picking up where we left off, now we will discuss the next of the mentioned Spike Lee Flicks...
Do the Right Thing (1989)
This movie deals directly with the multiple plights of the residents of a Brooklyn neighborhood on what happens to be the hottest day of the year.
The major theme dealt with in the movie happens to be race relations, centering around a pizza parlor and the treatment of black patrons, real or perceived... Irony comes from the titling of this movie, as it seems that NOBODY is doing the right thing in the entire movie.
[Phlip note - except Radio Raheem, he could DO no wrong]
We have EVERYTHING one could desire in a movie; Public Enemy music serving as damn near the ENTIRE score, Rosie Perez, Rosie Perez' titties, racism, class-based discrimination, hatred of immigrants, disregard for the elderly/mentally challenged, and (best of all) Samuel Leroy 'motherfuckin' Jackson.
Besides, who CAN'T love a movie that includes lines like...
Again, this movie serves as a "show you what to do by showing you what NOT to do" up close and personally, up to and including the lesson learned of the riot that resulted in at least one death. The movie was both critically and commercially successful, I even watched it on DVD recently myself.
But what if they did it now?
No longer would it take place in a record-high NY summer day, but a record LOW southeast winter day...
I say that from a personal level, since I live in NC, where single-digit windchill this early in December are not quite the norm, but have been very much the reality this week...
The slowing of – or at least the changing face of it – will serve it that the pizza parlor is now owned by a Muslim family at on a strip mall very near to both black AND white neighborhoods. There will also be some Chinese takeout and your run-of-the-mill generic “Asian-Owned” nail and beauty supplies, as well as African hair braiding.
[Phlip note - holy shit, I just described my own neighborhood!]
The things would play out largely the same. Being that the pizza place is on the block with black people and only a half mile from white people, his foot traffic is largely of both races, exacerbated by his prime real estate; DIRECTLY next to the grocery store.
White people resent him because their own neighborhood is the old money that moved elsewhere in the city when the black folks moved in, which was bad enough before they started letting “them goddamned terrorist motherfuckers” open up shop everywhere in the city.
Black folks resent him because the first round of gentrification and business-opening in the neighborhood was all black-owned. This includes two video stores that are no longer open, one salon that is no longer open, a barber shop that barely is and 3 Laundromats, one of which has closed and reopened twice, one that moved and one that is only open to serve as a front for illegal operations otherwise.
His presence in the neighborhood comes to show their loss on the toehold of what they had “taken” from the white folks 20 years prior. It represented something they did NOT take action on when the Koreans opened the cleaners, then the beauty supply, then nail shop and takeout spot before.
This is where the similarities to the original movie really begins...
One of the chu’uch folks tries to set up a boycott of non-black-owned businesses on the block – which would mean no one does ANYTHING in the neighborhood except getting their hair done or washing their clothes at the Laundromat without free drying – until they’ve gone, at which point they reinvest in the community. The response from the younger generations came across more or less as a “fuuuuuuuuuuuuuuck that, them terrorist-ass calzones is too good to be quittin’ on!”
The white people, though? For the most part, very few of them were willing to patronize the restaurant out of 9/11-driven fear of the unknown. That said, damned if they would EVER invite “those people” to their house for delivery either. No need to go too much further into why THEY would refrain from patronage.
Anywho, one night right at closing time, someone is leaving with their food that they’d ordered ahead of time, when a young black man enters the shop and wants to place an order…
3 minutes prior to closing…
When the shop owner advises that he has shut down the oven for the night, and the only thing he would be willing to make at the 11th hour would be a cold sandwich, a scene occurs. The would-be patron attempts to argue with him, but is repeatedly asked to leave the premises. This MIGHT have continued, had not the passing police officer who cases this lot every night at this time happened to roll through. The angered (and now still-hungry) 19 year-old leaves.
11:30 the following morning, he is standing on the sidewalk telling EVERYONE to enter the parlor that they shouldn't, prompting the owners' son to step out and confront him. Meanwhile, one of his knucklehead friends is harassing the Korean lady trying to open her nail salon across the parking lot. The harassment at the pizza shop goes on ALL day until the owner shows for his own shift. Ironically, the kid's friends are no longer bothering the other shop owners, but the pizza parlor owner instead.
I don't know how many people constitutes a riot, but the 5 kids who STARTED this shit, the one store owner who was just minding his own business and now the dozens of onlookers-cum-participants makes one in my mind. The cops come in time to grab the first black teenager who appears to be a troublemaker and employs that chokehold that they aren't supposed to use anymore. Trash cans are thrown and fires started, I hope these cops expected overtime tonight...
All the OTHER business owners have closed up shop, drawn security coverings over glass and beat it.
Unlike the original, there will be no dialog between the shop owner and anyone else who was at the riot.
The movie, as the original was, would be critically-acclaimed.
Unfortunately, no one would go to see it, seeing as how people will not much go to movies with a message these days, even if the message is RIGHT OUT IN FRONT OF THEM. Asking someone to work to get the message beneath a metaphor is just too damned much it seems these days.
‘da fuck? Nigga, you tryna get smart?’ would be the response from the "peer" audience.
[Phlip note - "peer audience" = those who share skin color with the moviemaker]
It would go on to the Parthenon of cinematic GREATNESS that wad damned by not enough people willing to put their cash up to view, usually for reasons not reflecting the maker of the film. The Great Debaters comes to mind when I type that.
Closure to come tomorrow.
to be continued…