smackshack: a crude digital self-portrait (Default)
2012-01-20 10:44 pm
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Red Tails: I like it!

I'm so glad I enjoyed it. I was braced for a repeat of the disappointment I felt at Star Wars: The Phantom Menace, but I needn't have worried.

The theater was pretty full but not sold out, and it was about half-white and half-black. There was a lower-than-usual percentage of hipsters for an opening night, and a higher-than-usual percentage of older guys in jackets bearing Air Force insignia. The crowd laughed a lot during the show, and we applauded at the end, something I haven't seen happen in a theater since The Lord of the Rings.

I can't honestly say that this movie is for everybody. George Lucas was true to his word: he -- or perhaps I should say, the writers and director and actors he hired -- delivered a corny, patriotic war movie made in the style of 1940s and 1950s American war movies. Indeed, you could call it a pastiche of old war movies with better special effects and with the story of the Tuskegee Airmen laid over top. I concede that this is not necessarily for everyone. Some people might not want to dive back into old racial tensions; some people might not want to watch a war movie; some might be offended by the idea of such a pastiche.

But I thought the movie was sweet, fun, and charming, inspiring in precisely the way intended, and full of great airplanes and brilliant dogfights. The relationship between the two lead pilots is touching and tender (and very slashable, if the kind of people who slash stuff ever bother to see the film).

I can't vouch for the historical, tactical, or mechanical accuracy of the movie. But it seems to me to be true in terms of its big themes: the value of grace under pressure, courage in adversity, dignity in the face of prejudice. The underdog can win and make progress, and the overdog (so to speak) can grow and change in response, even if it takes longer than you'd like. 

It's not a perfect movie, but I'm disappointed that the theater wasn't sold out with the kinds of crowds who see the summer blockbuster flicks. It seems to me that if you can overlook the dramatic faults of a movie like Iron Man or Thor or Batman or Transformers or Spider-Man or, indeed, The Lord of the Rings for the sake of the Good Bits, then the same should hold true for Red Tails. At worst it's a good B movie. At best it's a celebration of the professionalism, dignity, and courage of black pilots in the adversity of war, against the bigotry of white America.

Go see it.

smackshack: a crude digital self-portrait (Default)
2012-01-12 12:25 pm

Red Tails: I Am EXCITE

Why I am excited about Red Tails: Word War 2 dogfight movie. Watching the trailers and previews I can practically smell the machine oil and leather and the stench of hot steel. The inspirational anti-racist civil rights message about the Tuskegee Airmen is practically a bonus.

Why I'm not worried about George Lucas being the executive producer: Lucas is really good at producing stuff. Directing actors and writing dialog, not so much; but he is not the director and he is not the screenwriter on this film. Lucas has made some bad things, but scenes of aerial combat (and its space-based equivalent) are not among them. And just look at the trailers...those P-51 Mustangs are fucking gorgeous.

In short: If any war story deserves a bombastic, gleeful, big-budget spectacle (which I admit is a debate in itself, but it's not for this post), it's the story of the Tuskegee Airmen.

I want this movie to succeed. I want it to spawn comic books and model airplane kits and video games. I know I'm motivated by a mixture of progressive zeal and backwards-looking, nationalistic nostalgia, but sometimes these things can't be helped. And of course I know that there's a chance the movie just won't be very good...but I hope it will be.

Here's a great preview, and of course there are more trailers at the web site.

Watch the preview... )