Jump to content
Sign in to follow this  
Benchwarmer

Do the Right Thing

Recommended Posts

Could not find a discussion board for this film. I have not seen this one yet, but it is widely regarded as Spike Lee's masterpiece. Was wondering if anyone could share some (non-spoiler) thoughts to help me decide whether or not I should seek it out?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Non-spoiler thoughts: Yes! My all means!

I view it as the best film ever to think about racism from many perspectives. Not just the story line but things like the series of "You (fill in the minority)" rants at about 45-50 minutes in. Consider Sal's paternalism or the cops' attitudes. What about gentrification? What about newer minorities like the Korean grocer (who during the riot claims "I black"?


A foreign movie can't be stupid.

-from the film
Armin

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I once met Spike Lee in a bar in New York, and told him that I thought Do The Right Thing was the best film of the 1980's. He smirked and said, "You mean it wasn't Driving Miss Daisy which won the Oscar that year?"


In eternity this world will be Troy, I believe, and all that has passed here will be the epic of the universe, the ballad they sing in the streets. -- Gilead, by Marilynne Robinson

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Definitely worth watching. Personally, I found 'Bamboozled' to be scathing in its social commentary and probably more engrossing as a story. And I wonder, too, if 'When the Levees Broke' will ultimately be considered Lee's masterwork.


To be an artist is never to avert one's eyes.
- Akira Kurosawa

https://www.patheos.com/blogs/secularcinephile/

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I once met Spike Lee in a bar in New York, and told him that I thought Do The Right Thing was the best film of the 1980's. He smirked and said, "You mean it wasn't Driving Miss Daisy which won the Oscar that year?"

That is an awesome story.


"...the vivid crossing of borders between film and theology may save the film from the banality of cinema and festival business, and it may also save the church from the deep sleep of the habitual and the always known."

(Hans Werner Dannowski)

Filmwell | Twitter

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I once met Spike Lee in a bar in New York, and told him that I thought Do The Right Thing was the best film of the 1980's. He smirked and said, "You mean it wasn't Driving Miss Daisy which won the Oscar that year?"

smile.gif

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Just caught this last night. Still feels fresh. I wonder about the MLK and Malcolm X quotes that finish the film...were they part of the original plan? Or was that something added in post? It felt...incongruous with the 115 preceding minutes.

Edited by Buckeye Jones

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Buckeye Jones wrote:

: I wonder about the MLK and Malcolm X quotes that finish the film...we're they part of the original plan? Or was that something added in post? It felt...incongruous with the 115 preceding minutes.

I believe they were added in post.


"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I should probably get around to seeing this film...


"You know...not EVERY story has to be interesting." -Gibby

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I should probably get around to seeing this film...

 

Yes, yes you should. I love it more every time I watch it.


"A director must live with the fact that his work will be called to judgment by someone who has never seen a film of Murnau's." - François Truffaut

Twitter.
Letterboxd.

Reviews and essays at Three Brothers Film.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

It's a terrific film, quite challenging in many respects. The structure of it is a little odd--it's almost a magical realism view of the neighborhood. People existing in these little sphere's where they pop up almost randomly, everyone eats at the same pizzeria, Smiley tells the story of MLK and Malcolm. Characters are more archetypes than realistic; this does some funky things with the denouement in terms of Radio Raheem. As a character, the dude's kind of annoying. But as an archetype he's critical to understanding what it means to do the right thing. More later.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

You gotta help me:  The Help?  You're referring to the white girl saves every poor black servant girl that her racist family and friends feel racist about movie?

 

First viewing tonight. It ended better than it began but it almost didn't, from wanting to take the disk out several times in the first half due to boredom. No reviews I found online ever complained about it though, nearly everyone gives Lee's film the max or near max rating possible which I cannot agree with. In the previous two weeks before viewing Do The Right Thing I watched 12 Years A Slave, 42:The Jackie Robinson Story, The Help, and Fruitvale Station all of which outscore it as a civil rights related film.  In content Do The Right Thing falls between those and Ice Cube's The Barbershop which I liked, however it ends violent like most Scorsese movies, at best a B grade film.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

First viewing tonight. It ended better than it began but it almost didn't, from wanting to take the disk out several times in the first half due to boredom. No reviews I found online ever complained about it though, nearly everyone gives Lee's film the max or near max rating possible which I cannot agree with. In the previous two weeks before viewing Do The Right Thing I watched 12 Years A Slave, 42:The Jackie Robinson Story, The Help, and Fruitvale Station all of which outscore it as a civil rights related film.  In content Do The Right Thing falls between those and Ice Cube's The Barbershop which I liked, however it ends violent like most Scorsese movies, at best a B grade film.

