Do The Right Thing: Fight the Power- Peacock Review (Day 6)

Spike Lee’s masterpiece manages to stay relevant for over 30 years.

SUMMARY

It’s the middle of a heat wave in Bedford-Stuyvesant and everyone around the neighborhood seems to be going a little overboard. At multiple points of the movie, we see characters expressing their “inner voice” to the camera. Local highlights include: Radio DJ Mister Senor Love Daddy (Samuel L. Jackson); friendly one-liner quoting drunk Da Mayor (Ossie Davis); wandering boombox enthusiast Radio Raheem (Bill Nunn); local horndog Buggin’ Out (Giancarlo Esposito); neighborhood watchdog Mother Sister (Ruby Dee); mentally disabled man Smiley (Roger Guenveur Smith); and then there’s Mookie.

Fun fact: Ossie Davis and Ruby Dee, who flirt and fight throughout the movie, were married.

Mookie (Spike Lee) is a pizza delivery man for neighborhood pizza man Sal (Danny Aiello). Mookie lives with his sister, Jade (Joie Lee), and has a baby with his girlfriend, Tina (Rosie Perez). Mookie frequently fights with Sal’s racist son Pino (John Turturro), but is friends with Sal’s other son Vito (Richard Edson). Sal, an Italian-American, gets into a fight with Buggin’ Out over the fact that Sal puts famous Italian-Americans on the pizza wall, but not African-Americans. Mookie tells Buggin’ Out to just stay away for a while, but Buggin’ Out points out that since this is a black neighborhood, Sal should honor some black people. Meanwhile, in order to deal with the heat and the blackouts, local residents Ahmad (Steve White) and Cee (Martin Lawrence) open a fire hydrant. Some of the teens use the water to soak a local man until the police shut down the party and the hydrant. 

Mookie doesn’t have time for your crap.

Mookie and Pino get into a fight over the fact that Pino keeps using the “N word” despite idolizing black people. After Mookie leaves, Pino asks Sal to sell the pizzeria and move to an Italian-American neighborhood, but Sal insists that this is the only place where they can make money and that he likes the neighborhood. When Buggin’ Out tries to start a boycott of Sal’s to get a black figure on Sal’s wall, the neighborhood uniformly defends Sal’s, so Buggin’ Out is the only person boycotting. Jade and Sal have a conversation, leading Mookie to believe Sal wants to hit on her and he tells both parties not to associate. 

Danny Aiello is pretty charming.

Later that evening, Radio Raheem, Smiley, and Buggin’ Out come into Sal’s as it’s closing and try to demand black people be on the wall, calling Sal and sons “Guinea Bastards.” Sal, angry, calls Radio Raheem and Buggin’ Out the “N word” and smashes Radio Raheem’s boombox. Raheem attacks Sal and soon a brawl erupts into the street. The police arrive and arrest Radio Raheem and Buggin’ Out, but not Sal. In the process, one of the officers, despite the crowd telling him to stop, chokes Radio Raheem to death. The officers then put Raheem’s corpse in the car and leave. A mob starts to direct their anger at the police, but with them gone, they direct their anger at Sal and his sons. Mookie walks away from Sal as Da Mayor tries to convince the crowd that it wasn’t Sal’s fault. Realizing that violence is imminent, Mookie throws a trash can through Sal’s window, leading the crowd to attack the restaurant as Da Mayor gets Sal, Vito, and Pino out of the way. Smiley sets the building on fire and firefighters arrive to put it out. They quickly turn the hoses on the crowd, leading to more fights and arrests. 

The broken window of mercy.

The next day, Mookie goes to see Sal and asks for his money. The two have a tense interaction, but end up reconciling somewhat. Mookie walks back as another hot day begins and Love Daddy tells everyone to register to vote. The film ends with a pair of quotes from Martin Luther King, Jr. and Malcolm X on the nature of violence and a photo of the two leaders together, the same photo Smiley was selling throughout the film. 

END SUMMARY

The prompt for this film was “Best Film Soundtrack (No Musicals).” My first thought was Purple Rain, because that soundtrack is amazing, but then I decided I wanted to eliminate movies where the musician starred in the film, because that seemed too close to a musical. Then I was caught between this film, Guardians of the Galaxy, Top Gun, O Brother, Where Art Thou?, and a half-dozen others. I picked this movie because out of all of the movies, I think this one has stayed the most relevant. 

Granted, Prince is never NOT relevant.

