Have you noticed that non-mainstream films are increasingly being produced/financed/released through Amazon, HBO, and Netflix and not the big studios? The latest example is Spike Lee's new joint, Chi-raq. Set among the gang violence in modern-day Chicago, the film is an adaptation of an ancient Greek play by Aristophanes called Lysistrata.
Originally performed in classical Athens in 411 BC, it is a comic account of one woman's extraordinary mission to end the Peloponnesian War. Lysistrata persuades the women of Greece to withhold sexual privileges from their husbands and lovers as a means of forcing the men to negotiate peace -- a strategy, however, that inflames the battle between the sexes. The play is notable for being an early exposé of sexual relations in a male-dominated society.
Even with all the big names attached -- Lee, Angela Bassett, Jennifer Hudson, Samuel L. Jackson, Wesley Snipes, John Cusack -- I wonder if a movie with a predominantly African-American cast, strong women characters, and based on an Aristophanes play would get greenlit at a major studio these days.
In New York Magazine this week, Mike Tyson writes about growing up in Brooklyn and his discovery of boxing as a way out and up.
Having to wear glasses in the first grade was a real turning point in my life. My mother had me tested, and it turned out I was nearsighted, so she made me get glasses. They were so bad. One day I was leaving school at lunchtime to go home and I had some meatballs from the cafeteria wrapped up in aluminum to keep them hot. This guy came up to me and said, "Hey, you got any money?" I said, "No." He started picking my pockets and searching me, and he tried to take my fucking meatballs. I was resisting, going, "No, no, no!" I would let the bullies take my money, but I never let them take my food. I was hunched over like a human shield, protecting my meatballs. So he started hitting me in the head and then took my glasses and put them down the gas tank of a truck. I ran home, but he didn't get my meatballs. I still feel like a coward to this day because of that bullying. That's a wild feeling, being that helpless. You never ever forget that feeling. That was the last day I went to school. I was 7 years old, and I just never went back to class.
The piece is adapted from Tyson's upcoming memoir, Undisputed Truth. Tyson wrote the book with Larry Sloman, author of Reefer Madness who has also ghostwritten for Howard Stern, Anthony Kiedis, and KISS's Peter Criss.
Update: Spike Lee directed a documentary version of Undisputed Truth; it'll air on HBO on November 16. Here's the trailer:
NY Magazine has recent interviews with two of the bigger American filmmakers in the last couple decades, Spike Lee and Oliver Stone.
Will Leitch talks to Spike Lee about about movies, Brooklyn, and Barack & Michelle:
When he was sizing Michelle up, this fine woman, he said, "How am I going to impress her?" I always kid him, good thing he didn't choose motherfucking Driving Miss Daisy or she would have dumped his ass right there.
And then in an interview by Matt Zoller Seitz, Oliver Stone talks about process:
It's very intense, and ultimately very painful. I've actually done some acting, but I'm not talking about that. I'm using acting as a metaphor. For me, filmmaking is like acting, in the way that it takes over you. It becomes part of you. The role, the lines, the personality of the character -- it's all in you. It's in your dreams. You think about the character without meaning to, in your sleep. I compare the process to acting because of that quality of immersion, that attempt to internalize the material and become the story. If the attempt is successful, the result is a good or at least an interesting film. But once it's done, it's over, and the actor goes back to being himself.