 

The first half, the cast goes about saying their own version of "up yours!", no plot, just random personalized loud vocal variations of f-bombs for a full hour. I half expected Scarface to step out of Sal's pizza place to scream four letter words in the street, unarmed. I wouldn't say Spike Lee borrowed from Pacino, but Al's picture was probably in the film.

 

The second hour was interesting, giving it something to say or something alive to follow at least but it was a long time coming. Though I liked the last hour more, it couldn't rescue the whole film to the level everyone else loves this movie. Do The Right Thing is not a five star film but it's not too bad if you don't mind the plot emerging after an hour of chaotic character intros. I liked the camera work and bright colors.

 

Do the Right Thing establishes all its characters and their personalities with their good points and their flaws, and then it slowly escalates the tension as they all give into their anger.  The escalation occurs more quickly in the second hour because the anger is becoming more intense and the conflict more apparent.  And the first hour is essential in creating the community and laying the groundwork for the final explosion.  But I can understand if it doesn't work for everyone.

 

What I cannot understand is how anyone could say The Help is a better film than Do the Right Thing.  That film has no plot for almost two hours (just a bunch of politically correct anecdotes as she talks about publishing the book), and then she finally publishes the book for which there are no *real* repercussions, and then cliched one-dimensional sassy black maid stereotype gets the last word as we are all invited to laugh at and demonize the bitch Bryce Dallas Howard plays, because the right thing to do is humiliate, demonize, and treat our enemies far worse than they ever treated us.  I hate pretty much everything about The Help.  Even Viola Davis and Jessica Chastain playing two more stereotypes can't help that film.


"Anyway, in general I love tragic artists, especially classical ones."

"Even the forms for expressing truth can be multiform, and this is indeed necessary for the transmission of the Gospel in its timeless meaning."

- Pope Francis, August 2013 interview with Antonio Spadaro

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I haven't seen this film since it was brand new, but for some reason the main thing I remember about it is the New Yorker review (Anthony Lane, I think?) noting that bashing in a ghetto blaster isn't necessarily racist, since Philip Glass played at that volume would be just as irritating as whatever the character in the film was blasting (and in someone's private establishment, no less). I was just getting into Philip Glass at that time (I first saw Koyaanisqatsi the same year Do the Right Thing came out), so that line stuck with me.


"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Of course, I took the first shot at The Help, which I still think is a morass of liberal white guilt designed to make liberal white audiences feel better about how they would have been different had they lived during the civil rights struggle, and leaving aside the cultural tendency of films about race and oppression typically being viewed through the lens of the privileged group, but I'm not sure how one could argue that The Help is a better film than Do The Right Thing on both its substance and its style.  Did Mookie do the right thing?  I love how Spike Lee's film leaves open the possibility of debate.  The Help leaves no room for debate.  You know Skeeter did the right thing.  I think that in a nutshell explains why Do The Right Thing is superior in almost every way--even leaving aside its superior political argument.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

No repercussions you say? Did we watch the same film?

Beyond incurring the wrath of her racist "friends" who never really were her friends in the first place, what does Skeeter suffer? I suppose Davis loses her job, but even then, the film allows her the final punch so the audience feels vindicated.

 

Treating enemies worse? You mean like what was done in Do The Right Thing to Sal and his place. The Help's Hilly was never treated worse than Hilly acted, she was just called on her "shit" and she still would not humble herself. Hilly had a lifetime of bad behavior in a community leadership role, there was no time in the film to even the score on that with words and humble pie.

Do the Right Thing in no way condones what Mookie and his friends do to Sal. It's the tragic finale that results from characters letting their anger and prejudices go unchecked. Furthermore, Mookie and Sal are not even enemies; deep down both of them care for each other, as their exchange the next day indicates, which makes the riot even more pointless and tragic, which the film clearly indicates.

