If ‘Red Tails’ Crashes Does Black Cinema Crash With It?

Will the fate of Black films crash and burn if "Red Tails" fails to take off?

It’s early, but already we have a strong contender for this year’s Great Black Hope.  It’s Red Tails, the George Lucas produced action flick about the Tuskegee Airmen starring Cuba Gooding, Jr. and Terrence Howard leading a predominantly Black cast into battle against the Nazis.  This version, directed by Anthony Hemingway and featuring a screenplay written by John Ridley (Three Kings) and Aaron McGruder (The Boondocks) is getting a boost from the president who is hosting a screening at the White House.

Lucas, a longtime power player in Hollywood found few takers for the project he’s tried to get made for 23 years.  Lucas told Jon Stewart, “I figured I could get the prints and ads paid for by the studios, and they would release it, and I showed it to all of them, and they said, “No.”

“It’s because it’s an all-black movie; there’s not major white roles in it at all. It’s one of the first all-black action pictures ever made,” Lucas said.

Everyone can decide for themselves whether or not to support Red Tails.  It opens the same week as the next Underworld installment and the new Steven Soderberg “tough chick” flick, Haywire so it’s likely Red Tails will lose the opening week war to Kate Beckinsdale flipping around in skin tight black leather unless Black folks turn out in HUGE numbers.

If they don’t it’s not likely Hollywood will care if it’s another 23 years before there’s a major action film with a primarily Black cast and crew heading it up.  In a USA Today interview, George Lucas, who has tried to get the film about the Tuskegee Airmen made said, “I realize that by accident I’ve now put the black film community at risk (with Red Tails, whose $58 million budget far exceeds typical all-black productions). I’m saying, if this doesn’t work, there’s a good chance you’ll stay where you are for quite a while. It’ll be harder for you guys to break out of that (lower-budget) mold. But if I can break through with this movie, then hopefully there will be someone else out there saying let’s make a prequel and sequel, and soon you have more Tyler Perrys out there.”

George Lucas and his lady-love, Melody Hobson

More Tyler Perrys isn’t a good thing if all they do is make more movies like Tyler Perry, but Lucas has his heart in the right place.

Lucas may be overstating the case that the fate of Black film hinges upon the success or failure of Red Tails, but he’s probably not wrong that if his name wasn’t attached to it, this film would never have been made in the first place.  If the guiding light of the Star Wars franchise can’t get the movies he wants to make greenlighted, who can?  Tyler Perry won’t because he only makes them cheap and aims for even cheaper laughs.  Spike Lee could, but if the emphasis in Red Tails is on dogfights in the air more than the racial politics on the ground, that’s not playing to Lee’s strengths either.

Red Tails features Black actors, a Black director and two Black screenwriters.  If Black folks don’t support this flick WHO WILL? One gripe with the film from some movie critics who have seen it is there is too much computer generated imaging in Red Tails.  This is just silly. Complaining a movie in 2012 has too many CGI effects is like complaining about the high cost of a box of popcorn.   You see CGI up the ying-yang in everything from TV commercials to feature films.  That complaint really holds no validity to me.

I don’t know whether this movie is any good or not.  I hope it is as I plan to see it on opening weekend, which is the most important weekend in a movie’s lifespan.  Not out of any sense of “obligation.”  I don’t feel any obligation to see a Perry movie and have no reluctance in letting the marketplace decide the fate of his movies.  I

I’m interested in the story and figure it might be worth the price of a ticket, but I’m confident even the movie is rotten it won’t take down every Black movie with it.  It should be judged as one single film and not carry the burden of 36 million African-Americans expectations with it.  Didn’t we learn that lesson four years ago?

The other day my wife and I had the entire theater to ourselves to see Tom Cruise outrun a sandstorm in Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol, but we didn’t go out of any misplaced sense of racial loyalty to Paula Patton.   We just wanted to see a movie.

I do know is Black people have no excuse to complain about our stories not being told when we won’t come out to see a Red Tails.   If a piece of garbage like The Devil Inside can make over $30 million in its opening week and everyone knows it’s garbage, then how can we not give Red Tails a chance to see if it’s deserving of our support?

Hollywood responds best to movies that make money. When movies featuring Black stories with Black stars begin making some we’ll get something more than another hot Medea mess.

CUT! Actors that need to take a nice long break.

The only good argument against gay marriage

Merry Christmas, y’all, from The Domino Theory.   What did you get me?

Not a damn thing, huh?  That’s the same thing you get me every year!

Fine.  Be that way then.  If you’re going to be like that, I’m going to hand out a few lumps of coal to some actors I wish would go away.   I don’t want anything bad to happen to them.  Just disappear so I can go back to the multiplex without any of them messing up my movie-going experience.

