Oscar History

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Yet More Hardware For... The Help, The Descendants, The Artist

ACE and IMAGE statues. Why are trophies always nude men? Is Emmy the only girl among trophies?It's the last exhausting stretch of awards season and the mantles of everyone involved with The Help, The Descendants, and The Artist are about to collapse even before they take home their respective Oscars.

The ACE Awards which is short for American Cinema Editors has four film prizes each year for features and the winners this year were

Drama: The Descendants
Comedy: The Artist
Documentary: Freedom Riders*
Animation: Rango

* I mistakenly read this as Freedom Writers when I saw the release and momentarily panicked that the Hilary Swank teaching drama had resurfaced in non-fiction form. The Making Of... Now With More Swank.

The Drama winner at the Eddies generally goes on to win Best Picture, but this year may prove a semi rare exception since The Artist is expected to take home the Oscar. In the hoopla over The Artist being a silent film people keep forgetting that it's also a comedy and if it wins, we have our first comedy winner since Chicago (2002). They're all too rare on the big night.

It's also worth noting that Patton Oswalt hosted the ACE Eddie Awards, his third awards hosting gig of the season. This Just In (Inside My Head): Patton Oswalt To Host The 13th Annual Film Bitch Awards in January 2013! (Well, he does says "yes" a lot. Maybe I should ask?)

USC Scripter goes to an adapted screenplay and the book it rode in on each year and The Descendants won for what we assume was arduous carpel tunnel syndrome-laden man hours of copying and pasting the book's prose into onscreen voiceover. Yeesh. (I'm tired. I don't like The Descendants. Forgive me. Soon we'll be able to move on.) I'd feel worse for Moneyball, a far more graceful screenplay, if Aaron Sorkin hadn't just had a big year with The Social Network.

NAACP Image Awards were almost certain to fall in The Help's win column given its blockbuster status. But it was interesting to see it happen so soon after watching Best Actress and Best Supporting Actress winners Viola Davis and Octavia Spencer have it out with Tavis Smiley about trophies going to black women playing maids in 2011. [Rant: When this Oscar season is over I think we need to have a long discussion in this country about class rather than race for a change. There is absolutely nothing wrong with being a maid. It's honest legal work and why should someone feel ashamed about having a job and doing it? Maybe it's because I used to work in the hotel industry and knew a lot of people who struggled with people looking down on them because of the job they performed. These conversations about The Help feel very tone deaf to one particular fact: there are actual maids in the world and there always will be. These conversations always seem to be saying 'oh god. could there be anything more demeaning than being a maid?' and I'm just not sure how cleaning people's houses or hotel rooms is horrible work you should feel ashamed of but you know, it's fine if you're a white collar person destroying entire swaths of people's livelihoods with shady business practices or pension-fund robbing or lobbying the government for horribly unfair tax codes. I really wish we could over the deeply embedded notion that you're somehow a better person if you have money. The actual quality of a person's character has zero to do with the amount of dollars on their paycheck. The only thing a lot of dollars on the paycheck does, in terms of character, is make it more visible. You can do a lot of evil or a lot of good in the world when you have money but the money itself isn't the determining factor on which you'll choose. /Rant]

Ahem. Sorry. Had to get that off my chest. Speaking of...

Damn, Viola! She's proud of hers, apparently.

So...  The Help took Best Picture. Off the Oscar track, Pariah won best independent movie and Angelina Jolie's In the Land of Blood and Honey won best foreign film. Laz Alonso and Mike Epps took home the actor prizes for the wedding drama Jumping the Broom which also won Best Director. LL Cool J and Regina King won the top TV acting honors for their procedurals, one of those NCIS's and Southland respectively.

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Reader Comments (14)

+1000 on your maid rant.

Sometimes I feel like any film that depicts anyone less-than-middle class gets labelled as some sort of poverty porn. As if it's revelling in misery just to show how a huge amount of people actually live their lives! It would be only be demeaning if the characters were not fully rounded human beings- Viola Davis ensures this is not the case in The Help.

I hate that when any film makes an effort to depict an under-represented group of people, there'll be a big hullabaloo over the fact that it isn't a proper representation of them. How can one film do this? The problem is not that one film that tries, it's the many, many others that don't even bother. Maids are background in heaps of films but I never heard such a loud discussion about them until The Help.

February 19, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterSVG

I love that pic of Viola. I love that dress. I love what's underneath the dress.. I love the talent that's so incredible that others want to recognize it so that dress gets a chance to be seen.


February 19, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterZach

I think when people are making legitimate claims about The Help as a race incompetent film, they are speaking more to the "white savior" factor.