The shit pie is a recurring joke in The Help, which ultimately provides the main driving force for publishing the book and the rest of the film. The audience is meant to cheer, laugh, and revel in Hilly's humiliation.  And honestly, as portrayed in the film, the pie is far more dehumanizing and unethical than anything Hilly does.  She wants to force all maids to use separate bathrooms and makes nasty disparaging remarks.  Yes, she's a bitch.  But getting someone to eat excrement seems like something Fassbender would have done in 12 Years a Slave.  If that's the revenge the "heroes" sink to in order to make themselves feel good, then they are every bit as bad as Hilly is, if not worse.

 

Stereotypes? That would only matter if you were familiar with the stereotype and does not necessarily, by itself, take away from the film. So far, if one dislikes any movie, then it contains stereotypes, but if one likes it then the "Characters are more archetypes than realistic" (Buckeye Jones).

Allow me to point you to what Viola Davis herself said about the characters in The Help:

 

“If you were to come to me and say that you were ambivalent because you felt the writing was not balanced… that you felt — like with Aibileen and Minny and Yule May and Constantine — that you didn’t feel there were a lot of colors to the character, that their humanity was not explored… that you saw just a blank, flat unrealistic stereotype… then I would go with you. I think that is a fair criticism.”

Even if you feel Do the Right Thing has archetypes or stereotypes, its characters have colors, depth, unique personalities, and are developed, which is far more than I can say for The Help.

 

All I get from your remarks is you don't like the Help. That's fine with me.

It's more that I'm very surprised to see one of my favorite films being criticized as inferior to one of my all time least favorite films. But that's fine; we strongly disagree on these two films.

Edited by Evan C

"Anyway, in general I love tragic artists, especially classical ones."

"Even the forms for expressing truth can be multiform, and this is indeed necessary for the transmission of the Gospel in its timeless meaning."

- Pope Francis, August 2013 interview with Antonio Spadaro

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I nominated Do the Right Thing for our top 100 spiritually significant list. Early in this thread, there's discussion about the structure and how the MLK/Malcolm X beginning and end fit with the rest of the movie. I see the beginning and end as spiritual bookends to the question the screenplay constantly asks of Mookie throughout the movie: What voices are you going to listen to? The movie is all about the decisions Mookie makes and these spiritual voices are all personified by the film's characters. Will Mookie listen to of the voice self-interest and just getting by in life (himself), the voice of petty anger (Mother Sister), the voice of reason formed by suffering (Da Mayor), the voices of unintentional racism (the three characters in Sal's), the voice of righteous indignation (Radio Raheem), etc., or the voice of love (the radio announcer, Love Daddy). The MLK and Malcolm X bookends provide a bigger picture of what listening to the voice of love can mean for Mookie. It can be as different as those two men (or three if you want to add Love Daddy).

Edited by Ed Bertram

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Feel like I should admit on the record that, until a couple weeks ago, Do the Right Thing was the biggest blind spot in my life as a cinephile. I finally watched it for the Top 100 and was so happy that it lived up to its reputation. The ambition of that film is still shocking.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Darren said that Blue Velvet is his favourite American film of the last 40 years. This is mine.


"A director must live with the fact that his work will be called to judgment by someone who has never seen a film of Murnau's." - François Truffaut

Twitter.
Letterboxd.

Reviews and essays at Three Brothers Film.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Late in chat tonight, Christian asked about responses to the Top 100 and some of my response was that Do The Right Thing prompted some "what's *spiritually significant" about it?" questions.

Wondering if anyone who voted for the film might want to add some thoughts on that. 

I finally got around to the idea that belonging (to a family, a culture, a society) is a universal human aspiration and seeing the consequences of exclusions helps viewers understand that the consequences of exclusion are spiritual and not just economic/political/social (though they are that). Also, I think films that invite you to *identify* with the other are spiritual. 

But that's two very broad answers. 

It is also a film that wrestles with morality -- I think about the line in Calvary where Father James says, "Thou shalt not kill...no exceptions" and the conversant asks, "What about self defense?" Then Father James says, "Aye, that's a tricky one...." That answer (the morality of violence) has probably gotten more discussion because of the Malcolm X and MLK quotes. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Every time I see it, I bump it farther up my list of all-time favorite films. It gives us a rare and honest depiction of just how complicated it is to discern "the right thing" — and how dangerous and costly, to oneself and others, that "thing" might actually be. It shows up just how commonly we settle for oversimplifications of righteousness in cinema.

