Whatever one’s thoughts on Spike Lee as a public figure—his views can be polarizing, to be sure—it seems absurd that in his nearly 40-year career, he’s only been nominated for an Oscar twice. (He was nominated for Best Original Screenplay for Do the Right Thing, which was famously shut out of the Best Picture and Best Director categories, and Best Documentary for 4 Little Girls.) But this year, the Academy will (sort of) make up for Lee’s past snubs by bestowing him with one of this year’s Honorary Awards.
It’s long overdue. While the director’s output has been spotty lately, he’s made some bona-fide classics, including Do the Right Thing and Malcolm X, along with tons of other acclaimed, original films, such as The 25th Hour, She’s Gotta Have It, and Inside Man. The Academy also has a terrible track record of recognizing the work of black directors, with none ever winning Best Director. That said, Lee is in good company: Alfred Hitchock also won an honorary award after failing to ever win the Oscar for Best Director.
Actress Gena Rowlands will also receive an Academy Honorary Award, and Debbie Reynolds the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award, at the Governor’s Awards in November.