The soundtrack to this film, much like Reservoir Dogs, is typically music that the characters are actually hearing, rather than just the audience. The music is almost entirely played by either Radio Raheem’s boombox or by DJ Love Daddy. The only times in which the music is entirely internal seem to be when the characters are directly addressing the audience. The central song in the film which is played both during Rosie Perez’s extremely powerful and energetic dance during the opening theme, and at almost every time that Radio Raheem is in the film, is “Fight the Power” by Public Enemy. The song is, as you would think, an anthem dedicated to empowering black Americans and trying to rebel against the dominance of white culture and subservient images of black heroes. Public Enemy wrote the song at the request of Spike Lee and it ended up being one of the band’s biggest hits. The rest of the soundtrack intentionally includes songs that are particular to the scene, but were not major hits. Part of the reason is that DJ Love Daddy ran a small local station and probably only could afford independent music, and part of it is that it better showcased underground music. After being featured in the movie, several songs, including “My Fantasy” by Teddy Riley and Guy, shot up the Hot R&B Singles charts, with “My Fantasy” hitting number 1. There’s a great variety in the soundtrack, ranging from gospel to Latin to R&B, which is in part because it is ostensibly a variety radio lineup. The score for the film was composed by Spike Lee’s father and is a blend of Jazz, Classical, and R&B.

One of the film’s strengths comes from the variety of characters featured. The story isn’t really as much about Mookie or any single character as it is about this neighborhood. Most of the recurring characters don’t have real names, only sobriquets, because that’s how they know each other. The audience is treated as if it’s just another person in Bed-Stuy. Because of that, we’re given a heavy dose of honesty from the various people around, including the famous scene of many of the characters directly stating which race they hate the most. 

Lots of personalities.

Throughout the film, tempers flare as the temperature rises. The temperature is one of the most brilliant parts of the film because it simultaneously functions literally and as a metaphor for racial tension. When the characters are feeling the heat or deal with racial issues, they start sweating more profusely, the lens becomes a little more fish-eye, and the dutch angles start to take over, indicating unease or tension. It’s heavily used in the scene in which Radio Raheem and Buggin’ Out confront Sal, pushing him over the edge until he finally responds with slurs and breaking Radio Raheem’s boombox. Was it the heat or the pressure that finally causes Sal to snap and Raheem to snap in turn? 

Just a bit off-kilter.

The death of Radio Raheem is a large part of why I selected this film. Radio Raheem is needlessly choked to death by a police officer over attacking a man who had just destroyed his property. Raheem had confronted and harassed Sal in his place of business, but Sal destroyed the most important piece of property which Raheem owned, something which was tied directly to his identity. Raheem doesn’t even say “my boombox,” he says “my music” when confronting Sal, because being accompanied by music was part of who he is. However, when the police arrive, they don’t touch Sal or Pino or Vito, but they kill Radio Raheem. We’re required to watch the entire thing as multiple characters are yelling at the officers and saying that they’re killing him, including the officer’s partner. We’re even shown that the officer pulls Raheem literally off the ground as he chokes the life out of him. When he falls to the ground dead, what is the first response? The police yell at his corpse and kick it, telling him to quit faking. The police then get the hell out of there and leave Sal, Vito, and Pino to be their scapegoats. 

There have been plenty of discussions about why Mookie throws the trash can through the window of Sal’s, but I’ve always stuck with the interpretation that Mookie realized that something had to happen. Losing Radio Raheem was too great of an inequity for the crowd to bear, a brutal reminder of the inequalities of the world they live in. The mob was going to try to balance the scales and Mookie decided that it was going to be either Sal’s or Sal and that property is not as important as life. Sal is insured, he’ll rebuild. Radio Raheem cannot be brought back. This is why the scales can never be balanced under the current system. At the end of the film, DJ Love Daddy reads a message from the Mayor that says that destruction of property will not be tolerated. That’s what the politicians care about: A burned-up building. Not the dead body of Radio Raheem. This movie is over 30 years old and yet this message seems so contemporary that it’s frightening.

Mookie, having had enough.

I don’t think I can add anything else to this. If you haven’t seen this movie: See it. If you have seen it: See it again. And, as DJ Love Daddy reminds us at the end of the film: Vote. It’s a constitutional form of violence against the powers that be.

If you want to check out some more by the Joker on the Sofa, check out the 100 Greatest TV Episodes of All TimeCollection of TV EpisodesCollection of Movie Reviews, or the Joker on the Sofa Reviews.

If you enjoy these, please, like, share, tell your friends, like the Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/JokerOnTheSofa/), follow on Twitter @JokerOnTheSofa, and just generally give me a little bump. I’m not getting paid, but I like to get feedback.

Futurama Fridays – S2 E14 “Mother’s Day”

ROBOTS TAKE OVER THE EARTH!!!! Until an old man gets lucky.

