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Do the Right Thing

Theatrical release poster
Directed by Spike Lee
Produced by Jon Kilik
Spike Lee
Monty Ross
Written by Spike Lee
Starring Spike Lee
Danny Aiello
Ossie Davis
Giancarlo Esposito
John Turturro
Music by Bill Lee
Cinematography Ernest Dickerson
Editing by Barry Alexander Brown
Studio 40 Acres & A Mule Filmworks
Distributed by Universal Pictures
Release date(s) France:
June 14, 1989
United Kingdom:
June 23, 1989
United States:
June 30, 1989
Running time 120 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $6,500,000[1]
(estimated)
Gross revenue Domestic:
$27,545,445[2]
Worldwide:
$37,295,445

Do the Right Thing is a 1989 American ensemble film produced, written, and directed by Spike Lee. The film deals with issues of racial conflict in the multi-ethnic community of Bedford-Stuyvesant, a neighborhood in Brooklyn, New York, during the hottest day of the summer. Director Lee stars in the film, alongside Danny Aiello, Ossie Davis, Ruby Dee, Richard Edson, Giancarlo Esposito, Bill Nunn, and John Turturro. The film is also notable in that it marks the feature film debuts for Martin Lawrence, Christa Rivers, and Rosie Perez.

The film was a success at the box office, and received numerous accolades and awards. The film has grown in stature over time; in 1999, it was deemed "culturally significant" by the United States Library of Congress and selected for preservation in the National Film Registry, one of five films to do so in its first year of eligibility. In 2007, the American Film Institute listed the film as the ninety-sixth greatest American Movie in Film History.

Contents

Plot

Do the Right Thing is set on a single street in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn. The street is populated primarily by African Americans and Puerto Ricans.

The main character in the film is Mookie (Spike Lee), a young man who lives with his sister Jade (Joie Lee, Spike Lee's real life sister) and works as a pizza delivery man for the local pizzeria. Salvatore "Sal" Frangione (Danny Aiello), the pizzeria’s Italian-American owner, has owned the shop for twenty-five years. His older son Giuseppe, better known as Pino (John Turturro), "detests the place like a sickness" and holds racial contempt for the neighborhood blacks. Sal's younger son Vito (Richard Edson) is friends with Mookie, who is black, which Pino feels undermines their fraternal bond.

The street corner which the characters populate is filled with distinct personalities, most of whom are just trying to find a way to deal with the intense heat and go about their regular day-to-day activities. A philandering drunk called Da Mayor (Ossie Davis) is constantly trying to win both the approval and affection of the neighborhood matron, Mother-Sister (Ruby Dee). A young man named Radio Raheem (Bill Nunn) lives for nothing else but to blast Public Enemy's "Fight the Power" on his boombox wherever he goes. He wears a "love" and "hate" four-fingered ring on either hand which he explains in one scene to symbolize the struggle between the two forces, a scene directly lifted from Charles Laughton's 1955 film The Night of the Hunter[citation needed]. A mentally disabled man named Smiley (Roger Guenveur Smith) constantly meanders about the neighborhood, holding up hand-colored (with marking pens) pictures of Malcolm X and Martin Luther King, Jr.. The local radio disc jockey, "Mister Señor Love Daddy" (Samuel L. Jackson) rounds out the cast of characters.

Buggin' Out (Giancarlo Esposito) makes sure his points are heard by whomever is in ear shot. Upon entering Sal's shop, Buggin' Out questions Sal about the "Wall of Fame" and demands he place some pictures of black celebrities on the wall (since, he explains, Sal's pizzeria is situated in a black neighborhood and sells pizza to black people). Sal replies that it is his store, he is proud of his Italian heritage, and that he doesn't have to feature anyone but Italians on his wall. Buggin' Out attempts to start a protest over the "Wall of Fame", but no one will support his protest except Radio Raheem, who got into an argument with Sal about playing his boombox loudly in the store.

Buggin' Out's own angst towards gentrification comes to the front when he verbally attacks a white bicyclist (John Savage), who accidentally bumps into him without apologizing and unknowingly scuffs his Nikes. Buggin' Out begins to harass the man (disregarding the man's apology), telling him to "go back to Massachusetts" (because the man was wearing a Larry Bird Boston Celtics jersey). The small crowd continues to harass him and they unanimously object by sarcastically exclaiming "Awwwww!" when he replies that he was born in Brooklyn.

Radio Raheem and Buggin' Out march into Sal's and demand that Sal change the pictures on the wall. Radio Raheem's boombox is blaring, as always, Public Enemy's "Fight the Power," at the highest volume. Sal demands that they turn the radio down or leave the shop, which the two men refuse to do. Reaching his wit's end, Sal snaps and destroys Radio Raheem's boombox with a baseball bat. Radio Raheem's prized possession destroyed, he becomes enraged and begins choking Sal. Vito and Pino jump onto Radio Raheem in attempt to pull the men apart, at which point the other black men in the restaurant join the scuffle. A fight ensues, which Vito and Mookie try to break up. The fight spills out into the streets, to a crowd of spectators cheering on the fight. White policemen arrive at the scene and begin to apprehend Radio Raheem and Buggin' Out. Radio Raheem is placed in a choke hold that kills him (a reference to a 1983 incident where graffiti artist Michael Stewart was apprehended for defacing public property and killed by the arresting officer in a similar manner).[3] An underlying issue in this series of arrests is that of six officers present in this mostly black neighborhood, only one officer on the scene is black and the rest are white. Buggin' Out yells angrily as he is arrested. Officers continue to beat him from the front seat of the car as they drive him away from the scene.

