Wednesday, March 14, 2012
Do the Right Thing
Do the Right Thing [Blu-ray]
Number 96 on the 2007 AFI List of the 100 Best American Films
Do the Right Thing is a 1989 American comedy/drama produced, written, and directed by Spike Lee, who is also a featured actor in the film. Other members of the cast include Danny Aiello, Ossie Davis, Ruby Dee, Richard Edson, Giancarlo Esposito, Bill Nunn, and John Turturro. It is also notably the feature film debut of Martin Lawrence and Rosie Perez. The movie tells the story of a neighborhood's simmering racial tension, which comes to a head and culminates in tragedy on the hottest day of the summer.
The film was a commercial success and received numerous accolades and awards, including an Academy Award nomination for Lee for Best Original Screenplay and one for Best Supporting Actor for Aiello's portrayal of Sal the pizzeria owner. It is often listed among the greatest films of all time. In 1999, it was deemed to be "culturally significant" by the U.S. Library of Congress, and was selected for preservation in the National Film Registry, one of just five films to have this honor in their first year of eligibility.
* Spike Lee as Mookie, a young black man working in Sal's Famous Pizza
* Danny Aiello as Sal, a surly Italian man who owns the pizzeria
* Ossie Davis as Da Mayor, an older black man who some call the town drunk
* Ruby Dee as Mother Sister, an older black woman who observes the neighborhood goings-ons from the window of her brownstone
* Steve Park as Sonny, a Korean grocery store owner across the street from Sal's
* Bill Nunn as Radio Raheem, a towering young black man who always carries around a huge boom box blasting only Public Enemy's "Fight the Power"
* Richard Edson as Vito, one of Sal's sons and a friend of Mookie's
* Giancarlo Esposito as Buggin' Out, an excitable friend of Mookie's who "wants some brothers" on Sal's wall of fame
* John Turturro as Pino, another one of Sal's sons. He is not happy about being one of the last Italians in the neighborhood, nor about his brother's interracial friendship
* Rosie Perez as Tina, Mookie's girlfriend
* Paul Benjamin as ML
* Frankie Faison as Coconut Sid
* Robin Harris as Sweet Dick Willie
* Miguel Sandoval as Officer Mark Ponte, a policeman
* Rick Aiello as Officer Gary Long, a white policeman
* Joie Lee as Jade, Mookie's sister
* Samuel L. Jackson as Mister Señor Love Daddy, the local DJ
* Roger Guenveur Smith as Smiley, a young, mentally impaired man who tries to sell pictures of Malcolm X and Martin Luther King Jr.
* Steve White as Ahmad
* Martin Lawrence as Cee
* Leonard L. Thomas as Punchy
* Christa Rivers as Ella
* Luis Antonio Ramos as Stevie
* John Savage as Clifton
* Frank Vincent as Charlie
* Richard Parnell Habersham as Eddie
* Ginny Yang as Kim, Sonny's wife
* Nicholas Turturro (extra) (uncredited)
The film was released to protests from many reviewers, and it was openly stated in several newspapers that the film could incite black audiences to riot. No such riots occurred, and Lee criticized white reviewers for implying that black audiences were incapable of restraining themselves while watching a fictional motion picture.
One of many questions at the end of the film is whether Mookie 'does the right thing' when he throws the garbage can through the window, thus inciting the riot that destroys Sal's pizzeria. Critics have seen Mookie's action both as an action that saves Sal's life, by redirecting the crowd's anger away from Sal to his property, and as an "irresponsible encouragement to enact violence". The question is directly raised by the contradictory quotations that end the film, one advocating non-violence, the other advocating violent self-defense in response to oppression.
Spike Lee has remarked that he himself has only ever been asked by white viewers whether Mookie did the right thing; black viewers do not ask the question. Lee believes the key point is that Mookie was angry at the death of Radio Raheem, and that viewers who question the riot's justification are implicitly valuing white property over the life of a black man.
In June 2006, Entertainment Weekly magazine placed Do the Right Thing at #22 on its list of The 25 Most Controversial Movies Ever.