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Criterion Collection: Do the Right Thing (1989) | Blu-ray Review

Just in time for the film’s thirtieth anniversary, the Criterion Collection resurrects Spike Lee’s masterpiece Do the Right Thing with a 4K restoration for its Blu-ray release. Lee’s third feature, following She’s Gotta Have It (1986) and School Daze (1988), would become his seminal calling card, breaking him into the Cannes competition and snagging him an Academy Award nomination for Best Screenplay (though he would lose to Dead Poets Society), along with Danny Aiello for Best Supporting Actor.

Although eventual conversations around the film inevitably lead to contentiousness around how the archaic and whitewashed Driving Miss Daisy won Best Picture that year (while Lee’s film didn’t snag a nomination in this category), Lee’s success generated a notable movement of black indie filmmakers through the 1990s, including Ernest R. Dickerson, who served as cinematographer here (and would break out on his own with 1992’s Juice starring Tupac Shakur).

A delectable time capsule of 1989 Brooklyn which is unfortunately as prescient as ever in its deliberation on rampant racism and police brutality, a formidable cast, which includes Rosie Perez, Samuel L. Jackson, Joie Lee, Ruby Dee, Ossie Davis, Bill Nunn, John Turturro, Danny Aiello, Giancarlo Esposito, Martin Lawrence, Roger Guenveur Smith, and many others makes for an unforgettable experience. Lee himself stars as Mookie, the droll employee of Aiello’s Italian-American pizza shop which is frequented by the mostly black clientele. Simmering racial tensions boil over in the unprecedented heat wave leading to irreparable tragedy. With its simplistic narrative and powerful messages beautifully rendered, Lee irreverence for themes and motifs outlined here are notably revisited throughout his lengthy filmography, including in 2002’s 25th Hour and 2012’s Red Hook Summer (in which he would reappear as Mookie.

Film Review: ★★★★★/☆☆☆☆☆
Disc Review: ★★★★★/☆☆☆☆☆

Los Angeles based Nicholas Bell is IONCINEMA.com's Chief Film Critic and covers film festivals such as Sundance, Berlin, Cannes and TIFF. He is part of the critic groups on Rotten Tomatoes, The Los Angeles Film Critics Association (LAFCA), the Online Film Critics Society (OFCS) and GALECA. His top 3 for 2021: France (Bruno Dumont), Passing (Rebecca Hall) and Nightmare Alley (Guillermo Del Toro). He was a jury member at the 2019 Cleveland International Film Festival.

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