Adam Sandler: I don’t get why anyone thinks he’s funny.  If  you find bodily functions and kicks to the crotch hilarious, he’s The Man.  Otherwise, the fact such an underwhelming nebbish has any sort of career is worthy of a congressional investigation.

Chris Rock: Brilliant on stage. Bombs on film.  Isn’t it time to record another comedy album?  Pretty please with sugar on top?

Jennifer Aniston: Yes, you’re pretty. No, you can’t act so please just go away…

Katherine Heigl: … and take her with you…

Kevin James: Fat, drunk and stupid is no way to go through life, son.

Al Pacino: This hurts, but Al doesn’t even try to act anymore. He just yells, screams, chews up the scenery and says, “where’s my check?”

Didn't we use to be somebody?

Robert DeNiro: Remember when a new DeNiro movie meant something? Bobby D hasn’t made one of those in a looooong time.  There’s always hope DeNiro will stop wasting his talent on films unworthy of it, but if he doesn’t seem to care, I probably shouldn’t either.

Ben Stiller: Can a human being be even less funny than Adam Sandler, but almost as successful?  Yes, and Stiller proves it. The only Ben Stiller movie in my DVD collection is Tropic Thunder where two supposed comedians, Stiller and Jack Black, were shown up by Robert Downey, Jr.  AND Tom Cruise.  That does take some talent and being one of most unfunny actors working has made Stiller a millionaire. Life’s not fair.

"Damn, I'm hot."

Cameron Diaz:  She’s a great actress!  (No, she’s not!)  She’s a raving beauty!  (Only if you’ve never seen a beautiful woman.)  She’s got a killer body!  (If you’re hot for girls built like boys.)  She’s a total mystery to me! (Totally.)

Zoe Saldana:  Something about Zoe bugs me.  It might be that she keeps appearing in action flicks (The Losers, Colombiana), but is so skinny and frail it stretches logic to believe she could regularly punch out grown-ass men.  It could be that I know she’s attractive, but she never comes off as approachable or even someone I want to pull for.  What it might be is every time I see Saldana in a movie no matter what the film is about she’s always–ALWAYS–cast as the Black girlfriend of the non-Black hero (Avatar, The Losers, Death At a Funeral, Takers, Star Trek).  How does she make two movies with Idris Elba and dodge him in both?  Is it written in her contract?

Eddie Murphy: Went soft. Hasn’t been funny for years. He’s chasing checks just like Pacino and DeNiro and there’s no shame in Eddie’s game.  He’ll be the first to admit he’s been cranking out crap like Norbit and Daddy Day Care.  I applaud his candor.  I avoid his movies.

"Kneel before Zod!"

Angelina Jolie: Don’t know why, but I just don’t dig her. Maybe it’s that “Most Beautiful Woman in the World” jive being shoved up my nose?  I also don’t dig bony ass babes whose lips are bigger than their rib cages.  Stop adopting kids from all around the world long enough to pound down a sandwich.  Or two.  Or three.

Shia LaBeouf:  I have a theory the brilliant minds in Hollywood get it in their heads that certain actors/actresses are the greatest thing since sliced bread and if they just keep putting them in movies over and over eventually YOU. WILL. LOVE. THEM.

This is the only reason I can come up for the continued existence of Shia LaBeouf.

Ryan Reynolds:Beefcake gets no duller or dumber than this. Reynolds possess A-list looks sabotaged by his D list talent.  He killed the Blade movies, desecrated Deadpool and Green Lantern is a stone cold, leadpipe lock for one of the worst movies of the year.  Stop this guy before he kills another superhero franchise.

Meryl Streep: Yeah, I said it. Since when is changing accents in every movie considered great acting?   One minute Meryl’s nailed a French accent or an English accent or a Polish accent or a German accent and the next the Academy Awards nominations automatically follow. If Streep rolls over in the morning and cuts a loud fart, there’s a movie critic nearby applauding her authenticity.

"Overrated? Me? Now that is funny."

She is always watchable, but her movies usually aren’t. Streep has had more great performances than great movies.

When Meryl Streep can nail a Black accent and play Madea , I’ll be impressed.

Speaking of Madea…

Tyler Perry was named by Forbes magazine as the biggest moneymaker in Hollywood.  Bigger than Cruise or DiCaprio or Depp.  I supposed I should be impressed the most profitable man in the biz is a Black man from Atlanta.

Porn is profitable. That doesn’t make it good.

The question was actors I wish would go away. I don’t consider Tyler Perry any sort of actor. It takes no acting ability to put on a fat suit, glasses and a wig and turn yourself into a Bible-thumping, gun waving, full of piss and vinegar big Black mama.

All it takes is pandering to stereotypes and the lowest common denominator of your target audience. No acting ability required. All you need to be is a pandering hack.

