97 Do the Right Thing

Discuss DVDs and Blu-rays released by Criterion and the films on them. If it's got a spine number, it's in here. Threads may contain spoilers.
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otis
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Re: 97 Do the Right Thing

#76 Post by otis » Thu Aug 25, 2011 3:05 pm

hearthesilence wrote:this is still revisionism, albeit unintentional from the sound of it.
Sounds pretty intentional to me!

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zedz
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Re: 97 Do the Right Thing

#77 Post by zedz » Thu Aug 25, 2011 5:08 pm

Sounds like he sleepwalked through the colour timing and forgot the small detail that the film was supposed to be set on "the hottest day of the year", not just a pretty warm one.

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Re: 97 Do the Right Thing

#78 Post by swo17 » Thu Aug 25, 2011 5:18 pm

Maybe this is different in Brooklyn, but where I live, on really hot days everything stays the same color.

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zedz
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Re: 97 Do the Right Thing

#79 Post by zedz » Thu Aug 25, 2011 5:33 pm

If Do the Right Thing had stayed the same colour, nobody would be complaining.

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hearthesilence
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Re: 97 Do the Right Thing

#80 Post by hearthesilence » Fri Aug 26, 2011 11:56 am

otis wrote:
hearthesilence wrote:this is still revisionism, albeit unintentional from the sound of it.
Sounds pretty intentional to me!
Reading it again, yeah I guess it's intentional, but at first glance, I zeroed in on his admission that he hasn't seen in many years, so I thought he was implying that he was going by memory, not a side-by-side comparison. Saying he was going by his perspective today does suggest intention, but hearing him say that it looked warm enough, etc., I wonder if he just thought "yeah, I remember we were trying to get a warm look - what I'm seeing now looks pretty warm to me, so let's go with it." Regardless, it sure doesn't look the way it did when it first came out.

FWIW, MoMA's showing "Do the Right Thing" in the next few weeks (free if you have a membership)...
swo17 wrote:Maybe this is different in Brooklyn, but where I live, on really hot days everything stays the same color.
HA! I told a friend of mine about this color problem, and the first thing he talked about was the red wall. There's no wall in Brooklyn that is THAT red, but it works great in the picture - one of my favorite things about the film is the clash between Lee's expressionist tendencies and the film's real-life, urban setting, it works better here than it does anywhere else, and draining away a major component of one side of that equation really takes something out of the movie.

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bainbridgezu
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Re: 97 Do the Right Thing

#81 Post by bainbridgezu » Thu Aug 09, 2012 11:54 am

Spike Lee Explains What Happened To Mookie & Sal After The End Of Do The Right Thing
Spike Lee wrote:"Sal left Bed Stuy," Lee told us, before adding, with laughter, "If he would have known it'd be gentrified he would have stayed. Sal, with insurance money, rebuilt his place from the ground up, in Red Hook. And he was having trouble with the Mexicans he hired, they just couldn't deliver like Mookie. They always get the wrong address, pizza's cold, people complaining. So Sal called Mookie, who's unemployed at the time. And Mookie said 'I'll think about it, [but] you've got to make sure that me and Pino (John Turturro's character in the 1989 film) are straight' What really made Mookie take the job is that Sal finally put sisters and brothers up on the wall."

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Wood Tick
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Re: 97 Do the Right Thing

#82 Post by Wood Tick » Sun Nov 11, 2012 8:26 am

What are the chances of a Blu-Ray upgrade?

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Re: 97 Do the Right Thing

#83 Post by flyonthewall2983 » Sun Nov 11, 2012 8:44 am

For Criterion, slim. Universal released one of their own (with special features from the CC edition and ones newly created for that release).

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Re: 97 Do the Right Thing

#84 Post by Numero Trois » Tue Jul 22, 2014 2:25 pm

Spike Lee's mashup of the recent NYPD controversy with Do the Right Thing- NYPD Puts Deadly Chokehold On Staten Island Man

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Re: 97 Do the Right Thing

#85 Post by flyonthewall2983 » Thu Jul 24, 2014 12:55 am

I read somewhere that this was the President and First Lady's first date movie.

