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The Electric Smack Shack

If you hide your ignorance, no one will hit you and you'll never learn.

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Red Tails: I like it!
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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.

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