Every film from Roger Ebert's "Great Movies" essays.
Do the Right Thing
It's the hottest day of the summer. You can do nothing, you can do something, or you can...
On the hottest day of the year on a street in the Bedford-Stuyvesant section of Brooklyn, everyone's hate and bigotry smolders and builds until it explodes into violence.
Racism is a tough subject, it's hard to talk about it without making the usual mistakes—yet, Spike Lee achieves perfection because he approaches his themes in a surprising and much more powerful way. Generally, when we talk about racism, we associate it to the way the black communities are seen and treated by other communities around the world, but there was a sort of self-awareness in Do the Right Thing that allowed Spike Lee to create one of the most significant and relevant films in the history of cinema—this comedy is about racism in general and about the ignorance behind that social perception.
This is a film where we have Italian Americans (who own a famous pizzeria in the neighbourhood)…
Director: Spike Lee (First Film)
Do the Right Thing feels entirely like a rough sketch of thoughts. Thoughts of anger, and compassion and understanding, of confusion and thoughts of course, of love and hate. It's as if Spike Lee had a vision and it was perfectly set out in his head, and he put it into film exactly as his thoughts dictated.
As the quotes from Martin Luthor King jr and then Malcolm X neatly placed in the end credits, there is a lot of contradicting points within the film, and thus there is no clear indication to what Spike Lee wants us to feel, to think and in doing so, this outright fairly portrayed reality entirely means…
That I ever disliked this film seems like plenty good reason to never take anything I've ever said about film seriously. That this film is more relevant and powerful more than 25 years after its release than Selma, which dropped mere weeks ago is both a testament to this film's strength and a sad comment on how little we've grown as a society.
This is one of, if not the most, literate films I've ever seen. From Shakespeare to Tennessee Williams, from 50s melodramas to black musicals, from signifying the monkey to the African diaspora, Spike Lee has pulled far and wide to weave this quilt of great American filmmaking, and well it should be. We're a patchwork, messy society…
Violence ends by defeating itself. It creates bitterness in the survivors and brutality in the destroyers.
That is the tail end of a Martin Luther King quote used before the end credits in Do The Right Thing. Now, if this film would've just ended with that full quote and then proceeded with the credits, I think one would come away with a very different opinion of this film. It kind of puts what you just saw into perspective and offers a strong voice to compliment the film.
But it doesn't.
Spike Lee turns around and shows another quote right after that. A Malcolm X quote stating that violence is intelligent when used in self defense. This makes things a little…
In 1989 there were three films about race.
Of those three, two focused more on relationships between whites and blacks.
Those two films were Spike Lee's Do the Right Thing and Bruce Beresford's Driving Miss Daisy.
Both films were nominated for oscars.
Do the Right Thing was nominated for only two awards, and lost them both.
Miss Daisy was nominated for nine awards, winning four including Best Picture.
This just shows the academy voters' preferance for sticky and sentimental films rather for real and hard hitting films.
For me, Driving Miss Daisy is one of the most annoying and horrible films I have ever seen.
Even Spike Lee agrees, saying "because 20 years later, who’s watching Driving Miss Daisy?"
This isn't really a review, so don't expect any special insights here, but I thought it was necessary to note that considering recent events in Ferguson, now is as good a time as any to revisit Do the Right Thing. I've never written anything substantial on the film. I think about it often and consider it a personal favorite, so I feel strongly about addressing such topics of fiction intersecting with reality and the circular nature of racial tensions in America. However, this viewing is not going to be the one to make that happen. I don't have the words or energy at the moment to do it justice, so I'll have to stick to my usual generic praises.
I can't tell if this movie was uplifting or hopeless. Every beautiful moment squared off against another moment, equally powerful but instead depressing and scary. Great movie.
Spike Lee is gutsy as hell for including scenes like the montage of characters hurling racial invective at the camera. But he's also created a highly entertaining movie, and in a way that I don't think is paradoxical. Do The Right Thing is crackling with life from the very first scenes as Dickerson’s camera flies through the neighborhood. Even the opening credits are remarkable. I still have a lot to stew over with this one, and I appreciate that Lee doesn’t let the audience off easy.
Simply one of the best-directed films I have ever seen. The elephants of Brooklyn are around us always.
A staggering achievement. Most definitely THE Spike Lee film, and for good reason. Essential viewing on every front.
The best movie about race, period (feat. Gus Fring).
Twice in 2 days!
strong on all counts. worryingly relevant.
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