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Will Oscar Hire "The Help"?

Here's a quickie conversation with Katey Rich and I about Tate Taylor's The Help and its Oscarable cast. We accidentally ran into each other outside the theater (hitting different screenings on the same day) so we decided we should have a brief chat.

How might the ladies campaign? Who really owns the film? Is this an Oscar vehicle for Viola and Emma or something more like momentum for a future Oscar?

Viola Davis and Octavia Spencer are the title characters but we also discuss the work of Emma Stone, Sissy Spacek, Bryce Dallas Howard, and an unrecognizable Jessica Chastain if The Tree of Life is all you have to go on. And that was all I had to go on going in.

The movie opens tomorrow in theaters. Have a listen.

Katey and Nathaniel on "The Help"

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Reader Comments (21)

I just saw the film a few hours ago, and not too long after returning from the screening, I saw the podcast up at Cinema Blend and gave it a listen.

I absolutely loved The Help and really enjoyed the podcast. For whatever reason, I'm still thinking that Emma Stone can get in for Actress, even though her role isn't quite as meaty as those of Viola Davis (should go Lead since she is one; could get a nod either way) and Octavia Spencer (Supporting would be her best bet; arguable if she's a Lead, I think). I'm sort of convinced that she'll be their token young/breakthrough Actress nominee, even though Felicity Jones, Elizabeth Olsen, and - perhaps - Rooney Mara are also competing in that realm.

Anyway, I'm wondering if Davis can score double nominations this year: a highly deserved Lead one for The Help and a Supporting bid for Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close. Her role there is really small but really pivotal, similar to how she was in Doubt but probably not as strong of a role. Not sure how it'll translate to the silver screen...

Either way, I'm with you Spencer being a surefire nominee for Supporting Actress. She was absolutely terrific, and Oscar loves roles like hers.

August 9, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJulian Stark

Julian -- thanks for chiming in! I do really think Spencer has the nom in the bag. Others think I'm not being cautious enough in the prediction.

August 9, 2011 | Registered CommenterNATHANIEL R

Ahhhh!! I'm so excited about this! Great podcast. Informative, entertaining, and not too long. Also glad ya'll (getting in my southern mood) didn't bring the odd "white american journalists getting overly sensitive about potential racism/paternalism on behalf of african americans because of a depiction of a white journalist defending african americans" hypocritical/ironic thing I've been reading in basically all of the early negative reviews of this. It's really a non-issue that people keep trying to make happen. If the book is any indication, this is far less racist than even something like The Blind Side (though not good and a bit condescending, not really racist in its own right). Seeing it for myself Thursday. Can't wait for all the actressing!

August 9, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterDrewB

Aw, I really want to see it now! I would love if Spencer got a nomination. I'm sure Viola will...she's got the Doubt nomination as well as the recent Tony win. It would be cool if Emma could get nominated too, but either way, she'll be a nominee sooner or later.

August 9, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterPhilip

You know, the trailer was so awful for this move that I built up some contempt for it - it was one before EVERYTHING - but the reviews and promises of lots of meaty actressing has got me so excited now.
The person this move helps most is Bryce Dallas Howard. Her filmography is kind of impressive for how much failure it entails - The Village was her starmaker, for goodness sake, then a Von Trier movie no one ever talks about, Shyamalan's worst movie (which is saying so much), two franchise killers, a Twilight movie, and a blight on Eastwood's resume. She has to be talented to be able to survive all that.

August 10, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMike in Canada


August 10, 2011 | Unregistered Commenter/3rtfu11

Drew -- it's a kneejerk reaction because unfortunately Hollywood seems constitutionally incapable of framing black stories without white borders. But in this case there are a few important moments that allow Viola to really own her own story rather than it being Emma's story about how she helped Viola you know? (which is usually the case)

August 10, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterNathaniel R

"If the book is any indication, this is far less racist than even something like The Blind Side (though not good and a bit condescending, not really racist in its own right)"

Drew - that's hardly a recommendation is it? Not as bad as the Blind Side? That's setting the bar rather low. I am beginning to think I prefer outright racism (at least I know where I and the other person stand), than white liberal "we're not really racist, honest we're not! Now don't ask us to change what we do or how we depict race..." justifications.

"...unfortunately Hollywood seems unconstitutionally capable of framing black stories without white borders"

Nathaniel , that's the issue exactly, and I don't think it's knee-jerk (I rather resent the implication, thank you); it happens over and over again, and one good performance by a person of color is supposed to make the rest ok? Certainly Gone with the Wind had at least one very strong black character in Hattie McDaniel; are we saying that 70 years later we can't do better and haven't gotten any farther than that?