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Gregory
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Re: 1980s List Discussion and Suggestions

#86 Post by Gregory » Mon Sep 29, 2014 3:58 pm

I suppose Do the Right Thing (like most other high-ranking films in the lists projects to one extent or another) ranked #1 for the 1980s due to the often-observed phenomenon of certain votes accruing many votes just because so many voters had placed them somewhere on their list, even if most of those ranked it in the lower part of the list and not near the top.
It hardly makes and sense to me otherwise that this film would get over 600 points, while She's Gotta Have it was only voted for in the lower half of one voter's list. There's a difference in how much those two films are appreciated, but I don't think it's quite that vast.
I can understand why Do the Right Thing was so widely enjoyed, talked about, and considered important, but I'm a little surprised that its popularity and importance have held up as much as they have over time. It's a very clever screenplay but one that doesn't really explore racism and race relations all that well. Simply showing racial tensions doesn't really say much about how racism really functions. And of course the film isn't just about race but gender relationships as well, and the film is even more problematic and disappointing in that area. The film is filled to the brim with all manner of simple stereotypes, caricatures, and familiar archetypes that reinforce blah blah—I doubt anyone wants to read any of this now at the conclusion of this list.

Since Satori links the two, I'll certainly agree that My Brother's Wedding is the better film. I wish Burnett had even a fraction of Spike's visibility/exposure.

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Re: 1980s List Discussion and Suggestions

#87 Post by domino harvey » Mon Sep 29, 2014 4:04 pm

I could give a rip about its function as talking point in a discussion of racism, but you go too far when you claim the film is filled with "simple stereotypes, caricatures, and familiar archetypes that reinforce" (and then not sure where the blahs were going, actually). The thing that makes this film so alive is that every character is so vividly sketched and realized that we could easily follow any of them instead of Mookie or Sal and the film would be just as fascinating. That they are recognizably familiar (especially to those who work/live in communities like this) does not mean they can be summarily dismissed as merely archetypal-- their interactions with each other are anything but rote or expected. I love the film because it is alive, pulsating, entertaining beyond reason, well-scripted and witty and funny and terrifically shot. Who rates films based on their social importance? And obviously the chasm between She's Gotta Have It and Do the Right Thing is vastly larger than you're giving it credit for, and to say there's little difference between the films is a little hard to take seriously.

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Re: 1980s List Discussion and Suggestions

#88 Post by essrog » Tue Sep 30, 2014 1:30 am

While I agree that the controversy over the film's ending unfairly obscured Lee's sheer artistry here, it seems bizarre to me to try to totally separate your reaction to the film from the topic of race and racism, which the film takes as its subject. I mean, we're all free to like or dislike a film for whatever reasons we want, but the film ends with dueling quotes from MLK and Malcolm X, for heaven's sake. And while it's true that "rating films based on social importance" would be a foolish way to go, what's wrong with thinking more highly of films that manage to tap into society's psyche so well that you think of them years later when similar events occur in the real world? I can't be the only one who's thought of the inevitable, tragic series of events that conclude Do the Right Thing during this past summer of Eric Garner, Michael Brown, and other unarmed black men killed by police. I've had class discussions on the film where students all but say Radio Raheem had it coming because of what he did to Sal -- to me, it means something that we can connect that sentiment to the sentiment that continues to allow murders like this in 2014. If Do the Right Thing were an artless slog toward A Big Important Lesson, I wouldn't have near the affinity for it that I do. But you combine everything you said (which is right on) about Lee's and his collaborators' artistic brilliance, with my argument above? That's what makes it a masterpiece to me.

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Gregory
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Re: 1980s List Discussion and Suggestions (Lists Project Vol

