Roger Guenveur Smith, Smiley from Spike Lee Joint Do the Right Thing, at Frida Tonight

Categories: Film

It's the 25th anniversary of Spike Lee's Do the Right Thing, which means goddamn I'm old AND that it's time for a nostalgic screening.

You can not only fill that bill at The Frida Cinema in downtown Santa Ana tonight, but you can do it alongside actor Roger Guenveur Smith, who played Smiley in the groundbreaking flick.

Thanks to Logan Crow, who programs the Frida, I just learned Berkeley-born Smith appeared in Lee's previous film, School Daze, and has so far had roles in six of the auteur's movies. So, at tonight's post-screening audience Q&A, Smith should be able to handle any question one has about Lee's filmmaking process.

I don't know about the rest of you, but I'd never seen anything like Do the Right Thing when it came out in 1989. The only other film I can recall haunting me like that was Quentin Tarantino's Pulp Fiction, which came out five years later. These were filmmakers who held audiences in the palms of their hands as they ratcheted up the tension.

For those who have not seen Lee's film: 1) Shame on you; 2) It's about one mixed-race, residential/retail block in Brooklyn, New York, reaching the boiling point on a summer day, and not just because of the increasingly hot weather.

The filmmaker not only relied on the talents of Smith but then unknowns Martin Lawrence, John Turturro, Rosie Perez and Mr. Gus Fring himself, Giancarlo Esposito. The central character is Lee's own Mookie (or is it the sounds of Public Enemy blaring out of Radio Raheem's boom box?). The Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood's reporter is deejay Mister Señor Love Daddy, played by the barely seen Samuel L. Jackson, who'd make up for the lack of screen time in Pulp Fiction. (Guess in which film you hear the n-word more?)

Do the Right Thing is showing as part of the "Controversial Celluloid" series at The Frida that opened Saturday with A Clockwork Orange, continued Monday with Natural Born Killers and concludes Wednesday with The Last Temptation of Christ.

Tonight's show starts at 8 p.m. at 305 E. 4th St., Santa Ana--the former location of the Fiesta Twin. Tickets are $8 for students and seniors, $10 for everyone else. Visit for more information.

Meanwhile, here's the poster to get you more in the mood:


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JBinOC topcommenter

Last Spring or Summer, via Time Warner Cable, there was a premium movie channel "free preview" weekend, and very late one night, I re-watched "Do The Right Thing."  I had originally seen it in a theater, during its first-run, in July '89...and thought it was pretty much a masterpiece.  Young-er JBinOC worked in a busy pizza shop in a multi-ethnic neighborhood in New York City in the mid-'80s, and I don't think I've ever witnessed reality transposed onto film so precisely.  Even without that personal connection, "Do the Right Thing" is [at the risk of sounding like a film critic snob] a colorful mosaic that effortlessly engages even the most casual of viewers, and is elevated by some fine, disciplined acting performances from, most notably, Danny Aiello and Ossie Davis.  

I've always felt that Spike Lee and his fellow NYU alum, Marty Scorsese, were somewhat overrated, but like "Goodfellas" is to Scorsese, "Do the Right Thing" is the pinnacle of Lee's directorial work, and a late '80s turn-of-the-decade classic.  It held up very well when I watched it again, 24 years later.  

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