I've noticed recently that I cannot stomach anymore the kinds of common detective- and police-drama TV shows I've watched my whole life because I can no longer take the self-righteous grimaces of the detectives and cops when they murmur their contempt for the crooks once they've caught them. Watching Broadchurch Season Three last week, I couldn't even take it from David Tennant and Olivia Colman — their sheer contempt for the villain and their utter lack of curiosity about the forces that might have influenced the villain in his misdeeds. Unlike the first season, which was so richly nuanced, it felt like a standard "Well, we caught the monster — and what a monster!" 

Do the Right Thing, like so much of Lee's work, refuses to settle for the standard "Here is prejudice in America: Black people are the victims of hate." I reveals prejudice at work in everybody's hearts in myriad ways to the point that even Lee himself doesn't seem to know what "the right thing" is. I've come to see his films as trash cans thrown through windows: He figures that making messy art may not solve things, but at least it can relieve some of the tension and get people thinking and talking instead of just shouting and shooting.


P.S.  I COULD BE WRONG.

 

Takin' 'er easy for all you sinners at lookingcloser.org. Also abiding at Facebook and Twitter.

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
9 hours ago, Overstreet said:

Every time I see it, I bump it farther up my list of all-time favorite films.

Yup, this is the case for me too. I would put it in my top 10 at this point.

It certainly doesn't hurt that it's so confidently and wonderfully crafted as well. The classical storytelling and wonderful cinematography, the script and its unity of time and place that helps you feel like you are experiencing the day, the wonderful performances across the board, Bill Lee's score, etc.


"A director must live with the fact that his work will be called to judgment by someone who has never seen a film of Murnau's." - François Truffaut

Twitter.
Letterboxd.

Reviews and essays at Three Brothers Film.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
On 6/26/2020 at 12:13 AM, Overstreet said:

Do the Right Thing, like so much of Lee's work, refuses to settle for the standard "Here is prejudice in America: Black people are the victims of hate." I reveals prejudice at work in everybody's hearts in myriad ways to the point that even Lee himself doesn't seem to know what "the right thing" is. I've come to see his films as trash cans thrown through windows: He figures that making messy art may not solve things, but at least it can relieve some of the tension and get people thinking and talking instead of just shouting and shooting.

I like the idea of the film as an act of protest. To Ken's question above, it is the only film I can think of that accomplishes what it does - which is to get this fundamental conflict and experience in front of us, so that we can see and hear it with vicious clarity. The language of race becomes a liturgy for Lee. Like Ed said above, the film somehow captures all the voices, which itself is a feat of spiritual craft and reflection. I have occasion to talk and preach in regional prisons, one of which is a supermax facility. I will often queue up parts of Do the Right Thing to get me into the head space of spiritual and moral conflict, and how it is entirely possible to feel both unbridled rage and a desire to "do the right thing" at the same time - and even feel justified with flipping the coin in the moment.

Another angle here is that one element of white privilege (or however you want to describe the social reality of being a white person) is that answers to many moral questions feel routine. There is just not much at stake with adhering to general consensus and maintaining the social contract. But for so many fellow Americans, these kinds of questions and decisions are deadly minefields. Lee's narratives tend to leap along with these unpredictable consequences of various choices.

Edited by M. Leary

"...the vivid crossing of borders between film and theology may save the film from the banality of cinema and festival business, and it may also save the church from the deep sleep of the habitual and the always known."

(Hans Werner Dannowski)

Filmwell | Twitter

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

AFI offered Do the Right Thing as a free rental in late June (it's July 1 as I write this, so that offer has expired) and then hosted a Q&A with Spike Lee. The whole thing's worth watching, but I want to especially commend the final 10-or-so minutes, which veer into discussion of Da 5 Bloods and the broader political situation and political moment in the United States right now. You don't have to agree with everything Spike says (although I don't find much, if anything, to disagree with), but Lee really brings the heat in those closing minutes. 


"What matters are movies, not awards; experiences, not celebrations; the subjective power of individual critical points of view, not the declamatory compromises of consensus." - Richard Brody, "Godard's Surprise Win Is a Victory for Independent Cinema," The New Yorker

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

Sign in to follow this  

×
×
  • Create New...