Thursday, June 28, 2018

CANON OF FILM: "DO THE RIGHT THING"

DO THE RIGHT THING (1989)

Director/Screenplay: Spike Lee




So, the fact that I happened to watch two movies, back-to-back that happened to be about or take place during the '92 L.A. Riots this week, and you know, everything else that seems to be going on in America at the moment, and as the corner of the news, after "in-depth analysis" of whatever the Idiot-In-Chief has fucked up now, there's just more and more stories and documentation of just, people being racist assholes, I guess it shouldn't come as that much of a surprise to me that now is the time I decided to tackle Spike Lee's "Do the Right Thing". That said, it kinda is. For one thing, I think I just presumed that I had already written on this film before, something I've done quite a bit lately I must admit; (I think I need to start doing more memory exercises.) also, it's surprising for me, 'cause I wasn't planning on it, but I've gotten behind schedule, and the film I was gonna write a new entry on had to wait, so I'm pulling out a pre-written one that I did years ago and I'm just editing and modernizing,...- (Sigh) however, if I'm being honest, the movie's been on my mind a lot lately.

(Sigh) You know what gets me, with all these stories, something has to be going on inside their mind before all this shit happens. Right? I mean, throw this bitch in jail, but how does somebody get to this; has she been throwing and hitting black teenagers near the pool for years? I doubt it. Has she just been brainwashed and is in some kind of trance, 'cause by overexposure of the far right? Maybe. Something piss her off earlier and she's taking out on this kid and even if you are racist, why about this, swimming in a pool, like- Hatred is not genetic, it's taught, you know? I can't fathom every step that eventually devolved this idiot into this, but nothing happens in a vacuum, I know that. (Sigh)

(Shrugs) It's not the most succinct comment, admittedly, but I bring it up, 'cause clearly this has been on my mind. Racism, homophobia, all form of xenophobia is just unnatural, weird, wrong, but...- but the process that leads up to it, to whatever the incident or action, it's never simple, you know? I mean, we want to pretend it is, but even if hatred is racist attitudes and beliefs were just something that we're inclined to do, actions themselves, acted upon them, that-, that's built up over time.

That's not necessarily what "Do the Right Thing" is actually about, but structurally it does feel that way, it's tension and conflict burning up in a small community, a lot of Spike Lee's films actually are about this in one way or another. The word that usually comes up with Lee's work the most is controversial, especially with regard to this landmark movie, but a lot of his movies are actually quite communal, a lot of his best movies in fact, he's naturally a director who's interested in people and keeps an observant sociological eye towards them, but more than that, there's a community aspect to them. His best recent film, "Chi-Raq", underlines the power of the community, so does the film most compared to "Do the Right Thing," "Summer of Sam", so is "Jungle Fever", so is "School Daze", even some of his more esoteric and smallish works like "Red Hook Summer", there are his characters and then there's the greater community of people they're apart of. That's not something he always does, arguably one of his very best films is the biopic, "Malcolm X" doesn't, but it's easy to see that community focus get lost behind his unwillingness for subtlety regarding the less-appealing aspects of human nature that he will put up front in his works.

Mookie works as a delivery boy for Sal’s pizzeria. Sal (Oscar-nominee Danny Aiello) and his two sons drive into the area everyday to make pizza for the neighborhood, which is all African-American despite the fact his Wall of Fame only includes Italian-Americans. His son Pino, (John Turturro) is vocally racist, although only in private. The only other business in the neighborhood is the grocery run by a Korean, Sonny (Steve Park) who just manages to save off the riot from burning down his business. Mookie doesn’t work that hard at his job, but still can’t find time for his son and girlfriend, Tina. (Rosie Perez, in her first film). Ossie Davis is the local drunk on the stoop simply known as Da Mayor, he spends his days drinking beer and trying to get the attention of Mother Sister (Ruby Dee), who’s the local spiritual-type. Others include a group of Puerto Ricans, three old black men who sit under an umbrella all day drinking and commenting on everything, Radio Raheem (Bill Nunn), a kid who carries a boom-box that’s permanently playing “Fight the Power,” by Public Enemy, Buggin Out will overreact to anything, and the voice of the neighborhood, a local DJ (Samuel L. Jackson) who watches everything from his radio booth.

The movie is as much a view of the goings-on of the neighborhood, as it’s about how race can get in the way, and rake it’s ugly head, even when people who may not be particularly racist are involved. It’s not like “Crash,” where everything is about race, this film is about racial tension, from every culture, Blacks don’t go with Italians, Blacks are annoyed by the Puerto Ricans, Puerto Ricans don’t like the white cops, the cops don’t like the Koreans, and the Korean even gets his moment to show his disgust for the Jews (That's all during one amazing montage btw). Lee has said that people all the time ask his whether Mookie did the right thing by throwing the garbage can throw the window, but to this day, no African-American has ever asked him that. I don't know if that's still true or if it ever was, but I do believe that a clash of cultures and experiences has led to more mass confusion than we're probably ever gonna be fully aware of. We're in a little bit of a moment like that now, this debate over, of all things, "Civility", whatever-the-hell that word even means anymore in this bizarro-world hypocritical double talk nightmare we're living in now. And's that the truth, Ruth.

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