The fight drew a large crowd of onlookers, all of whom are enraged about Radio Raheem's death. A tense moment ensues when the crowd contemplates violence against the three Italians, who taunt them by saying "do what you gotta do." Deciding that the floodgates are going to burst open eventually, Mookie grabs a trash can and throws it through the window of Sal's restaurant, directing the collective anger towards the property and away from the owners. The angry crowd becomes an angry riotous mob, and rushes into the restaurant and destroys everything within and Smiley starts a fire. The crowd yells "Radio!" & "Go Back to Howard Beach" as the fire spreads.

From there, the mob led by M.L. begins to head for the Korean's market. "It's your turn now, sucka!" yells M.L. But Sunny, the owner, tries to fight them off with a broom all the while yelling, "I no white! I black! You...me...same! We same!", trying to explain he is one of them. The mob spares his store, and begins to disperse with Coconut Sid saying to M.L., "Leave the Korean alone! He's alright!"

Firefighters arrive and begin spraying Sal's building as the crowd is held back by riot patrol. The firefighters, after several warnings to the crowd, turn their hoses on the mob, further enraging them.

When it is all over, Sal's pizzeria is burned beyond recognition, while Sal and his two sons were saved by Da Mayor just before the riot started. Smiley, with no one else around to see, wanders back into the smoldering restaurant and, sympathetic to Buggin' Out's cause, hangs on what's left of Sal's "Wall of Fame" one of his pictures of Malcolm X and Martin Luther King, Jr. shaking hands.

The next day, Mookie, who has been at Tina's, goes to Sal's, where Mookie gets his weekly pay he had earlier been demanding to receive early. He and Sal cautiously reconcile.

The film ends on an ambiguous note due to two quotations. The first, from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., argues that violence is never justified under any circumstances. The second, from Malcolm X, argues that violence is "intelligent" when it is self-defense.

Characters

Major Characters

  • Spike Lee as Mookie - a young black man working in Sal's Famous Pizza
  • Danny Aiello as Sal - A surly Italian man who owns the pizzeria
  • Ossie Davis as Da Mayor - an older black man who some call the town drunk
  • Ruby Dee as Mother Sister - an older black woman who observes the neighborhood goings-ons from the window of her brownstone and despises Da Mayor
  • Richard Edson as Vito - One of Sal's sons and a friend of Mookie's
  • Giancarlo Esposito as Buggin' Out - an excitable friend of Mookie's who "wants some brothers" on Sal's wall of fame
  • Bill Nunn as Radio Raheem - a towering young black man who always carries around a huge boom box blasting only Public Enemy's "Fight the Power"
  • John Turturro as Pino -another one of Sal's sons. He is not happy about being one of the last Italians in the neighborhood, nor about his brother's interracial friendship

Supporting Characters

Production

Spike Lee wrote the screenplay in two weeks.[citation needed] The original script of Do the Right Thing ends with a stronger reconciliation between Mookie and Sal. Sal's comments to Mookie mirror Da Mayor's earlier comments in the film and hint at some common ground and perhaps Sal's understanding of why Mookie was motivated to destroy his restaurant. It is unclear why Lee changed the ending.[4]

The film was shot entirely on Stuyvesant Avenue between Quincy and Lexington Street in the Bed-Stuy neighborhood. The street's color scheme was heavily altered by the production designer, who used a great deal of red and orange paint in order to help convey the sense of a heatwave.

Spike Lee campaigned for Robert De Niro as Sal the pizzeria owner, but De Niro had to decline due to prior commitments. The character of Smiley was not in the original script; he was created by Roger Guenveur Smith, who was pestering Spike Lee for a role in the film.[5] In contrast to the serious nature of the film, three of the cast members were stand-up comedians – Martin Lawrence, Steve White, and Robin Harris.

Controversies

The film was released to protests from many reviewers, and it was openly stated in several newspapers that the film could incite black audiences to riot.[6] No such riots occurred, and Lee criticized white reviewers for implying that black audiences were incapable of restraining themselves while watching a fictional motion picture.[7]

One of many questions at the end of the film is whether Mookie 'does the right thing' when he throws the garbage can through the window, thus inciting the riot that destroys Sal's pizzeria. The question is directly raised by the contradictory quotations that end the film, one advocating non-violence, the other advocating violent self-defense in response to oppression. Spike Lee himself, however, has stated that only white viewers ask this question. Lee believes the key point is that Mookie was angry at the death of Radio Raheem, and that viewers who question the riot's justification are implicitly valuing white property over the life of a black man.[7] Mookie tells Sal to "Motherfuck a window. Radio Raheem is dead". However, some of the other characters in the film, such as Da Mayor, Mother Sister and Mister Señor, disapproved of the riot.

In June 2006, Entertainment Weekly magazine placed Do the Right Thing at #22 on its list of The 25 Most Controversial Movies Ever.[8]

Political allusions

The film contains several allusions to then-recent race-related violent acts.

In the scene in which Mookie shows frustration with his sister for getting too close to Sal, "Tawana told the truth!" is spray painted on the bricks in the rear of this shot, referring to the 1987 Tawana Brawley rape hoax. Towards the end of the film, at the peak of the riot that ensues after Radio Raheem's death, the gathered characters yell the name of Eleanor Bumpurs and begin to chant "HOWARD BEACH! HOWARD BEACH!" referring to the 1986 Howard Beach incident.

Critical reception

The film holds a rating of 98% from Rotten Tomatoes. While on Metacritic the film has an average of 91/100, placing it as one of the top rated films on the site.

