Friday, September 20, 2013

Do The Right Thing

Okay, I’m going to be a bit of a nerd and rage on about color corrections and transfers and what have you. This movie is set on the hottest day in Brooklyn all year. That is, in fact, the entire concept of the movie. The temperature is hot and TEMPERS are hot. Heat makes everyone crazy especially when idle hands are already the devil’s work and you’ve got troubles so hard. Now, when filming this Spike Lee (for both logistical and financial reasons) was unable to do so during the heat of the summer and instead filmed, I believe, in the Springtime. For this reason it was decided in post that a warm orangey filter to would added to give the impression of sweltering heat. And it did. You could basically feel the sizzling black top and smell the sweat dripping off of everyone. The heat itself became a character.

That is until the blu ray release of the movie. In the effort of restoration and “betterification” they did a significant amount of color correction. Instead of hot orange everything has been regulated to cool blues. The heat no longer sizzles. The viewer no longer feels a sympathetic drop of sweat creeping down their face. The heat is not only no longer a character but you find yourself wondering, what’s the big deal? You don’t identify with the heat and you lose some of the identification with the characters because of that. At least, that’s what I think.  BUT, I am admittedly a total nerd about things like this so, whatever.

Anyway, now that’s I’ve whined about the precious sanctity of dvd transfers how about I discuss the actual movie, eh? So. It’s a hot day in Bed Stuy. In a neighborhood that’s almost exclusively black we find a family owned Italian pizza place and a Korean owned convenience store. Even one is bored, hot, and listless. Tempers flare, tragedy strikes, when the chips fall who is left standing and who is to blame for what transpires?

The thing I appreciate about this movie is, while it’s not remotely subtle, it doesn’t entirely point the fingers of blame either. While it does lack in any subtlety it features neither cartoonishly villainous or heroic characters. Everyone is flawed, and everyone makes mistakes. It’s a story with no clear winners or losers because everyone comes out behind. It tells the story that you’ve got to do the right thing but sometimes there is no right thing and sometimes even if you do what is right you end up with a losing deck. Life isn’t simple and everything is complicated. Sometimes you want to fight the power but where do you turn when you’re surrounded by equally powerless people? Who do you fight then? How do you confront the enemy when it doesn’t have a face?

There are no clear answers to any of this. The story is left (mostly) unresolved and nothing gets wrapped up in a tidy bow. Apparently seeing this was Barack and Michelle Obama’s first date, which is hilarious to me because it features a decently long love scene complete with nudity. Also, the ending itself isn’t exactly one to inspire romance.

Overall I agree that it’s a worthy film and probably one of Spike’s best. It has a very clear message but isn’t too preachy or finger pointing. I watch it coming from a place of privilege and acknowledge that my perceptions of it are likely colored by that. What’s next on the list? Not sure yet!


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