In August, the Cinerama had the citizens of this film-loving city select 40 of its favorite iconic films from a list of 80. The result of this vote is the first Fan Film Series, which runs through September 17. Though Cinerama’s list of 80 films was for the most part respectable, it had a few glaring absences, such as the Cold War masterpieces 2001: A Space Odyssey and Dr. Strangelove. Also absent from the list: Fargo, North by Northwest, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Wall Street, and The Matrix. But whatever.
The people at Cinerama informed me that some of these irregularities were not a consequence of taste but of availability and obtainability. The films that made the list had to be not only iconic but also available to be acquired in time for the festival. Because a festival of this kind is very ambitious, it is bound to have some flaws and room for improvement. Cinerama is forgiven.
What can’t be forgiven, however, is that Seattle did not pick Spike Lee’s Do the Right Thing. Considering the times—the growing prominence of the hashtag activism of Black Lives Matter, the comments and posts that exploded after Bernie Sanders’s Westlake Park speech was disrupted by members of BLM, and all the talk about the gentrification of certain parts of the city—you’d have expected voters to see the relevance of Lee’s 1989 masterpiece.
Not only is the film an icon of 1980s American cinema, in the same way that Taxi Driver (a no less racially incendiary film that did get selected) is of the 1970s, but it still speaks to us directly. Its issues are still our issues, after 26 years. Indeed, the film’s most memorable character, Radio Raheem, is killed by officers of the NYPD in exactly the same manner as Eric Garner was. He is choked death. How real/relevant is that?
The top vote-getters, in order, were Blade Runner, Pulp Fiction, Die Hard, The Godfather, and Fight Club. Not a bad film among them. But it’s not the 40 films we picked that tell us the most about Seattle. It’s the sole absence of Do the Right Thing. What does it say? We like our iconic films to be as dead as possible. If one speaks to us and our times too much or too directly, it will not make the cut.