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Entries in The Help (38)

Friday
Aug262011

I'm Linking As Fast As I Can

The Hairpin has a huge piece on Ava Gardner's career, femme fatale posing, and storied romantic life. I always always forget she was married to Mickey Rooney because it just seems so wrong.
My New Plaid Pants Thursdays Ways Not To Die... Fashion Faux- Pwned (Serial Mom)
The Critical Condition looks at three (unfortunate) differences between "The Help" as a book and The Help as a movie. 

 

Movie|Line first pics from Bel Ami --not an historical epic about the gay porn studio -- wherein Robert Pattison sexes up various actresses we like: Uma Thurman (pictured below), Christina Ricci and Kristin Scott Thomas
The Wow Report congratulations Carrie Fisher on her new look. Jenny Craig worked wonders! 
Cinema Blend Universal keeps dropping film projects. What's going on? 
Grantland predicts the Worst Supporting Actress for this year's Razzies. Agreed that Blake Lively's got at least a nomination sewn up for Green Lantern.
Socialite Life Michael Ian Black recalls his sex scene with Bradley Cooper in Wet Hot American Summer. (Cooper is the only holdout so far on a sequel.) 
IndieWire Jim Carrey's video love letter to Emma Stone. So random.

Finally, did you hear about the big Scarface reunion party to celebrate a special edition BluRay release? Scarface himself Al Pacino, Oscar winner F Murray Abraham, 80s character actor Robert Loggia and 80s hunk Steven Bauer were on hand. But without Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio (what, was she too busy?) and especially without Elvira herself, Michelle Pfeiffer, what is even the point? I'm assuming Pfeiffer wasn't there because she's filming Tim Burton's Dark Shadows in London at the moment. But if The Avengers cast can leave Cleveland for a 10 minute walk on at that Disney convention last week, shouldn't they have flown La Pfeiffer cross the Atlantic to class up that party a little? 

Thursday
Aug252011

Who is Jessica Chastain?

Here's pretty much all that we know about her: She was raised in North Carolina, she just turned 30, she's in every seventh movie opening in 2011, and though we've only seen three of them thus far (The Tree of Life, The Help and Take Shelter) it takes a minute in each to realize that yes, that's her. Even in photoshoots she seems to be more than one person.

Is she a moldable young starlet?
Is she a Swintonesque Off-Hollywood provocateur?
Is she a Lead Star just waiting for her own vehicles?

Further IMDb and Wikipedia grazing reveals that she graduated from Juillard and that her best friend is the actress Jess Weixler (of Teeth fame. How about that?) but the point is this: we like people we can't pin down immediately.

I don't want to play the same character twice. There's something about the feeling of 'I don't think I can do this.' If you have that moment of doubt, you have to rise up and meet it. I learn from my failures more than my successes."
-Chastain to Michael Musto at the premiere of The Debt 

Hitting a Take Shelter screening last night I tweeted "Okay, Jessica Chastain. Show me what else ya got" Of her three summer performances (her fourth The Debt opens soon) it's the least impressive but it's almost the most telling. 'What I got' was the surest indication yet that she's a future Oscar winner as she embraced their favorite role, the long suffering wind-beneath-her-husband's-wings type, with such unfussy naturalistic ease.

Regarding Oscar...
While she's ethereal and lovely in The Tree of Life it seems less an acting feat than a well judged minimalist act to allow Terrence Malick and Emmanuel Lubezki's camera and the rich scoring to fill her Way of Grace with meaning. Auteur vessel performance are rarely nominated. While she's hugely entertaining in The Help she probably has too much internal competition for traction. And her most Oscar-friendly role in Take Shelter is within a film that one suspects will be too under the radar for Oscar. She may have to wait for the Kodak theater but it'll be exciting to watch her work her way there.

Sunday
Aug142011

Box Office: The Rise of the Rise of... 

"Cesar is home"... at the top of the box office charts for a second week. The Help's first week bow is nothing to deny though, particularly as it's bound to have legs at the box office since it skews adult. And adults aren't as likely to storm theaters on opening weekend. Expect The Help to leap frog The Apes next weekend as Conan the Barbarian, Fright Night and One Day fight it out for dominance as newbies.

Box Office Dozen (estimates)
01 RISE OF THE PLANET OF THE APES $27.5 (cumulative $104.8)
02 THE HELP [review] $25.5 (cum $35.3)
03 FINAL DESTINATION 5 $18.4 
04 THE SMURFS $13.5 (cum $101.5)
05 30 MINUTES OR LESS $13 
06 COWBOYS AND ALIENS $7.6 (cum $81.4)
07 CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE FIRST AVENGER [review$7.1 (cum $156.8)
08 CRAZY STUPID LOVE [your take $6.9 (cum $55.4)
09 HARRY POTTER AND THE DEATHLY HALLOWS PART TWO [review$6.8 (cum $356.9)
10 THE CHANGE-UP $6.2 (cum $25.7)
11 GLEE: THE 3D CONCERT MOVIE [review$5.7 
12 HORRIBLE BOSSES $2.4 (cum $110)

Talking Points:
Our 'Star Spangled Man' has entered the top ten of 2011 just behind a movie nobody seems to think was a hit: Kung Fu Panda 2. But how high will the Apes rise? After two weeks it's the 18th biggest grosser of the year. Woody Allen's Midnight in Paris, now on its last legs, will probably cross the $50 million mark this week. Well done Sony Pictures Classics!