February 19, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterTim

And the other problem is that Hollywood has an obsession with the depiction of black people as tropes for the feel-good racism movie. They are not often round characters in service to a plot organic to contemporary living; they're often part of a muddled history lesson. I think Tate Taylor's recent quote sums up in part why I really don't like this film: “The scene where Viola Davis is sitting on a toilet in a garage in 108 degrees, and then a white woman comes out and tells her to hurry up was visually brutal. To me that’s worse than seeing a lynching. It just is.”

I don't need to see a lynching, but that's just a totally out-of-touch quote.

Okay, one more: I think I'm just tired of the perpetual "Mammy" and "noble savage" roles that black people have to play in movies about racism.

February 19, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterTim

Tim -- I mostly agree with everything you're saying but i also think all the well meaning anger about the "maid" thing from so many quarters is also grossly out of touch or least too dangerously unfocused and I just feel bad for maids lately ;) . For instance, I've always thought a feature film about a crucial point in both labor history and african american history -- the prolonged horrible fight over wages for sanitation workers in Memphis in the 60s and how it connected to Martin Luther King Jr's death -- could make a compelling dramatic feature. Should no one make that feature because it would be demeaning to have black men playing garbagemen?

I realize the anger is not really about the "maids" but about the lack of a broader range of roles for women of color and i definitely think that anger is justified. but i think The Help is the wrong place to direct the anger since it's a period piece ABOUT MAIDS. -- I think at some point we'll all have to accept that when period pieces are made they're going to reflect things about the past that make us uncomfortable today.

February 19, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterNathanielR

Oh yeah, I'm totally with you there. Some people are getting the wrong message about why the film is problematic. I think some historical depictions are better handled than others. I can't emphasize the white savior thing enough in this case. :-)

February 19, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterTim

There is absolutely nothing wrong with being a maid. Well said.

PS Viola don't go that way again. It's vulgar and you don't need it. You're talented enough.

February 19, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterPeggy Sue

^ How is it vulgar? A woman can't show her cleavage? If a man had his shirt open at the top, it would be no big deal. *Sigh* Women have always been the subject of sexual objectification, so their bodies continue to be overly sexualized, and somehow cleavage makes someone vulgar. It's a dress, and those are her boobs. Big deal. And just for the record, she said she didn't realize her boobs were going to be out like that when she got the dress.

Lol, one problem after another for women in hollywood...

February 19, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterPhilip

Sorry, my inner-feminist came out...

February 19, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterPhilip

I'm not sure I agree with you Nathaniel. Obviously, a quality of person equals their paycheck about as accurately as a the quality of a film equals it's box office gross. But I think you're ignoring/hijacking the debate a little bit.

February 19, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterArkaan

I'm not ignoring the debate but maybe i'm hijacking it a little. Guilty.

and yes what i said is "obvious" like DUH! but I actually don't believe that people believe it. well at least not Republicans who most definitely believe that Rich people are better than poor people. I was just sick of the insensitivity of the conversation. I just needed to get that off my chest. Being a maid does not equate to being a retrograde nightmare. They're just people earning a living like anyone else.

February 19, 2012 | Registered CommenterNATHANIEL R

Nat: Agreed!
Tim: I also don't quite understand the "white savior" argument. Was Skeeter even a savior as depicted in the film? She basically got one main character fired, and the others' situation was maybe pride wise (or long term, for a historical perspective) improved by the book, but Skeeter never "saved" anyone in the literal sense. Should the black maids have published a book on their own? Unfortunately, that would have been highly unrealistic given the time period. Unless you completely and utterly change the plot of the story, I'm not sure how you dispose of the Skeeter character. If anything, this story could be superficially viewed as a white woman using black women to get ahead. Not a "white savior" type thing. Though, this clearly wasn't the intention of the white woman involved, so, I'm not sure that holds up either. I for one celebrate a film that brings together white and black characters, and gives them both something to do (I'm including Jessica Chastain's character in that).

February 19, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterDrewB

Nat- completely agree on your "rant" re: class issues- you speak truth, brother! It's inescapable that we live in a culture in which the worth of an individual is very much connected to their job, their income and their lot in life. Which may help explain (in part at least) the phenomenon (epidemic) of reality tv and the hunger to become a "celebrity", to be "worth something".

February 20, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJanice

White savior? Noble savage? I guess we can forget about it maybe, just maybe, being about women, black AND white, who help EACH OTHER. I know Skeeter's this rich white girl and everything, but she's not exactly rich with opportunities, you know? Her plight may not be equal to the maids', but she can still have issues of her own. Don't we all?

February 21, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterWalter L. Hollmann
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