96. Do The Right Thing (1989)

“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.”

I don’t believe that I have ever seen a Spike Lee film before. So, this was my first one. And, oh, was it a good one.

It’s very clear from the beginning that Spike Lee has a very specific style, visually. I’m not entirely sure what to call this style, but it works really well with the story that is being told. It almost emphasizes the story, in a way.

One of my favorite things that this film did was use light and colors to emphasize the heat of the day. All the light was orange or yellow tinted. The entire set is made up of warm colors. This helped to visually show the heat. As the day went on, and as the sun began to set, the colors and light became blue. Oddly enough, it wasn’t until the sun went down that the tensions between members of the community reached full capacity.

The heat plays such an important role in this film. It’s almost a character in and of itself. Yes, the tensions among members of the community were there, heat or no heat. However, the heat really helped to bring out people’s feelings. The heat is a character.

The detail within each frame in this film is amazing. It’s the detail that really gives the viewer a sense of how each character in the film lives. I found myself completely captivated by the day-to-day lives these people led.

I enjoyed Samuel L. Jackson’s character in this film. I liked that he was a part of the film and yet he was also an observer like us.

There were certain filmmaking elements in this film that I really liked. There were a couple times that quick edits were used during fast-paced conversation, which just helped to emphasize the speed of said conversation. There were several upward and downward camera angles on people, and I particularly liked the tilted camera angles that appeared when Da Mayor was speaking to Mother Sister. They emphasized Da Mayor’s drunkenness. I also really liked the use of straight on camera angles on certain characters. It makes the audience feel included and uneasy at the same time.

There is a decent amount of “bad” language used in this film. However, I do think that the language is absolutely essential. That kind of language just seemed so natural within the reality of the film that, after a while, it didn’t even faze me.

The actual scored music in this film is beautiful. I really enjoyed the combination of rap/hip-hop music and scored music throughout the film. I felt that it flowed really well.

This film is one that builds, plot-wise. As I watched it, it almost felt like not much was happening, when in reality there was a lot that was happening. And all the little incidents built up to the last twenty minutes of the film where everything finally boils over. I hadn’t realized it, but my mouth had been hanging open the last twenty minutes because I was so astonished at what I had just watched happen.

Culturally, I can see why this film is so important and why it is on the list of 100 greatest films. I, personally, thought it was a fantastic film and it is one that I would watch again. I thought that the slow build up to the large explosion of emotions worked real well. Everybody’s acting was marvelous, from John Turturro to Giancarlo Esposito to Spike Lee, himself.

As for if the main character, Mookie, did the right thing, that is completely up to the viewer. Yes, he throws the trash can through the window of Sal’s Pizzeria, which is what ultimately starts the riot. However, he directed the mob’s anger away from Sal and to Sal’s property instead. Then again, Sal’s Pizzeria, as he mentions throughout the film, means everything to him. He built it with his own hands. It’s completely up to you. Although, I’m sure the contradicting quotes at the end of the film won’t really help with your decision.

Grade: B

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