#89 Post by Gregory » Tue Sep 30, 2014 11:26 am

I somehow missed domino's rebuttal about Do the Right Thing yesterday, but I agree with essrog that it's impossible to separate an assessment of a film from how it handles its central themes and subjects—in this case (the one that everyone seems to talk about) race, and (the one that few discuss) gender politics and relationships. The film rose to prominence not only because it was a well-made film that commanded our attention (which it was) but also because it was meant to have so much to say about important topics of our time. When the film came out, Lee was pretty strident about how this film was sort of a punch in the gut to a public that had generally grown complacent about racial issues (meaning most white viewers). But I'm not sure most white viewers were all that troubled by it, because it shows the problem of racism as being blatant and obviously recognizable displays of racism and racial tensions. Almost any white viewer who went to see this film could watch these blatant displays by Pino (Turturro), or Sal when he finally unleashes a torrent of pent-up bigotry, and say, "Well, I would never do or say that." Or, if I were a cop I would never strangle a guy with my nightstick, etc. Almost every male character in the film acts so badly (or at least so lazily and foolishly) that it's impossible to map the world of the film onto our own reality in any significant ways.
Worse than that, the film misunderstands racial conflict as an issue of resentment that happens when people don't stay in "their own" neighborhoods. Lee also ignores the fact that there are many people who are engaged in the communities who work to address the issues in the film in a constructive way—grassroots organizations, engaged religious groups, community leaders. Instead, he shows the people who have a veneer of black consciousness as fools who don't really know anything or have a clue about what to do. Da Mayor gets to be a hero in one scene by being in the right place at the right time to save a child, but his character is isolated, passive, and is a simple stereotype of the affable old drunk who thinks he's the guardian of the community because he's been around so long.

And I haven't even really addressed his treatment of female roles in the film yet (which was the reason She's Gotta Have It failed to speak to me, even though that was clearly a clever and original film as well).

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Re: 1980s List Discussion and Suggestions (Lists Project Vol

#90 Post by matrixschmatrix » Tue Sep 30, 2014 11:40 am

Almost any white viewer who went to see this film could watch these blatant displays and say, "Well, I would never do or say that."
Are you at all familiar with the reception the film originalyl recieved? White audiences- including critics- were evidently terrified, making endless claims that the movie was an incitement to violence and showing obvious fear that what happened in the movie could happen to them. And honestly, it's not as though it's uh no longer an issue that white police officers casually gun down black teenagers, and 'community leaders'- whatever constructive effort they put forward- don't seem to be able to make that stop happening, so I don't know that a certain despair about the situation is unjustified.

More pointedly- what on Earth are you talking about when you say "it shows the problem of racism as being blatant and obviously recognizable displays of racism and racial tensions"? Unless you're referring to the cops (who, uh, aren't all that afraid to show obviously recognizable racism) the central conflict is between Sal and Mookie, both of whom are given very rich, full characters, are closer to one another than they are to most of the rest of the community, and have well-realized viewpoints that are based in lived experience rather than some reductive idea of what people of a given race are like. Sal is far from a paper tiger of racism, easily dismissed as being someone whom the audience can avoid being- he's someone who is legitimately doing his best, living his life, and may be wrong because of who he is and where he is, which would contradict some of the core beliefs about race relations on which America functions.

The reason the movie is so powerful is that it's a beautiful portrait of a functional community- people who are stupid or self righteous or pig headed or lazy or basically a bunch of mooks, in many cases, but also lovable and fully human and in well developed relationships with one another, with a real feeling of having lived there all their lives. There's an idyllic quality to it, a hang out quality that makes it a place where one could spend years- and it's shattered by the violence that enters in the end, violence borne inescapably of the way race works, and which makes one question whether the community as drawn ever could have been fully functional. I'm genuinely baffled at how it could be painted as in any way reductive or oversimplified compared to like... any American movie about race, or largely concerned with race, ever.

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Gregory
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Re: 1980s List Discussion and Suggestions (Lists Project Vol

#91 Post by Gregory » Tue Sep 30, 2014 12:07 pm

Yes, I'm familiar with the original reception, because I remember it. Most white viewers liked it and didn't get very worked up about it because they were already so familiar with the kinds of events shown in the film. I also know that many criticized the film for having Mookie be the one to incite the looting of Sal's Famous and suggested that the film encouraged this type of behavior. That actually supports what I'm arguing, I believe, because the film didn't effectively develop enough sympathetic three-dimensional characters, so white viewers tended to just see mainly angry, potentially violent/destructive characters (even Mookie) behaving badly, escalating tension and conflict and driving the film toward its conclusion and its "Oh well, life goes on" denouement. The film gives viewers the satisfaction of a "happy ending"* because after the smoke has cleared, Sal and Mookie's lives will go on; they haven't lost everything they had, and they even still have a basic respect for one another and can still talk to each other calmly. And the one who's dead is one of the least sympathetic characters: the extremely confrontational and almost animalistic Radio Raheem. Would Lee have had the audacity to end the film with Mookie or Sal dead?