Perry is very successful at what he does and it’s really kind of sad what he does is make lots of money from making terrible movies.

"I make 'em cheap and they make me rich."

Madea’s Big Unhappy Beef With Spike Lee.

Should a good Christian crossdresser be telling someone to "go to hell?"

Filed under the category of “Why you bringin’ up old stuff?”  Tyler Perry took advantage of a press conference for his latest magnum opus, Madea’s Big Happy Family to resurrect a two-year-old beef with Spike Lee over comments Lee had made about Perry’s films being full of  “coonery and buffoonery.”  Which they are, but that’s beside the point.  Here’s what Tyler’s point was in response to a question about his least favorite tormentor:

“I’m so sick of hearing about damn Spike Lee. Spike can go straight to hell! You can print that. I am sick of him talking about me, I am sick of him saying, ‘this is a coon, this is a buffoon.’ I am sick of him talking about black people going to see movies. This is what he said: ‘you vote by what you see,’ as if black people don’t know what they want to see.” I am sick of him – he talked about Whoopi, he talked about Oprah, he talked about me, he talked about Clint Eastwood. Spike needs to shut the hell up!”

“I’ve never seen Jewish people attack Seinfeld and say ‘this is a stereotype,’ I’ve never seen Italian people attack The Sopranos, I’ve never seen Jewish people complaining about Mrs. Doubtfire or Dustin Hoffman in Tootsie. I never saw it. It’s always black people, and this is something that I cannot undo. Booker T. Washington and W.E.B. DuBois went through the exact same thing; Langston Hughes said that Zora Neale Hurston, the woman who wrote Their Eyes Were Watching God, was a new version of the ‘darkie’ because she spoke in a southern dialect and a Southern tone. And I’m sick of it from us; we don’t have to worry about anybody else trying to destroy us and take shots because we do it to ourselves.”

What, this mess again?   Tyler, didn’t you get this out of your system when you went on 60 Minutes and tried to tear Spike a new one?   Let it go, bro!   If he needs to shut the hell up, you need to get over yourself. 

Isn’t  it bad enough the guy who dresses up as a 300-lb drag queen just equated himself with Booker T. Washington, W.E.B. DuBois, Langston Huges and Zora Neale Hurston, (never mind Tony Soprano, Robin Williams and Dustin Hoffman)?

It’s an established fact I do not like Tyler Perry movies. I don’t like Adam Sandler and Twilight movies either, but I would never think of imposing my tastes upon anyone that does. 

I do like Spike Lee movies, but not every Spike Lee joint is a good one.  Malcolm X, Jungle Fever, Get On the Bus, Do the Right Thing and School Daze are.  Girl 6, Crooklyn, ‘Mo Better Blues, Miracle at St. Anna and Summer of Sam are not.  Bamboozled is mostly bad slightly redeemed by moments of piercing insight.  Clockers is underrated.  Inside Man proved Lee could make a solid, if routine, bit of Hollywood entertainment.  Some of his documentaries like 4 Little Girls are brilliant.  She Hate Me is one of the worst films a critically acclaimed director has ever made.

Spike has made his share of lousy movies.  Has Tyler made any that wasn’t? 

Spike should be confident enough to know his body of work blows away everything in catalog of Tyler’s eye-rolling, Negro foolishness.   Tyler should be swaggering in the fact he’s the only Black director in the business with enough juice he doesn’t have to go begging to the studios for a buck before he can make a movie.  Spike hasn’t made a good movie in years, but Tyler’s still looking to make his first one.

Spike needs to get his groove back.  Tyler has the bigger problem. He needs to find one.

For Colored Girls Is Not Enuf: Why Tyler Tanked.

An honest effort, but a missed opportunity

I’ve been accused of hating on Tyler Perry movies.  Guilty as charged.  Tyler has a problem with Black men so this Black man has a problem with him.  I admit to having been a bit curious about how he was going to handle Ntozake Shange’s feminist play, “For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow Is Enuf” (economically trimmed down to just For Colored Girls) , but not curious enough to actually go see it.

I was apparently not alone in that thought.   The movie opened in a respectable third place, dropped out of the week’s Top Five films into sixth place in its second week of release and with the new Harry Potter flick opening if FCG hangs on to a top ten finish I’d be surprised.

So what happened?

The reasons For Colored Girls fell hard are many, as the Black film website, Shadow and Act listed.  But in what was a terrible case of overreach the release date was moved from January 2011 to November 2010 to be Oscar eligible. I doubt it even gets nominated in any major categories.

When a movie takes a drop like that it’s done at the box office. Being a Tyler Perry flick means it will make its money back and turn a profit, but Perry wasn’t just looking to make money with this film  He was angling for some Precious like success and acclaim and he’s not going to get either.

