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I fear that the word “badass” is somehow going to have a serious impact in my life thanks to the films we’ve been watching as of late in Film Studies class. A couple more movies along the same lines and I might even have to add a nickname in the middle of my real name and call myself Yasas “Badass” Ratnayake; not because I’m badass, but because I’m compelled to use that word way too often thanks to films like Shaft and Do the Right Thing; the movie I’m reviewing right now. The former was overtly badass, and mashed pigheaded goons and cruised on raw masculinity on its way to “badassery” (think Chuck Norris), but the latter was the kind of badass that was subtle, intellectually intimidating, and viscerally emotional (think Malcolm X, or Chuck Norris) in a way that kept you rocking in its impact like the eerie ringing in your ears that would persist for days after being in the front row of a rock concert. If I had to choose between which badass I’d choose, Do the Right Thing would get my vote before two shakes of a lamb’s tail; and not even Chuck Norris could stop that without having to kill me with the bristles of his invincible beard.

He will kick you in the face AND your brain.

Do the Right Thing is a 1989 movie by Spike Lee that tells the story of a Pizza shop, a heat wave, three Italians, a black neighborhood in Brooklyn, a pizza delivery guy, a big guy with a big boombox, a virtuous drunkard, a mentally handicapped civil rights movement devotee named Smiley, an Asian grocery store, a radio love doctor, a wall of fame, and a riot. The story would be clearer to those who watch it, because accurately summarizing such a complex, yet emotionally engaging film such as this would take more than the desired space needed for a film review. For those who have watched 2005’s Academy Award winning ‘Crash’ and had to put all that information onto a 5-6 paragraph article; you would know what I’m going through right now. Do the Right Thing is a visually arresting composition that challenges the viewer to critically analyze many complex social values, norms, and mores and question: what IS the right thing to do?

As Jonathan Rosenbaum of the Chicago Reader says Do the Right Thing is “A powerful and persuasive look at an ethnic community and what makes it tick–funky, entertaining, packed with insight, and political in the best, most responsible sense”. The main story portrays the inconsequential goings on of a hot summer day in Brooklyn manifesting into an ugly race riot. The movie revolves around Mookie, a scrawny pizza delivery guy (played by Spike Lee), who works for the only white establishment, a well known Pizzeria called Sal’s, in a predominantly black neighborhood. Even the most minor characters in the movie carry a great amount of depth and each person in the movie tells his or her own story to give the film a rich, bittersweet texture much like a helping of good tiramisu. Do the Right Thing weaves in good measures of comedy, historical allusions, political ideals, profanity, modernist movie dynamics, and frequent repetitions of Public Enemy’s hit “Fight the Power” (thank you for that, Radio Raheem) to create a multicolored patchwork that is complex, yet beautiful to behold. I wouldn’t know how to fit in a brief, yet accurate summary of the movie into a single sentence without missing out on many important parts, so I won’t try. Instead, if there is anyone who’s reading this blog who isn’t in my Film class (which I highly doubt; but hey, thanks for stopping by!) and you haven’t watched Do the Right Thing, I highly recommend that you grab your popcorn, soda, Black Panther beret and WATCH IT!

John Turturro telling Spike that he should be delivering them pizzas.

Watching it with a focus in trying to decipher references to a deeper message than what is communicated on the surface, I believe the way the movie ended threw the cat out of the bag and left the meaning to be inferred with the subjective lens the viewer saw and understood it with. Where did the cat go? Is it in the basement? Or is on a tree, trying to catch a pigeon of some kind? One could say, especially if he or she is more of the Malcolm X type, that Mookie DID do the right thing and justified Radio Raheem’s death by inciting the riot, which I personally thought was something that Raheem brought about himself. I guess my opinion is shaped by the fact that Martin Luther King’s writing stirred a lot of meaning in me thanks to my First Year Seminar, which was dedicated to study the civil rights movement. But I think that this is exactly the point that Spike Lee is trying to make with the movie.

Ultimately, the viewer must face the question and conclude what the right choice was; based on everything he or she saw in the film. The viewer was given insight into Sal and his two sons, and also given an insight into the rest of the community that crowded that street and ultimately turned Sal’s Famous Pizzeria into a heap of worthless ember that’s burnt to the crust. The fact that Smiley pins the picture of MLK and Malcolm X in a friendly moment (they were known to be divided in their belief of how to win civil rights) on what was once the wall of fame at Sal’s, might symbolize the ambiguous ending where the viewer is called to identify whether the right thing was accomplished in the end of the film or not. What was the right thing to do? Was MLK right? Was Malcolm X right?

