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Do the Right Thing (2-Disc)
DVD disk
06.26.2009 By: Mathew Plale
Do the Right Thing (2-Disc) order download
Spike Lee

Danny Aiello
Spike Lee
Ossie Davis


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Over the course of the hottest day of the year, racial tensions swelter amongst the citizens of Brooklyn's Bed-Stuy neighborhood.
The Daily News headline reads “Helter Swelter,” the NY Post’s simply “PHEW!” It’s the hottest day of the year in Brooklyn’s Bed-Stuy neighborhood and after the mercury reaches its highest point and the sun its lowest, something will have to give.

Spike Lee’s Do the Right Thing burst onto the Cannes screens in 1989 as one of the most controversial features of the festival’s history, and has refused to settle since, instead building steam and respect over the past 20 years as one of America’s greatest and most powerful films; one that changed it all, but then again acknowledged how little we’ve progressed.

And American it is--proud and ugly all at once. One character shows off his Air Jordans, but instigates a fight when they’re scuffed. The cops wear their badge of honor, but hawk-eye anyone of a different color. The pizza parlor owner lines his walls with Italian Americans, but faces boycott from a customer for the lack of blacks (a good 99.9% of business).

Much of Do the Right Thing’s heat rises from Sal’s, which is run by Sal (Danny Aiello) and his two sons, Pino (John Turturro) and Vito (Richard Edson). Even in the tight-knit family, differing views on race emerge: Pino “detests [Bed-Stuy] like a sickness,” Vito sees no problem with their location, and Sal is proud that the community has grown up on his pizza. The other employee is Mookie (Lee himself), delivery boy and mediator between the business and the community.

We love roll call: there’s Mister Señor Love Daddy, the block’s DJ and guiding voice; Buggin’ Out, leading the crusade against Sal’s; Da Mayor, the wise old drunk; Mother Sister, the gentle elderly; Smiley, selling a photo of Malcolm X and Martin Luther King, Jr.; the Korean couple running the corner shop; and Radio Raheem, whose boom box endlessly blasts Public Enemy’s “Fight the Power,” the film’s anthem.

They, and others, are the targets of the film’s centerpiece: a sudden, vicious montage of epithets on “pizza-slingin’” Italians, “fried chicken and biscuit-eatin’” Blacks, “me-no-speaky-American” Koreans, “fifteen in a car, thirty in an apartment” Puerto Ricans, and Mayor Koch-lovin’ Jews.

The theme of the film is best verbalized, though, by Radio Raheem in a hopeful monologue: “It's a tale of good and evil. Hate: It was with this hand that Cane iced his brother. Love: These five fingers, they go straight to the soul of man. The right hand: the hand of love…It's a devastating right and Hate is hurt, he's down. Left-Hand/Hate KO’d by Love.”

But it’s Hate that engulfs the film, which builds and builds until finally a riot breaks out and two of Bed-Stuy’s staples fall. Soon after we’re shown two profound yet conflicting quotes from Malcolm X and MLK on violence. Is any of this justified? And if not, when--if ever--are such acts?

The morning after, when every bond has been broken, every shoe scuffed, every trashcan hurled, every business crippled, every person changed, it’s Mister Señor Love Daddy who wonders: “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?”

America may have just elected a black president and “change“ may be the word-of-the-century, but this is still a country where people like James von Brunn walk the street and the Jena Six case can/does occur. It’s the Right-Hand/Love KO’d by Hate.
Disc One:

20th Anniversary Edition Feature Commentary: Lee gives another engaging commentary (see 25th Hour for a fairly recent example), dicing out info on his cast, filming on one block for the entirety of the shoot, the themes, overall realism, and more. There are some bouts of silence, but nothing that should keep listeners away.

Feature Commentary: Lee, DP Ernest Dickerson, Production Designer Wynn Thomas, and Actor Joie Lee--after being introduced by Public Enemy frontman Chuck D--cover a number of aspects from the film’s production and give an overall solid track, but much of it is overlap if you listen to Lee’s solo commentary.

Do the Right Thing: 20 Years Later (35:45): Lee sits down with many of the film’s main players (Rosie Perez, John Turturro, John Savage, etc.--even Chuck D turns up) to discuss their roles, how they came onto the project, and how the experience impacted them. A great addition, as each interviewee is given time to share their unique and often humorous stories.

Deleted and Extended Scenes (14:13): There are 11 here, none cleaned up, but all worth seeing. Some of the better ones feature Mookie demanding a tip from a customer, a fried egg on Sal’s Cadillac, and moments between Jade and Mother Sister.


Disc Two:

Behind the Scenes (57:56) includes low-quality footage of the table read (without the table), rehearsals, one-on-ones with Rosie Perez, Robin Harris (Sweet Dick Willie), Giancarlo Esposito (Buggin’ Out), and Bill Nunn (Radio Raheem), and the block (wrap) party.

Making Do the Right Thing (1:00:58) serves as a companion piece to the previous featurette and is still one of the best Making-Of documentaries out there. St. Claire Bourne’s camera captures the production of Do the Right Thing from set construction to the wrap party with an abundance of interviews and on-set footage (and the appearance from Melvin Van Peebles doesn‘t hurt). Even moreso than the film itself, this doc paints a vivid picture of what the Bed-Stuy neighborhood was like at that time. In a follow-up featurette, Lee takes us Back to Bed-Stuy (4:49) for a guided tour of the film’s many locations.

Editor Barry Brown (9:38): Brown, who has edited most of Lee’s films since School Daze, discusses how he met Lee and working on Do the Right Thing.

The Riot Sequence: Following a Spike Lee introduction where he explains the necessity of storyboarding the climactic sequence, we’re led to a gallery of said sketches.

Cannes, 1989 (42:20): Lee, Ossie Davis, Ruby Dee, Joie Lee, and Richard Edson gather for a panel Q&A, which stretches at times but covers a lot of ground.
This ‘20th Anniversary Edition’ of Do the Right Thing recycles many of the special features from 2001’s Criterion Collection DVD which, despite a handful of great new additions, might keep current owners away from a double dip. Those yet to own the film, however, should to pick up this edition immediately.
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