Awards and nominations

1989 Academy Awards

  • Best Actor in a Supporting Role – Danny Aiello (nominated)
  • Best Writing, Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen – Spike Lee (nominated)

1989 Cannes Film Festival

  • Golden Palm – Spike Lee (nominated)[9]

1990 Chicago Film Critics Association Awards

  • Best Director – Spike Lee (won)
  • Best Picture (won)
  • Best Supporting Actor – Danny Aiello (won)

1990 Golden Globes

  • Best Director (Motion Picture) – Spike Lee (nominated)
  • Best Motion Picture – Drama (nominated)
  • Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role in a Motion Picture – Danny Aiello (nominated)
  • Best Screenplay (Motion Picture) – Spike Lee (nominated)

1991 NAACP Image Awards

  • Outstanding Lead Actress in a Motion Picture – Ruby Dee (won)
  • Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Motion Picture – Ossie Davis (won)

1989 Los Angeles Film Critics Association Awards

  • Best Director – Spike Lee (won)
  • Best Music – Bill Lee (won)
  • Best Picture (won)
  • Best Supporting Actor – Danny Aiello (won)

1989 New York Film Critics Circle Awards

AFI's 100 Years 100 Movies

  • The American Film Institute from a poll of more than 1,500 artists and leaders in the American film industry voted it the 96th greatest film of all time in its 10th Anniversary Edition, 2007

National Film Preservation Board

  • National Film Registry (1999)

MTV Movie Awards

  • The Bucket of Excellence (lifetime achievement award, 2006)

Connections with other Lee films

  • In the surreal final scene of School Daze, Dap Dunlap (Laurence Fishburne) pleads with the other characters (and the audience) to "Wake Up!" This exhortation is repeated by Mister Señor Love Daddy (Samuel L. Jackson) at the beginning of Do the Right Thing. The whole 'Wake Up' scenario would go on to appear in numerous ways in Spike Lee's films such as Jungle Fever.
  • The child character (Eddie) to whom Da Mayor gives money to buy beer and whom he saves later on, wears a shirt with the inscription 'Da Butt.' 'Da Butt' was a song performed by Experience Unlimited that became popular after the band performed it in the party scene in School Daze.
  • The Air Jordan sneaker scuff scene was originally going to be in She's Gotta Have It, where a complete stranger steps on Mars Blackmon's black and red Jordans.
  • Rick Aiello and Miguel Sandoval portray Long and Ponte, two police officers who eventually arrest Buggin' Out and kill Radio Raheem in a choke-hold. Long and Ponte reappear to harass Wesley Snipes' character Flipper in Jungle Fever. Aiello would go on to play the same police officer in the final scene in 1995 movie Clockers.
  • In his 2006 movie Inside Man, Lee references Do the Right Thing by using pizza boxes that read "Sal's" on the lids.
  • In Bamboozled, white television producer Thomas Dunwitty (played by Michael Rapaport) attempts to demonstrate his knowledge of African-American culture by pointing to photos of black athletes hanging in his office and saying, "Look at all the brothers on the wall." Dunwitty also refers to Al Sharpton as "Reverend Al 'Doo' Sharpton" similar to how John Turturro's character refers to Sharpton.
  • In a memorable scene, characters in the film break the fourth wall and address the camera directly, voicing typically unspoken racial stereotypes. This device was later used in 25th Hour when protagonist Monty Brogan addresses similar prejudices in a bathroom mirror soliloquy.

Soundtrack

The film's score and soundtrack were both released in July 1989. The soundtrack was successful, reaching the number eleven spot on the Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums chart, and peaking at sixty-eight on the Billboard 200.[10] On the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Singles & Tracks chart, the Perri track "Feel So Good" reached the fifty-first spot, while Public Enemy's "Fight the Power" reached number twenty, and Guy's "My Fantasy" went all the way to the top spot. "My Fantasy" also reached number six on the Hot Dance Music/Maxi-Singles Sales chart, and sixty-two on Billboard's Hot 100. "Fight the Power" also charted high on the Hot Dance Music chart, peaking at number three, and topped the Hot Rap Singles chart.[11][12]

Do the Right Thing [Score]
Film score by Bill Lee
Released December, 1988
Recorded December 12, 1988 - December 16, 1988
Genre Film score
Length 35:36
Label Columbia Records
Producer Spike Lee (exec.)
Professional reviews

Score

# Title Music Length
1. "Mookie Goes Home"     1:21
2. "We Love Roll Call Y-All"     1:40
3. "Father to Son"     4:24
4. "Da Mayor Drinks His Beer"     1:03
5. "Delivery for Love Daddy"     1:08
6. "Riot"     1:08
7. "Magic, Eddie, Prince Ain't Niggers"     1:58
8. "Mookie [Septet]"     6:45
9. "How Long?"     3:43
10. "Mookie [Orchestra]"     6:32
11. "Da Mayor Loves Mother Sister"     1:23
12. "Tawana"     1:14
13. "Malcolm and Martin"     1:31
14. "Wake Up Finale"     1:46
Do the Right Thing [Soundtrack]
Soundtrack by Various Artists
Released December, 1988
Genre Soundtrack
Length 53:14
Label Motown Records
Producer Gregory "Sugar Bear" Elliott (exec.), Ted Hopkins (exec.), Mark Kibble (exec.), Spike Lee (exec.), Johnny Mercer (exec.)
Professional reviews

