Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Spike Lee: Do The Right Thing

Assignment: Required Reading, Looking & Writing

For this week's assignment, I'd like you to expand on two of the questions that were on the "Do the Right Thing" questionnaire, and also to make a response to Matt Zoller Seitz's video essay on the film, below.

The questions are:

1. Write about the color you were assigned to look at in the film, and explain where the color appeared, and how it was used. (an online essay by Cynthia Scott, which has a few good paragraphs on the use of color in the film, as well as some other stylistic choices, might be a good inspiration -- the article is here:

2. Explain your reactions and thoughts to Mookie's act at the climax of the film. Did it seem justified? Inevitable? Sympathetic? Heroic? Masochistic? Juvenile? Righteous? Misguided?

And here's Matt Zoller Seitz video essay:

Which brings us to question three:

3. Do you think that the analysis of the film here -- as a film that doesn't really endorse a particular political argument, but rather as a film about arguments, and the way that arguments can escalate out of feelings of personal grievance -- make the film seem less "political"? To what extent do you find Do the Right Thing a "political" film?

Here's a transcript of the video essay, for reference:

The end of the video essay quotes liberally from critic Jonathan Rosenbaum's 1898 essay on the film -- a good piece of writing that can be found here:

Recommended readings:

Spike Lee films on Netflix instant:
Do the Right Thing
Malcolm X

(I haven't seen Clockers since it came out, but at the time, it was my favorite film of his)

Lee has also done recordings of several live performances and stage shows by other artists -- of those Passing Strange and A Huey P. Newton Story are on instant view. The former is quite good, and I've been meaning to see the latter, but haven't yet gotten around to it -- it's a one-man show with the actor who played "Smiley" as Huey Newton. His documentaries 4 Little Girls and When the Levees Broke are also supposed to be quite good.

Further reading:

On Do the Right Thing's confrontational style:

A Spike Lee interview:

An "oral history" of Do the Right Thing, 20 years later, from cast and crew:

Film history: the story of love and hate (the origin of Radio Raheem's monologue, in Charles Laughton's Night of the Hunter, about a crazed preacher who terrorizes two young children.

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