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THIS DAY IN NEW YORK HISTORY

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Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz has declared today to be “Spike Lee Day” in Brooklyn to mark the 20th anniversary of the release of Lee’s film Do the Right Thing.

Readers of this blog know that Do the Right Thing is one of the staples of the Writing New York course that Bryan and I have been teaching at NYU since 2003. I wrote a couple of posts about the film here this past spring. The first invited readers to compare the openings of Lee’s film and the film that serves as its foil in our course, Woody Allen’s Manhattan (1979). The second suggests that the film dramatizes a culture of incivility in which cosmopolitan opportunities fail to be realized.

Brian Lehrer did a segment on the film yesterday on his radio show at WNYC. [You can listen to or download a podcast here.] The segment featured two writers from The Root, an online magazine devoted to African American culture and politics. First, senior writer Kai Wright discussed the impact of the movie twenty years ago and the ways in which the problems it dramatized remain problematic today. Then, political reporter Dayo Olopade talked about what the film signifies for Barack and Michelle Obama, who reportedly saw it on their first date.

The Root has a terrific set of articles devoted to the film’s anniversary, including a guide to dressing like it’s 1989.

To commemorate the anniversary, Universal has just released a Blu-ray edition of the film. The disc features a new 20th-anniversary documentary and a new audio commentary by Spike Lee. (Click here for an online review of the disc at highdefdiscnews.com. My preferred online highdef reviewing site, highdefdigest.com, hasn’t published its evaluation yet.) My copy of the new disc hasn’t arrived yet, but I suspect that fans or scholars of the film will still want the wonderful Criterion Edition of the film, which is in standard definition. I’ll let you know how the two compare in a later post.