Soundtrack

# Title Music Length
1. "Fight the Power"   Public Enemy 5:23
2. "My Fantasy"   Teddy Riley, Guy 4:57
3. "Party Hearty"   E.U. 4:43
4. "Can't Stand It"   Steel Pulse 5:06
5. "Why Don't We Try"   Keith John 3:35
6. "Feel So Good"   Perri 5:39
7. "Don't Shoot Me"   Take 6 4:08
8. "Hard to Say"   Lori Perry, Gerald Alston 3:21
9. "Prove to Me"   Perri 5:24
10. "Never Explain Love"   Al Jarreau 5:58
11. "Tu y Yo/We Love [Jingle]"   Rubén Blades 5:12

Notes

  1. ^ Aftab, 79.
  2. ^ "Do the Right Thing (1989)". Box Office Mojo. http://www.boxofficemojo.com/movies/?id=dotherightthing.htm. Retrieved 2008-10-25. 
  3. ^ "Spike Lee's Bed-Stuy BBQ", interview with Lee by Marlaine Glickman, 1989, rept. in Spike Lee Interviews, ed. Cynthia Fuchs (University Press of Mississippi, 2002), p.17.
  4. ^ Original script for Do the Right Thing
  5. ^ Do The RIght Thing DVD Audio Commentary
  6. ^ Klein, Joe. "Spiked?" New York 26 June 1989: 14-15.
  7. ^ a b 'Spike Lee's Last Word', special feature on the Criterion Collection DVD (2000)
  8. ^ http://www.ew.com/ew/article/0,,1202224,00.html
  9. ^ "Festival de Cannes: Do the Right Thing". festival-cannes.com. http://www.festival-cannes.com/en/archives/ficheFilm/id/229/year/1989.html. Retrieved 2009-08-01. 
  10. ^ "Do the Right Thing (Soundtrack): Billboard Albums". Allmusic. http://www.allmusic.com/cg/amg.dll?p=amg&sql=10:gnfuxq8gldhe~T3. Retrieved 2009-05-13. 
  11. ^ "Do the Right Thing (Soundtrack): Billboard Singles". Allmusic. http://www.allmusic.com/cg/amg.dll?p=amg&sql=10:gnfuxq8gldhe~T31. Retrieved 2009-05-13. 
  12. ^ "Fear of a Black Planet: Billboard Singles". Allmusic. http://www.allmusic.com/cg/amg.dll?p=amg&sql=10:3pfoxqu5ldhe~T31. Retrieved 2009-05-13. 

References

  • Aftab, Kaleem. Spike Lee: That's My Story and I'm Sticking to It. England: Faber and Faber Limited, 2005. ISBN 0-393-06153-1.
  • Spike Lee's Last Word. Documentary on the Criterion Collection DVD of Do the Right Thing. 2000.
  • Spike Lee et al. Commentary on the Criterion Collection DVD of Do the Right Thing. 2000.

External links


Do the Right Thing
Directed by Spike Lee
Produced by Spike Lee
Jon Kilik
Monty Ross
Written by Spike Lee
Starring Spike Lee
Danny Aiello
Ossie Davis
Giancarlo Esposito
John Turturro
Music by Bill Lee
Cinematography Ernest Dickerson
Editing by Barry Alexander Brown
Studio 40 Acres & A Mule Filmworks
Distributed by Universal Pictures
Release date(s) June 30, 1989 (1989-06-30)
Running time 120 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Italian
Spanish
Budget $6.5 million[1]
(estimated)
Gross revenue $37,295,445[2]

Do the Right Thing is a 1989 American drama film produced, written, and directed by Spike Lee, who is also a featured actor in the film. Other members of the cast include Danny Aiello, Ossie Davis, Ruby Dee, Richard Edson, Giancarlo Esposito, Bill Nunn, and John Turturro. It is also notably the feature film debut of Martin Lawrence, Christa Rivers, and Rosie Perez.

The film was a commercial success and it received numerous accolades and awards, including an Academy Award nomination for Lee for Best Original Screenplay. This film has also grown in stature over time. In 1999, it was deemed to be "culturally significant" by the U.S. Library of Congress, and was selected for preservation in the National Film Registry, one of just five films to have this honor in their first year of eligibility.

Contents

Plot

Mookie (Spike Lee) is a young man living in a black and Puerto Rican neighborhood in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn with his sister, Jade (Joie Lee, Lee's real life sister), and works as a pizza delivery man for a local pizzeria. Salvatore "Sal" Frangione (Danny Aiello), the pizzeria’s Italian-American owner, has owned it for twenty-five years. His older son, Giuseppe, better known as Pino (John Turturro), "detests the place like a sickness" and holds racial contempt for the neighborhood blacks. Sal's younger son, Vito (Richard Edson), is friends with Mookie, who is black, which Pino feels undermines their fraternal bond.

The street corner is filled with distinct personalities, most of whom are just trying to find a way to deal with the intense heat and go about their regular day-to-day activities. A philandering drunk called Da Mayor (Ossie Davis) is constantly trying to win both the approval and affection of the neighborhood matron, Mother-Sister (Ruby Dee). A young man named Radio Raheem (Bill Nunn) lives for nothing else but to blast Public Enemy's "Fight the Power" on his boombox wherever he goes. He wears a "love" and "hate" four-fingered ring on either hand which he explains in one scene to symbolize the struggle between the two forces. A mentally disabled man named Smiley (Roger Guenveur Smith) constantly meanders about the neighborhood, holding up hand-colored pictures of Malcolm X and Martin Luther King, Jr. The local radio disc jockey, "Mister Señor Love Daddy" (Samuel L. Jackson) rounds out the neighborhood.

