Rex still reviews movies in New York City. I got to NYC in 1985. Thanks to having my own talk show on VH1 and doing celebrity interviews on local news programs after my VH1 years, I became acquainted with Rex at many screenings through the years. We've chatted. Often, I was the only black person in the screening room when I saw Rex. He was profiled on CBS SUNDAY MORNING and chatted about his celebrity-packed Oscar parties at his New York City apartment. He briefly mentioned some, at the time, current films. He hated GET OUT. Apparently, Rex thought the black characters were robots like in THE STEPFORD WIVES. He just didn't get GET OUT. But he loves GREEN BOOK and he's quoted prominently in the GREEN BOOK commercials now on TV. Previously, Rex loved 12 YEARS A SLAVE. His review was quoted in print ads for that film too. One of the last times I chatted with Rex at a Manhattan screening, he'd just returned from vacation. "Four weeks vacation in the South of France," he said.
And that was the guy telling me why I needed to see 12 YEARS A SLAVE.
Here's my observation on inclusion in network TV news: Rex Reed reviewed three films focused on the Black Experience in America -- 12 YEARS A SLAVE, GET OUT and GREEN BOOK. I never saw a black person review those three films on a network show like CBS SUNDAY MORNING. Rex and I were both at a critics screening for a soon-to-be released comedy called JUNO. It was one of those screenings in which I was the only black person in the room. I loved 2007's JUNO. However, a couple of years later, I came away with this realization after screening another movie that went on to get Oscar nominations. It was a 2009 realization about the way Hollywood saw black people.
If you're 16, white and pregnant, you are a brainy student in high school, you pepper your conversations with whip-smart wisecracks, your supportive and loving parents in the suburbs hook you up with good pre-natal care and an upscale married couple will be happy to adopt your baby. And you have a car. You're called JUNO.
I started my professional TV career in 1980 on the ABC affiliate in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. I was the weekly film critic. On an independent station in Milwaukee, I was half of a film review team. This work on two channels got me tapped by the PBS station in Chicago. I auditioned to be one of the new film critics when Siskel & Ebert left PBS for Disney syndication.
The PBS execs were considering me to be the film review partner to -- Rex Reed. I didn't get the job but I am still proud to this day that I got the audition. Especially since the the sight of African-American film critics seen regularly on TV has been pathetically rare since the 1980s.