Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Do The Right Thing

There is a Blockbuster’s worth of "classic" movies I haven't seen, and a record store’s worth of "classic" albums. Thankfully I now have Netflix, and BitTorrent. I am attempting to fill in those gaps. Please do not leave comments saying "zomg, i can't believe u haven't seen/heard _____." Please do send suggestions.

So, what’s the deal with “Do The Right Thing”? Spike Lee was at the Super Bowl two days ago. Just before kickoff he was standing under one of the goalposts, with a giant DSLR, talking with Sean Payton. Payton even came back, after walking away, to talk to Lee again. He wanted to talk to him.

This is the primary thing I know about Spike Lee. He is on the sideline of every major sport event, and that is why he is famous. He hasn’t made a movie with any significant cultural impact in a healthy number of years (Did you know he directed “Inside Man”? I’m culturally illiterate, so I didn’t, but that’s a truly entertaining movie. Who knew?). He’s famous in my mind for being famous.

It’s nearly impossible to remember a time when Spike Lee was a culture-shocking filmmaker with bite. And “Do The Right Thing” really was a while ago. A conversation about the best pitcher in baseball seriously considers Dwight Gooden. Public Enemy is on the radio, which is a device people still listen to.

But the racial stereotypes are no less uncomfortable even with BO in the WH: there’s an Italian pizzeria; a group of old black dudes complainin’ on the side of the road; a Korean grocer. And it's all very much on purpose. The movie’s dealing with some serious racial issues. People die, violently. It’s also a very funny, almost warm movie. It ends with a photo of Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X, both smiling. I noticed Lee was smiling at the Super Bowl.

Reeves Wiedeman