Upon entering Sal's shop, Buggin' Out (Giancarlo Esposito) questions Sal about the "Wall of Fame" and demands he place some pictures of black celebrities (or as he puts it, "brothers") on the wall, since, he explains, Sal's pizzeria is situated in a black neighborhood and sells pizza to black people. Sal replies that it is his store; he is proud of his Italian heritage and he doesn't have to feature anyone but Italians on his wall. Buggin' Out attempts to start a protest over the "Wall of Fame", but no one will support his protest except Radio Raheem, who earlier got into an argument with Sal about playing his boombox loudly in the store.

That night, as the shop is closing, Radio Raheem and Buggin' Out march into Sal's and demand that Sal change the pictures on the wall. Radio Raheem's boombox is blaring at the highest volume causing Sal to yell and demand that they turn the radio down or leave the shop, but the two men refuse to do. Finally, Sal snaps and destroys Radio Raheem's boombox with a baseball bat. This causes Radio Raheem to become enraged, attacking Sal. A fight ensues along with a crowd of spectators. The policemen arrive at the scene and begin to apprehend Radio Raheem and Buggin' Out. Buggin' Out is arrested while Radio Raheem is placed in a chokehold by one officer, killing him.

Afterwards, the large crowd of onlookers are enraged about Radio Raheem's death. A tense moment ensues when the crowd contemplates violence against Sal, Vito, and Pino. Mookie grabs a trash can and throws it through the window of Sal's restaurant, which turns the collective anger towards the property and away from the owners. The angry crowd becomes a riotous mob, rushes into the restaurant, and destroys everything within, while Smiley sets the restaurant on fire. From there, the mob begins to head for the Korean market. Sonny, the owner, tries to fight them off with a broom, yelling that he is one of them: "I no white! I black! You, me, same! We same!" causing the mob to spare his store. Firefighters arrive and begin spraying Sal's building as the crowd is held back by riot patrol. The firefighters, after several warnings to the crowd, turn their hoses on the mob, further enraging them. Meanwhile, Smiley wanders back into the smoldering restaurant and hangs a picture of Malcolm X and Martin Luther King, Jr. on what's left of Sal's "Wall of Fame".

The next day, Mookie returns to Sal and demands his weekly pay he had earlier been demanding to receive early, which he gets and he and Sal cautiously reconcile. The film ends with two quotations: The first, from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., argues that violence is never justified under any circumstances. The second, from Malcolm X, argues that violence is not violence, but "intelligence" when it is self-defense.

Cast of characters

Major characters
  • Spike Lee as Mookie, a young black man working in Sal's Famous Pizza
  • Danny Aiello as Sal, a surly Italian man who owns the pizzeria
  • Ossie Davis as Da Mayor, an older black man who some call the town drunk
  • Ruby Dee as Mother Sister, an older black woman who observes the neighborhood goings-ons from the window of her brownstone and despises Da Mayor
  • Richard Edson as Vito, one of Sal's sons and a friend of Mookie's
  • Giancarlo Esposito as Buggin' Out, an excitable friend of Mookie's who "wants some brothers" on Sal's wall of fame
  • Bill Nunn as Radio Raheem, a towering young black man who always carries around a huge boom box blasting only Public Enemy's "Fight the Power"
  • John Turturro as Pino, another one of Sal's sons. He is not happy about being one of the last Italians in the neighborhood, nor about his brother's interracial friendship
  • Rosie Perez as Tina, Mookie's girlfriend
Supporting characters

Production

Spike Lee wrote the screenplay in two weeks.[citation needed] The original script of Do the Right Thing ends with a stronger reconciliation between Mookie and Sal. Sal's comments to Mookie mirror Da Mayor's earlier comments in the film and hint at some common ground and perhaps Sal's understanding of why Mookie was motivated to destroy his restaurant. It is unclear why Lee changed the ending.[3]

The film was shot entirely on Stuyvesant Avenue between Quincy and Lexington Ave in the Bed-Stuy neighborhood. The street's color scheme was heavily altered by the production designer, who used a great deal of red and orange paint in order to help convey the sense of a heatwave.

Spike Lee campaigned for Robert De Niro as Sal the pizzeria owner, but De Niro had to decline due to prior commitments. The character of Smiley was not in the original script; he was created by Roger Guenveur Smith, who was pestering Spike Lee for a role in the film.[4] In contrast to the serious nature of the film, three of the cast members were stand-up comedians – Martin Lawrence, Steve White, and Robin Harris.

Controversies

The film was released to protests from many reviewers, and it was openly stated in several newspapers that the film could incite black audiences to riot.[5] No such riots occurred, and Lee criticized white reviewers for implying that black audiences were incapable of restraining themselves while watching a fictional motion picture.[6]

One of many questions at the end of the film is whether Mookie 'does the right thing' when he throws the garbage can through the window, thus inciting the riot that destroys Sal's pizzeria. Critics have seen Mookie's action both as an action that saves Sal's life, by redirecting the crowd's anger away from Sal's person to Sal's property, and as an "irresponsible encouragement to enact violence".[7] The question is directly raised by the contradictory quotations that end the film, one advocating non-violence, the other advocating violent self-defense in response to oppression.[7]

Spike Lee has remarked that he himself has only ever been asked by white viewers whether Mookie did the right thing; black viewers do not ask the question.[8] Lee believes the key point is that Mookie was angry at the death of Radio Raheem, and that viewers who question the riot's justification are implicitly valuing white property over the life of a black man.[6]

In June 2006, Entertainment Weekly magazine placed Do the Right Thing at #22 on its list of The 25 Most Controversial Movies Ever.[9]

Political allusions

The film contains several allusions to then-recent race-related violent acts.

