Do the Right Thing (1989)

Do the Right Thing
Written and directed by Spike Lee
(number 407)

First up, you need to play this song before you read the review, as you read.

Brooklyn, in the middle of a heatwave. The existing racial tensions boiling up with the heat. It’s a slice of life picture about people I cannot try to speak for, only understand what I can from Mr Lee’s seminal work. Movies like this may not be easy to watch, but they’re important for inspiring understanding and love.

To be honest I thought this movie would be a harder watch than it was. It’s very funny, and Lee’s habit of having characters monologue to the camera every now and then gave it a play-like feel I enjoyed.

Almost thirty years before the death of Eric Garner Spike Lee put almost the same exact scene up on the screen. But it’s not because he was prescient, it’s because shit like that has been going on for so long. It’s more in the light today maybe, with social media etc, but… Ouch. That made the scene so much more real, more visceral.

Does it make me love the people? To begin with I couldn’t tell the characters apart there’s just so many to keep track of in this ensemble, but over the course of the movie, yes. When Radio Raheem’s radio got smashed, I gasped, caught my breath. I had come to love him and I knew what his music meant to him. Smiley, and Mother Sister, Jade and everyone.

I really loved, well no, I didn’t love. But the scene between Pino and Mookie is very powerful where Mookie points out that all Pino’s favourite famous people are black, and there’s a horribly real cringe response with Pino being like ‘yeah, but they’re not black, you know?’. There’s so much uncomfortable truth in this film and it’s depressing that the world doesn’t seem to have moved on so much – even with a black president in the States. New Zealand still has crap like this happening too, although thankfully not to the same extent.

Bechdel test: There’s a screaming argument about whether or not someone’s going to babysit between Tina and her mother, but I’m unsure if the mother is named. Later on there’s a nice conversation between Jade and Mother Sister, about how they should catch up more and how Jade’s going to do Mother Sister’s hair, so yes, this passes.

Best line:

Mother Sister: Hey, you old drunk, what did I tell you about drinking in front of my stoop? Move on; you’re blocking my view. You are ugly enough; don’t stare at me. The evil eye doesn’t work on me.
Da Mayor: Mother Sister, you’ve been talkin’ about me for 18 years. What have I ever done to you?
Mother Sister: You a drunk fool.
Da Mayor: Besides that? Da Mayor don’t bother nobody and nobody no bother da Mayor but you. The Man just tends to his own business. I love everybody; I even love you.
Mother Sister: Hold your tongue: you don’t have that much love.

Mister Senor Love Daddy: WE LOVE ROLL CALL, Y’ALL! Boogie Down Productions, Rob Base, Dana Dane, Marley Marl, Olatunji, Chuck D, Ray Charles, EPMD, EU, Alberta Hunter, Run-D.M.C., Stetsasonic, Sugar Bear, John Coltrane, Big Daddy Kane, Salt-n-Pepa, Luther Vandross, McCoy Tyner, Biz Markie, New Edition, Otis Redding, Anita Baker, Thelonious Monk, Marcus Miller, Branford Marsalis, James Brown, Wayne Shorter, Tracy Chapman, Miles Davis, Force MDs, Oliver Nelson, Fred Wesley, Maceo, Janet Jackson, Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, Jimmy Jam, Terry Lewis, George Clinton, Count Basie, Mtume, Stevie Wonder, Bobby McFerrin, Dexter Gordon, Sam Cooke, Parliament-Funkadelic, Al Jarreau, Teddy Pendergrass, Joe Williams, Wynton Marsalis, Phyllis Hyman, Sade, Sarah Vaughn, Roland Kirk, Keith Sweat, Kool Moe Dee, Prince, Ella Fitzgerald, Dianne Reeves, Aretha Franklin, Bob Marley, Bessie Smith, Whitney Houston, Dionne Warwick, Steel Pulse, Little Richard, Mahalia Jackson, Jackie Wilson, Cannonball AND Nat Adderley, Quincy Jones Marvin Gaye, Charles Mingus AND Marion Williams. We wanna thank you all for makin’ our lives just a little brighter here on We Love Radio!

State of Mind: Impressed, tense, blown away. New respect for Public Enemy, depressed for humankind, all the good stuff. This, to me, does way more to breed understanding and empathy than Crash did. The different point of view and the lack of guilt-ridden white people made it so much a better movie to me. I don’t need white people present to understand. Very impressed. I will watch this again at some point, I’m sure.

Watched movie count


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