A Pictorial History of the Movies: 1989 – Do the Right Thing

This is a movie that completely encapsulates 1989.

Hell, the first word of this movie is “1989.”

Batman was the biggest movie of the year, box office-wise, but that wasn’t the film that represented 1989. Most of the highest grossing movies were sequels.

I could have went with The Little Mermaid and the Disney Renaissance, but that didn’t define 1989.

Do the Right Thing defined 1989.

It’s about us. It’s about America. It’s about how we treat each other. It’s a brilliant movie. Utterly watchable all the way through. And, as someone who grew up in Brooklyn, feels exactly like what Brookyln felt like during that time. Granted, during the years this was made and after, I was a small child, but still, it feels like Brooklyn, and I like that.

It’s a beautiful meditation on racial, social and economic relations. And it takes place entirely on the one block, was shot entirely on that one block, and takes place over the course of a single day. It’s such a nicely contained movie.

And the cast. My god, what a cast. The past, present and future of fame. Great actors all around, even in bit parts. It’s a milestone of cinema, especially in black cinema. For the longest time in Hollywood, black stories and movies were made by white filmmakers. Hell, The Color Purple was directed by Steven Spielberg. It’s a great movie, but that’s not quite the message you want to come across. Granted, a story is a story, and you don’t need to have lived it to tell a good story. But in terms of movies like this, you need a strong black voice to tell it. And that’s what Spike Lee did for the film industry. He found an outlet for black filmmakers to tell personal stories. And that’s really the biggest impact this movie made on cinema.

One thing I love that Spike Lee did with this movie was — he allowed all his characters to voice their opinions. His idea was that if each character felt they were telling the truth, then their opinion was valid. And it was up to the audience to decide who was right and who was wrong. And that’s the kind of thing that makes this story so unique and so wonderful, because it doesn’t choose a side. It tells a story and makes the audience decide what was right and what was wrong. It confronts them with the reality of the situation.

And apparently only white audiences are the ones who ask whether or not Mookie did the right thing at the end. Which makes sense. I’m sure that’s slightly embellished on Lee’s part, but it’s still a good thing to say.

This movie really holds up. It’s one of those movies you can watch at any time, at any place, with any person, and it’ll still have the same impact as it did on the first day of release. I honestly can’t see having made any other decision for this year.


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