Spike Lee is using his moment on the Oscars red carpet to make a nostalgic fashion statement.
The BlacKkKlansman filmmaker (and first-time Best Director nominee this year) honored Do the Right Thing by wearing four-fingered LOVE and HATE rings to Sunday’s Academy Awards. The powerful accessories resemble those worn by Radio Raheem (Bill Nunn) in Lee’s 1989 classic, which were in turn inspired by Robert Mitchum’s knuckle tattoos in 1955’s The Night of the Hunter. “We gotta make a choice,” the filmmaker said to PEOPLE and EW’s J.D. Heyman and Lola Ogunnaike on the Oscars carpet, in the video above. “Which one’s it gonna be?” he asked, making his own choice by dropping the HATE hand to his side.
“It’s a tale of good and evil,” Radio Raheem says of his jewelry in the film. “One hand is always fighting the other hand, and the left hand is kicking much ass. I mean, it looks like the right hand, LOVE, is finished. But hold on, stop the presses — the right hand is coming back.”
In addition to the story they tell of love overpowering hate, the knuckle rings’ appearance on the Oscars red carpet is especially noteworthy, as Do the Right Thing was snubbed, failing to score a spot in the Best Picture race at the 1990 ceremony. Ironically, the top honor that year went to Driving Miss Daisy, a much more placid take on American racial tensions.
In addition to the throwback to his own film, the director also paid tribute to a late icon with his Oscar wardrobe. “[I’m] honoring my brother Prince wearing purple,” he told Heyman and Ogunnaike of his Ozwald Boateng suit. For the closing credits of BlacKkKlansman, Lee used a rare recording of Prince singing “Mary Don’t You Weep.”
The director also wore the rings to the film’s Cannes screening in May.