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.


  1. #dead @ "You mean to tell me that none of these Tuskeegee Airmen had mothers, sisters, favorite aunts, daughters, wives, bottom bitches, or jumpoffs back home?" You, ma'am, are worthy of the read (and not just b/c we share the same thoughts on the movie). Good review!

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  3. Let's not forget the manufactured "drinking problem" that-never-really-became-a-problem, why are we calling terrence howard the "old man" when cuba is older than him?, who the hell hired neyo? but i'll stop because your list is thorough enough. Ominy clued me into your review and I have to say, I'm gonna give her a hug when i see her (self-serving as that may be) because everything u wrote here is spot on. The biggest issue for me is how everyone is carrying a torch campaigning on a project that is the definition of WEAK. This is not a good film. Outside of a 1 time paycheck to the dir. & actors, George Lucas did a disservice to black film. The project reeked of his creative influence and it's a shame because here was an opportunity to make a true WW2 epic and all that's left is trash. Unfortunate but necessary review.

  4. And I thought my review was the only one of it's kind. Let me be clear first. Two of the Tuskegee airmen were patients of mine when I worked in healthcare in DC. I did manage to get a little history lesson from them before venturing out on my own. I am also an actor so I'm viewing this from an actor's POV as well as a veteran. When it comes to biopics it's pertinent to tell the beginning, middle and end. Hell, in any good story this is primary. What I didn't like first of all, was the fact that at the beginning of the movie, they were already pilots?! One of the main struggles of the TAs was trying to be pilots--FIRST! The desire to fight upon enemy lines was secondary. Where the hell were the back stories? How can we relate to the characters when we don't know where they've been? Why were they called Tuskegee Airmen? Did they all come from Alabama(sarcasm)? You would think that a two hour movie would have at least covered a backstory. The research in the film was ALL WRONG! Lucas said it took 20 yrs to research. I'ma need him to cite his sources on everything and do it quickly. I also think it should have been casted better. I love Terrence and Cuba. They are great actors but if he really needed to use them, I think a switching of the roles would have been better. And comment. No wayment, I think I will. What the hell was with that god-awful accent? This is a prime example of backstory. Telling us a lil bit of his history would have "MAYBE" understand that accent a little better. Horrific! Tristan youthful appearance does not a pilot make. Lightning and his Italian honey--didn't happen! THe movies showed NO adversaries what-so-ever! And when, in those times, did white people ask us what we wished to be called? Hell, they don't even ask us now. And that sorry tail of a joke that Ne-yo's character told about white people turning green, yellow and red was not during those times. I can name so many no-nos with this film but I will stop there before I get too mad. I wish they wouldn't say this was a biopic. A biopic is just a movie with history. WHERE WAS THE HISTORY! Why weren't the real names used? Where was Gen Benjamin Davis or Lt William Faulkner? What about Lee Archer or Charles Anderson who trained many of them to fly? The word on the street is this is apart of a trilogy! *pulls hair out of mohawk now* The prequel is supposedly in the works as we speak. I am truly scared if there is. I refuse to just support any black movie b/c I'm black. I rarely support the white ones esp if there aren't any blacks in them. I really wanna know what the true and living TAs feel about this movie. I am so mad as a consumer, actor and veteran! Thanks for the review and the posting. I love it!

  5. I meant *A biopic is just a movie without history*

  6. Have any of you seen "Black Angels of Tuskegee," written by Layon Gray based on the Tuskegee airmen. It was out waaaaaay before redtails and is still running in New York City. Off Broadway.... I would love to know what you think. The writer was actually in the process of turning it into a film when this came out.