In the scene in which Mookie shows frustration with his sister for getting too close to Sal, "Tawana told the truth!" is spray painted on the bricks in the rear of this shot, referring to the 1987 Tawana Brawley rape allegations. Towards the end of the film, at the peak of the riot that ensues after Radio Raheem's death, the gathered characters yell the name of Eleanor Bumpurs and begin to chant "HOWARD BEACH! HOWARD BEACH!" referring to the 1986 Howard Beach incident.

Critical reception

The film holds a 98% "Certified Fresh" rating on the review aggregate website Rotten Tomatoes. While on Metacritic, the film has an average of 91/100, placing it as one of the top-rated films on the site.

Both Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert ranked the film as the best of 1989 and later ranked it as one of the top 10 films of the decade (Siskel #6, Ebert #4).

In popular culture

  • Many Futurama episodes feature 'Sal's Pizzeria'.
  • In an episode of The Boondocks, Huey Freeman throws a garbage can through Jazmine's lemonade stand, inciting the watching crowd to riot.
  • In the show Martin, a poster of the film always hangs on the wall of Martin Payne's apartment (portrayed by Do The Right Thing cast member Martin Lawrence).
  • In an episode of Everybody Hates Chris, the scene depicting the response to the fire at Sal's is shown.
  • An episode of Childrens Hospital is based off of Do The Right Thing, showing references to the heat, which is a central theme throughout the film, and also to the scene where Tina dances to Fight the Power.

Awards and nominations

1989 Academy Awards

  • Best Actor in a Supporting Role – Danny Aiello (nominated)
  • Best Writing, Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen – Spike Lee (nominated)

1989 Cannes Film Festival

  • Golden Palm – Spike Lee (nominated)[10]

1990 Chicago Film Critics Association Awards

  • Best Director – Spike Lee (won)
  • Best Picture (won)
  • Best Supporting Actor – Danny Aiello (won)

1990 Golden Globes

  • Best Director (Motion Picture) – Spike Lee (nominated)
  • Best Motion Picture – Drama (nominated)
  • Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role in a Motion Picture – Danny Aiello (nominated)
  • Best Screenplay (Motion Picture) – Spike Lee (nominated)

1991 NAACP Image Awards

  • Outstanding Lead Actress in a Motion Picture – Ruby Dee (won)
  • Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Motion Picture – Ossie Davis (won)

1989 Los Angeles Film Critics Association Awards

  • Best Director – Spike Lee (won)
  • Best Music – Bill Lee (won)
  • Best Picture (won)
  • Best Supporting Actor – Danny Aiello (won)

1989 New York Film Critics Circle Awards

AFI's 100 Years 100 Movies

  • The American Film Institute from a poll of more than 1,500 artists and leaders in the American film industry voted it the 96th greatest film of all time in its 10th Anniversary Edition, 2007

National Film Preservation Board

  • National Film Registry (1999)

MTV Movie Awards

  • The Bucket of Excellence (lifetime achievement award, 2006)

Connections with other Lee films

  • In the surreal final scene of School Daze, Dap Dunlap (Laurence Fishburne) pleads with the other characters (and the audience) to "Wake Up!" This exhortation is repeated by Mister Señor Love Daddy (Samuel L. Jackson) at the beginning of Do the Right Thing. The whole 'Wake Up' scenario would go on to appear in numerous ways in Spike Lee's films such as Jungle Fever.
  • The child character (Eddie) to whom Da Mayor gives money to buy beer and whom he saves later on, wears a shirt with the inscription 'Da Butt.' 'Da Butt' was a song performed by Experience Unlimited that became popular after the band performed it in the party scene in School Daze.
  • The Air Jordan sneaker scuff scene was originally going to be in She's Gotta Have It, where a complete stranger steps on Mars Blackmon's black and red Jordans.
  • Rick Aiello and Miguel Sandoval portray Long and Ponte, two police officers who eventually arrest Buggin' Out and kill Radio Raheem in a choke-hold. Long and Ponte reappear to harass Wesley Snipes' character Flipper in Jungle Fever. Aiello would go on to play the same police officer in the final scene in 1995 movie Clockers.
  • In his 2006 movie Inside Man, Lee references Do the Right Thing by using pizza boxes that read "Sal's" on the lids.
  • In Bamboozled, white television producer Thomas Dunwitty (played by Michael Rapaport) attempts to demonstrate his knowledge of African-American culture by pointing to photos of black athletes hanging in his office and saying, "Look at all the brothers on the wall." Dunwitty also refers to Al Sharpton as "Reverend Al 'Doo' Sharpton" similar to how John Turturro's character refers to Sharpton.
  • In a memorable scene, characters in the film break the fourth wall and address the camera directly, voicing typically unspoken racial stereotypes. This device was later used in 25th Hour when protagonist Monty Brogan addresses similar prejudices in a bathroom mirror soliloquy.

