Do the Right Thing (1989)
August 2, 2022 8:59 PM - Subscribe

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.

Starring Danny Aiello, Rick Aiello, Paul Benjamin, Yatte Brown, Mecca Brunson, Ossie Davis, Ruby Dee, Chris Delaney, Richard Edson, Shawn Elliott, Giancarlo Esposito, Frankie Faison, Richard Habersham, Robin Harris, Samuel L. Jackson, Martin Lawrence, Joie Lee, Spike Lee, Gwen McGee, Joel Nagle, Bill Nunn, Diva Osorio, Sherwin Park, Steve Park, Rosie Perez, Angel Ramirez Jr., Luis Antonio Ramos, Sixto Ramos, Christa Rivers, Miguel Sandoval, John Savage, Shawn Stainback, Leonard L. Thomas, Travell Lee Toulson, John Turturro, Nicholas Turturro, Nelson Vasquez, Frank Vincent, Soquana Wallace, David E. Weinberg, Steve White, and Ginny Yang.

Written, produced, and directed by Spike Lee.

Rated 92% fresh on Rotten Tomatoes.

Currently streaming in the US on Peacock and available for digital rental on multiple outlets.
posted by DirtyOldTown (8 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
 
Still a favorite.

There have been a handful of critics and articles pondering the fact that Mookie shouts "Hate!" when he throws the trash can through Sal's window. What might he mean, they all ask?

But the last time I saw it, something hit me as I was reflecting on Radio Raheem's speech about his "Love" and "Hate" brass knuckle set (a monologue I later learned was heavily based on a similar one in Night Of The Hunter):
Let me tell you the story of Right Hand, Left Hand. It's a tale of good and evil. Hate: It was with this hand that Cain iced his brother. Love: These five fingers, they go straight to the soul of man. The right hand: The hand of love. The story of life is this: Static. One hand is always fighting the other hand, and the left hand is kicking much ass. I mean, it looks like the right hand, Love, is finished. But hold on, stop the presses, the right hand is coming back. Yeah, he got the left hand on the ropes, now, that's right. Yeah, ooh, it's a devastating right and Hate is hurt, he's down. Left-Hand Hate KOed by Love.
After that, I had the thought that when Mookie shouts "Hate!" it's actually a cry of grief that ultimately, Hate won over Love after all.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:48 AM on August 3 [4 favorites]


Besides being a powerful and still painfully relevant “message” movie, Do The Right Thing is a joyful expression of cinematic art. Spike Lee had it all figured out and his energy and creativity just explode all over the screen. The colors. The camera work. The dialogue. Everything pops. And he doesn’t make it easy for anyone in the audience. It’s one of the greatest movies of all time.
posted by wabbittwax at 8:43 AM on August 3 [7 favorites]


It's cool to have more of Gus Fring's backstory.
posted by transient at 4:48 AM on August 4 [2 favorites]


It really is something to watch Esposito in earlier work and compare it to the cool, ruthless persona that he uses in Breaking Bad/Better Call Saul, The Boys, and The Mandalorian.
posted by Halloween Jack at 8:37 AM on August 4 [1 favorite]


I am on my phone rn so can't be arsed to look it up, but IIRC Roger Ebert's review of this movie talked about how every single person Ebert has known who has expressed bafflement or incredulity at Mookie's actions in the end were all white people? Or maybe he said not a single Black person he knows felt baffled or puzzled by Mookie's actions in the end. Something like that.

I watched this movie when I was in my early 20s, and more pertinently, when I had just moved to the US (from south east Asia) 6 months before watching it. I had zero knowledge of American history even as it is taught in school textbooks here, let alone any understanding of the history and the reality of race in USA.

Let me make my state of ignorance very concrete by giving an example: just the previous year, when I still lived in south east Asia, someone in my college debate team had shown me an opinion piece in The Economist that had a paragraph about how the Civil War had actually been about economics and states' rights, not slavery, and my response was, "Wow, when I read GONE WITH THE WIND I got the impression it was all about slavery. But I guess The Economist is a more reliable source than a novel, haha!" So that was my level of ignorance, that's who I was when I watched DO THE RIGHT THING.

When Mookie smashed that window at the end of the movie, I was stunned for several seconds, and yes, confused. And then I kind of got it, I felt like I got it? I immediately watched the whole movie through again, this time looking for clues like it was a murder mystery, and it was all there! Every piece of the puzzle (and it was a puzzle for me, due to my ignorance). I didn't even need all the context that most Americans watching this movie automatically had. Mookie's laconic presence throughout the movie really does convey the pressure he holds inside of him, and you can see that same pressure reflected in the face and eye of the older Black man who appears for a short bit near the beginning, for instance.

So yeah, I think the movie is a fucking masterpiece. Even dumbass 23 yr old me could tell.
posted by MiraK at 9:28 AM on August 4 [4 favorites]


One of the best movie viewing experiences of my life was seeing a 35mm print of this at the Virginia Theater in Urbana, IL presented by Spike with a Q&A afterward. The sad thing is that this film hasn't aged at all in 30 years. Cops are still killing people of color and people are still getting more upset about property damage than murder.

Here's Ebert's quote:
Many audiences are shocked that the destruction of Sal's begins with a trash can thrown through the window by Mookie (Lee), the employee Sal refers to as “like a son to me.” Mookie is a character we're meant to like. Lee says he has been asked many times over the years if Mookie did the right thing. Then he observes: “Not one person of color has ever asked me that question.”
posted by octothorpe at 11:33 AM on August 4 [5 favorites]


Just out of curiosity I went to re-watch the "love/hate" clips from both Do the Right Thing and Night Of The Hunter. And in the Do The Right Thing clip comments someone made an excellent point:
My favorite thing about Radio Raheem's version of Robert Mitchum's "love/hate" speech is that it totally turns it on its head. Mitchum's character is a conniving, murderous villain who doesn't care about the words he's saying. Raheem, on the other hand, is a true believer.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:55 AM on August 4 [3 favorites]


It didn't surprise me, I have to say. But then when I was in middle school, I read Langston Hughes's "Feet Live Their Own Life," and it lined up in my mind instantly.
posted by praemunire at 12:54 PM on August 4


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