Chiraq Shitraq: The Good, The Bad, and The Truth
Teyonah Parris-is beautiful to look at and although her dialogue was quite cheddar cheesy, she brought an aspect of sincerity to the character in spite of the movie.
Wesley Snipes- I don’t why he hasn’t pursued a career in comedy. Wesley Snipes’ comedic timing in this movie was spot on and he saved a few of the scenes.
Cinematography- The cinematography was intentional, strategic, and quite beautiful. There were some great shots of how beautiful this city is (even the most basic of neighborhoods). It was nice to see the murals throughout the city as well as numerous historical monuments that we often ignore.
History, Chicago Politics, and the shit that some folks don’t know- One of the positives about this movie was that there were many facts, statistics, and what used to be common street knowledge interjected throughout. One of the main focuses was how there used to be a code, even among gangsters that many today do not honor. I too remember when no shooting took place in daylight, or if children were outside. When killing a child (accident or otherwise) meant your gang would kill your ass.
The Community March- This was one of the more powerful scenes in my opinion because in the sea people there were recognizable faces. Not because I knew them personally, but because I recognized them as family of slain victims of gun violence here in the city. People that we’ve seen on the news, in tears, in the newspaper, holding or wearing the picture of their slain loved one.
Resolutions- At the end of the movie, there are resolutions offered as to how the violence here in the city can be reduced (a trauma center on the South Side, a state of the art community and mental health facility, job training programs etc.).
This is all nice and good, but does Spike think we don’t know that? Many of us have been fighting and trying to get those things in place, so if he’s not trying to put some of that capital off this movie towards helping to create those things or implement those programs he can sit the fuck down. I think some people forget how many officials and politicians have stock in the privatized prison industry and how it is going to take more than a suggestion in a movie to make reducing violence here in Chicago real. Especially when some people make good money off of little black boys spending 20+ years in prison.
The Dear God Awful Dialogue-If you can make it past the dialogue then I applaud you. I don’t know exactly what Spike Lee was going for with the whack rhyming Super Fly type lingo, but it was painful to sit through. Especially with the characters where the acting was not particularly strong. It was cheestastic at best. Luckily, there was no real flow of continuity when it came to that (which was confusing as well). I don’t know what the goal was script-wise. One minute people are struggling through prose, or a fake ass iambic pentameter, the next minute its regular conversation. My brain short circuited at least 4 times trying to translate the dialogue.
The liturgical dance/funeral scene- was a fucking joke. Sadness is not what was conveyed. Instead it seemed like people just ‘really happy to be dancing in a Spike Lee movie’. Le sigh…
Samuel Jackson- In all honesty there really was no need for a narrator the way the story was set up. Some of his dialogue made sense, but the majority was just a bunch of poorly received jokes and sidebar commentary. I think he has become the griot of black people as it relates to cinema, so he was thrown in the move because we just like uncle Sam, Jackson that is.
John Cusack- In real life I am a fan of Father Pfleger and the work he does and has done for decades in our community. However, the way Spike Lee portrayed the funeral scene, the big Jesus sign in neon lights, and the black Jesus painting in the background had a real ‘Great White Hope’ feel to it.
Power of Pussy- Do women have certain power? Of Course, but I STILL do not think the solution to the REAL ass problem that we have here in Chicago lies between the legs of women. Also, lets not forget that there is a large population of the ones out here killing everyone who are making jail culture a part of gang culture and fucking on young boys and each other too (but that can be a conversation for another day…)*sips tea*
Ending of the Sex Strike- This part struck me as the stupidest shit on the planet. The entire movie is premised around this sex strike then at the end Lysistrata basically volunteers as tribute to have sex in a televised ‘sex off’ with her hypersexual gang banging boyfriend. The objective being whomever ‘came’ first lost the strike. In all honesty I am still trying to digest that dumb shit.
Chiraq, Drillinois- I really hate our state being called Drillinois. If you are not from here you may not know that 'Drill' music is where the term comes from (Drill/Kill). It goes back to unconsciously glorifying the violence and perpetuating gang culture. So can we PLEASE stop calling our fucking city and state ‘Chi-raq’ and 'Drillinois'? There is power in words and if we want this shit to stop we need to stop calling it a war zone, despite its current state. I don’t know about you, but I live in CHICAGO, IL.
Deep down there is a part of me that wants to ask Spike Lee what his genuine intent was in doing this movie and doing it here. Okay, you brought a few jobs and opportunities for a few folks, but you’ll make more than what you paid out. Maybe Chicagoans wouldn’t be so offended if we didn’t still have REAL ass dead bodies to bury once the credits finished rolling. I was offended at the level of jest and the timing of this movie is insensitive as fuck. On top of that, I was actually one of the people who said ‘let him name it that, give him a chance’ when people didn’t want him coming here to film. I wish I had known then because I would not have supported a satire about gun violence at this time when our babies are dropping like flies.
I understand satire. I actually like it, but I think it’s a bit much to satirize the real life tragedy going on here while we are still in the thick of it. It also feels a bit disrespectful to those of us who have actually lost loved ones to gun violence. I also understand artistic license, but I'm kind of tired of people using their 'art' to inadvertently glorify the violence and gang culture that infests our city. Spike Lee doesn't live here. I don’t know when the last time he dodged bullets, buried a friend/relative who was shot, or saw someone shot (if ever). So when it's all said and done he gets to go back home and we are still dealing with this.
People are so quick to say “It's just art, it's freedom of speech” as it relates to anything that may be artistically toxic. Well what about when your art is negligent and inspires and encourages the glorification of gun violence? Now I’m hoping this movie won’t do that but you already have young boys out here proud and bragging about how they are ‘soldiers of Chi-raq’ and how many ‘bodies they got’ (for those of you who don’t know that means, its how many people they’ve killed). We live this crap everyday. A few weeks ago a 9 year old was intentionally EXECUTED in the alley because they couldn't get to his dad. Over two months ago I watched my neighbor gunned down at 10am. Art or not, this shit ain't funny to us.
When do we start to hold people accountable for capitalizing off of our pain? This isn’t the worst nor is it the first time. Kanye West put Chief Keef on the map and basically gave him a higher platform for the glorification of gun violence here in Chicago, then dipped back off. Meanwhile it inspired others to make more toxic music through encouraging their counterparts to act out these violent acts with gun violence rising simultaneously. We can’t control what type of art someone chooses to make, but we can control if we allow them to be able to make a living off of it.
After the nut then what?
Now that we all ‘came’ to see this movie and the conversation has been presented nationally, what happens now? Of course I suggest seeing it yourself and forming your own opinion, but for me ‘Chiraq’ had me underwhelmed at best. It was exactly what I had perceived it would be from watching the trailer. Although there were some enjoyable moments, this movie was like lukewarm bath water. Not too hot, not too cold, but not warm enough for you to actually enjoy it. I left the theater feeling quite ‘meh’. If Spike Lee just wanted to do a black version of Lysistrata, it would have been better received if he had just left Chicago the fuck out of it. He didn’t have to use our pain to do it.
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