Perry has his fans whom apparently believe offering ANY critical perspectives about Perry’s films undermines him. It’s not that Perry has proven to be a barely competent director whose skill set is amateurish at best.  It’s the critics and Black intelligentsia that are undermining his growth as a filmmaker by not lining up in droves to see and praise For Colored Girls.

Each filmmaker has to constantly prove themselves worthy of support.  Should Perry be given a pass from that sort of accountability out of a misplaced desire for racial loyalty?  Are we supposed to simply plunk down our cash for whatever cinematic crap-fest a Black director foists upon us and applaud like trained seals?

It’s not that Black folks can’t handle and don’t want their artists growing and evolving. Stevie Wonder, Michael Jackson, Aretha Franklin, Denzel Washington, Halle Berry, Prince, Miles Davis, Will Smith and  Spike Lee, are just a handful of talented individuals who have grown, changed, made missteps and progressed as time passed.

Maybe Perry will eventually join the club, but he seems incapable of stepping up his game as a filmmaker.  Despite his severe limitations behind the camera. FCG has grossed $30 million and made back its budget and will probably clear $50-$60 million. That’s not too shabby even if its’ underwhelming for a Perry flick.

When a movie opens in 3rd place and drops a whopping 65 percent to 6th place the next week apparently, that’s just consumers telling Perry he needs to make a better film.  The masses of Black folks have decided they didn’t want a second helping of this turkey.   Heed the message. Don’t kill the messengers.

I choose not to see Tyler Perry films for the same reason I do not see Adam Sandler, Sylvester Stallone and Julia Roberts films: They aren’t made for me. For those that are part of the target demographic, I’m not going to stand in their way of buying a ticket. But neither am I going to feel any sense of shame because I don’t.

Dr. Perry and Mr. Madea hanging out.

I disagree that Perry’s audience is so clueless as to not realize Madea wasn’t dropping in for a cameo appearance.  The new character Perry created for Whoopi Goldberg seems to be filling that role.   I am certain the  decision not to title the film  Tyler Perry’s For Colored Girls limited its box office appeal.   Perry would have been ripped for superimposing his name on Shange’s play, but he was tackling a difficult project in trying to turn a play full of poetry and music where all the characters are identified by colors, not names and material some 30 years out of date into a feature film.    He needed to press his big advantage:  a firm base of support with Black women.

The first thing he tossed out was Shange’s dozen words title. It was just too damn long to fit on a marquee. Having done that, why not go the route of Stanley Kubrick (yes, a White filmmaker I know) and put your name before the title?   It’s a bit arrogant, but if Kubrick could do it to Stephen King, Arthur C. Clarke and Anthony Burgess, Perry could too.

When the biggest name in a movie is the director and not his ensemble of actresses, you better play to your strengths and humility be damned!   Under those circumstances he should have slapped “TYLER PERRY PRESENTS…” on the movie poster.

I’m scratching my head why Perry used his Oprah appearance to talk candidly about the sexual abuse of his childhood but mentioned the movie almost as an afterthought. Men admitting they have been sexually abused is an act of courage and I’ll give him some respect for speaking out, when you’re on Oprah you have to choose between confessing dark secrets or promoting whatever it is you’re selling.

If I’m gloating a bit (okay, a LOT) over Tyler spending Oscar night at home alone wearing Madea’s bra and wig on with a big glass of grape Kool-Aid and a KFC Double Down sandwich it’s because Homey has proven you can’t fool all the people all the time. Just some of the people who keep hoping against hope Perry will ever do anything but infinite variations on the same tired Madea theme.

It’s like gravity: you might not like it but you’re going to have to accept it ’cause you ain’t gonna change it.

It’s not called “For Colored Men” for a reason.

It's not called "For Colored Men" for a reason

My daughter saw Tyler Perry’s For Colored Girls Sunday afternoon. When she walked back in the house that evening, I said, “Hi. How was the movie?” “BLACK MEN SUCK!” she shot back.

She was kidding. I think.

The Tyler Perry Express slowed down a bit this weekend with For Colored Girls. The three-hanky melodrama grossed $20 million, but that was only good enough for third place behind Megamind and Due Date. Box Office Mojo says polling showed that 82 percent of the audience was female, 87 percent was over 25 years old and 81 percent was black.

But fear not! Perry will slip back into Madea’s padded bra again in Madea’s Big Happy Family in 2011. Hoo-rah.

When I read Perry was associated with this project, I thought it was just another case of a work by a woman being given over to a man to turn into a movie.   Selecting one that had made his mark directing lazy comedies/morality tales seemed a strange choice.  It still does.

