40 Acres. A Mule. And Chicago

ChiRaq

Because you apparently can’t put No Peace, NO PUSSY on a poster…

soundtrack  Long Hot Summer,  Don’t Rush The Stage

I went to see the CHI-RAQ today. My son treated his sister and I ( I made it a matinee because I love him and his pockets). We made the first show at 10:30 in the a.m. and I missed like  two minutes of the new Spike Lee Joint, running my mouth on the phone.

I entered the dark theater where they were seated and easily spotted among the 10 or so other black folk there.

I only read one review before I arrived, most of  my judgments and disbelief were suspended. I mostly, successfully suspended my bias toward the film based on my appreciation of his prior work. I basically failed at suspending my disbelief in Nick Cannon as the title character, an “organization” leader (The Spartans Gang) and a Hardcore, Underground, Gangsta Rapper (are we still using this term)… Chiraq neé Demetrius Dupree.

I have ties to Chicago vicariously, I have friends and family who work there, live there, love there, and are from there in all of the ways that matter. I’ve only been a couple of times, for Saviour’s Day… so suspending my emotional attachment to the material was the easiest task.

Here’s what I knew going in:

  • The movie is based on Lysistrata, a Greek Comedy written by Aristophanes about one woman’s attempt to end the Peloponnesian War by convincing the women of Greece to withhold sexual privileges from their husbands and lovers.
  • Trina (the rapper from Miami) starred in previous adaptation, A Miami Tail, in 2003. In that version Trina as (Alicia) lead the women of Liberty City in a sex-strike in protest of the disrespect of women and gang violence. There was a woman who co-wrote the adaptation. (get it here)
  • Greek comedies are really about caricatures not characters. The stereotypes are inflated to illustrate a point, usually the worst of the nature of man.

Having given you some context, here’s how it all went down…

I slid into my seat to Nick Cannon  ChiRaq rapping, saying rhyming words that sound like all the rappity rap that I’ve heard on the radio in recent years (I’m feeling a little dated.) This new rap is pop music and it is breaking all the rules.

The game is to be sold, not told.

Real killas move in silence.

Snitches get stitches.

This is me barely suspending my disbelief at Nick Cannon being hard…

Hated It

Then Bang! Shots ring out and people run and drop and …

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Fade… Next Scene. This is where is gets interesting and I mean that because this where dialogue comes in and I realized that Young-Old Spike is doing this in Greek fashion, that is to say there is a rhythm and cadence to the dialogue. It rhymes y’all, rhymes like all the spoken word poetry EVUH!

Spoken word

From that point on I could watch the movie for what it was, relaxed in my mind, body, and spirit…  Relaxed because no matter how ridiculous the movie got I knew exactly what it was and how it would end.

That is what made the movie good. I knew what the message was and even though the movie was mostly just Spike doing this:

Mama Spike

I know how it would all end.


The movie is consistent, never veering far from it’s premise. Except in the end where we get to see the best in a man (which technically and maybe ironically would make this a Greek Tragedy).

The movie is predictable and yet every time J. Hud hit the screen, tears. I don’t know if she drew on the personal experience of being  a Chicagoan who lost family members to gun violence, but I definitely connected with her character.

Most of the dialogue was as ignant and funny as it was poignant.

I felt empowered and invigorated to get out here and keep doing women’s work, by the imaginings of what would happen if women throughout the world stood in solidarity for a cause and were able to affect change.

I was also just as weirded out by buff Dave Chappelle as I was the time I saw him live in Memphis. He was just a funny, as then. And I realized I miss seeing Dave Chappelle regularly on TV and in movies, but I totally didn’t understand why he was here.

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John Cusack, as Pastor Miguel the white priest of a progressive Black Church reminded me of a a lot of white people and white do-gooders I’ve encountered. Those who grew up in or are/were heavily invested in black communities. I wanna know where he learned to HOOP. Like who did he watch, where did he study because it was decent… Still, the young man and I were a distracted by his Kente-trimmed robes and RBG Deacons board.

OAN: I want that Black Jesus hanging in my living room next to my Good Times, Ned The Wino as Black Jesus.

The scene with General King Kong aka Uncle Sam…

Tarnation

It’s Spike Lee mane! There are messages and then messages within messages.  He chose a good lead in Teyonnah Parris or maybe I was just happy to see her cast as something, somebody completely different than her character in Dear White People. I don’t know if this is his last movie or he’s only doing passion projects or what, but he put everything in here. His signature shots, memorable scenes, and imagery. Samuel Jackson in the brightest of suits from the J. Anthony Brown collection,  Wesley Snipes with a 2015 Demolition Man/Blade fade, and Roger Guenveur Smith acting excccra light skinneded.

Spike gets the message across and then gets it across again and again.

I suspended most of my beliefs and judgments to see this movie and I’m just reviewing it here… I’m saying it was a good movie and that we should be talking about what is good and what is problematic because there are some problems.

My son turned to me and asked “When are they going to make a movie about Memphis, according to Forbes Memphis is like the 4th most dangerous city in the nation?  Chicago is like 5. Oakland, St. Louis, Detroit, and Memphis are higher.”

I was speechless, so many cities suffering under the same conditions, why Chicago?

Why a Greek Comedy?

Why repeat a interpretation that was already done, fairly recently?

And why are people are upset about the title, I’ve heard people from Chicago refer to it as ChiRaq. Maybe it’s because it’s coming from the outside? Like white people saying nigga… Some things will never be okay.

I reached out to my Chicago peeps and one response sticks with me:

“I would only see it for free. I believe too many communities (poor communities of color in Chicago, women, youth) are being used to promote this film, and thus make Spike Lee wealthier. With little to no reciprocation.” Aquil Charlton, Chicago Artist & Activist

So… Y’all ready to have this conversation?

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