DO THE RIGHT THING
(Spike Lee, 1989, USA: 120 minutes)
Thursday, May 31st:
Doors/Pre-Screening DJ Set, 730pm, Showtime: 8pm
Isla Vista Theater 2 (960 Embarcadero del Norte)
In Do the Right Thing, Spike Lee examines the dynamics of racism, urban gentrification, class privilege, and injustice, while at the same time depicting the vitality of summertime in New York. “Lee’s movie is easily his most deftly constructed, wittily balancing over a dozen characters and engaging bigotry in a fearless dialogue the likes of which American film had never seen before” (The Village Voice “Best of Award”: “Best (little-seen) rentable movie shot in / about Brooklyn – 2006”).
As the aforementioned Village Voice notice makes fairly clear, Do the Right Thing was shot on location in Lee’s longtime stomping grounds, the Bedford-Stuyvesant area of Brooklyn, NYC. It should come as little surprise, then, that this story of a neighborhood is partially knit together by a local radio station. “WE LOVE radio 108” FM’s DJ Mister Señor Love Daddy (Samuel L. Jackson) serves as something of a Greek chorus: with a window view from his brownstone studio, Love Daddy, a “twelve-hour strongman,” provides a running commentary on the exploits of Do the Right Thing‘s many characters, enhanced further by his eclectic musical selections.
WE LOVE’s radio format is creatively diverse. A counterpoint to its upbeat vibe, however, is boldly announced by the film’s opening, a bravura, stand-alone, urban-dance sequence by “Fly Girl”-choreographer Rosie Perez (who plays Tina, the romantic partner of Spike Lee’s Mookie), set to Public Enemy’s explosive hip-hop classic, “Fight the Power” (a song written specifically for the film). The sound and fury of this track becomes a Do the Right Thing leitmotif, as “Fight the Power” is woven in and out of the narrative via the insistent, wandering beat box of another key character, the powerful young man known as Radio Raheem (Bill Nunn).
[This] is a complex, multilayered movie, and the in-your-face attitude supplies only the movie’s powerful, thumping bass line. The story as a whole — the melody — is sweeter, mellower, and Lee orchestrates the mixture of elements masterfully, first letting one dominate, then the other. (Hal Hinson, Washington Post, June 30, 1989)
Its ensemble cast also includes: Danny Aiello, Spike Lee, John Turturro, Ossie Davis, Ruby Dee, Richard Edson, Giancarlo Esposito, Roger Guenveur Smith, Martin Lawrence, Robin Harris, Steve Park, Joie Lee, Frankie Faison, and John Savage. Do the Right Thing‘s stunning cinematography is by Ernest Dickerson, its original jazz score by Spike’s own father, Bill Lee. The film received two Oscar nominations: Spike Lee for best original screenplay and Danny Aiello for best supporting actor. Out the same year that Driving Miss Daisy dominated the Academy Awards, Do the Right Thing deserved even more attention. Its stature, however, has grown over time: for instance, a decade after its release, Do the Right Thing was added to the National Film Preservation Board‘s National Film Registry.
KCSB DJ Bennett P (host of “The Boom Box Surround Sound,” Fridays, 10pm-12am) will perform a pre-screening music set from 730-8pm.
KCSB’s free “Popped Culture: Radio Goes to the Movies” winter/spring series has presented a slate of eight noteworthy motion pictures that feature radio as a key element: Do the Right Thing is the final screening of the 2011-2012 academic year, which has honored KCSB’s Golden Anniversary — Celebrating 50 Years of People-Powered Radio.
For more info, call (805) 893-3757.