20th Anniversary Edition of Spike Lee Classic Out on DVD
It’s hard to believe that it’s already been 20 years since the summer of ’89 when Do the Right Thing made such a splash upon arriving in theaters. Arguably Spike Lee’s best film (although some might make the case for She’s Gotta Have It, Four Little Girls, Bamboozled, School Daze or The Original Kings of Comedy), this refreshingly-frank exploration of black-white relations earned Spike his first Academy Award nomination (in the Original Screenplay category).
The incendiary tale unfolds in the Bedford Stuyvesant section of Brooklyn over the course of the hottest day of the year in New York City. The searing heat and high unemployment rate has some self-appointed leaders in the African-American community confronting the Italian owner (Danny Aiello) of a pizzeria about why he should have a restaurant in a neighborhood with so few black-owned businesses. And the simmering tensions eventually erupt into a sbering, thought-provoking finale.
Watching Do the Right Thing afresh in this presumably “post-racial” Age of Obama, one can’t help but wonder whether the issues raised remain relevant or if they can now only be appreciated for their nostalgic value. After all, the new debate as the euphoria over having the first black president subsides is the question if Obama is suddenly serving for self-satisfied whites as a symbol of integration and homogenization yet to be realized for the bulk of black folks.
Footnotes: Danny Aiello landed an Oscar-nomination for his stellar work as Sal, although the picture also features quite a number of powerful performances, most notably Spike’s as Mookie, Giancarlo Esposite as Buggin’ Out, Bill Nunn as Radio Raheem and Samuel L. Jackson as Mister Senor Love Daddy. The same can be said about John Turturro and Richard Edson who play Aiello’s sons.
Rosie Perez made her screen debut here as Mookie’s nasal baby mama, Tina, as did Martin Lawrence s Cee. And a couple of since-deceased legends are among the cast, namely, the venerable Ossie Davis and comedian Robin Harris.
A riveting drama which remains just as intense as when it debuted a generation ago.
Excellent (4 stars)
Rated R for profanity, violence and ethnic slurs.
Running time: 120 minutes
Studio: Universal Studios Home Entertainment
2-Disc DVD Extras: 11 newly-discovered deleted and extended scenes, director’s commentary, feature commentary with Spike Lee, cinematographer Ernest Dickerson, actress Joie Lee and production designer Wynn Thomas, retrospective documentary with the cast and crew, storyboard gallery, 1989 Cannes press conference, interview with film editor Barry Brown, trailers, and “Behind the Scenes” and “The Making of” featurettes.
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