Do the Right Thing (1989)

DailyView: Day 64, Movie 109

This was another one of the seminal films that inspired the creation of the DailyView. Spike Lee’s classic Do the Right Thing is considered his masterpiece of race relations and, sadly, it is every bit as relevant in 2021 as it was at the end of the 1980s.

The narrative structure of the movie is uncommon. To be honest, it is more of a character piece than it is a story. The film is about race and the people living in this area of New York. It bounces around to the different characters and we see about their daily lives on this day of a terrible heat wave in Brooklyn.

The plot point that leads to the third act riot was that Sal’s Pizzeria, run by Italian-American Sal (Danny Aiello), was a spot in the neighborhood that everyone went to. One particular patron, Buggin’ Out (Giancarlo Esposito) took offense to the Wall of Fame, a location in the pizzeria where there were pictures of famous people were displayed, bit there were no black people. Buggin’ Out believed that, since black people were the main customers of the store, there should be representation of famous black people on the wall as well.

This confrontation happened early in the movie but does not really carry through the whole film. It happens early and then is revisited at the end in one of the most powerful and painfully realistic scenes in movie history.

Spike Lee plays Mookie, a young man working as a delivery persona at Sal’s. If there was a main protagonist here, Mookie would be it. We get more from his point of view through the film than other characters. He is also important in the end riot scene. However, there are a ton of amazing actors involved. Sal’s son Pino is played by John Turturro, and Pino is filled with anger and racism. You can feel that Pino is on the edge the whole film. Ossie Davis is Da Mayor, an old man who wanders about the street, injecting himself into the drama, and trying to win favor of Ruby Dee’s Mother Sister. Samuel L. Jackson was the radio DJ Mister Senor Love Daddy, the voice of the goings-on. Bill Nunn is Radio Raheem, who plays a major role in the third act. Paul Benjamin, Robin Harris and Frankie Faison are the three men sitting on the street, talking about whatever random ideas that are going through their lives. We also see such notable actors as Rosie Perez, John Savage, Roger Guenveur Smith, Martin Lawrence, Rick Aiello, Joie Lee, Richard Edson, and Steve Park.

The end of the film is truly powerful and can be looked at in a variety of ways. Everyone seems to have a part in what happens, but the perception of fault can be depended on who is watching.

This is a film that is must viewing for everybody. It is an electric film.

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