1 Year, 100 Movies: #96 Do The Right Thing (1989)

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For 1 Year, 100 Movies, I will watch all of AFI’s 100 Years, 100 Movies list (compiled in 2007) in one year- and will complete a goal on my 2013 Manifesto. Come along on the ride with me- oh, and please pass the popcorn!

Do the Right Thing is a great movie featuring many actors that I know from more recent movies. I have to special mention Ossie Davis and Ruby Dee who I adore as Da Mayor and Mother Sister. I was also pleased to see John Turtutto- whom I recognized from Transformers- give a wonderful dramatic performance as Sal’s son Pino. The movie focuses on love and hate, and racial tensions, throwing together the fate of African Americans, Italian Americans, Korean Americans and Caucasians all on one block in Brooklyn, NY.

The movie is set in the course of one day and starts out (after the “Fight the Power” dance montage) with”Mister Señor Love Daddy” (Samuel L. Jackson) as the local radio disc jockey waking up everyone and noting the stifling heat expected for the day. The tension starts with Buggin’ Out, who lashes out at Sal for the having no ‘brothers’ on his Wall of Fame at his pizzeria, only Italian Americans. On the one hand it is Sal’s restaurant, but the viewer is reminded that on the other hand that this restaurant serves mostly African Americans. The day goes on in a similar fashion. There are many moments with minor decisions that shape the mood of the residents on the block as well as those employed there and the police officers that show up multiple times. The movie climax reaches the point of a riot when Buggin’ Out, Radio Raheem and Smiley enter the pizzeria and demand pictures of African Americans on the wall- which leads to an obscenity and racial slur laced tirade on both sides that leads to Radio Raheem’s  death and the pizzeria being ransacked and gutted by fire.

This movie doesn’t blame anyone or point fingers. If it implicates anyone it implicates us all. It never lets anyone off the hook and invites the viewer to analyze the choices made. Often the choices made were for the right reasons. Of course these decisions- made by all of the people on the block- lead to some terrible results, but we feel hope at the final scene. Spike Lee’s character, Mookie- shares a moment with Sal, his employer. Even though they are both mad at each other after the events that transpired the evening before they reach a place where forgiveness can begin.

During the credits of the movie a couple of quotes scroll across the scene, one from Malcom X, and one that I believe sums up this movie in a very eloquent and hopeful way from Martin Luther King Jr:

“Violence as a way of achieving racial justice is both impractical and immoral. It is impractical because it is a descending spiral ending in destruction for all. The old law of an eye for an eye leaves everybody blind. It is immoral because it seeks to humiliate the opponent rather than win his understanding; it seeks to annihilate rather than to convert. Violence is immoral because it thrives on hatred rather than love. It destroys community and makes brotherhood impossible. It leaves society in monologue rather than dialogue. Violence ends by defeating itself. It creates bitterness in the survivors and brutality in the destroyers.”

-Martin Luther King, Jr.

In my humble, non-professional, average movie-goer opinion this movie earns:

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