The Butler (2013) Forest Whitaker (Screengrab)

A couple weeks, one of my aces out here threw out this analogy, which I’m sure he stole from someone else, and now (since I know alot of you are not in Hollywood) I’m stealing this analogy to start this review.  If 12 Years a Slave gave you the ‘origins’ of the black experience in America, and Fruitvale Station covered what’s happening right now, then Lee Daniels The Butler is the perfect middle part of the trilogy.  We can be optimistic/cynical about if this keeps going, but none of us can argue about 2013 being a good year for black actors and filmmakers putting product through the traditional system.

On to this film, The Butler is based on the true story of a White House butler who served under numerous presidents in the mid 20th century, which coincided quite nicely with the Civil Rights Movement.  Forrest Whitaker plays the title role here.  He’s won the Oscar before, and even though (like Chewie in 12 Years) his performance and role are less about being ‘showy’ and more about being the centerpiece of the story, my gut tells me he’ll get another Best Actor nom for this film.

And when I say Forrest was the centerpiece of this cast, I’m not kidding.  Off the top of my head, Lenny Kravitz, Mariah Carey, Jane Fonda (playing Nancy Reagan which is hilarious), Terrence Howard, Minka Kelly…the supporting cast is stacked here folks.  I want to single out two other people though.  Oprah is an actress.  I know you know that, but especially if you only know her as ‘OPRAHHHHHHHHHHHHH!’ then it may naturally slip your mind, she’s a good actress.  The other cat I need to pay respect to is Cuba Gooding Jr.  He didn’t really steal any scenes per se, but (especially in my militant days) I know I’ve made my fair share of cracks about the brother and the choices he’s made.  But first showing up as Nicky Barnes in American Gangster, and now this role reminds me, Cuba can go.  Like all of us really, just have to give the man material.

As far as Lee Daniels goes, this is his best film.  He said as much after the screening, but I’m not blowing smoke as a co-sign.  In terms of sheer scope/ambition, he ‘should’ get a Best Director nom.  But across the board, I know this is going to be a tough year.  So we shall see.

Bottom line, definitely recommend seeing when you get a chance.