Over the weekend, the wife and I saw that Lee Daniels movie. I call it “that Lee Daniels movie” because on the little marquis in the lobby of the Regal Cinema on Parkside Drive, the rest of the title was cut off.
There was a long line of folks waiting to get good seats, and I noticed early on that the audience they found appeared to have traveled by bus from Del Boca Vista. The wife and I are in our early 50s and were easily among the youngest of ticket holders.
The Del Boca Vista similarity was not just skin deep either. The young usher made the mistake of opening a two-column line, and the herd of teetering seniors almost sucked my wife into the new line, prompting those farther back to protest angrily. We ended up at the new end of the original line, which was the first line let into the theater, which prompted louder protests from the aging hippies in the “new” line. I expected one of the grumblers left behind to shout, “Eat hickory!” but the armed security guard (a police officer in uniform) may have been the calming influence. Nobody chanted in rhyme, thank goodness.
Once the movie began, there were some clues that the truth was cut off too, but those were not obvious until the Reagan years were visited.
This film is truly an untended tragedy that does not end at the title. There is a fine, compelling story about a hard working man by the name of Eugene Allen, of Scottsville, Virginia. It is not hard to find how badly black people were treated in Virginia during most of Mr. Allen’s life, but that was apparently not good enough for Daniels. Is there a movie rule that black people, prior to the Lyndon Johnson administration, had to work in cotton fields? Because, that is how the film opens, with Virginian Eugene Allen in a cotton field in Georgia, witnessing the rape of his mother and the murder of his father.
Mr. Allen was the father of Vietnam Veteran Charles Allen. Charles is still alive, but Daniels killed him off in the middle of the movie. That is another one of those weird things in certain kinds of movies, every character that had a name and went to Vietnam died, unless he went to rehab. Charles graduated from Vietnam and went on to a career in the State Department, as an investigator.
Daniels decided somewhere along the line that Mr. Allen needed a son to argue with, so he created another son who joined the Black Panthers and made up false quotes for self-defense advocate Malcolm-X. Well, to be fair, lots of people made up Malcolm-X quotes to help justify a Marxist overthrow of the US Government. As Ishmael Reed pointed out to Mark Rudd on CSPAN’s “After Words” (April 22, 2009), the “autobiography” of Malcolm-X was a fraud to begin with. So, it is not surprising that a fictional character would spew fictional quotes to justify his fictional part of the fictional story.
Everything mentioned so far is bad enough, but no movie mentioning Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. is complete without a bloody shirt moment. This one has two, back to back. First, the fake son is present with Rev. King in Memphis, Tennessee on the eve of Rev. King’s murder. Then, the video clip of Rev. Jesse Jackson, Junior’s actual bloody shirt moment is spliced in.
When this screen novel visits the Reagan administration, things really get wacky. Ronald Reagan opposed the practice of Apartheid in South Africa (or anywhere else, for that matter), but he had bigger fish to fry with the world’s largest colonial slave operation, the USSR. The African National Congress was aligned with them, for good historical reasons mind you, but they were still aligned with the largest purveyor of slavery and mass murder this side of Beijing.
Not one mention of the anti-Communism background was mentioned, perhaps because people who make films like this cannot imagine anybody opposing Communism. The sole reason portrayed for Regan opposing sanctions against South Africa was racism. The practice was abolished by 1990, just a few years after Reagan left office.
As for the acting, there were three and only three good performances in the entire movie: The three butlers – Forest Whitaker, Lenny Kravitz, and Cuba Gooding, Jr. Reminiscent of Gardens of Stone, these actors brought out the behind-the-scenes life of staff that are seen and not seen by the public. Everybody else in this movie sucked.
Robin Williams as Ike? Without the subtitle on the screen, one would think the scene was opening to the Truman administration. By-the-way, Mr. Allen began working in the White House during the Truman administration. John Cusack as Richard Nixon? Had to see the campaign button to figure out who he was supposed to be. The same with every single actor in this show, other than the three butlers.
Well, another part or two did not suck really. It was shot well and it was an interesting story. If it were prominently labeled as such, it would not have sucked so bad finding out the truth. There was a glimmer of honesty. Mr. Allen’s name, as well as those of his family, were changed. Maybe it was not intentional honesty.
Steve is a graduate of the University of Tennessee, Finance. He is a 30 year veteran Aviation Officer of the Army National Guard and Army Reserve, and former Defense Contractor in Resource Management. He has always had a libertarian streak, no matter which major Party flag he flew. Today he is a Minarchist leaning to Anarcho-Capitalism. He and his wife reside in a secret, undisclosed, subterranean lair with the clan motto of “Leave us alone and nobody gets hurt.” The Anarchist’s Soufflé Book is Steve’s current work in progress, along with Time Bomber: The Forgotten Yippie, coming soon any year now. Steve has been published by the Reason Foundation, and the Foundation for Economic Education. Follow Steve @AustrianAnarchy and view his Austrian Anarchy blog.