20th Anniversary Edition of Spike Lee Classic
It has already been 20 years since the summer of 1989. At that time, Do the Right Thing made a huge splash when it arrived in local theaters.
I believe it was Spike Lee’s best film. Some people may make the case for his other films, such as She’s Gotta Have It, Four Little Girls, Bamboozled, School Daze or The Original Kings of Comedy.
Do the Right Thing is a refreshingly-frank exploration of black-white relations, and it rightfully earned Spike his first Academy Award nomination in the Original Screenplay category.
Do the Right Thing is an incendiary tale that unfolds in the Bedford Stuyvesant section of Brooklyn during New York City’s hottest day of the year. The searing heat and high unemployment rate leads to some self-appointed leaders in the African-American community confronting the Italian owner of a pizzeria about why he should have a restaurant in a neighborhood with so few black-owned businesses.
Danny Aiello plays that Italian businessman. The simmering tensions in the city eventually erupt into a sobering, 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.
Now, there is a new debate as the euphoria over having the first black president subsides. Many people are asking a question. Is Barack Obama suddenly serving for self-satisfied whites as a symbol of integration and homogenization yet to be realized for most black folks.
Additional notes: 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.
Do the Right Thing is a riveting drama that remains just as intense as when it debuted a generation ago.
Do the Right Thing:
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.