Movie Review of Do the Right Thing: A Controversial Masterpiece

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Do the Right Thing is a politically powerful, controversial and symbolic movie, which is directed and produced by Spike Lee. It concentrates on a particularly hot summer’s day and the lives of racially diverse residents who reside and work in a lower class neighbourhood in Brooklyn New York. Do the Right Thing focuses on how race, social class and the ethical decisions which the characters reveal through their outstanding performances have a direct impact on the way the citizens communicate with each other.

The main character Mookie played by Spike Lee, is a young black man that works at Sal’s Famous Pizza. In addition, Mookie works alongside Danny Aiello who plays Sal, a testy Italian man who owns the pizzeria, Richard Edson as Vito, a friend of Mookie’s and one of Sal’s sons and finally, John Turturro as Pino, Sal’s second son. Spike Lee is now an award-winning American film director, playwright, producer and actor. Spike Lee’s movie company, Mule Fireworks and 40 Acres has created over 35 films since the year 1983.

Do the Right Thing is set in a New York black neighbourhood and there are only two families who are known to have businesses being the Korean convenience store and an Italian pizzeria called Sal’s Famous Pizza. There were mixed feelings regarding the issue that that those were the only two businesses existing on their street. A black citizen named Buggin’ Out (Giancarlo Esposito), becomes angered when he noticed that Sals’s pizzeria Wall of Fame was biased since it only proudly displays his nationality being an American Italian. Buggin’ Out maintains a belief that a pizza restaurant in a black neighbourhood should be diverse and display black actors too. However, Sal was adamant to disagree. The photo Wall of Fame becomes an obvious representation of hate and racism to Buggin’ Out and to others in the neighbourhood as tensions rise. In essence, Buggin Out was trying to say “What about us?” in the sense that they should not remain invisible because their lives are relevant, too.

Spike Lee explains that although there is a conflict between African Americans and Korean Americans, the history between whites and blacks is a lot more conflicting. Unfortunately, this conflict is between blacks versus whites and love versus hate. Furthermore, the black patrons in the movie are not naive to Sal’s obvious tactics of not posting pictures on his wall of fame since they realized that Sal felt intimidated by Buggin Out. As a result, he wants to regain his control in his businesses by refusing Buggin Out’s request to put a picture of a famous black man on the Wall of Fame, thereby creating an inviting harmony to lessen tension within the community. Mookie the pizza delivery guy of the town is the primary focus within the spirit of the urban mise-en-scène. Encompassing him is a neighbourhood of unique characters such as Radio Raheem and Buggin Out. They share the exact compact spaces, which creates a distressed community. The sidewalk serves as the boundary between the homes and public street. The Bedford street of Do the Right Thing is constantly under development. Quite literally in fact as the streets are being taken over by individual natures, personal observations and protests. Also, the clear visual style that Lee provides his characters make each of them obviously recognizable and provides the viewer with subtle and non-subtle clues into their personality and position. In a particular scene, Mookie has a conversation with his sister Jade against a wall covered in graffiti with the words ‘Tawana told the truth.” It is a referral to a controversial racial conflict in the 1980s. Tawana was a fifteen-year-old female who accused four white men of sexually assaulting her. Also, the costumes in Do the Right Thing define and classify characters. An example of this is the black older man named Da Mayor who wears a wrinkled suit which implies the type of worn down presence of an ageing alcoholic.

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Additionally, Pino’s sleeveless white T-shirt symbolizes him as a white working-class man. However, costumes in the film reveal more than a person’s sense of individuality. It can speak to greater themes. Specifically, Mookie’s Brooklyn Dodgers t-shirt highlighted Jackie Robinson’s name, which Mookie wearing a #42 Jackie Robinson Jersey. is a meaningful reference to a famous African American professional baseball player who cut through the colour barrier because he was the first black man to play baseball and respresent the Brooklyn Dodgers on April 15, 1947. Similarly, props can be very meaningful. For example, Radio Raheem’s boom box and the picture that Smiley, a white male with a speech impairment, always carries with him. Not only is the boom box a method for Radio Raheem to assert his identity, but it also portrays that the strength of sound can cross barriers and borders and “Fight the Power” As a result, this is an ability that Mister Señor Love Daddy’s radio speech demonstrates. It represents the power of communication since it can reach the people of all ethnicities. Also, Smiley’s photo of Martin Luther King and Malcolm X not only summarizes the primary discussion in the movie between racial love and hate, but it also serves as a counteracting point to Sal’s pictures of Italian celebrities on his wall of fame in his restaurant. Therefore, Smiley’s photo of Malcolm X and Martin Luther King and Sal’s wall of fame both serve their individual rights to a distinct racial status.

The entertainment value of the film was established exceedingly but let us talk about the historical content of Do the Right Thing. When analyzing the stories of the citizens in Brooklyn New York, there are a few scenes that connect to historical civil right movements. In the scene of Buggin Out wanting to Boycott Sal’s Famous Pizza, it connects to the Montgomery Bus Boycott movement that started on December 5th, 1955 and ended on December 20th, 1956. This important historical movement was created when Rosa Parks was determined to not give up her seat for a white male passenger. The Montgomery Bus Boycott protest lasted thirteen months, ending segregation on buses. On June 5th, 1956, the Montgomery Federal court ruled that segregated buses violated the 14th amendment. The Montgomery Bus Boycott was one of the earliest mass protests on behalf of civil rights in the US, which encouraged other large scale protests such as the Martin Luther King Jr “I have a dream.” peaceful civil rights speech on Lincoln Memorial on August 28, 1963, for equal jobs and freedom.

Hence, these protests were a major change to equality of human rights, thus promoting peaceful movements. Furthermore, making reference to Do the Right Thing, Buggin Out wanted to boycott the pizzeria because of the lack of diversity on the Wall of Fame. This set the tone of segregation of white and black people, all over again. Do The Right Thing was a critically acclaimed breakthrough in Hollywood History because it emphasized the negative effects that racism has on a community and unjust police brutality. The year 1989 was a special time for Spike Lee for not only creating, directing and acting in Do The Right Thing but also being recognized and awarded during the same year by receiving several awards like the NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Motion Picture, the NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Actress in a Motion Picture, the Los Angeles Film Critics Association Award for Best Director and the Los Angeles Film Critics Association Award for Best Film. All these awards were well deserved because almost thirty years later, these racial issues are still intense and ongoing.

However, people now have the liberty to voice their opinions, in order for them to “Do The Right Thing.

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Movie Review of Do the Right Thing: A Controversial Masterpiece. (2020, November 02). WritingBros. Retrieved March 3, 2021, from https://writingbros.com/essay-examples/movie-review-of-do-the-right-thing-a-controversial-masterpiece/
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Movie Review of Do the Right Thing: A Controversial Masterpiece. [online]. Available at: <https://writingbros.com/essay-examples/movie-review-of-do-the-right-thing-a-controversial-masterpiece/> [Accessed 3 Mar. 2021].
Movie Review of Do the Right Thing: A Controversial Masterpiece [Internet]. WritingBros. 2020 Nov 02 [cited 2021 Mar 3]. Available from: https://writingbros.com/essay-examples/movie-review-of-do-the-right-thing-a-controversial-masterpiece/
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