Twenty years ago, Spike Lee made a tough, smart, and very provocative film that included an electrifying moment when the character played by Lee himself held up a trash can and aimed it at the glass window of a pizzeria owned by an Italian named Sal (Danny Aiello). People are still arguing about what happened next. The Root has a superb collection of resources and reflections on the film’s 20th anniversary, including thoughts on Lee’s sometimes-troubling portrayal of women by the always-insightful Teresa Wiltz, an update on the Bed-Stuy community’s current challenges, and a consideration of one couple who memorably saw the film on their first movie date and are now living in the White House.
It takes place on the hottest day of the year in in the Bedford-Stuyvesant section of Brooklyn, where there is an uneasy alliance between the old-time residents like Sal and the more recent but majority residents who are African-American. In general, they get along because they need each other but there is a lot of frustration on all sides. Tempers get hot as the weather gets hotter.
Watch for Samuel L. Jackson, John Turturro, Rosie Perez, and Martin Lawrence very early in their careers and legends Ossie Davis and Ruby Dee giving, as always, performances of endless subtlety and grace. And watch to see what has and has not changed since the movie was released two decades ago.