I had it mind someone like a Kasi Lemmons or Julie Dash or some Black woman. What do Waiting To Exhale, Beloved, The Color Purple and Precious all have in common?

Stories of sisters catching hell written by Terry McMillian, Toni Morrison, Alice Walker and Sapphire and directed by Forrest Whitaker, Jonathan Demme, Steven Spielberg and Lee Daniels. What’s wrong with this picture, huh?  Sisters aren’t doing it for themselves.

I wanted to write an article about why Black female directors don’t get a chance to direct films based on books by Black female writers, but no one seemed interested.

Ever notice that for all his supposed clout in Hollywood, Tyler Perry has never raised his game beyond corny melodramas? Perry seems to have problems writing characters for top Black actors. By now shouldn’t he have come up with at least ONE part a Denzel Washington, Will Smith, Morgan Freeman, or Forest Whittaker would want?

Even Samuel L. Jackson won’t do a Tyler Perry flick and Sam will act in anything.

Here’s my totally amateur theory: Tyler Perry does not like Black men. He’s admitted being molested by one. He hates his father though he takes care of him. I don’t get the feeling he’s had a lot of healthy relationships with men. He has a low opinion of brothers and that’s why he clowns them so much in his wretched movies.

Perry has to be given some credit for making  films for Black women.  It’s  too bad in the process he has to depict Black men as bums, baby-killers, rapists and down-low creepers infecting their women with HIV.

I like this take from Boston Globe movie critic Wesley Morris from his review: ” Perry has been playing a black woman for so long — he’s starred as the armed-and-dangerous Madea in at least five movies — that he practically is one. But black men in Perry’s movie are a source of visceral, physical ache. It’s as if a brother has broken his heart, too. For peace and redemption, he’s turned, as many a woman has, to Shange. How cathartic this has been for him is unclear.”

Thanks Tyler. You’re a credit to your gender. Soon as you make up your mind which one it is.

“For Colored Girls:” Tyler Perry’s Bid for R-E-S-P-E-C-T.

Perfect, unblemished skin courtesy of Photo Shop.

I am a Tyler Perry virgin.   My eyes and ears have never been defiled by a Tyler Perry flick.  I have not seen Madea’s Goes to Jail, Why Did I Get Married, Meet the Browns, Madea’s Family Reunion and I won’t be seeing Madea’s Big Happy Family when it’s served up like so much fried chicken for Perry’s legion of loyal fans.

When I read Perry was directing the film adaptation of “For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide (When the Rainbow is Enuf),” that was a palm slap to the head moment.   I’m guessing when Perry signed on as an executive producer for Precious and saw the accolades that were showered on director Lee Daniels, he must have decided, “Hey, I’d like some of that too!”

Perry’s movies are small and cheaply made money makers, but they are critically reviled for the poor writing, direction and broadly-played and stereotypical acting.   What’s a multi-millionaire who sits upon his own entertainment enterprise to do?   Go out and buy a property that has proven difficult to adapt and try to make a “serious film” in a bid for some critical love.

Character posters for the newly titled shortened “For Colored Girls…” (well, at least it’s not “Tyler Perry’s For Colored Girls”) to be released on November 5.  No trailer yet, but are you not entertained?

Or are you terrified of what kind of Negro foolishness the director of Madea Goes to Jail might impose upon Ntozake Shange’s 1975 play?   I know I am.  As a play, “For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide (When the Rainbow is Enuf)” was a fiercely feminist work about sex, rape, abortion and other subjects foreign to the typically sweet and sappy crap Perry usually serves up.

Perry usually casts his films with established actors paired with rappers, singers and athletes taking time out from their day jobs.  For Colored Girls is no different with Whoopi Goldberg, Loretta Devine, Thandie Newton, and Kimberly Elise duking it out with Janet Jackson and Macy Gray for screen time.  Mariah Carey dropped out of the production to be replaced by Newton which counts as an upgrade.

Now this is an odd couple if ever there was.

As I have said before,  I have nothing against Perry making movies for a specific audience that enjoys his work.  That audience just doesn’t include me same as the appetite for Woody Allen’s self-indulgent sludge is lost on me.  Based on his résumé,  Perry seems like the wrong guy for this kind of material. This is like the guy who drops the fries at Wendy’s trying to prepare a five-course meal of French cuisine.  My fears seem to be coming true that Perry would blunt the edge of For Colored Girls by making it commercial and safe, two things Shange’s original play was not.

If there’s a saving grace to this projects its Shange’s involvement as the screenwriter.

Some people say movie reviews don’t influence their decision whether to see a film.  However, when you have a director such as Perry who’s made his mark making homey, simplistic and corny comedies and melodramatic morality plays trying to serve up some serious Oscar-worthy bait, it’s best to be skeptical whether or not he can pull it off.

