Thursday, August 20, 2009

Something to do with interviews and DO THE RIGHT THING (97)

As always I'm trying to think about different ways to not only make this site seem more readable for you my sometimes absent, but often loyal readers, but also make it more entertaining for me as a writer to actually put together. If you ask anyone who blogs or writes daily, the hardest aspect of the whole damn thing is just sitting down and every day and writing. Especially for the little guys, the people like me and the other 9 billion normal schmoes piecing together a bit of writing each and every day for an unknown audience, not getting lauded with free films or screenings, just sort of putting together for the sheer love of doing it - it isn't always the easiest thing.

Thus, I've been putting my head together (i.e. picking Alex's wildly creative cranial parts) for ideas on how to make this blog interesting for you and me and all the unknowing readers out their in the world. The idea that's jumped to the forefront is a new sort of short interview piece I'll put together for each and every film I view. I'll reach out to a filmmaker or a writer or an artist or a friend or just an unknown who dearly loves a movie and I, with the help of Alex, will throw five somewhat silly, somewhat probing questions about the film and the subject's interaction with the film. On top of that it'll be a nice way to spread the word on whatever the subject is working on - their film, their article, hell, their life.

What I'm asking you is to take a peek at the list of Criterion films right HERE, and see if any of them in the next few weeks jump out at you. Films you've seen, films you love, films you hate, films you'd be interested in just givin' a look and a talk about. If you're interested, or know someone who might be, float me an email (sanders.noah at gmail dot com).

I'll have my first interview up in the next few days with a lovely documentarian named Emily Chapman about Do The Right Thing (97).

Speaking of Do The Right Thing (97) I sat down yesterday and rewatched this contemporary American classic. And hell, even had a few thoughts about it. Thought I might share.

1. What a start

I remember being told once that Simon & Garfunkel's soundtrack for The Graduate was one of the first times an entire song had been played from start to finish over a scene. And that shit has nothing on Spike Lee's usage of PE's "You Gotta' Take The Power Back" over Rosie Perez shaking her, well, everythings. I have no idea what Lee was intending to get at with the image of Perez pelvic thrusting for all its worth as the film cuts back and forth between her in various gaudy outfits, but damn if didn't draw me right in to the flashy, hyper-colored New York Spike Lee loves.

2. What a cast

Samuel L. Jackson! John Turturro! Danny Aiello! Martin Lawrence! Ossie Davis! Rosie Perez! This is one of those films where you can see the glimmer of stardom creeping on the edges, the sort of glow of fame sweeping across its inhabitants. If not for this, we'd never have had Martin Lawrence in Wild Hogs 1 & 2.

3. Universal

From the very beginning of Do The Right Thing (97) Spike Lee forms this tiny world of Bed-Stuy as a microcosm for the entire world. It's a multi-cultural street corner, and all the goods and bads of such a place are here to rear their ugly heads. We're introduced quickly to all the characters, and then throughout the film, they appear, regardless if they're the focus of the scene. We see Smiley in the background (always with the pictures), the Korean family at their corner, the three elderly black guys as Mookie walks past. This is a world connected. What I found most interesting is the idea that within this world everything is universal, the anger (when it spreads) spreads fast and to everyone. The film could be broken up in to a five-act script, each with a different emotion, and each emotion burns across this community, this universe, like a forest fire. There's a universal love and a universal hate that exists in Spike Lee's Bed-Stuy, and both are needed to keep everything in balance, and when the scale tips at the of the film, it's an explosion of riot and sadly, death.

4. Thea-tah

Spike Lee is kind of a theatre director. This is certainly a film steeped in the cinematic arts, but there's also a truly theatrical way the film is staged. The sets, the streets, the camera shots, make us feel as if we're kicking down the fourth wall, and staring in to the world of these people. At some points it works exceptionally well, and at others it seems hammy and overwrought. But what it does, is give the film a specific look and feel, one that Lee would continue to use whilst creating his oeuvre.

5. Mookie's the key

When Mookie (Spike Lee) leaves the streets of Bed-Stuy to fight with his sister and to take a shower, that's when everything starts to fall apart. All of sudden, Pino (John Turturro) is spreading hate, Buggin' Out is organizing a boycott, and Radio Raheem is fighting with the Latinos. It's as if Mookie's the glue that holds this world together, the short, Nike-wearing sum'bitch that balances this treacherous world of love and hate, and when he's taking a break to clean up, that balance falls to the wayside.

6. Final thoughts

Do The Right Thing (97) is well-documented as a classic, a film that touches without gloves the thin line of racism that runs through every corner in this United States of ours. It has been years since I've watched it, and it still resonates, even though I find as it gets older some of its more late-80s visual choices seem dated. What it most makes me feel is sadness for this Spike Lee, the Spike Lee of brash colors and swooping cameras who didn't feel it necessary to make films about bank heists and WWII. I like me a small-scale Spike Lee, one who points out the grand ideas with the simple creation of a few street-characters and the daily routines of their mundane lives. Sigh, maybe he'll have a late career renaissance.

Friday: Mystery, always mystery.

1 comment:

David said...

I love this movie for a lot of reasons but one that always stuck with me was the palpable sense of heat spike lee was able to capture. I love playing miles davis (sketches of Spain specifically) on hot summer days because if I close my eyes it makes me feel like I am in this movie.