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“Do the Right Thing” 
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Post “Do the Right Thing”
“Do the Right Thing” (1989)*

Spike Lee’s depiction of a day in the life of a neighborhood emphasizes heat. The temp is high and the pressure is rising. Sal’s Pizzeria is an Italian restaurant. Sal (Danny Aiello) reluctantly accepts that his place is in a largely black section Brooklyn. His oldest son (John Turturro) detests this place and the people he serves. Mookie (Spike Lee) works as a delivery-person and the go-between for Sal and some of his hot-head patrons. He does neither very well. Numerous characters add flavor -bitter and sweet- to the neighborhood. Your background will determine your opinions on this race-relations nightmare.

Awf Hand gives 3.5 out of 4 stars, and notes that I watched this movie as a double feature with “Bicycle Thieves”. While the emphasis of both was on the futility of a criminal act in righting a wrong, the contrast in attitudes toward employment and supporting family between Ricci (Bicycle) and Mookie (DtRT) is stark. To see Mookie demand money he is owed after his vengeful act is offensive to say the least. His work ethic? How lengthy could we create a treatise on fallacy of entitlements? I’m not sure.

Who wants to take us in that direction??

*Yahoo’s 100 movies to see before you die.


Mon Oct 25, 2010 4:11 pm
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Post Re: “Do the Right Thing”
Awf Hand wrote:
“Do the Right Thing” (1989)*

Spike Lee’s depiction of a day in the life of a neighborhood emphasizes heat. The temp is high and the pressure is rising. Sal’s Pizzeria is an Italian restaurant. Sal (Danny Aiello) reluctantly accepts that his place is in a largely black section Brooklyn. His oldest son (John Turturro) detests this place and the people he serves. Mookie (Spike Lee) works as a delivery-person and the go-between for Sal and some of his hot-head patrons. He does neither very well. Numerous characters add flavor -bitter and sweet- to the neighborhood. Your background will determine your opinions on this race-relations nightmare.

Awf Hand gives 3.5 out of 4 stars, and notes that I watched this movie as a double feature with “Bicycle Thieves”. While the emphasis of both was on the futility of a criminal act in righting a wrong, the contrast in attitudes toward employment and supporting family between Ricci (Bicycle) and Mookie (DtRT) is stark. To see Mookie demand money he is owed after his vengeful act is offensive to say the least. His work ethic? How lengthy could we create a treatise on fallacy of entitlements? I’m not sure.

Who wants to take us in that direction??


Not me but I'd be interested in reading it :P

I think that DTRT is a great movie, and probably Spike Lee's best. It definitely provokes strong reaction, though--I didn't find radio raheem to be the least bit sympathetic and I wasn't all that disappointed when he died :D

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Mon Oct 25, 2010 8:51 pm
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Post Re: “Do the Right Thing”
Raheem wasn't a pleasant character, but "unpleasant" isn't "deserves to die," by a damn sight.


Mon Oct 25, 2010 9:54 pm
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Post Re: “Do the Right Thing”
Ken wrote:
Raheem wasn't a pleasant character, but "unpleasant" isn't "deserves to die," by a damn sight.


Maybe not deserved to die, but a character needs to do something to warrant my sympathy and he, by being unpleasant, didn't get my sympathy.

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Last edited by firefly on Mon Oct 25, 2010 10:34 pm, edited 1 time in total.



Mon Oct 25, 2010 10:10 pm
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Post Re: “Do the Right Thing”
firefly wrote:
Ken wrote:
Raheem wasn't a pleasant character, but "unpleasant" isn't "deserves to die," by a damn sight.


Maybe not deserved to die, but a character needs to do something to warrant my sympathy and he, by being pleasant, didn't get my sympathy.