Don’t get me wrong.  I’d be happy to be wrong and blown away by Perry’s bid to become an first-tier director.   The fact that he’s immediately slipping back into Madea’s padded bra after For Colored Girls indicates to me Perry isn’t going to stray far from what it was that put money in his pocket in the first place.

The Boondocks serves up a Tyler Perry smackdown.

  

Hey Aaron, you wouldn't hit a lady would you? Or a man pretending he's a lady?

I’ve had a love/hate relationship with Aaron McGruder’s The Boondocks.  I loved The Boondocks as a newspaper comic strip and raised hell trying to get my local fish wrap to carry if.   I’ve found The Boondocks the cartoon on  The Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim to be occasionally funny and other times totally laugh-free.   A recent episode where thug wannabee Riley goes on a vandalism rampage with a psychotic classmate who arms himself with a gun wasn’t the least bit funny.   In its third (and last) season The Boondocks has been more miss than hit.  

But when it does hit, The Boondocks draws blood.  Last week’s episode where McGruder ripped into Tyler Perry for his crappy plays and movies was one such example.  It had me laughing for all the wrong reasons.  It was a crude and obvious shot at Perry as a down-low, predatory homosexual and Jesus-peddling hack.     For now you can still catch all 22 minutes of the frivolity online, but this link could go dead without notice, so hurry yo’ ass up.   

More details from the L.A. Times (yes, I do read a lot).  

In “Pause,” an episode written by McGruder and executive producer Rodney Barnes that aired Sunday, a thinly disguised version of Perry named Winston Jerome is positioned as a closeted, cross-dressing cult leader whose love of the Christian faith is a mask for his true sexuality. Though the character bears little physical or vocal resemblance to Perry, the reference is obvious to those familiar with Perry’s work. The dancing Ma Duke is a clear parody of Madea.
 
 
The Jerome character wears a pink sweater, is surrounded by bare-chested muscular men and constantly proclaims his love for Jesus even as he attempts to seduce Granddad (John Witherspoon), the guardian of the two boys, Huey and Riley Freeman, at the center of the series. The fame-hungry Granddad is trying out for a part in Jerome’s new play, “Ma Duke Finds Herself a Man.”
 
 
Near the end of the episode, Jerome bluntly asks Granddad for sex; the old man responds, “Do you mean to tell me that this whole cross-dressing Christian cult crap is just so you can sleep with men?” “Uh, pretty much, yeah,” says Jerome.
 
The episode marks one of the sharpest public criticisms of Perry. Huey Freeman calls the script for “Ma Duke” “terrible.” The Perry brand has also been blasted by some critics and entertainers such as Spike Lee, who say Perry’s projects perpetuate negative stereotypes, and present a narrow view of African American life.  McGruder and executives for Turner and Adult Swim declined to comment on the episode. Representatives for Perry did not return phone calls.   
 There are news reports Perry was so incensed by the episode he fired his entire writing staff.   Did McGruder have some inside information as to how things work on Team Perry?    Then again, considering how lousy  Perry’s TBS comedy House of Payne  is and amateurish his movies are,  maybe he probably should have fired his writers a long time ago.  

McGruder is probably safe from any threat of litigation from Perry as parody and satire of public figures is legally protected speech.  Like Michael Hastings won’t be receiving any Christmas cards from Gen. Stanley McChrystal, McGruder is probably feeling rather pleased that his put-down of Perry has obviously angered him.  Still, it’s pretty cold how Perry shit-canned a bunch of writers at this time in this crappy economy because he suspected one or more of them ratted him out.  

Perry has made himself  wealthy and powerful by taking some of the broadest oversimplifications about Black life and turning them into empty entertainment.   There’s no questioning his popularity and that millions of people enjoy his simplistic mortality tales.  Still, what’s wrong with faith-based messages of fidelity, family and honoring one’s commitment to their spouse and religion?    Perry’s greatest crime is shallowness and that makes him a prime target for McGruder’s less than tender mercies.  

While McGruder is on point taking Perry to task for overloading his films with Silly Negro foolishness, he’s equally guilty of falling back on it himself.  There’s not a show on television that tosses around “nigga” as casually as The Boondocks.     Having previously offended some viewers with Rosa Parks being bopped by a flying piece of chicken while protesting the R.Kelly trial, McGruder upped the ante by raising Martin Luther King, Jr. from the dead for laughs and to denounce Black folks as “a bunch of niggas.” That little lapse of bad taste would land The Boondocks on TIME’s  Top 10 Most Controversial cartoons    Al Sharpton  would later come calling to demand an apology from the cartoon’s producers.  McGruder would go on to incorporate the controversy into a later episode.  