Soundtrack

The film's score and soundtrack were both released in July 1989. The soundtrack was successful, reaching the number eleven spot on the Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums chart, and peaking at sixty-eight on the Billboard 200.[11] On the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Singles & Tracks chart, the Perri track "Feel So Good" reached the fifty-first spot, while Public Enemy's "Fight the Power" reached number twenty, and Guy's "My Fantasy" went all the way to the top spot. "My Fantasy" also reached number six on the Hot Dance Music/Maxi-Singles Sales chart, and sixty-two on Billboard's Hot 100. "Fight the Power" also charted high on the Hot Dance Music chart, peaking at number three, and topped the Hot Rap Singles chart.[12][13]

Do the Right Thing [Score]
Film score by Bill Lee
Released December 1988
Recorded December 12, 1988 – December 16, 1988
Genre Film score
Length 35:36
Label Columbia Records
Producer Spike Lee (exec.)
Professional reviews

Score

No. TitleMusic Length
1. "Mookie Goes Home"    1:21
2. "We Love Roll Call Y-All"    1:40
3. "Father to Son"    4:24
4. "Da Mayor Drinks His Beer"    1:03
5. "Delivery for Love Daddy"    1:08
6. "Riot"    1:08
7. "Magic, Eddie, Prince Ain't Niggers"    1:58
8. "Mookie [Septet]"    6:45
9. "How Long?"    3:43
10. "Mookie [Orchestra]"    6:32
11. "Da Mayor Loves Mother Sister"    1:23
12. "Da Mayor Buys Roses"    1:14
13. "Tawana"    1:31
14. "Malcolm and Martin"    1:46
15. "Wake Up Finale"    7:26
Do the Right Thing [Soundtrack]
Soundtrack by Various Artists
Released December 1988
Genre Soundtrack
Length 53:14
Label Motown Records
Producer Gregory "Sugar Bear" Elliott (exec.), Ted Hopkins (exec.), Mark Kibble (exec.), Spike Lee (exec.), Johnny Mercer (exec.)
Professional reviews

Soundtrack

No. TitleMusic Length
1. "Fight the Power"  Public Enemy 5:23
2. "My Fantasy"  Teddy Riley, Guy 4:57
3. "Party Hearty"  E.U. 4:43
4. "Can't Stand It"  Steel Pulse 5:06
5. "Why Don't We Try?"  Keith John 3:35
6. "Feel So Good"  Perri 5:39
7. "Don't Shoot Me"  Take 6 4:08
8. "Hard to Say"  Lori Perry, Gerald Alston 3:21
9. "Prove to Me"  Perri 5:24
10. "Never Explain Love"  Al Jarreau 5:58
11. "Tu y Yo/We Love [Jingle]"  Rubén Blades 5:12

Notes

  1. ^ Aftab, 79.
  2. ^ "Do the Right Thing (1989)". Box Office Mojo. http://www.boxofficemojo.com/movies/?id=dotherightthing.htm. Retrieved October 25, 2008. 
  3. ^ Original script for Do the Right Thing
  4. ^ Do The RIght Thing DVD Audio Commentary
  5. ^ Klein, Joe. "Spiked?" New York June 26, 1989: 14–15.
  6. ^ a b 'Spike Lee's Last Word', special feature on the Criterion Collection DVD (2000)
  7. ^ a b Mark A. Reid (1997). Spike Lee's Do the right thing. Cambridge University Press. pp. 43–. ISBN 9780521559546. http://books.google.com/books?id=TyQdbk7CGtUC&pg=PA43. Retrieved 25 September 2010. 
  8. ^ Do The Right Thing DVD, Director's commentary
  9. ^ http://www.ew.com/ew/article/0,,1202224,00.html
  10. ^ "Festival de Cannes: Do the Right Thing". festival-cannes.com. http://www.festival-cannes.com/en/archives/ficheFilm/id/229/year/1989.html. Retrieved August 1, 2009. 
  11. ^ "Do the Right Thing (Soundtrack): Billboard Albums". Allmusic. http://www.allmusic.com/cg/amg.dll?p=amg&sql=10:gnfuxq8gldhe~T3. Retrieved May 13, 2009. 
  12. ^ "Do the Right Thing (Soundtrack): Billboard Singles". Allmusic. http://www.allmusic.com/cg/amg.dll?p=amg&sql=10:gnfuxq8gldhe~T31. Retrieved May 13, 2009. 
  13. ^ "Fear of a Black Planet: Billboard Singles". Allmusic. http://www.allmusic.com/cg/amg.dll?p=amg&sql=10:3pfoxqu5ldhe~T31. Retrieved May 13, 2009. 

References

  • Aftab, Kaleem. Spike Lee: That's My Story and I'm Sticking to It. England: Faber and Faber Limited, 2005. ISBN 0-393-06153-1.
  • Spike Lee's Last Word. Documentary on the Criterion Collection DVD of Do the Right Thing. 2000.
  • Spike Lee et al. Commentary on the Criterion Collection DVD of Do the Right Thing. 2000.

Bibliography

External links

film portal

Quotes

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiquote

Do the Right Thing is a 1989 motion picture film produced, written, and directed by Spike Lee and released by Universal Pictures. The film tells a tale of bigotry and racial conflict in a multi-ethnic community in the Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood of Brooklyn, New York, on the hottest day of the year. It stars Lee, Danny Aiello, Ossie Davis, Ruby Dee, Richard Edson, Giancarlo Esposito, Bill Nunn and John Turturro.

Memorable quotes from Do the Right Thing

Mookie & Buggin' Out

- Buggin' Out: Yo Mookie!
- Mookie: What?
- Buggin' Out: Stay black.


- Buggin' Out: You the man.
- Mookie: No you the man.
- Buggin' Out: You the man.
- Mookie: No you the man.
- Buggin' Out: No. I'm just a struggling black man trying to keep my dick hard in a cruel and harsh world.


Mookie & Pino

- Mookie: Pino, fuck you, fuck your fuckin' pizza, and fuck Frank Sinatra.
- Pino: Yeah? Well fuck you too, and fuck Michael Jackson.