I think this is actually to Lee's undying credit. He stacks the deck FOR the white characters, while another black director might have stacked it against them. Danny Aiello is easily, easily the nicest person in the movie. He cares about Mookie (despite the fact that he's a lousy employee) and his sister, he is repulsed by his son's racism, and is a very decent man. Meanwhile Radio Raheem is obnoxious and Buggin' Out's cause is considered absurd by almost everyone in the neighborhood.

And yet there's no denying that Spike Lee feels Mookie "did the right thing." I initially had a lot of problems with the movie, and some of them hold. But I've thought about that movie far, far more than blandly well-made movies like Quiz Show, and the more I think about it (incidentally, it remains incredibly fresh in my mind even though I saw it only once and that was 5 years ago) the more I think it's really...in its own way...kinda brilliant. Not as bravura filmmaking but as a work of socially-conscious film. It is important. And good.

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Mon Oct 25, 2010 10:33 pm
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Post Re: “Do the Right Thing”
JamesKunz wrote:
firefly wrote:
Ken wrote:
Raheem wasn't a pleasant character, but "unpleasant" isn't "deserves to die," by a damn sight.


Maybe not deserved to die, but a character needs to do something to warrant my sympathy and he, by being pleasant, didn't get my sympathy.


I think this is actually to Lee's undying credit. He stacks the deck FOR the white characters, while another black director might have stacked it against them. Danny Aiello is easily, easily the nicest person in the movie. He cares about Mookie (despite the fact that he's a lousy employee) and his sister, he is repulsed by his son's racism, and is a very decent man. Meanwhile Radio Raheem is obnoxious and Buggin' Out's cause is considered absurd by almost everyone in the neighborhood.

And yet there's no denying that Spike Lee feels Mookie "did the right thing." I initially had a lot of problems with the movie, and some of them hold. But I've thought about that movie far, far more than blandly well-made movies like Quiz Show, and the more I think about it (incidentally, it remains incredibly fresh in my mind even though I saw it only once and that was 5 years ago) the more I think it's really...in its own way...kinda brilliant. Not as bravura filmmaking but as a work of socially-conscious film. It is important. And good.


Yeah, I actually had the same reaction--several of the main black characters are, tbh, unpleasant. It's basically the polar opposite of some of his later films.

I agree with you about Lee's take on Mookie's action, and I'm a bit divided about it--one of the things that I most appreciated about Gone Baby Gone was that it really didn't take a side on Kenzie's decision--it presented it and left it up to the viewer. So, I watched it with two other people, one of whom thought Kenzie was entirely correct and the other of whom thought he made a terrible decision.

It'd be interesting to hear if anyone found Mookie's actions defensible.

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Mon Oct 25, 2010 10:37 pm
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Post Re: “Do the Right Thing”
Of course they're defensible.

Mookie was very angry, and not just in the end. Rather than continue to smolder, he finally acted out in what might be the first truly honest way that he ever did in the film. The trash can wasn't just about the moment. It was about everything prior to that, and--crucially--about the endlessness of it all. There is no conceivable solution to the problems of Bed-Stuy, no reason to expect the conditions would ever improve, no hope for help. This was cruelly and callously driven home by the death of Radio Raheem. Faced with a set of alternatives that were all equally unappealing, Mookie chose the one that at least allowed him to express himself, rather than suffer in silence.

What Mookie did was understandable. That's not to say that what he did was the right thing, but what would the right thing be? In the world of this film, I don't know that there is such a thing.


Tue Oct 26, 2010 12:06 am
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Post Re: “Do the Right Thing”
Ken wrote:
Of course they're defensible.

Mookie was very angry, and not just in the end. Rather than continue to smolder, he finally acted out in what might be the first truly honest way that he ever did in the film. The trash can wasn't just about the moment. It was about everything prior to that, and--crucially--about the endlessness of it all. There is no conceivable solution to the problems of Bed-Stuy, no reason to expect the conditions would ever improve, no hope for help. This was cruelly and callously driven home by the death of Radio Raheem. Faced with a set of alternatives that were all equally unappealing, Mookie chose the one that at least allowed him to express himself, rather than suffer in silence.

