared by Kobe Bryant (@kobebryant) on Sep 3, 2019 at 1:59pm PDT

Suddenly he was approachable, an aloof basketball dad, now fully devoted to family life in a way that somehow seemed even more dedicated than he ever was to his previous profession. It made for a few comical pictures and stories, but it resonated, and the supernatural had become normal. After two decades of Kobe doing things no other human could hope to do, he was doing the things every other human does on a daily basis and it made him even more lovable.

But that turn is what made his sudden death even that much more painful. Kobe was doing something every parent of an athlete has done hundreds of times, taking their child to a game and sharing that intimate ride and alone time that may not exist if the sport had not brought them together for that moment. That’s the innocuous moment that led to the death of Kobe Bryant and eight others, including his own 13-year-old daughter, Gianna.

For many, that made the tragedy hit unbearably close to home. Whether as a parent, a coach, someone who was once that kid riding to the game with their parents or any other cog in the village that raises a child. Everybody has been within that equation somewhere, and now the reality of how fleeting those moments can be is staring the entire world in the face, forcing them to come to grips with the fragility of life. Not only your own life, but those closest to you who could be doing something as ordinary as driving to a game on a Sunday morning.

 

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Had a great trip to @uconnwbb for senior night and the retirement of basketball legend @promise50 with my baby Gigi. Thank you Gampel, Thank you Coach Geno and Cd for the warm welcome. Good luck the rest of the way 💪🏾 #mambamentality #wizenard

A post shared by Kobe Bryant (@kobebryant) on Mar 2, 2019 at 9:22pm PST

Once again, Kobe is making everybody feel something. Once again, he’s bringing people together, united by a common cause, and feeling ever so strongly about the topic at hand. Gone is the hate or even the fear for the man they call The Black Mamba. Now that’s been replaced by somber regret, sadness, reflection and perhaps most importantly, appreciation.

Rarely does the death of a complete stranger create ripples in someone’s life, but it seems Kobe’s has caused tidal waves for many. In stripping away the layers of mythology that once shrouded him from normalcy, Kobe was no longer a stranger. He’d become a big brother, an uncle, a friend to so many, even from afar. Kobe spent his entire basketball life as a peerless prodigy, a wonder of the world who was simply unmatched. From the moment he retired he became the exact opposite, he was a peer.

So, on January 26, the world didn’t lose a stranger who played basketball for a living, they lost a peer, a friend who they’d known for over 20 years. Even if you never met Kobe, you met him. You watched him grow, from an innocent, smiling child who dreamed of the impossible, to a hyper-focused brooding adult at work. And what did he become after achieving the impossible over and over? He went right back to smiling, as a gleeful father entering an entirely new and exciting stage of life.

There was a little bit of Kobe in all of us, and that’s why it hurts so bad to lose all of him.

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Michael Jordan Delivers Emotional Speech At Kobe & Gianna Bryant Memorial Service

After Alica Keys delivered a classical performance of "Moonlight Sonata," his basketball idol, Michael Jordan, stepped to the podium to deliver an emotional speech about the late, great Kobe Bryant. As tears fell from his eyes and down his face, Jordan shared his fondest memories of the legend, how close they were as friends, and talked about the late nights where Bryant would ask him questions about life while being that pestering "nuisance" of a little brother.

"At first, it was an aggravation, but then it turned into a passion," he admitted. "This kid had a passion like you would ever know. It's an amazing thing about passion. If you love something, if you have a strong passion for something, you would go to the extreme to try to understand and to try and get it.

"As I got to know him, I wanted to be the best big brother that I could be. To do that, you have to put up with the aggravation, the late-night calls or the dumb questions. I took great pride as I got to know Kobe Bryant," he said tearfully. "That he was just trying to be a better person, a better basketball player. We talked about business, we talked about family, we talked about everything. And he was just trying to be a better person."

"Now he's got me [crying]. I have to look at another crying meme for the next...I told my wife I wasn't going to do this, 'cause I didn't want to see this for the next 3 or 4 years," he said as the crowd broke out in laughter and applause. "That is what Kobe Bryant does to me."

Jordan went on to share another story about how Bryant sent him a late-night/early morning text sharing how he's trying to teach Gianna some moves and asked Jordan if he could remember what he was thinking about at Gianna's age as he was trying to work on his moves.

"I say, 'What age?' He says 12. I said, 'At 12, I was trying to play baseball," continued Jordan before a laughing audience."He sends me a text saying 'laughing-my-a**-off.' And this is at 2 o'clock in the morning."

Jordan went on to address Bryant's wife, Vaness, and their daughters, saying how he and his wife will be there for them, before sending condolences to the families of the other people who perished in the tragic accident. He went on to stress the importance of living in the moment when with "When Kobe Bryant died, a piece of me died. And as I look in this arena, and across the globe, a piece of you died or else you wouldn't be here. Those are the memories that we have to live with and learn from.

"I promise you from this day forward, I will live with memories of knowing that I had a little brother that I tried to help in every way I could. Please, rest in peace, little brother."

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