Spike Lee’s DO THE RIGHT THING Screens at The Missouri History Museum October 4th
“Let me tell you the story of Right Hand, Left Hand. It’s a tale of good and evil. Hate: it was with this hand that Cane iced his brother. Love: these five fingers, they go straight to the soul of man. The right hand: the hand of love. The story of life is this: static. One hand is always fighting the other hand, and the left hand is kicking much ass. I mean, it looks like the right hand, Love, is finished. But hold on, stop the presses, the right hand is coming back. Yeah, he got the left hand on the ropes, now, that’s right. Ooh, it’s a devastating right and Hate is hurt, he’s down. Left-Hand Hate KOed by Love!”
The next two Sundays, two of my favorite movies about the black experience will be showing at The Missouri History Museum (5700 Lindell Blvd, St. Louis, MO 63112). Spike Lee’s DO THE RIGHT THING screens this Sunday, October 4th at 6pm and Jack Hill’s FOXY BROWN, featuring my favorite actress Pam Grier at her foxy best, screens Sunday October 11th at 5pm.
I remember seeing DO THE RIGHT THING at the now-shuttered Northwest Square Cinema in North St. Louis County the weekend it opened. I recall being the only Caucasian in the audience. I also remember when Samuel L. Jackson, as local DJ Mr. Senor Love Daddy remarked it was so hot there was a “Jheri curl alert. If you have a Jheri curl, stay in the house or you’ll end up with a permanent black helmet on your head fuh-eva!” The audience roared with laughter but I sat there not getting the joke….…and that’s the truth, Ruth!
“Always do the right thing?” says Da Mayor, played by Ossie Davis in DO THE RIGHT THING. “That’s it?” retorts Mookie (played by Lee), “That’s it!” Da Mayor, is the local old-timer spending the day drinking, meditating, giving advice and occasionally flirting with Mother-Sister, a woman of the same generation played by Ruby Dee, Davis’ real-life wife, observing the neighborhood’s life through the window. But the most emblematic scene of DO THE RIGHT THING consists of characters of different races facing a camera and delivering a series of racist rants until Mister Senor Love Daddy tells them to chill out. Some remarkable writing there by Mr. Lee (who is in St. Louis Monday night for a sold-out presentation at Webster University)
25 years later Spike Lee’s DO THE RIGHT THING has endured as one of the very best movies of the ‘90s. (okay, technically it is a 1989 film, but that’s ‘90s enough for me). It was fittingly voted #96 in AFI’s Top 100 Greatest Movies and features a sprawling cast including Danny Aiello (Oscar-nominated for his terrific work here), Ruby Dee, Richard Edson, Giancarlo Esposito, Robin Harris, Samuel L. Jackson, Bill Nunn, Rosie Perez, and John Turturro. Lee’s film is a harrowing 24-hour journey into Brooklyn’s multi-ethnic Bedford/Stuy neighborhood and takes place during the summer’s hottest day. It’s not a coincidence that the suffocating atmosphere fits the overall mood of the film as it foreshadows the tragic inevitability of a coming storm. Apparently some in St. Louis thinks it foreshadows, or at least is pertinent in regards to, Ferguson and the recent race riots here.
Cinema St. Louis presents a free screening of DO THE RIGHT THING as part of the Greater St. Louis Humanities Festival, whose theme in 2015 is “Community Vitality and Viability.” at The Missouri History Museum (5700 Lindell Blvd, St. Louis, MO 63112). The event begins at 6pm.
A post-screening panel discusses DO THE RIGHT THING status as a film and explores its continuing relevance in light of recent events, both in Ferguson and throughout the country. Kenya Vaughn from the St. Louis American moderates; participants include Sowande’ Mustakeem, Washington University assistant professor in the Department of History and in African and African American Studies; St. Louis native Tiffany Shawn, an educator, social-justice activist, and writer for several publications, including the St. Louis American; and Calvin Wilson, St. Louis Post-Dispatch critic, who writes on film, jazz, and dance.
Check back here at We Are Movie Geeks for details about the FOXY BROWN screening!
A Facebook invite for the event can be found HERE
Cinema St. Louis’ site can be found HERE
The Greater St. Louis Humanities Festival site can be found HERE