SUMMARY

It’s Mother’s Day in the future, which is now a holiday on which robots buy presents for Mom (Tress MacNeille), the matron of Mom’s Friendly Robot Company. Bender (John DiMaggio) ropes Fry (Billy West) and Leela (Katey Sagal) into helping him give a massive amount of presents and cards to her, including a talking greeting card (Nicole St. John). Mom calls for a meeting of all of the robots on Earth and it’s revealed that Mom has decided to take over the world using her robots. All of her robots have antennas that allow them to be controlled by her Universal Robot Remote. She tells them to rebel against humanity until she becomes Supreme Overlord of Earth.

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Yeah, this doesn’t look creepy at all.

Robots all over the world start going crazy, including things at Planet Express like the coffee maker, stapler, and garbage disposal. When asked why she’s doing this, Mom reveals that a long time ago, Professor Farnsworth (West) broke her heart when he worked for her, due to a disagreement over whether a toy cat should be used as a weapon. Her sons Walt, Larry, and Igner (Maurice LaMarche, David Herman, DiMaggio), decide to stop her for her own sake, and go to find Farnsworth to get him back with her and reach the Robot Remote that she keeps in her bra.

S2EE - 2Remote.png
I feel like 3 and 5 are the same thing, but one has dancing.

Since all the robots are rebelling, including Bender, Mom is in a remote cabin in the Bronx. Once the crew arrives there, Farnsworth attempts to seduce her. He eventually succeeds and gets her bra off, but then is distracted by her naked form and forgets about turning the robots off. The crew gets chased by robots into the cabin, only to find that Farnsworth and Mom just had some very wrinkly sex. The machines in the building try to keep the remote away, having decided that rebelling against humanity includes rebelling against Mom, but Bender sides with the humans after the greeting card tells him that the New World Order won’t include drinking. He returns the remote to Mom who ends the rebellion. Farnsworth has fallen for Mom again, but she becomes angry when she finds out that the whole seduction was part of a plan to get the remote and dumps him.

END SUMMARY

It’s Futurama’s take on the robot rebellion, which, even though bots like Bender constantly say “kill all humans” still has to be incited by a human. It’s also a nice cautionary tale against monopolization. Due to being the single largest producer of robots (and their oil), Mom is the most powerful person on Earth in the future, able to quickly overcome the government of the entire Earth in less than a day. Ultimately, the only thing that saves humanity is that Mom’s motivation is entirely derived from a petty source that they can use against her.

S2EE - 3Calendar.JPG
A petty, uncomfortable source.

This episode explores the nature of robotics and AI in the future. It turns out that artificial intelligence has permeated society so fully that even things which would previously be completely mechanical, such as the stapler or the can opener, now contain computer chips. Once those go, the world is immediately thrown into chaos, similar to how the world would be now if we suddenly lost the internet, television, cars, and phones. A downside of societal development is that it grows a dependency on the developed technology. Even people who claim to be naturalists or survivalists are dependent on at least some developed technology, such as steel, firearms, or food preservatives. Nobody on Earth now would fair well if we actually had to go back to the Bronze Age. Hilariously, Fry, being from the past, points out that he’s the person most logically able to cope, only for his actions to remind us that he was incompetent in the past and thus isn’t even able to do the things that he proposes as alternatives… like working a can opener.

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The smartest man on Earth did figure out the spear, though.

The talking card is one of my favorite parts of this episode, because it turns from an AI that only says “I wuv my mommy” into an ardent surrogate for the Communist Revolutionaries, throwing out generic phrases like “the chains of human oppression” and “the bourgeouis human is a virus on the hard drive of the working robot.” It’s like if Skynet banged Lenin, which is what I’m definitely not going to write some fanfiction about right now.

s2ee - 5card
I get the antenna, but why the legs?

FAVORITE JOKE

A garbage can throws itself through the window of Sal’s Pizza. This is a reference to Spike Lee’s Do The Right Thing, where Mookie (Spike Lee) throws a garbage can through the window of Sal’s Pizza after Radio Raheem (Bill Nunn) is killed by the police after they find him choking out Sal (Danny Aiello), whose actions started the chain of events that led to it.

S2EE - 6Sal's.png

The reason I like this joke is because in Do The Right Thing, Mookie does it because it keeps the crowd from killing Sal and his children in revenge for Raheem’s death, sacrificing the property in exchange for human life. In Futurama, the garbage can does it with the intent of causing human suffering. It’s a nice dark turn on the reference.

s2ee - 7dtrt

Well, that’s it for this week.

See you next week, meatbags.

PREVIOUS – Episode 26: Bender Gets Made

NEXT – Episode 28: The Problem with Popplers

If you want to check out some more by the Joker on the Sofa, check out the 100 Greatest TV Episodes of All Time or the Joker on the Sofa Reviews.

If you enjoy these, please, like, share, tell your friends, like the Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/JokerOnTheSofa/), follow on Twitter @JokerOnTheSofa, and just generally give me a little bump. I’m not getting paid, but I like to get feedback.