Thursday, May 7, 2015

EXTRA: ‘Chiraq’ will only become lasting image if we let it become one

Learning that an alderman wants to penalize filmmaker Spike Lee if he persists with plans of making a movie about violence and action in inner-city Chicago to be called “Chiraq” makes me wonder why he has nothing better to do with his time.

The alderman in question is Will Burns of the 4th Ward, who introduced a resolution this week that says if Lee really makes such a movie depicting black Chicago as overly violent and grotesque, then he should not qualify for the film production tax credits the city usually gives to movie productions.

BURNS IS CLAIMING he’s taking the moral high road by saying Lee can make any kind of film he wants and call it whatever name he chooses – even if the name he is considering is the derogatory label used by many black people to imply that Chicago has become the equivalent of an Iraqi war zone.

But all this is going to wind up doing is feeding into Lee’s self-righteous ego and personality and probably make him think he’s on some sort of crusade to expose the gritty and grotesque nature of some parts of our city.

Burns told reporter-types that such a film should lose tax credits because it would be derogatory to the city’s public image.

Nonsense! Not everything that makes it onto a movie screen (or in today’s way of viewing movies, onto whatever kind of screen one prefers to download their video entertainment) is “Up with People” positive.

HECK, MOST OF it is just downright stupid. Yet we don’t care.

I can think of a couple of Chicago-set films off the top of my head with images that are less than praiseworthy, but which no one in their right mind would complain about.

How about “Only the Lonely,” which starred John Candy and Jim Belushi as a couple of cops (although the CPD logos were conspicuously absent) who in one scene of the 1991 film decide to try to lower a dead body with a fire hose out of a window – rather than carry it down several flights of stairs (the elevator was broken).

But when the hose tears halfway through the effort, the body comes plummeting down to earth; with many dozens of spectators nearby.

THEN THERE’S “RUNNING Scared” from 1986, with Billy Crystal and Gregory Hines as a pair of undercover Chicago cops who wind up chasing a notorious drug dealer (played by Jimmy Smits) to the Thompson Center state government building, where they wind up thwarting his efforts by dumping his cocaine stash all over the state government building’s floor.

I can’t envision the Chicago Police Department thinking much of either image. At least I want to think they’re both over the top to where we can’t take them seriously.

Which ultimately is the problem with what Lee may wind up doing with his attempt to make a film set in Chicago, but which he says has violence conditions similar to places such as inner-city Philadelphia, Baltimore and his own home of New York.

Is the real problem that some political people just don’t want to have to address the reality of modern-day Chicago? It certainly is obvious enough that some people think we can get away with ignoring certain neighborhoods and focusing all attention on the tourist sites.

AS THOUGH THE people who actually live in Chicago and are native to the area are of lesser importance.

But trying to address those problems is complex, and bound to address certain people who are still offended by Lee’s 1989 production, “Do the Right Thing” and how the character “Mookie” could possibly turn on his boss, Sal, near the film’s end.

I guess ranting and raging about tax credits is a less complex issue to complain about.

Which, in the end, may be the real problem – our willingness to try to pretend that no one who isn’t exactly like ourselves even exists – that faces our society.


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