What makes McGruder so good at what he does is he’s a first-class satirist and he doesn’t care if nobody else appreciates his sense of humor.  A satirist isn’t the same thing as being a comedian.  Comedians try to make people laugh.  Satirists try to make people think.  Sacred cows make the best hamburgers according to Mark Twain and like Twain; McGruder is butchering whatever trend, fad, or personality in his sights.  In the transition from three-panels on newsprint to 20 minutes of celluloid, The Boondocks lost much of its cutting political wit and all of its topicality.   Some of its rude humor still remains though sporadically.  

That doesn’t mean McGruder isn’t immune to pimping other discriminated groups for laughs.   Ma Duke/Winston Jerome serves up a smorgasbord of broadly exaggerated gay stereotypes.   Winston is swishy, effeminate and the embodiment of the predatory homosexual just waiting to pounce on some poor, unsuspecting straight man.   One musical interlude looks like a straight-up rip off (homage would be too benign of a descriptor) of The Rocky Horror Picture Show)   When it comes to forcibly outing closeted celebrities catering to the most offensive depictions of homosexuals  gives a tingle up the collective legs of McGruder and the suits at The Cartoon Network.   Just say no.  “No homo” that is.  

This is supposed to be the third and final season of The Boondocks.  Having given up the comic strip years ago McGruder hasn’t said what his next move will be.  I can’t imagine that a moderately successful cartoon would justify an animated film release, but if Marmaduke and The Smurfs can be turned into a film anything can.   Why not go all the way and make it a live-action movie with Jaden Smith as Huey Freeman?  Or is that too rude and edgy a character for any child of Will Smith to play?  

In the beef with Perry my sympathies are with McGruder.  I defend Perry’s right to make whatever kind of movies he wants to.  I also defend McGruder’s right to call them crap.  I only wish I felt a little  better about it.    That’s the problems with these cranky social commentators.  They do make themselves pretty hard to defend at times.

Spiked! Mars is mad at Madea.

When Madea throws down with Mars who will survive?

Tyler Perry has had enough of taking flak from his fellow director Spike Lee.  On 60 Minutes, Perry fired a few salvos back at Mr. Lee.

Lee had laid the smack down on Perry at the 14th annual Black Enterprise Entrepreneurs Conference last May.

“We’ve had this discussion back and forth. When John Singleton [made Boyz in the Hood], people came out to see it. But when he did Rosewood, nobody showed up. So a lot of this is on us!” Lee said. “You vote with your pocketbook, your wallet. You vote with your time sitting in front of the idiot box, and [Tyler Perry] has a huge audience. We shouldn’t think that Tyler Perry is going to make the same film that I am going to make, or that John Singleton or my cousin Malcolm Lee [would make]. As African-Americans, we’re not one monolithic group, so there is room for all of that. But at the same time, for me, the imaging is troubling and it harkens back to ‘Amos n’ Andy.’ ”

Oh snap.  But wait.  It gets better.

“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. I am a huge basketball fan, and when I watch the games on TNT, I see these two ads for these two shows (Tyler Perry’s Meet the Browns and House of Payne), and I am scratching my head. We got a Black President, and we going back to Mantan Moreland and Sleep ‘n’ Eat?”

In a interview with Byron Pitts, Perry finally slapped back at Lee.

“I would love to read that to my fan base,” Perry said. “Let me tell you what Madea, Brown, all these characters are are bait. Disarming, charming, make-you-laugh bait, so I can slap Madea in something and talk about God, love, faith, forgiveness, family, any of those things, you know. So yes, I think, you know, that pisses me off. It really does.”

“It’s so insulting,” Perry added. “It’s attitudes like that that make Hollywood think that these people do not exist. And that’s why there’s no material speaking to them, speaking to us.”

I like Spike and I wouldn’t watch a Tyler Perry flick if I were dying of a disease and watching it was the cure.  However, Spike really ought to focus on making his own pictures better (She Hate Me anyone?) instead of ripping on another Black man trying to get over.  I can’t understand why the director of Do the Right Thing, 4 Little Girls, Malcolm X, When the Levees Broke and Clockers feels he has to talk trash about someone’s who’s greatest accomplishment so far is to dress up in drag and wave a gun around?  Maybe Spike’s got a bad case  of Little Man Syndrome or something but he really needs to dial it down a notch.

madea

What's more embarrassing? A 6'5" drag queen...

I have no use for Madea, but I do respect the fact that Perry is employing African-Americans both in front and behind the camera.  At least he was.   The roots of Lee’s beef with Perry may be tied to a letter he sent Perry in October 2008 blasting him for firing writers in who attempted to form a union.   Lee wrote:

Tyler,

Come on, man. Being a writer yourself you should know how important it is to be a union member and support union wages and benefits for those who you employ on your writing staff.

