Friday, January 27, 2012

For Tuskegee Airmen Who Considered Suicide When the Red Tails Weren't Enuf

The tagline for Red Tails is "Courage Has No Color". However, after watching the movie, I'm clear that apparently foolishness does. When it came out last weekend, I wasn't tripping over my own feet trying to go see it. Here's how it works in the film industry: If a movie comes out after the big Holiday movie season and before all of the summer blockbusters in spring, it is likely to be trash. It's January. All of the extra terrible movies are being released now. We are currently residing in a cinematic wasteland. I knew better.

But a friend had $5 movie tickets and wanted to go see Red Tails last night, so I went. As the opening credits started, I immediately began to regret my decision. If I started to elaborate on the ways in which this movie was horrible, we'd be here 'til Black History Month, and I'm working on brevity in the New Year.

It's important to note that I'm usually the first person to give movies that are based on books or portraying events based on true life a pass. I say, "It ain't a book. It's a movie. You want the whole story? Read the book. Stop being lazy and ignorant. Educate yourself. It's entertainment." But, in light of the fact that this movie wasn't entertaining, I can't even say that. I think it was 2 hours long. If it wasn't, it sure felt like... 3 hours. Long, slow, pointless.

The characters were actually caricatures. I don't know that in my 27 or so years of watching and understanding movies that I've ever seen such glaring examples of poor character development and stale, illogical plot and sub-plot. There were scenes that seemed to literally just end, in the most abrupt manner, and entire scenarios and conversations that had absolutely no resolution. There were shots that looked like they were mistakenly edited into the movie. The opening credits were obviously produced in the most low-tech manner possible. The acting was disastrous. And what was up with the overly triumphant music at the most inappropriate times? I felt like I was being Punked. Surely, this cannot be a real movie. In fact, I'm gonna just choose to believe that this was an extended Saturday Night Live sketch.

How else do you explain the absurdity? One fighter plane shoots a couple hundred rounds at a battle ship and destroys it? A Black man walks into an all White establishment during World War II, at the height of segregation, and gets angry enough to fight when they call him a nigger and tell him to go home? Sir, were you just transported here in a time machine?

One of my friends said that she heard someone say, "Medea might as well had been flying one of them planes." I agree. Hey, why not?

The inconsistencies and lack of plausibility regarding most of the events in this movie are abundant and embarrassing. Which makes it even more offensive that the love interest in this movie with a cast of 100 Black men was Italian. Now, this is where people have tried to point out to me that they were on an army base in Italy and therefore it's only logical that the love story would be between a Black man and a White woman. However, that holds no weight when you consider how fictionalized this movie was. They could have easily written a Black female nurse into the story as the love interest, and it wouldn't have seemed out of place in the midst of all of the other fairy tales and fallacies. A cartoon unicorn and giant talking squid wouldn't have been out of place in this movie. So why not cast at least one Black woman?

They didn't want to. In a movie where one of the lead characters declares that the Italian woman is "the most beautiful woman I've ever seen" and shortly thereafter, when they receive new planes, another pilot says, "I've never seen a girl prettier than this," the attitude toward Black women is made painfully apparent. I've watched plenty of war movies in which the "sweetheart back home" is talked about, represented through photographs, dreams, flashbacks, a handwritten letter, and even brought into the story by cutting to scenes depicting the soldier's homes in the states. You mean to tell me that none of these Tuskeegee Airmen had mothers, sisters, favorite aunts, daughters, wives, bottom bitches, or jumpoffs back home? To a thinking person, does it really seem all that unrealistic that a love story with a Black woman as the object of desire was impossible to tell?

And while we're on the subject of race and discrimination... Is the movie going audience ever going to get tired of "The Evil German"? I, for one am worn out and wish that sterotype would go away.

I wish Terrence Howard would also go away. I don't think it's his fault that he's the go-to for all things Black Cinema, but he's definitely been over exposed. We need to find other actors to cast. I'm sure there are plenty. Let that man have a seat. And stop digging Cuba Gooding Jr. up out of the ground or wherever we keep finding him at. We should know by now that no good can come of giving him a leading role in anything. In fact, had I known that he was in this movie, I would have just flat out refused to go see it.

You may ask how it is that I didn't know that Cuba Gooding Jr. was starring in Red Tails. My answer is simple: I'm not up on everything. I stay pretty ignorant to most of pop culture and honestly, just about every time I tune back in, I regret it. I hear that this movie was a labor of love for George Lucas and took him a quarter of a century to bring to fruition. That's really sweet. However, Red Tails was terrible. From beginning to end, plot to acting, it was not fit for human consumption. It was similar to Tyler Perry's stabbing and hacking at Ntozake Shange's "For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow is Enuf". No, actually, it was worse. And not for a second do I believe that George or Tyler were being malicious in their attempts to bring these stories to the big screen. On the contrary, I know that their intentions were good. Admirable, in fact. But that doesn't excuse the inferiority of the product.

