by Dwight Hobbes
Picked up The Last King of Scotland. Always liked it as a big-time Forest Whitaker fan. Also, there’s a solid script and tight ending.
The cast includes Kerry Washington along with Gillian Anderson in one of her few featured roles since X-Files. Always didn’t like, though, that the story is more about some fictional White man than it is about infamous Ugandan dictator Idi Amin (who, I have it on good authority, actually existed.)
It brought to mind another of my favorite movies that I have a beef with: Geronimo. Which is more about the White men chasing this legendary Apache warrior than it is about him. Even worse, at least Whitaker got top billing for The Last King of Scotland.
I saw Geronimo at the theater and couldn’t believe what I was looking at as soon as the place got dark and I got into my munchies. It starts and, as opening titles roll, all we get are White names: Gene Hackman, Matt Damon, Jason Patric. Then, tacked on behind, is Wes Studi as Geronimo.
I was ready to get up and go home, but it was a chance to see Studi, a hellified actor, do his thing. So I stayed. And he was great.
I suppose we’re lucky Ray, starring Jamie Foxx, spent its entirety focused on Ray Charles. For that, thank producer-director Taylor Hackford (La Bamba, Officer and a Gentleman), a White man with juice who wasn’t the least bit concerned about kissing White audiences’ behinds. Talk about an exception proving the rule.
Hollywood refuses to relinquish its delusion that the world is all about White folk. But all is not quite lost. The contemporary classic Cadillac Records was in the hands of powerful Black women who were taking no shorts, executive producer Beyonce Knowles and director-screenwriter Darnell Martin.
You had, front and center, principals of color kicking it, taking names and addresses in this gem about artists on historic blues and rock n’ roll label Chess Records. Knowles stars as Etta James, Jeffrey Wright as Muddy Waters, Columbus Short as Little Walter, Eamonn Walker as Howlin’ Wolf, Cedric The Entertainer as Willie Dixon, and Mos Def as Chuck Berry, with Gabrielle Union playing Geneva Wade.
And you have to give it up to White actor Adrien Brody, razor sharp as Leonard Chess. Too bad one shouldn’t stand on one foot waiting for the next such authentic effort instead of the watered-down, bleached-out concept Hollywood hustles.
The Last King of Scotland and Geronimo are better than nothing. After all, they showcase historic figures of color. You have to be thankful for small favors and take at least some solace these days in whatever progress Hollywood grudgingly makes.
<i>Dwight Hobbes welcomes reader responses to email@example.com.</i>