December is not done adding last minute additions to Oscar season. Paramount’s “The Big Short” recently shook up the calendar, and now Amazon is doing the same in collaboration with Roadside Attractions and Lionsgate. The trio are teaming up for a theatrical release of Spike Lee’s Chicago-set movie, “Chi-Raq,” about gang violence in the windy city.
Set for a December 4th release date, Lee’s “Chi-Raq,” is expected to hit major cities in the U.S. While Lee’s films haven’t been in Oscar contention for some time, Roadside and Lionsgate have often teamed on prestige film fare and clearly they think the film has the stuff to get into the awards season ring.
Inspired by the Greek comedy Lysistrata, “Chi-Raq” stars Samuel L. Jackson, Teyonah Parris, John Cusack, Wesley Snipes, Nick Cannon, Angela Bassett, Jennifer Hudson, Harry Lennix, and D.B. Sweeney, and the movie has been met with a wave of criticism and controversy ever since it started shooting in Chicago earlier this year. Lee recently said that Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel tried to “paint me like the villain.”
“I’m not the bad guy, but that’s how he was trying to portray it,” he recently told THR. “Do I have the guns? Am I the one pulling the trigger? To be honest, he’s a bully. My tactic with the mayor — any bully — is to come out swinging. I said, ‘Mayor, Your Honor, you’re gonna be on the wrong side of history.’ “
Emanuel has criticized the movie for trying to exploit, exacerbate and exaggerate the violence problem in Chicago, but as the filmmaker notes, “New York City has three times the population of Chicago; Chicago has more homicides than New York City.”
And while there has been some chatter that Lee’s movie is a musical, the director plays down that notion, while addressing the reported comedic nature of the movie. “Music is an integral part of every film I make. I would not classify it as a musical, though,” he told Chicago magazine, adding: “It is possible to address a very serious subject matter and still have humor. I’ve done it before. ‘Do the Right Thing‘ was serious as hell. It was so serious you can still show that film today—it’s still contemporary. But ‘Do the Right Thing’ was also funny as a motherfucker. Another example—one of my favorite films, one of my favorite filmmakers: Stanley Kubrick, ‘Dr. Strangelove.’ What’s more serious than the planet’s destruction? But that movie was hilarious. There are many examples—music, plays, novels, movies—where humor has been injected into very serious subject matter….So people need to relax. They need to stop thinking I’m gonna make light of the loss of life. Please. Calm down.”
Meanwhile, Lee has shot a new short film called, “Da New Yawk Joint” that will open the TCS New York City Marathon and broadcast on ABC and ESPN 2 across America on Sunday, Nov. 1st. You can watch a teaser for it below.