Come correct, or don't come at all. It is a simple request that I don't think Hollywood is going to respect when it comes to Black films. However, that is my stance. For now, I wash my hands of "Black Cinema". I'm done. I can't bear to subject my eyes to it any longer.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Thank You, Dr. King

Every morning, during the 7 minute drive to her school, my 12 year old niece, Naomi and I discuss what we are grateful for today. Today, she was grateful for having been born in the United States of America where, as a female child, she is relatively safe and enjoys many rights and amenities that other little girls around the world may not. Today, after reflecting on Dr. King's legacy for most of the day yesterday, I expressed that I have a renewed appreciation for the man that he was. Good Lord, that man was charismatic, brilliant, eloquent, passionate, and dedicated! Often times, we forget about the complexities of his character and take for granted just how bold and outspoken he was on the issues of race and war. But when you really sit down and think about it, watch his speeches, study his life, read his words, you can easily be overwhelmed by his spirituality, humility, power, bravery, and intellect -- or at least I am.

I LOVE ME SOME KING! And in my explanation of why I'm grateful for him, I said to Naomi, "He went hard in the paint for Civil Rights."


In fact, if you don't know what going hard in the paint is, look at Dr. King. That man was arrested something like 30 times for Civil Disobedience. A thug for peace! He entered Morehouse College at 15! He won the Nobel Peace Prize at 35. Seriously? You just gon' do the most at all times and be all that you can be, Martin? Oh, okay.

This man makes me want to step my game up in a major way. I'm like, "WHAT THE HECK AM I DOIN' WITH MY LIFE?"

Thank you Dr. King... Not just for the sermons, speeches, and the marches... But for being well read. Thank you for being audacious, tenacious, and determined. Thank you for this picture...

Thank you for marrying Coretta, cause that sista was fly. Thank you for your children. I even want to thank Martin for messin' up and stepping out on his wife, because though I wish he hadn't done that, it shows us that no matter how much you cut up, you can still be about somethin'. Thank you Dr. King for your amazing legacy. And most of all, thank you for your crazy, insane, maniacal mindset... He had to be crazy to pursue peace, love, and justice in such an extreme and unapologetic way. I want that kind of lunacy in my life right now! Don't you?

Monday, January 16, 2012

Something Other than a Dream

I love this video, as a reminder that Dr. King didn't spend all of his time dreaming...

"...Don't let anybody make you think that God chose America to be his divine messianic force to be a sort of policeman of the whole world. God has a way of standing before the nations with judgement and it seems that I can hear God saying to America, 'You are too arrogant. And if you don't change your ways, I will rise up and break the backbone of your power. And I will place it in the hands of a nation that doesn't even know my name.'"

-Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Sermon at the Ebenezer Baptist Church
April 30th 1967

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Remember the First Time Jay-Z Got Knocked Up?

See, this is how I know that ya'll either (A) are not real Jay-Z fans and/or (B) don't listen to music, ya'll just skim through it.* Since Beyonce released Blue Ivy from her sacred womb and Jay released "Glory", the interwebs have been abuzz about the lyrics which tell of a prior pregnancy and miscarriage. Listen. This may have been Beyonce's first miscarriage (which by the way is horrible and tragic. My heart goes out to her, as I can't imagine what that must feel like)... but it wasn't Jay's first. So, why is everyone fainting and doin' the Cry Baby about this "revelation"? This is not, I repeat, NOT the first time Jay-Z rapped about a miscarriage. Everybody sit down.

Remember that time Jay-Z got that unidentified girl knocked up back in the 90's? No? Probably because you just discovered Jay-Z in the past 6 years. But anyway, he mentioned being fearful about impending fatherhood on "For the Fam", which featured Beanie Sigel, Amil, and Memphis Bleek... Or as I like to refer to them, The Peanut Gallery.

"Plus I'm having a child, which is more frightening." -Jay-Z

Shortly thereafter, on the Dynasty: Roc La Famila album, he rapped about the miscarriage of that child on "This Can't Be Life", which was the first track Kanye ever produced for Jay and featured Scarface and Beanie Sigel.

"It get's worse, baby mama's water bursts
Baby came out still born, still I gotta move on
Though my heart still torn, life gone from her womb
Don't worry, if it was meant to be, it will be -- soon"


That was back in 2000, folks. Know your hip hop history before you get to yammering on about how "shocking" the lyrics in "Glory" are and asking such probing questions such as "has a rapper ever spoken about miscarriage before?" The answer is: Ummmm... yes. Thanks for joining us.

I'm just sayin'. Ya'll late. Good day.

*That's a lyric from a Jay-Z song. See, you didn't know that, you ole' bandwagoner.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Be the Change

So often, we complain about the quality of entertainment being provided to us by the various industries and express concern about the messages that we and our children are receiving. Apparently literacy is down, ignorance is thriving, and despite all of our access to information, as a society, we're just as dumb and uncultured as ever. Well let me humbly suggest that in the New Year we do less talking and take more action. Be the change, so to speak. You want better quality entertainment?... Then demand better entertainment. Read more books. Support art. The more you do it, the more there will be.

My friend Simply Kat, an LA area poet and visual artist is raising money to put out her first book. It's been a long time coming. She's phenomenal and a strong, necessary female voice. We need more of that. You can start demanding more artistry by supporting a true artist. Donate to fund her project here. She has some great incentives to make it extra worth while.