Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Do The Right Thing, 20th Anniversary

Today is the 20th Anniversary of Spike Lee's classic joint Do The Right Thing. There are a few retrospective interviews about the landmark film over at The Root. I'd include them here for you but their embed code leaves much to be desired.

I had no idea that Barack & Michelle Obama saw this on their first date together. But they apparently don't talk about that much. The movie was a hot potato back then and apparently still gives some people hot flashes today. But it's quite good. Have you seen it? I wonder if it would have made Oscar's shortlist if they had had 10 Best Picture nominees that year.

Maybe not. They didn't even nominate Malcolm X in 1992 and that's right in the Academy zone (epic biopic spanning the life of very famous individual who dies tragically). The nominees deemed better than Do The Right Thing for 1989 were:
  • Born on the 4th of July
  • Dead Poet's Society
  • Driving Miss Daisy
  • Field of Dreams
  • My Left Foot
Ouch. But I'm not big on the 1989 Oscars in general. They weren't kind to The Fabulous Baker Boys or sex, lies and videotape or Heathers. In short: Oscar was feeling old and creaky that year. They were drunk on geritol and had no time for fresh unruly voices and plenty of love for sentiment and nostalgia.

Still, I remember being shocked -- SHOCKED -- that Kim Basinger, whom I'd never thought of as a tastemaker per se, spoke out against AMPAS for excluding it in the Best Picture race... and she did so on the actual Oscar broadcast. She did so while wearing a dress she might have borrowed from Wendy & Lisa. Well, she was all up in Prince's grill in the early 90s, don'cha know.


Juno101 said...

I fuckin love this movie. I thought the dialogue was brilliant and I'm upset it didnt win the oscar for best writing. I can't believe its 20 years old. I guess I'll watch it again today.

Wayne B said...

Good point on "Malcolm X", just looking at the '92 line-up inspires me to snore. "The Crying Game" is easily the best one presented. Still haven't seen "Howards End" though.


Howard's End is SO good. No qualms about that getting nominated.

Christine said...

In my alternative 1989 the best pictures would have been:
Do the Right Thing
The Cook, the Thief, His Wife & Her Lover
sex,lies, and videotape

I'm still angry about the Driving Miss Daisy Oscar. I remember complaining about it all the next day at my after-school job until my co-workers told me to shut-up-about-the-Oscars-already. My only consolation was that Dead Poets Society didn't win.

Anonymous said...

If I remember right, it was nominated for screenplay, so it could have made the 10.

Anyways, Do the Right Thing is one of my favorite movies ever and I actually tend to watch it two or three times a year. It's so perfect. stunning and powerful, from the bold directing choices to the acting. Sadly under-seen by a lot of people today.

jahs34 said...

I've only have seen it once, but i believe its the best movie of the 80's.

Robert said...

We disagree. We think Crash is the superior film on race. Personally we prefer our statements on race to be self-serious, cloying, and ultimately comforting like "hey, everyones a little bit racist... sometimes."

The view of Do the Right Thing that race relations is a complex mix of factors involving social status, economic condition, ingrained ethnic and cultural ideas, anger and cool Terrence Blanchard music is, quite frankly too complicated and a bit dark for our tastes.

Do the Right Thing would have been better if everything but Ossie Davis had been scrapped and then he'd been recast as a kindly old chauffeur to a spitfire elderly lady in a film with a "we all can get along" message. What's that? He won't do it? How about Morgan Freeman? Perfect. Now that's a movie!

The Academy

Jordan Wellin said...

Throw a garbage can at my window if you like, but I don't like the film at all. All of Lee's films are so in your face that I wonder if he thinks us white people can't understand his message without having him blatantly throw it at us.
Perhaps if I would have seen it when it was all the rage I would have appreciated it more.

Matt Mazur said...

OMG when Kim Basinger strolled out onto that stage, in that ghettoized antebellum ballgown, I thought I might die. it was a lot of look!

But when she actually made that speech -- people booed her and cheered her simultaneously, I thought 'good for her'. Like you, I hadn't thought of her as being a "taste-maker".

She was right though.

But the real question is whatever happened to the album she recorded with Prince? I believe it was called "Color of Sex". rofl.


well the link takes you to their "sex suite" or whatever that was. i'm not sure if she did back up vocals or what but there was all sorts of rumors of a dangerous liaison between them and something involving an (actual) honey pot. Not just the euphemistic kind.

jessie said...

Nat, do you think Kim Basinger stand a chance to get a nom for The Burning Plain ? She earned very good reviews at Venice and Toronto. And she was also singled out for The Informers by both HR and Variety.

After The Door in the floor and Cellular, she deserves a come-back


i very much doubt we'll see THE BURNING PLAIN in Oscar conversations. i think it's been held back too long and the heat is out of it. plus if any movie that's been held back forever can get some oxygen, it's going to be The Hurt Locker.

kel said...

'Do the Right Thing' is one of my favorite films. I can't get enough of it. I love the message. I love Ruby Dee & Ossie Davis. I love the cinematography. I love Public Enemy. I love Spike Lee.

What a shame it wasn't nominated. What a shame that Michelle Pfeiffer lost to Jessica Tandy. What an embarrassment Kim Basinger's outfit was.

Glenn said...

That is why the Academy need to release their ceremonies on DVD. I'd totally buy them. I want to see bits like Basinger giving a speech about Do the Right Thing!

Arkaan said...

1. While the 1992 line-up was a snorer, after Howards End, The Crying Game and Unforgiven, The Player and Husbands and Wives were more worthy than Malcolm X. Spike Lee also courted a lot of controversy that year by being a dickhead.

2. I don't care for Do the Right Thing either, but I definitely admire it's guts and ambition. Of course, the mere suggestion that it's a lesser film than Dead Poets Society is laughable.

3. Christine, The Cook, The Thief, The Wife and her Lover would've been eligible in 1990. And it should've been nominated then (same thing with Mirren, Gambon, Greenaway, and Michael-fucking-Nyman. You know, we complain about Mansell being ignored by the composers, and he deserves a nomination or three, but Michael Nyman has yet to be nominated. How fucked up is that?)

Christine said...

You're right; it was 1990. And I didn't realize that Michael Nyman's never been nominated for anything. Really, Academy? Not even The Piano?



1. oh, I wouldn't nominate MALCOLM X either that year (I much prefer Do the Right Thing and 25th Hour as Spike Lee goes) . BUT the point remains: the Academy should've... or, rather, it's hard to not suspect that they would have had it been the exact same quality but about a white political hero. It's exactly the type of film they go for.

2. uh, yeah.

3. I'm a little cool on Cook which is weird cuz i kind of dig Greenaway in general (not a popular opinion i know) but i CANNOT TALK ABOUT MICHAEL NYMAN. I hate the AMPAS music branch with a passion. They are just so weirdly conservative about everything.

Christine said...

Michael Nyman has no Academy nominations and John Williams has something like 80 billion? The world is an unjust place.

I also agree that Malcolm X wasn't all that great, but it would have been an easy Oscar contender if the Academy didn't associate it with Lee.