Do the Right Thing turns 25 this year, as hard as that may be to believe. I remember when it came out, I remember the absolute FIRESTORM of controversy about the film, and my boyfriend and I went and saw it in the theatre. (It’s how it should be seen, ultimately. It should be a crowd experience.) Spike Lee was here in Champaign-Urbana to introduce the film last night, as well as have a QA after the screening. Roger Ebert was a huge champion of the film originally (putting it mildly), and included it in his Great Movies list. Check out his review here.
If you haven’t seen the film recently, it’s definitely worth it to watch it again. And if you haven’t ever seen it, well, there’s no excuse for you. Don’t get defensive, just rectify the problem. (Humorously, at the QA last night, a guy stood up and said, “This is the first time I’ve seen the film –” and Spike Lee joked, “Where have you BEEN?”)
I hadn’t seen it in years. It is even more powerful and agitating than I remembered. It’s breath-taking. Angry. Funny. And many of these people making their debuts. Giancarlo Esposito. John Turturro. Rosie Perez, whose ferocious dancing opens the film so memorably. And there’s Martin Lawrence. And the great Ossie Davis and Ruby Dee. The Love-Hate brass knuckles, a modern-day nod to Mitchum in Night of the Hunter, poured into this story about the battle between good and evil, light and dark, right and wrong: Love fighting with Hate, Hate winning some rounds, Love winning others.
I remember when I first saw it in the theatre. You could FEEL the excitement in the audience, the almost visceral sense of being in the presence of something new, important. It’s so damn CONFIDENT. As well as devastating. And the mood in the theatre last night was the same way.
There wasn’t an empty seat in the house last night. The theatre seats almost 1500 people. Incredible. The line to get in was down the block and around the corner.
Afterwards there was a QA onstage with Spike, moderated by Chaz, Chicago Tribune critic Michael Phillips, and my friend and fellow Rogerebert.com contributor Odie Henderson. It was great to see Spike Lee in person. A thrilling evening.
My pal Simon Abrams wrote up a piece on the screening for Rogerebert.com.