I don't get "despair" about a real-world situation from this film at all because I don't think it shows the problems it dramatizes very well, for the reasons I've argued and others besides.
And the problem shown in the film isn't that community leaders and organizations that address these problems are not effective. They simply don't exist in the film's world, nor does anyone with an actual understanding of what's really at stake in terms of racism during "peacetime," the day-to-day lived reality of racial oppression.

Re: your second paragraph, I don't really agree that the film's conflict is essentially between two characters. I largely agree with what you say about Sal's character, but one also can't ignore the way his racial attitudes come to the surface as soon as conflict is in the offing. He doesn't just say, "You motherfuckers get out of my place or I'll beat the shit out of you"; he channels the deep-seated attitudes that Pino has been expressing throughout the film.

EDIT: * to qualify "happy ending," not the usual kind of Hollywood happy ending, of course, but the kind we see in westerns after a horrible battle, when the characters we cared about are pretty much unscathed and can rebuild, life goes on pretty much as before, and most of the time things are okay.

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Re: 1980s List Discussion and Suggestions (Lists Project Vol

#92 Post by essrog » Tue Sep 30, 2014 2:54 pm

Gregory wrote:And the one who's dead is one of the least sympathetic characters: the extremely confrontational and almost animalistic Radio Raheem. Would Lee have had the audacity to end the film with Mookie or Sal dead?
That Lee has one of the least sympathetic characters die is precisely what DOES make it so audacious. Think of how it easy it would be for Lee to generate white audiences' outrage at the police if one of the more likable characters like Mookie, Jade, or Da Mayor were killed. We'd all be able to pat ourselves on the back and say, "Well, obviously the police shouldn't do THAT." And the movie becomes yet another example of movies about race that invite audiences to congratulate themselves for not being Klan members. But the fact that it was Radio Raheem, that he was pretty much a dick, that he was strangling Sal (and probably would've killed him if the police didn't intervene) forces us to confront our own (likely hidden) biases in a way we wouldn't have to if one of the "good" characters died. It really is masterful manipulation on Lee's part. He shows us Radio Raheem's death, then the crowd riots and burns down Sal's Famous, which structurally makes it seem like the climax of the film, and the end of the way of life for one of the more sympathetic characters in the film. Audiences get upset and feel bad for Sal, and Lee can say (and has said, many times), "I nailed you -- you care more about white-owned property than black life."

Of course, we saw the Ferguson police prey on the tendency of white people to feel this way when they released the surveillance video of Michael Brown stealing cigars, thereby justifying his shooting in many people's eyes (or even just planting seeds of doubt), even though his crime had nothing to do with why Darren Wilson stopped him and shot him. A few days before the release of that video, Greg Howard wrote a fantastic article for Deadspin called "America Is Not for Black People"
Greg Howard wrote: By all accounts, Brown was One Of The Good Ones. But laying all this out, explaining all the ways in which he didn't deserve to die like a dog in the street, is in itself disgraceful. Arguing whether Brown was a good kid or not is functionally arguing over whether he specifically deserved to die, a way of acknowledging that some black men ought to be executed.
You could pretty much substitute Radio Raheem for Michael Brown there. Obviously, Lee was on to something.

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Gregory
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Re: 1980s List Discussion and Suggestions (Lists Project Vol

