Continuing our series celebrating Chicago culture…
Here is how Roger Ebert opened his review of Joe Maggio’s terrific, and sadly forgotten, The Last Rites of Joe May:
You meet guys like Joe May. They can get you a price on some merchandise that fell off the back of some truck. in the performance of his career, Dennis Farina depicts the type flawlessly in “The Last Rites of Joe May.” He looks into the type and sees the man inside: proud, weary, fearful.
This movie takes place on the West Side of Chicago, without a single “beauty shot.” Not a skyscraper in sight. Only gray, cold streets, shabby bars and forlorn bus stops. Joe May has just been released from Cook County Hospital after a siege of pneumonia that nearly killed him. Before he goes home, he goes to a bar. “Jeez, I thought you was dead,” the bartender says. Nothing about how he’s glad to see Joe is alive.
This is not a pleasant watch, but it’s an important one as a city film. And in so many ways it caps off Farina’s brilliant film career, a career that saw him emerges like a storm in Midnight Run and subsequently steal films away from superstars in Get Shorty and Snatch. The trailer is below, but the film is streaming free on Peacock and rentable in all the normal places.
Chicago is one of the greatest cities in the world. Does it have problems? Of course. That’s what happens when three million people to one place. But it’s a cultural mecca, truly unique on the American landscape and worthy of celebration.
This week DBB is spotlighting The Rap Pack, a collection of original artists whose hip hop adaptations of classic works (Shakespeare, Dickens, etc.) predate the work of Lin Miranda by decades and, for my money, provide far more depth. Whereas Miranda’s work is a sanitized, antiquated use of the form, The Rap Pack have always seemed to be of the moment, of their time. The members are the Q Brothers Collective: GQ (Gregory Qaiyum), JQ (Jeffrey Qaiyum), Jax (Jackson Doran) and Pos (Postell Pringle) and the Qaiyums are also the family who own and operate the legendary Merz Apothecary in town.
Below is their latest video, a twisted, hysterical homage to the legendary Sabotage video that features my buddy JQ dressed like Magnum P.I. Give it a watch, and follow these guys as they continue producing brilliant work.