Personally, I’m with the Sonny the Korean guy. He says “I no white! I black! You, me, same! We same!” Although this might have been interpreted incorrectly by the rioters, I think it stood for the real message that Lee tried to convey. Like the words of all great people in history whose messages have been distorted, modified, and ignored, the Korean guy too, was dismissed by the mob as probably being some kooky Asian dude with schizophrenic tendencies, although he WAS pointing to an essential truth that transcends race. All in all, I personally thought that no one really did the right thing in the end of the film. I suppose that’s why the guy who sincerely wants everyone to do the right thing and does it by example is good ol’ Mayor, the drunkard. Who wouldn’t be drunk when he or she understands the truth is so simple to see, yet everyone’s too foolish to realize it? Let’s just leave that possibility to be inferred by the intellectual badasses.

Steve Park is doing the right thing. Two thumbs up man!

And for those who watched and enjoyed the movie, here’s something to check out. It’s pretty badass.

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Documentaries, especially when they are good, give you a kind of strange aftertaste that I cannot really describe in a single word. This feeling is something that would linger in your system especially if you’re not someone familiar to the medium of documentary. It is a curious feeling that couples the initial hesitation or apprehension you had of watching 2 hours of uninteresting, special effects and action less information before you actually watched it, with the feeling of persuasion and intensified emotion you have after watching the feature. Come to think of it, I think the proper word to call that feeling is “ambivalence.” How do I know about this feeling you may ask. I used to be someone who didn’t pay much attention to documentaries until about 3 years ago, until I came across the documentary “Zeitgeist: The Movie”, that left me shell-shocked, just the way The Panama Deception would have left many people who watched it filled with disgust and distrust towards the Government of the United States. I am sure, that after watching this documentary, that initial misguided prejudice people would have of watching what many would think is a mind numbingly boring feature of some senile old people talking about some issue would gradually disappear and blossom into a feeling of deeper curiosity about the world and a silent but strong appreciation of the documentary medium of filmmaking.

The Panama Deception, virtually unheard of today, is an Oscar winning 1992 documentary by a filmmaker named Barbara Trent that attempts to reveal the atrocities committed by the hands of a deceptive United States government headed by that old snake of a president (yes, you will most likely guess correct), George Herbert Walker Bush, in Panama in 1989. Accompanied by the visceral images of a desecrated humanity in the hands of gun toting mercenaries we call the American soldier, The Panama Deception tells the little known story of the invasion of Panama by the United States that rendered thousands of innocent civilians dead in an ocean of mindless carnage and butchery for the sinister motives of power and profit.

The story begins with an introduction to the history behind Panama – US relations, and the role of the Panama Canal in that bilateral liaison. Trent educates the viewer about a controversial history of coercion and profoundly unethical exploitation of Panama by the US since the beginning of the twentieth century that has been (very effectively) glossed over by the goons of the mainstream US media. Progressing to explain how the CIA managed to maneuver the Panamanian government and other Southern American nations by installing puppet regimes for America’s benefit, the filmmaker shows the reactionary attitude of Bush and his cronies in the Pentagon when General Manuel Noriega, the once CIA backed Panamanian General, takes Panama towards a different direction, against the best interests of the sinister machinations of the American government. The deception the film speaks of is centered on how the US government (George H.W. Bush and his profiteering chums in this case) managed to artificially engineer American sentiment against Panama by using the mainstream media, US defense institutions, and good ol’ scare tactics in order to legitimize an inhuman campaign of violence in the name of profit and power. The invasion of Panama massacred thousands of civilians and left the Central American nation helpless in the hands of sophisticated American military technology and brainwashed American mercenaries. The irony of the whole incident was how ordinary Americans were left oblivious to the carnage caused by their government while the rest of the world cried out in protest of the infamy of this mindless brutality.

A blindfolded Panamanian being questioned by a US Soldier; possibly before being murdered.

As you can clearly discern, the film made a strong impression on me. So persuasive was its story and so compelling were its images of humanity in desolation, it is very likely that even the most patriotic American would be utterly disgusted and humiliated to call him or herself an American after watching this movie. The film’s success in creating that powerful feeling of revulsion and shock can be directly attributed to the skilful editing that very effectively juxtaposed the contrasting images of destruction, pain, and sorrow of the Panamanians with the cold indifference, and sometimes humorous justifications of the invasion by the US officials being interviewed. The narration of the documentary establishes a clear continuity of the story and is appropriately accompanied by complimenting images that engage the viewer in its compelling narrative. The use of montage editing to establish evidence, such as the many newspaper headlines and (propagandist) TV news reports would evoke strong emotions in the hearts and minds of the viewer while establishing a high degree of trust in the filmmaker and her story. Some voice over testimonies of the atrocities, as Emanuel Levy of Variety magazine correctly notes, were faulty, uncoordinated, and could have been edited better to make a bigger impact on the audience. But these deficiencies take a back seat to the powerful images and moving interviews in the film.

Overall, the film made a strong impression on me. But after watching more recent documentaries in the Zeitgeist series, I am hardly surprised by the message of the film. The covert atrocities of the US government are nothing new to me, and I urge anyone reading this blog post to follow this movie up by watching the Zeitgeist documentaries, which will undoubtedly create (and trust me on this) a much bigger impact on you than The Panama Deception. I’m sorry to be such an incendiary, but Americans; your government is lying to you and has been feeding you utter claptrap in the forms of media, pop culture, and economics for the last 90 years. You can wake up if you want to, or live in the bliss of ignorance while thousands of millions of people elsewhere in the world burn and languish in the aftermath of your country’s inhuman atrocities.