Look at the temperature of the country now with corporate greed and with the very few profiting off of the very many. Don’t fall into that trap.

“Do the Right Thing.”

— Spike

Who gets to decide which movies uplift the race and which ones drag it though the mud?  Is there going to be a board that meets to review Spike’s next joint?

Go back and look at She’s Gotta Have It. There are parts of that movie where the acting, direction and the whole nine are so amateurish and bad it hurts.   If Madea puts Black people in a bad light, what’s Mars Blackmon?  The second coming of Malcolm X?

Spike thrives on controversy.   When Miracle at St. Anna dropped,  Spike ginned up some headlines by picking a pointless fight with Clint Eastwood.  Spike complained Eastwood’s Flags of Our Fathers was historically inaccurate for not including Black Marines.   Eastwood slapped back saying the film depicted the Marines who raised the American flag on Mt. Suribachi at Iwo Jima and added Spike should “shut his mouth.”   Spike shot back that Eastwood was acting like “an angry old man.”

The result was Lee’s $45 million dollar epic grossed a measly $9 million and Miracle At St. Anna died a quick death at the box office.  Meanwhile, Perry’s I Can Do Bad All by Myself cost $13 million to make and grossed $45 million.  Advantage: Mr. Perry!

Is the answer for Spike Lee to dog out Tyler Perry because he doesn’t like his films? I don’t like ‘Lil Wayne, but rather than call him a “coon” I just don’t buy his music. Spike needs to clean up his own backyard first. He’s made some brilliant movies that are classics and he’s made absolute garbage.  Perry is still a work in progress. I HOPE he will make something I decide worth watching. But I don’t need Spike telling me to watch Miracle At St. Anna but not I Can Do Bad All By Myself.  I’ll make my own calls.

Spike has every right to say Perry makes crappy movies. I agree and prefer Lee’s films to Perry’s. But John Singleton’s brilliant  Boyz n’ the Hood was made almost 20 years ago.  Since then Singleton has hacked up hairballs such as the cruddy Shaft remake and 2 Fast 2 Furious, a movie so lousy even Vin Diesel had enough sense to stay out of.   Why hasn’t Spike called The Wayans Brothers on the carpet for crimes against cinema such as White Chicks or Little Man?

mars blackmon

...or a 5'6" motormouth?

It comes down to who gets to decide what’s good for Black folks and what’s bad?  That’s a job way above Lee’s pay grade and I never got a ballot to vote on who should get to choose.

I like Spike and I wouldn’t watch a Tyler Perry flick if I were dying of a disease and watching it was the cure. But Spike really ought to focus on making his own pictures better  Anyone with She Hate Me on their resume should think twice before ripping into another director’s films.

What Spike seems to have forgotten until Ron Howard dropped out and he stepped in to direct Inside Man, he had started the new century with  a losing streak of films that had flopped including, The 25th Hour, She Hate Me, Bamboozled before Howard’s producing partner Brian Gratzer threw him a lifeline.    By contrast Perry has directed eight films,  all of which have made money and grossed over $400 million worldwide.

Next up Perry is directing the first film he didn’t write, Ntozake Shange’s For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide (When the Rainbow Is Enuf).   Perry has said he plans to stay behind the camera which means there will be no Madea appearances here.  The film begins shooting in November but already some have begun sniping at Perry wondering aloud how the guy who brought us Madea Goes to Jail can do justice to Shange’s fiercely proud feminist play.

That’s a complaint Spike should well understand.  He faced the same scrutiny when he was making Malcom X.   Who decided it was a good idea to let Mars Blackmon/Mookie direct a biography of a Black icon?

Let’s see what Perry does with “For Colored Girls…” before damning him as a hopeless hack.   If snap judgments had been made about Lee after the amateur night that even Lee admits was She’s Gotta Have It he never would have stepped up his game to Do the Right Thing.

There’s no reason for Spike and Tyler to be knocking each other in public.  First, it’s unseemly for two Black men to be ripping each other this way.  It only makes Lee look petty and jealous and Perry appear as if he can’t take negative appraisal of his work.  Perry never screens his movies for film critics so apparently he thinks he doesn’t need them, but as long as he’s charging for his movies, they are subject to be judged.

I’ve not convinced the audience for a Miracle at St. Anna is the same as I Can Do Bad All by Myself. What I am sure is in a nation of 30 million Black folks there’s enough of them to go around and appreciate both Lee and Perry’s films.   Move over, Spike.  There’s plenty of room for another Black filmmaker even if it’s one you don’t like.

Now that we’ve settled that, where’s Magic Johnson and Isiah Thomas?   These brothers need to kiss and make up.  Oh wait, they already did that…

"Oh Magic, it can never be like it was."