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What to Watch: Revisiting Spike Lee’s ‘Do the Right Thing’

What to Watch: Revisiting Spike Lee’s ‘Do the Right Thing’

June 07
14:03 2020

By Chris Kornelis

As protests sparked by the killing of George Floyd spread across the country, the entertainment world took to social media for “Blackout Tuesday,” a campaign aimed at supporting the goals of the Black Lives Matter movement and amplifying the work of black musicians, filmmakers and writers—in turn, prompting debate over its execution and effectiveness.

Meanwhile, a recent crop of TV shows and movies tell the story of black aspiration, resilience and entrepreneurship.

Elsewhere, action-movie veteran Michael Bay, “Orange Is the New Black” creator Jenji Kohan and others are getting back to work—with projects that incorporate the pandemic in their story lines. And producer Greg Daniels, known for workplace sitcoms like “The Office,” discussed his two new series, both satirical takes on the not-too-distant future.

Relevant Oldies: ‘Do the Right Thing’

In Spike Lee’s Oscar-nominated film, “Do the Right Thing,” an argument over loud music and the lack of “brothers” pictured among the faces on the wall of a Brooklyn pizzeria escalates into a fight between the white business owner and his young black customers. One customer, Radio Raheem (played by Bill Nunn) is choked to death by a police officer, and a riot breaks out.

This week, Mr. Lee released a short film on his Twitter account, saying “3 Brothers—Radio Raheem, Eric Garner And George Floyd.” The film combines moments from the death of the character Radio Raheem in “Do the Right Thing” with footage of Eric Garner and George Floyd, black men who died while confined by police, events that later led to protests.

Mr. Lee has noted that this pattern goes back a lot further than his 1989 film. The beginning of his new short features a single sentence in red letters: “Will History Stop Repeating Itself?”

New This Week: ‘Shirley’

Shirley,” a film out Friday via video on demand and in select drive-in theaters, is a fictionalized look at the late Shirley Jackson, the renowned horror writer.

On a train we meet newlyweds Fred and Rose. She is reading Ms. Jackson’s chilling 1948 short story, “The Lottery.” The couple is en route to Vermont, where Fred (Logan Lerman) is to work with Ms. Jackson’s husband, Stanley Hyman (Michael Stuhlbarg), a professor. The pair move in with the manipulative couple and Rose (Odessa Young) is given the tasks of keeping house and keeping an eye on the volatile Ms. Jackson, played by Elisabeth Moss, who is working on a novel. Tension, jealousy, infidelity and plenty of wine consumption ensue.

Director Josephine Decker says she wanted the movie—for which she won a special jury award for auteur filmmaking earlier this year at the Sundance Film Festival—to feel like a Shirley Jackson story. That meant allowing viewers to “slide between reality and imagination without realizing it,” she says. “Most of Shirley’s work climaxes in some kind of journey into another reality,” she says, “and often you don’t get to come back from that other reality.”

Escapism: ‘We Are One: A Global Film Festival’

If you’ve missed the chance to jet off to a film festival this year, you may want to try “We Are One: A Global Film Festival.” The free digital offering includes more than 100 films and television episodes from 35 countries, curated by 21 film festivals.

The 10-day fest runs on YouTube through June 7. Some of the films are available only during their scheduled run times, with others available for the duration of the festival or to stream at YouTube.com/WeAreOne as late as June 14.

Organizers say the titles include 13 world premieres, including “The Iron Hammer,” director Joan Chen’s documentary about Chinese volleyball star Lang Ping, which premieres Sunday; “Motorcycle Drive By,” a documentary short about rock band Third Eye Blind; and “The One-Minute Memoir,” a collection of 11 memoirs adapted into an animated short.

Participating festivals include Sundance Film Festival, Toronto International Film Festival, Berlin International Film Festival, Cannes Film Festival and Tribeca Film Festival.

“It’s really been unprecedented for film festivals to collaborate to this degree,” says Jane Rosenthal, co-founder and chief executive of the Tribeca festival and Tribeca Enterprises, which helped organize the digital festival. “Programmers hadn’t always talked together in the way they were able to collaborate with this particular festival.”

An Expert Recommends: European Television

Delia Ephron is a bestselling novelist, playwright and the co-screenwriter of films such as “You’ve Got Mail” and “The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants.” Here, she recommends three European TV shows.

“I’ve been missing comedy more than anything lately. So much of what’s on television is just so violent and dark. I’ve just been missing laughing. A couple of my friends recommended a French comedy, ‘Call My Agent!’ It’s absolutely divine. It’s about talent agents in Paris coping with their own lives and with their clients. They’re also trying to keep their agency alive. I don’t even normally like things about show business because I sort of know that world, and I know all those jokes, but this is just really magical. There are three seasons, and I just watched the last episode and I’m so grateful for it. The world out there, which is fading on us right now, is sad enough. It’s very nice to watch something that gets you laughing and makes you happy.”

“I’m also watching a Swedish show called ‘The Restaurant,’ which starts around the end of World War II. It’s about this family that owns a very prestigious restaurant in Stockholm. It’s a bit ‘Upstairs, Downstairs.’ You know, there’s the cooks and there’s the rich family that owns the place. It’s what happens to this group of people, all the dramas between them and what happens to the restaurant. I guess you could say it’s in the ‘Downton Abbey’ area, but this is more interesting. It’s tougher and the characters are great. And also it’s fabulous to look at because it’s Sweden and I absolutely love the interiors and what everything looks like in the show.”

“Recently, I re-watched one of my favorite series, ‘Spiral.’ It’s a French drama about the police, the judges and the lawyers and the criminals. It’s about how they all intersect. It’s gorgeously written and the characters are just beyond divine. It’s interesting to see how different things are in France versus, say, how we see things on ‘Law & Order.’ How the prosecutors and the judges interact with the police is completely different than it is here, how the lawyers behave is different. And they’re all just fantastic characters. It really is compelling. OK, it’s not as great as ‘The Wire,’ but it’s up there.”

SOURCE : WALL STREET JOURNAL


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