#93 Post by Gregory » Tue Sep 30, 2014 3:28 pm

essrog wrote:
Gregory wrote:And the one who's dead is one of the least sympathetic characters: the extremely confrontational and almost animalistic Radio Raheem. Would Lee have had the audacity to end the film with Mookie or Sal dead?
That Lee has one of the least sympathetic characters die is precisely what DOES make it so audacious. Think of how it easy it would be for Lee to generate white audiences' outrage at the police if one of the more likable characters like Mookie, Jade, or Da Mayor were killed. We'd all be able to pat ourselves on the back and say, "Well, obviously the police shouldn't do THAT."
I don't think Lee would have been willing to generate that kind of outrage, even in a film that was ostensibly meant to have a radical message for mainstream society. We don't have to pat "ourselves on the back" to be outraged about the real extent of police brutality. We could be genuinely moved and outraged and do something about it.
The vast majority of the most infamous police brutality scandals of our time (in the U.S.) happened after Do the Right Thing. At the time, it was even easier than it still is now for complacent observers to say, "Well, he probably brought it on himself at least partially." Radio Raheem's character encourages exactly that response. There's nothing audacious about it whatsoever, and it reinforces the ugliest stereotypes about confrontational young black men and reinforces how most of the public feels if the life of this (perceived) "type" of person is thrown away. Mookie's death would have raised much more troubling questions. The fact that Radio Raheem is still troubling to those already aware of the true implications of police impunity, but to the casual moviegoer taking in a story, I believe it registered much differently.
What was the purpose of the scene where Raheem is screaming at the Korean store owners to learn English, other than to show us, "See? He was basically a racist himself"? The film would have been more interesting if he hadn't been such an easy target as a perceived "villain"; i.e., Lee could have written the character to be just as bold and confident and even angry in some ways, but potentially perceived as an antagonist or a difficult person by non-blacks for more interesting and subtle reasons than that he's just another raging, violent black male figure that society fears.
But the fact that it was Radio Raheem, that he was pretty much a dick, that he was strangling Sal (and probably would've killed him if the police didn't intervene) forces us to confront our own (likely hidden) biases in a way we wouldn't have to if one of the "good" characters died. It really is masterful manipulation on Lee's part. He shows us Radio Raheem's death, then the crowd riots and burns down Sal's Famous, which structurally makes it seem like the climax of the film, and the end of the way of life for one of the more sympathetic characters in the film. Audiences get upset and feel bad for Sal, and Lee can say (and has said, many times), "I nailed you -- you care more about white-owned property than black life."
I can understand that and partially agree. But you've just said yourself that the police had to intervene to save Sal from this monster. So how's that not going to encourage a complacent white viewer to think, "Well, one cop got too carried away and killed the guy by accident while trying to get him under control. Too bad it had to happen that way, but the guy was violent and out of control, and it probably would have only been a matter of time before he hurt or killed someone else."
The Rodney King case was an especially troubling thing to witness because none of those responses would have been plausible to minimize just how sadistic and one-sided the violence was. Same with most other deaths at the hands of police who used excessive force. I live in a city with a long and troubling history of such cases, many of which were people who would have been easy to subdue (such as 115 lb. 5'2" Kendra James). Showing an incident like that would have gotten to the reality and done far less to encourage complacency about the issue the film was meant to portray.
Of course, we saw the Ferguson police prey on the tendency of white people to feel this way when they released the surveillance video of Michael Brown stealing cigars, thereby justifying his shooting in many people's eyes (or even just planting seeds of doubt), even though his crime had nothing to do with why Darren Wilson stopped him and shot him. A few days before the release of that video, Greg Howard wrote a fantastic article for Deadspin called "America Is Not for Black People"
Greg Howard wrote: By all accounts, Brown was One Of The Good Ones. But laying all this out, explaining all the ways in which he didn't deserve to die like a dog in the street, is in itself disgraceful. Arguing whether Brown was a good kid or not is functionally arguing over whether he specifically deserved to die, a way of acknowledging that some black men ought to be executed.
You could pretty much substitute Radio Raheem for Michael Brown there. Obviously, Lee was on to something.
I agree that it's despicable to debate whether a person killed in the street deserved it to any extent because of their moral character or lack thereof, and I don't mean to suggest in any of the above that Lee's portrayal of RR made it feel okay in general about what happened to him. But this isn't a real-life case of police brutality we're dealing with. We're looking critically at a movie (obviously), so it matters how sympathetic the character to read what effect this has on audience perceptions of what took place and how troubled they are by it. I think it works differently in a discussion of a fictional narrative in which our feelings are changed and manipulated by the way the characters are written, so I don't think it's quite so simple to substitute RR for Michael Brown.

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Gregory
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Re: 1980s List Discussion and Suggestions

#94 Post by Gregory » Tue Sep 30, 2014 7:20 pm

Gregory wrote:Simply showing racial tensions doesn't really say much about how racism really functions. And of course the film isn't just about race but gender relationships as well, and the film is even more problematic and disappointing in that area. The film is filled to the brim with all manner of simple stereotypes, caricatures, and familiar archetypes that reinforce blah blah—I doubt anyone wants to read any of this now at the conclusion of this list.
domino harvey wrote:I could give a rip about its function as talking point in a discussion of racism, but you go too far when you claim the film is filled with "simple stereotypes, caricatures, and familiar archetypes that reinforce" (and then not sure where the blahs were going, actually). The thing that makes this film so alive is that every character is so vividly sketched and realized that we could easily follow any of them instead of Mookie or Sal and the film would be just as fascinating.
Just to clarify this for anyone reading the discussion in this thread, it was moved here to its rightful place from the conclusion of the 1980s list project, where I was hesitant to inject an in-depth discussion of one film into a thread where people were actively discussing the results of the ballot, thus the "blah blah, I doubt anyone etc."
But "every character is so vividly sketched and realized that we could easily follow any of them instead of Mookie"? I hope that doesn't mean literally every character (Martin Lawrence's mugging dullard character?), so I don't know how far to take that. I certainly couldn't imagine Radio Raheem as the central character, because he has virtually nothing to say, and not much apparently going on in his head that doesn't involve himself and his enormous, throbbing radio. Could there be an interesting film if Da Mayor, or Mother Sister, was the central character? Potentially, if the roles were written that way, but I can mainly imagine that because Ossie Davis and Ruby Dee give so much gravitas to those roles. That doesn't mean they aren't simple stereotypes in the film we have, though: the "affable old drunk who thinks he's the guardian of the community because he's been around so long," as I put it earlier, and in Mother Sister's case the aloof, respected matriarch who "always watches," which is certainly a catchy phrase for a screenplay that obscures any satisfying sense of her actual role in the community and what she actually stands for. The viewer has very little idea of that until she suddenly appears in the action at the climax, when the riot starts and she loudly encourages the burning of Sal's Famous. I could just as easily have imagined her loudly pleading for calm and peace and discouraging the destruction.
Rosie Perez plays to a stereotypical sassy/nagging/tough/bitchy yet sexy young ghetto girl, and was original in the role, but she nailed something that so closely fit a stereotype many filmmakers wanted that she ended up getting completely typecast into that type of role and had to start turning down most of the parts she was offered. I could go on about other characters, but there's so much to discuss with this film that it's pretty overwhelming.
Again, I find it thought-provoking and can understand its appeal, but when I really think about it I can't help but perceive major shortcomings. Subsequent films of his I've seen only confirmed these impressions for me, though I did love his documentary When the Levees Broke.

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Re: 97 Do the Right Thing

#95 Post by domino harvey » Tue Sep 30, 2014 8:13 pm

I didn't move it here, and I can't tell in the moderation log who did, but I thought we had an understanding about discussion not getting removed from the List Project threads, so I share your disappointment with that, even if I can't meet you halfway on a lot of your other arguments here!

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Re: 97 Do the Right Thing

#96 Post by swo17 » Tue Sep 30, 2014 8:19 pm

I moved it here because Gregory asked someone to and I thought it made sense to do so.

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Re: 97 Do the Right Thing

#97 Post by domino harvey » Tue Sep 30, 2014 8:26 pm

Oh man so we don't even agree on that? Haha well I'll just show myself the way out

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Re: 97 Do the Right Thing

#98 Post by Gregory » Tue Sep 30, 2014 8:29 pm

Yes, it was I who clicked the red exclamation point icon to suggest that it be moved here because I was worried that sustained, long-winded (on my part) discussion of one film would stifle or clutter up the kind of usual general discussion and chatter that always follow the results of a list. I didn't mean to go against etiquette by doing that, but I figured that it would be a mod's call what to do.

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Re: 97 Do the Right Thing

#99 Post by swo17 » Tue Sep 30, 2014 8:31 pm

I don't think I know how to be a good mod. It's not a function in Excel.

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#100 Post by domino harvey » Tue Sep 30, 2014 8:39 pm

You resisted the urge to make a pun on the film's title, so you at least are doing something right

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