Racial tensions rise to the boiling point on the hottest day
of the year in a predominantly black neighborhood in Brooklyn.
Do the Right Thing (1989)
Written and Directed by Spike Lee
Starring Spike Lee, Danny Aiello, John Turturro, Ossie Davis,
Bill Nunn, Rosie Perez, Giancarlo Esposito, Richard Edson,
Samuel L. Jackson, Joie Lee, Roger Guenveur Smith
Oscar Nominations - Best Supporting Actor (Danny Aiello),
Best Original Screenplay
Do the Right Thing is often cited as Spike Lee's masterpiece. It's the film that landed him his first Oscar nomination, and became one of the most significant racially-charged films of the 20th century. Basically, if you're ever going to watch a Spike Lee film, this is the one. And it lives up to the hype, especially today. I'm not gonna lie and say things are worse than they've ever been, or that we can get through these trying times together. What I will say is what I've said for years. Hate is taught, nobody is born with it. The riots and protests over the death of George Floyd are the latest example of that unfortunate statement that represents the true America. I found it a bit unnerving that, in this film, a major character is killed by police in a very similar manner.
Spike himself stars as Mookie, a pizza delivery boy who works for Sal's Famous Pizzeria, owned by longtime neighborhood pizza guy and closeted racist Sal (Aiello). On the hottest day of the year, tensions begin to rise between Sal's family and their many black customers. Mookie just wants everyone to get along, and not interfere with his paycheck. But when tensions become actions, Mookie is forced to pick a side. Granted, I think there are characters on both sides of the line that could've handled things better, but that's not for today. The performances are fantastic, and I think it's one of Spike's better scripts. It's much tighter than some of his other work.
Do the Right Thing is about to get a resurgence in views due to the similarities the ending has with the current situation. The film represents the boiling point of everyone's seeds of hate. Like a lot of Spike's films, nearly every character has a bit of prejudice, some more than others. And it's understandable how things escalated the way they did, especially once someone is killed. This is one of those films that will never go away, and for a damn good reason.