August 10, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJanice

Janice -- no, that's not what i'm saying. the important part is later on in the paragraph. Yes, the film SEEMS to be framing a black story with white borders but what i'm saying is that the narrative is such that Viola Davis gets to scramble out and create her own borders. So it is MUCH Better than we've seen in the past in terms of this one issue... though yes, it's part of the issue given Emma's dominance.

If i were to rewrite the screenplay, I think a lot less Emma Stone and a lot more maid stories would make it a more moving film (even though I love Emma Stone)

August 10, 2011 | Registered CommenterNATHANIEL R

The book is wonderful, so I have high hopes for the film. So can Viola Davis go all the way with this to Oscar?

"It's just 'til February."

Also glad that Octavia Spencer is looking at a major breakthrough role here as Minny. If she's anything like what's in the book, watch out. Jessica Chastain is looking like another supporting actress contender too, though if the film itself falters, it might make her lose out. I thought that she might have a better chance with "The Tree of Life," that is until I actually watched the film. Ugh. But that's another topic.

I should go and try to see this tonight, but I'll wait for a full audience on Friday night.

August 10, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterDorian

I can't imagine Disney would want Viola Davis competing against giants like Meryl Streep and Glenn Close. So supporting and get that Oscar win.

August 10, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterPaulie

The most interesting thing to me regardng a Davis nomination is that if it indeed happens, she will be only the second black actress to receive more than one -- Whoopi Goldberg being the other. How is that for an Oscar statistic? At any rate, if the reviews are any indication, she and Spencer both are on the fast track to Academy recognition.

August 10, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterTroy H.

Is that really true no black actress has ever received 2

August 10, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMARK

Paulie...ewww. As for Jessica Chastain, here's my opinion of least to most likely roles for nomination: 1. The Fields (Generally, Hollywood doesn't like the Mann's) 2. Take Shelter (if she gets nominated this year, it's not going to be for what seems like a blatant lead performance) 3. Wilde Salome (Al Pacino's directing. Be afraid for the scenery.) 4. The Tree of Life (Malick's performances never get nominated, even though, because they're the theatre equivalent of playing only for the front row, they should be the benchmark for what screen acting is... but maybe the actor's will finally come around in droves) 5. The Help (seems like too minor a role for nomination buzz traction, even if she's in six movies this year, but anythings possible) 6. Coriolanus. (Ladies and gentlemen, we have...A WIFE. I'd expect this to take the "double nomination supporting actress" traction.)

August 10, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterVolvagia

Excuse me? Ewww what? That's how it's going to likely go with Davis whether you approve of it or not Vag.

August 10, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterPaulie

I don't know the original material but to me this looks like The Oscar movie: period, character driven, inspirational story, prestigious thespians. Optional: gorgeous cinematography and popular soundtrack.
I'd love to see Viola Davis nominated again. If there's someone who should change those statistics about black actresses not being nominated more than once, it's her.

August 10, 2011 | Unregistered Commenteriggy

If Viola does the film version of Fences...the Best Actress Oscar is hers.

August 10, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterTontolove

@MARK: Yup. If there has been another, I don't know about her.

@Iggy: Considering Davis has already distinguished herself by being the only black actress to win more than one Tony for performances in non-musicals (featured in "King Hedley II" and leading in "Fences"), a second nod isn't completely inconceivable, especially when you taken into account the moment that she's having right now in her career.

August 10, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterTroy H.

Viola Davis' biggest competition in the Supporting Actress category this year is Vanessa Redgrave. Also, I worked out in my head and imaginary version of next year's Oscars where Glenn Close is winning Adapted Screenplay, Redgrave for Supporting Actress, and Viola for Best Actress.

August 10, 2011 | Unregistered Commenter/3rtfu11

Oh, Viola, why!?

I haven't seen the complete film yet, but from what I have seen this role totally destroys my adaptation of Tony Kushner's musical "Caroline, or Change" I had going in my head with Davis as Caroline (I don't know if she can sing). And I had the "Lot's Wife" number all planned out...

As of now, the only two dream roles for her I have left are the Detta/Odetta/Susannah role in "The Dark Tower" series (but count on Ron Howard to miscast every role in that epic) and my own sci-fi space marine heroine (yes, another one, shut up) script...

Thanks a lot Viola.
(I think about these things.)

August 11, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterRene

Audra McDonald has won two non-musical Tonys too.

4 in total.

2 in featured actress in a play: "Master Class" & "A Raisin in the Sun"

2 in featured actress in a a musical: "Carousel" & "Ragtime"

I think Viola Davis should go supporting. Wait for the "Fences" role to go lead.

August 11, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterWinnie
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