We vote with our pocketbooks. Vote for Red Tails.
Forget the criticism you may encounter in other movie reviews and focus on one thing: This film about the famed Tuskegee airmen is completely outside of the genre in which African Americans are typically portrayed.
With so few films featuring African Americans released each year, Tyler Perry comedies have become the standard. God bless him, but of course there is more to the African American story than that. To quote Spike Lee on Perry in 2009: “Each artist should be allowed to pursue their artistic endeavors but I still think there is a lot of stuff out today that is ‘coonery’ and buffoonery. I know it’s making a lot of money and breaking records, but we can do better…”
And how. After watching Precious run down the street with a bucket of chicken, I’m good with Red Tails. So-so dialogue and a sometimes poignant yet clumsy love story won’t kill it for me. If that’s the worst that can be said about a film featuring people who look like me, I’m good. That Hollywood effortlessly green lights black comedies and straight-to-DVD nonsense but struggled to support the story of the first Black military aviators in the U.S. armed forces is spellbinding.
In Precious (2009), Blacks were dysfunctional. In The Help, maids. Rare is a Hollywood portrayal featuring African Americans as full-out heroes or even normal everyday people. Did anyone see “For Colored Girls…?” Read Washington Post columnist Courtland Milloy’s take on how Black men were portrayed in that one.
If Spike Lee concluded that the “super-duper magical Negro” role (see: Independence Day, The Green Mile, Bagger Vance and The Matrix) has grown tiresome, he should be thrilled with Red Tails.
Usually feature films set in 40s and 50s America render blacks invisible. Very rarely do we find African Americans — males in particular — presented outside of the universe of comedy or fantasy. Within the hero driven war drama genre, African Americans are all but absent from the landscape. For that reason alone Red Tails becomes a must see.
Though the film could have been well served by a flashback to Tuskegee, Ala. or an allusion to U.S. history stateside, it delivers as straightforward action movie.
That Star Wars special effects genius George Lucas couldn’t convince anyone in Hollywood to pay for Red Tails tells it all. Lucas should be rewarded by being repaid back for the $58 million of his own cash he spent on this film. The movie hauled in $19 million on its opening weekend.
If Red Tails beats Precious at the box office and makes over $62 million I’ll be plenty happy. I’ll be even happier if George Lucas make all his money back by double and proves the Hollywood decision makers wrong.
“It’s not a shock that the system or Hollywood didn’t want to tell the story,” Red Tails star Terrence Howard told Access Hollywood. Well it sure as hell should be. As a basic piece of entertainment this works as a reason to invest two hours of your life and a bit of your money. Anyone interested in seeing blacks portrayed outside of the usual should view this three or four times.
There ‘s no reason to give anything away here but the basics of the film are straightforward. Terrence Howard plays an unafraid and an almost inconceivable Benjamin O. Davis role. David Oyelowo is Tom Cruise in Top Gun. Cuba Gooding is Cuba Gooding. Nate Parker is Denzel Washington. Ne-Yo is funny. Lars van Riesen is the stereotypical war enemy complete with a scar.
Leslie Odom Jr. gives their historic situation a realistic slap in the face. “What we do how well we do it, does it matter…?” he asks Cuba Gooding. It mattered. Just as much as seeing this movie succeed does.
LAUREN VICTORIA BURKE, Politic365 Chief Congressional Correspondent, publishes the blog Crewof42 on the Congressional Black Caucus. She is heard every Tuesday on WMCS 1290 in Milwaukee on Earl Ingram’s show The Evening Rush as well as on WHUR and WPFW in Washington DC. You can follow her on twitter at @crewof42