Mookie & Da Mayor

- Da Mayor: Doctor...
- Mookie: C'mon, what. What?
- Da Mayor: Always do the right thing.
- Mookie: That's it?
- Da Mayor: That's it.
- Mookie: I got it, I'm gone.


Radio Raheem

- Radio Raheem: Let me tell you a story about right and wrong. The left hand and the right hand. The left hand is hate. The right hand is love.


Tina

- Tina: Trust you? The last time I trusted you, Mookie, I ended up with a son.


Buggin' Out & Sal

- Buggin' Out: Yo Sal, we're gonna boycott your fat pasta ass!
- Sal: You're gonna boycott me? You haven't got the *balls* to boycott me! Here, here's your boycott, up your ass you've got a boycott!


Sal

- Sal: Hey! The only ass-kicking that's gonna be done around here is gonna be done by me!

- Sal: The fuck is wrong with you? This ain't about money, I could give a fuck about money. You see this fucking place? I built this fucking place, with my bare fucking hands! Every light socket, every piece of tile, me, with these fucking hands!


Radio Raheem & Sonny

- Radio Raheem: Give me 20 D Energizers.
- Sonny: 20 C Energizers?
- Radio Raheem: Not C, D.
- Sonny: C Energizers?
- Radio Raheem: D motherfucker, D. Learn to speak English first, all right?
- Kim: How many you say?
- Radio Raheem: 20, motherfucker, 20.
- Sonny: Motherfuck you!
- Radio Raheem: Motherfuck you? You, you all right, man.


Pino

- Pino: I detest this place like a sickness.


Sal & Pino & Vito

- Sal: Pino, get a broom and sweep out front.
- Pino: Vito, get a broom and sweep out front.
- Vito: Huh?
- Pino: Get a broom and sweep out front.
- Vito: What?
- Pino: GET A BROOM AND SWEEP OUT FRONT!
- Vito: See Pop, it's just what I was telling ya, every time you tell Pino what to do, he tells me to do what you told him what to do.


Mother Sister & Da Mayor

- Mother Sister: Hey, you old drunk, what did I tell you about drinking in front of my stoop? Move on, you're blocking my view. You are ugly enough, don't stare at me, the Evil Eye doesn't work on me.
- Da Mayor: Mother Sister, you've been talkin' about me for 18 years. What have I ever done to you?
- Mother Sister: You a drunk fool!
- Da Mayor: Besides that? Da Mayor don't bother nobody and nobody no bother Da Mayor but you. The Man just tends to his own business, I love everybody, I even love you.
- Mother Sister: Hold your tongue, you don't have that much love!
Da Mayor: One day you're gonna be nice to me. We may both be dead and buried, but you're gonna be nice, at least civil.


Buggin' Out & Clifton & Punchy

- Buggin' Out: You almost knocked me down man, the word is "excuse me."
- Clifton: Ah, excuse me, I'm sorry.
- Buggin' Out: Not only did ya knock me down, you stepped on my brand new white Air Jordan's I just bought, and that's all you can say is "excuse me"?
- Clifton: What, are you serious?
- Buggin' Out: Yeah, I'm serious, I'll fuck you up quick two times!
- Punchy: Two times!
- Buggin' Out: Who told you to step on my sneakers, who told you to walk on my side of the block, who told you to be in my neighborhood?
- Clifton: I own this brownstone.
- Buggin' Out: Who told you to buy a brownstone on my block, in my neighborhood, on my side of the street? Yo, what you wanna live in a black neighborhood for anyway, man, motherfuck gentrification!


Mister Senor Love Daddy

- Mister Senor Love Daddy: Yes children, this is the cool-out corner. We're slowing it down for all the lovers in the house. I'll be giving you all the help you need, musically, that is.

- Mister Senor Love Daddy: My people, my people, what can I say, say what I can. I saw it but didn't believe it, I didn't believe what I saw. Are we gonna live together, together are we gonna live?

- Mister Senor Love Daddy: Whoa! Ya'll take a chill! You got to cool that shit off! And that's the double-truth, Ruth!


Mother Sister & Da Mayor

- Mother Sister: Good morning.
- Da Mayor: Is it a good morning?
- Mother Sister: Yes, indeed. You almost got yourself killed last night.
- Da Mayor: I've done that before. Where did you sleep?
- Mother Sister: I didn't.
- Da Mayor: Hope the block is still standing.
- Mother Sister: We're still standing.


Sweet Dick Willie

- Sweet Dick Willie: You wanna boycott someone? You ought to start with the goddamn barber that fucked up your head.


Smiley

- Smiley: [angrily, after someone was killed by the police] One of the police was black!


Remaining

- Mookie: Dago, wop, guinea, garlic-breath, pizza-slingin', spaghetti-bendin', Vic Damone, Perry Como, Luciano Pavarotti, Sole Mio, nonsingin' motherfucker!
- Pino: You gold-teeth-gold-chain-wearin', fried-chicken-and-biscuit-eatin', monkey, ape, baboon, big thigh, fast-runnin', high-jumpin', spear-chuckin', three-hundred-and-sixty-degree-basketball-dunkin', titsoon, spade, moulinyan.


Closing

At the closing of the film, two quotes are shown, the first from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and the second from Malcolm X;

  • 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 a 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.

     - Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

  • I think there are plenty of good people in America, but there are also plenty of bad people in America and the bad ones are the ones who seem to have all the power and be in these positions to block things that you and I need. Because this is the situation, you and I have to preserve the right to do what is necessary to bring an end to that situation, and it doesn't mean that I advocate violence, but at the same time I am not against using violence in self-defense. I don't even call it violence when it's self-defense, I call it intelligence.

     - Malcolm X

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