(Photo: Universal Pictures)
At the 62nd annual Oscars, Academy Award-winning actress Kim Basinger took the voting committee to task for omitting Spike Lee’s third film in the Best Picture category. She infamously said, “The best film of the year is not even nominated, and it’s Do the Right Thing.” Basinger did not know the acclaimed director, but she echoed a sentiment still largely felt 22 years after the 1989 film’s premiere.
Do the Right Thing is an emotionally-charged dramedy written, produced, directed by and co-starring Spike Lee. The film tells the story of how racial divisions and bigotry come to head violently on the hottest day of the year on a street in the Bedford-Stuyvesant section of Brooklyn. The film boasted of an ensemble cast that includes Martin Lawrence in his feature film debut, Rosie Perez, the legendary acting couple Ruby Dee and Ossie Davis, Bill Nunn, John Turturro, Richard Edson and Giancarlo Esposito.
In a 2009 interview with New York Magazine on the 20th anniversary of the film, Lee said, “Do the Right Thing was like the first film where I really felt comfortable working with actors.” That comfort helped the movie go on to become a critical and commercial success. Though it was snubbed in the Best Picture category, Spike Lee did net an Academy Award nomination for Best Original Screenplay. Ten years after the movie’s release, the Library of Congress selected it for preservation in the National Film Registry. The film, which they deemed “culturally significant,” is only one of five films to have received such an honor in its first year of eligibility.