Yes. George H.W. IS Davy Jones!

PS: 9/11 . . . Was an inside job.

Don’t trust me? Watch what I recommended and have your minds changed.

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http://dinidudealwis.com/?p=775

http://bombaimotai.wordpress.com/2009/03/05/dear-diary/

After reading the above posts by Dinindu de Alwis and Bombaimotai (Osh’s blog), I couldn’t help but notice the tone that both of them had in common. It exuded a tone of affection towards our nation, it emanated a quality of exasperation towards the injustices done to our country, and it radiated with a sense of deep rooted connection towards mother Lanka.

Which makes me think…

 Will that pure intention and zeal ever see the light of day? Will it one day surface to shine on and release us from our bonds of corruption, lethargy, and futility? Will it shine on and bring an end to the darkness created by greed and prejudice that haunts our nation to this very day? Will it overcome the lure and temptation of power and wealth to rejuvenate this paradise that has been laid to waste?

Had Percy Mahinda Rajapakse endured and overcome the obstacles that have persistently indoctrinated the pure of mind and pure at heart, I believe that Sri Lanka would have been a better place.

Will there ever be a person who could ascend to the totem of power and use that power to deliver us from this quagmire we have put ourselves into? Even if there was a person who had the purest intention of selflessly serving the nation, what would the probability be of this person prevailing over the vices and depravity that is ingrained in our system? I am no pessimist, but I would say that the odds of the system prevailing over the pure at heart would have the final say. I’m not saying that it cannot be done. I’m just saying that it will take more than one person to rescue Sri Lanka from itself and its culture.

We have been traveling in a downward spiral ever since the day independence was gifted to us. Why is it that countries such as India and China continue to make strides in national development? Well for a start, they both fought for their independence. They broke away from the bonds of their oppressors through revolution and untainted love for something they believed in. We unfortunately were just given independence in a pretty little box with a shiny ribbon wrapped around it. And like other pretty little gifts with ribbons; once opened, it starts to lose its sentimental value and significance over time.

We are never proud of something that is truly ours. We mock our talent, ideas, and inventions and embrace something alien. We’re childish and immature enough to ridicule those who cannot properly express themselves in English. We’re gullible enough to believe and trust what anyone in power says for granted. We piss on our own jurisdiction and decrees. We’re fucking lazy! We have more public holidays than any other country in the world. We have sunk so deep into the mire of bribery and corruption, the light of day remains only as a memory. It is a pathetic state. And those who actually could do something to help Sri Lanka break away from this predicament lose hope looking at our disaster of a system and fly to foreign lands to seek happiness and prosperity for themselves and their progeny.

Even the fiercest patriots have succumbed to the delusion of power and wealth. Take a look at the once staunch critics of the government such as Wimal Weerawansa and Hemakumara Nanayakkara. They traded their voices and beliefs for worthless paper and a miniature throne. They were lured in by the call of the sirens of corruption on their way to the Promised Land of freedom and purity. Who or what are they now? Take a look at the so called ‘venerable monks’ who tarnished the name of the whole fraternity of Buddhist monks for a seat at the parliament and the luxury of a Mercedes Benz in exchange for their alms bowl and purity of mind. This system is powerful enough to attract those who will try to use it to their advantage and discourage and obscure those who are trying to expose it. And the ever gullible people of Sri Lanka STILL believe these bastards even after they’ve exposed their crooked selves. The Sri Lankan people are still following the carrot that keeps on luring them from one predicament to another.

It won’t be long until everyone bends to the will of a greater power. We are systematically being manipulated by the influences of nations that will soon acquire us like just another commodity, we’re unknowingly being bound and gagged into a space where freedom of speech and expression is nothing but urban legend, our political system has turned into the most successful get-rich-quick scheme in the country, and we are being manipulated into being people who can be commanded at the flick of a switch. Sooner or later, Sri Lanka would be transformed into an obscure little dot on the globe where it’ll actually become the pretty little satellite of India that everyone in the world thinks we are.

But how do we emancipate ourselves from where we are now?

I don’t know. I don’t think I could do it alone, and I don’t think you could either. I wish for a day where I see more of us out there, more of us trying to break away from these bonds that limit our words and curb our minds, more of us to reach out to the light from the darkness of the present, more of us to say no to the easy way out, and more of us to speak as one and condemn ourselves for riding on the wave of delusion and impurity.

Where and how do we move away from the predicament of now?

I guess we’ll only find out when we put all like minded people who are pure of heart, pure of reason, and pure of mind together and resist this ugly creature that is corruption, power, and greed; to gain freedom from ourselves. And only then will we be able to call ourselves true Sri Lankans.

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