Do the Right Thing is finally receiving its due.
On Friday evening, a crowd of Hollywood luminaries gathered to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the Spike Lee classic. The film tells the tale of Mookie (Lee) and a cast of disillusioned and disenfranchised characters in the largely African-American enclave of Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn, who are mad as hell and not going to take it anymore. A searing portrait of the frustrations of Reagan-era blacks, it saw the racial tensions of a neighborhood bubble and explode on the hottest day of the year. Lee's film starred himself, Danny Aiello, Ossie Davis, Ruby Dee, Giancarlo Esposito, John Turturro, Samuel L. Jackson, and others, and also featured the acting debuts of Rosie Perez and Martin Lawrence.
Despite being cruelly overlooked for the Best Picture Oscar—it wasn’t even nominated in 1990, the year the racially tame Driving Miss Daisy took home the big prize—Lee’s film has since been deemed “culturally significant” by the U.S. Library of Congress, Roger Ebert ranked it the No. 4 film of the 1980s, and the American Film Institute (AFI) considers it the 96th greatest film of all-time.
At the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA), the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences hosted a commemorative screening of the film—two days before its actual 25th anniversary on June 30. Do the Right Thing was introduced by Academy President Cheryl Boone Isaacs, the first African-American to hold the position, and attended by the likes of John Singleton and Public Enemy’s Chuck D, with Lee conducting a post-screening Q&A.
But prior to the screening came a big surprise: the first black President and First Lady of the United States, Barack and Michelle Obama, taped a short video tribute to Do the Right Thing—the film that Barack took Michelle to on their first date 25 years ago.
“He was trying to show me his sophisticated side by selecting an independent filmmaker, and it ended up being a pretty good movie,” said First Lady Michelle Obama.
“So Spike, thank you for helping me impress Michelle, and thank you for telling a powerful story,” added President Obama. “I’ve got a few more grey hairs than I did back in 1989. You don’t look like Mookie anymore. But Do the Right Thing still holds up a mirror to out society, and it makes us laugh, and think, and challenges all of us to see ourselves in one another.”
You can watch the president and first lady’s full video tribute here: