Ever since we watched Hollywood Shuffle and Bamboozled, Dave Chappelle and his decision to leave his highly successful show in the mid-2000s has been very interesting to me. He decided to leave the show as he felt that the jokes he was making were actually reinforcing and perpetuating the racist thought that he was hoping to make fun of and eradicate. After leaving his show, and the millions of dollar Continue reading “Dave Chappelle in Chi-Raq”
I found it interesting how much Historical Memory played into the New Orleans citizen’s suspicion of their levee being blown by the government. There was a certainty among a number of people who were interviewed that there was an explosion that caused the Levee to break during Hurricane Katrina. Sylvester Francis was certain that “they bombed that sucker”(23:40), “they” one can presume to be the government.
I thought Spike Lee’s use of the folk song “Birmingham Sunday” by Joan Baez in the opening of the 4 Little Girls documentary was perfect as the song, juxtaposed with the images of four girls that the song was about, perfectly places the viewer into the time period and gives an immediate overview of what happened on that fateful day at 16th Street Baptist Church.
It is interesting to note that Get on The Bus is Lee’s first film in which he does not play a starring role. Despite this fact his presence was still felt through the character Xavier. I know that when I viewed the film I clearly saw similarities between himself and Xavier (AKA “X”), a UCLA film student who is making a documentary film on the Million Man March. Continue reading “Spike Lee in Get On The Bus”
In the most famous scene from Lee’s 2002 film, 25th Hour, Edward Norton’s character goes on to to curse out every single race and creed in New York City in a montage that people have read as a love/hate letter to all New Yorkers.
One character that I was really drawn to in Chi-Raq was John Cusack’s character, Father Mike Corridan. At Patti’s funeral, he gives a powerful sermon outlining why gang violence continues to thrive in Chicago, noting that it is likely because there is a lack of economic investment in their community. This lack of investment forces Chicago men to go work in “the underground economy” because, even though “they say unemployment is 5.7%” in “Auburn Gresham, unemployment is 21%, and that doesn’t even count people who have given up hope” (43:54).
Father Mike Corridan
Father Mike Pfleger
A couple months ago I came across a New Yorker article about an Auburn Gresham Priest, Father Michael Pfleger, called “Father Mike.” Father Mike has worked in the Chicago area for the past 40 years. In his time he “has expanded St. Sabina beyond the church and the school, to include a food pantry, a job-training center, and apartments for low-income residents and the elderly.” Much like Cusack’s character, Father Mike has also paid “witnesses to name assailants whom others are afraid to identify.”
I thought it was very interesting that Lee chose to essentially place this real life person into a film that is founded in Greek Literature. It clearly shows that Pfleger is a man that is deeply respected by Lee.
The women in Chi-Raq find power by uniting under one common goal: to abstain from lying down on the “conjugal couch” until their men end the street violence that has claimed countless lives throughout Chicago. As individual women, the gender power dynamic favors the man; however, when they unify through abstinence they find a way to play a role in their community’s politics. Lee demonstrates this cohesiveness with two aesthetic affective structures: audio and visual uniformity.
Audio uniformity can be characterized by the repeated rhythmic chants that the women of the movement repeat throughout the film. Examples of this can be seen as Lysistrata leads a chant about how the women will “Deny all rights of access and entrance” into their bodies from their male partners. Moreover, it can also be found in the “No Peace, No Pussy” chants that are started outside the military building and are echoed throughout the world.
Visual uniformity comes in the form of choreographed dance and movements. For example, in 1:08:24-1:09-23, Lysistrata teaches women the “no peace, no pussy” choreograph as a form of solidarity. Similarly, when the men come into the military base with their keys (1:30:00-1:33:33), the women all defy their oppression through choreographed homogenous movements.
Although the women ultimately achieve unification, noncompliance threatened their political strategies. Some women rejected the chant and identified stronger as sexual objects for their men. When Lysistrata and Miss Helen persuade other women to join the movement, some women refuse to abstain from sex, but when their individual concerns are qualified with the larger issue of gang violence and innocent deaths, they eventually choose the larger movement advocating for peace.
In honor of the retirement of Kobe Bryant, I thought it would be appropriate to post Spike Lee’s 2009 documentary, Kobe: Doin’ Work, that follows Bryant throughout a day that he and his Lakers play the San Antonio Spurs.
Spike Lee’s characters are often times complex and ambiguous. Think of Sal from Do The Right Thing, or Delacroix from Bamboozled. Lee’s characters have warped or misguided views based on their history and upbringing. Despite these views, audience members can connect with them on a certain level because Lee redeems their misgivings by shining light on their humaneness in certain aspects of each film. Two characters that really stood out to me in Mo’ Better Blues are Moe and Josh Flatbush. These characters stood out not in their mistakes or their humanity, but rather their mechanical and almost cartoonish nature.
While it is easy to watch Spike Lee’s Inside Man as an entertaining-bank-heist thriller, it is interesting to note that Lee still uses the entertaining storyline to make comments about race in America. In a “blink and you’ll miss it” type of moment, I noticed that the pizzas that are delivered to the bank are from our favorite Bed-Stuy pizza joint: Sal’s.