What Mookie did was understandable. That's not to say that what he did was the right thing, but what would the right thing be? In the world of this film, I don't know that there is such a thing.


But what he chose was an unjust destructive act. It'd be akin to if he picked a random person and tackled them from behind, doing their best James Harrison impersonation. It would be a terrible act. Feeling targeted and oppressed can not justify being unjust to others.

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Tue Oct 26, 2010 12:30 am
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Post Re: “Do the Right Thing”
You have to try to understand that the logical thread you're following is completely irrelevant in Mookie's circumstances. You have to try to imagine what it would be like to be so blindingly angry, to be put in a position like that. Not many people can imagine that. It seems to me that Do The Right Thing is trying to give a taste of what it might be like.


Tue Oct 26, 2010 12:35 am
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Post Re: “Do the Right Thing”
Ken wrote:
You have to try to understand that the logical thread you're following is completely irrelevant in Mookie's circumstances. You have to try to imagine what it would be like to be so blindingly angry, to be put in a position like that. Not many people can imagine that. It seems to me that Do The Right Thing is trying to give a taste of what it might be like.

The circumstances one is in is really irrelevant to the legitimacy of the action when it harms another person--put yourself in the other person's shoes, in this case the Aiello character. He has done nothing to deserve that action. By the standard you lay down, he would be justified in going out and attacking a random person. That person could then attack someone else. Basically, it would lead to a never-ending string of atrocious actions committed against innocent people.

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Tue Oct 26, 2010 12:38 am
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Post Re: “Do the Right Thing”
At no point did I say he was justified. Defensible, understandable, sure, but I never said justified. As far as the movie is concerned, they're not the same thing.


Tue Oct 26, 2010 12:53 am
Post Re: “Do the Right Thing”
Again I'll mention:

Quote:
I watched this movie as a double feature with “Bicycle Thieves”. While the emphasis of both was on the futility of a criminal act in righting a wrong, the contrast in attitudes toward employment and supporting family between Ricci (Bicycle) and Mookie (DtRT) is stark
.

Was not Ricci in a bad position as well? He committed his act in efforts to support his family. Mookie's act was one of vengeance that made his situation worse.

I was observing a pair of values systems. One of which seemed destined to improve eventually; the other which would seem to propagate itself in future generations with little hope of improving.

-Maybe the two movies are so unrelated it's not worth the pixels to discuss it. I just thought it was a pair of interesting character studies. "Do the Right Thing" left me with strong feelings, but I don't care to see it again. "Bicycle Thieves" made me want to purchase.

JamesKunz
Quote:
And yet there's no denying that Spike Lee feels Mookie "did the right thing."


Maybe...
Having read the end quotes from the credits reel, it would seem that Dr. Martin Luther King would not agree, while Louis Farrakan would. In my opinion, Farrakan represents one of the most divisive/polarizing leaders out there, while King was one who united. There were elements of both characters on display in DtRT. Maybe that was the point. The viewer decides what the "right thing" was.


Tue Oct 26, 2010 8:37 am
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Post Re: “Do the Right Thing”
Awf Hand wrote:
Again I'll mention:

Quote:
I watched this movie as a double feature with “Bicycle Thieves”. While the emphasis of both was on the futility of a criminal act in righting a wrong, the contrast in attitudes toward employment and supporting family between Ricci (Bicycle) and Mookie (DtRT) is stark
.

Was not Ricci in a bad position as well? He committed his act in efforts to support his family. Mookie's act was one of vengeance that made his situation worse.

I was observing a pair of values systems. One of which seemed destined to improve eventually; the other which would seem to propagate itself in future generations with little hope of improving.


That's true, but Ricci was doing things that supported his family--pretty much any heroic outlaw character could be said to be doing the same (eg Malcolm Reynolds). What Mookie did didn't support anyone. It was strictly a destructive action.

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Tue Oct 26, 2010 10:03 am
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