What did you see this weekend? Or do you wait 'til Sunday night to hit the theaters?

Sunday
Aug142011

Melissa Harris-Perry and "The Help"

I fear that I may have to retitle the blog "The Help Experience" but that's okay. This kind of happens when Oscar contenders show up and get everyone talking. Soon there will be more of them and The Help won't hog so much attention.

If you haven't yet read my review, do that please (they don't write themselves!) but today I wanted to discuss Melissa Harris-Perry's righteous fury at the movie (There is a lot of this going around which Sasha Stone discussed recently though Perry was never mentioned).

For those of you who don't Perry she's a professor of political science at Tulane University, her new book "Sister Citizen: Shame, Stereotypes and Black Women in America" just came out, and she's regularly on political programs as a talking head.  She's also one of the smartest people alive. Every time she's on television I swoon. When her segments are over I often feel as if the fog has cleared from the subject under scrutiny, her commentary is so perceptive and accessible. Gender, race and politics of the South are kind of her thing so, naturally, she HATED The Help. But she was amusing about it so I thought I'd share her disgruntled tweets.

They're not as incisive and genius as her political commentary but 140 characters, y'know. Read on!

Click to read more ...

Friday
Aug122011

Sandra Bullock on Octavia Spencer

Methinks Octavia Spencer, currently stealing The Help (reviewed) as pie-baking Minnie, already has one Oscar vote. Here's Sandra Bullock on her former co-star from A Time To Kill (1996):

Her energy and personality are so infectious that any room she walks into, everyone wants to be her friend, or just hang out with her and be in her space. Now, that doesn't always mean someone like that has a talent for the camera, but in this case it does.

When you meet her, you know she is destined to entertain. I know not all people with tremendous talent are given the opportunities that they so deserve, but in this case a lifelong friendship with Tate Taylor brought together two very talented people who deserve success and who are grateful for it. This opportunity will not go wasted or be abused by one fabulous Octavia Spencer.

That quote is from the new Backstage profile of Octavia Spencer in which Octavia's career thus far is mapped out. I didn't know this but it turns out that she was on the casting team of A Time To Kill before getting a role, her first. (I tried valiantly to find a photo of them together, but no luck). Spencer had previously intended to be a producer, not an actress. She credits Sandra Bullock for giving her the push!

Thursday
Aug112011

Review: "The Help"

The first storyteller is Aibilene (Viola Davis), a black maid raising her 17th white baby in the Jim Crow south. She can't answer the question of what it feels like to raise another woman's baby when you've left yours behind at home. It's an overwhelming opening inquiry to be sure. Though it's immediately clear Aibilene is being interviewed, we don't know why and for what purpose as The Help begins. This type of prologue is common in movies as you get a peek at what's to come before stepping back to the beginning, but the introduction is important: Abilene is the first person we meet and the narrative voice of the movie. 

Viola Davis even listens with dramatic depth!

Though mainstream Hollywood has proven time and again that they're constitutionally incapable of telling black stories without a white frame --  in this case Emma Stone's frizzy haired provocateur "Skeeter" who is secretly writing a book about the experience of maids in Jackson, Mississippi -- The Help, however subtlely (and perhaps accidentally), suggests with its Davis-centric opening and closing passages that Abilene is capable of creating frames of her own, thank you very much. In fact, she'd rather write her own story than tell it to another writer.

So she does.

Mm-hmm. It's Octavia Spencer as Minny, a surefire Oscar nominee.If Tate Taylor's adaptation or Kathryn Stockett's bestseller were confident enough in Aibilene's voice to downplay Skeeter's this would be a much more revelatory movie, and surely a more painful one, but we're dealing with the movie we've got which is essentially both of theirs.

The story, or, more accurately, stories of The Help are passed like batons throughout the movie. Deep breath now: Skeeter who wants to be writer has a starter job as a cleaning advice columnist which leads her to conversations with (baton pass); Aibilene who is dealing with personal grief and a weak-willed bad-mommy employer; Elizabeth (Ahna O'Reilly) who is continually pushed towards racist actions by local queen bee; Hilly (Bryce Dallas Howard) who loves lording her power over her mother, local girls, maids and the town outcast; Celia (Jessica Chastain) who is loud and 'trashy' but really loves her maid; Minny (Octavia Spencer), the best cook in town and Aibilene's BFF, who has a sharp tongue and is at war with Hilly.

Though it's easy to take potshots at The Help  -- we might discuss those soon -- it's also somewhat ungenerous since The Help is well meaning and entertaining and best of all affords us the rare opportunity of seeing several watchable actresses chewing on a meaty multi-course feast together. Sometimes they mistake the scenery for another course (Bryce Dallas Howard and Jessica Chastain may both provoke heated arguments about the line betweena "type" and a caricature) but this was bound to happen. Chief among the delights in the acting arena is watching the dependable Viola Davis (Doubt, Far From Heaven) take the reins of a movie for once instead of stealing the whole thing in one scene or two.

The interplay between the characters makes up the bulk of the entertainment value, since with its sometimes candy color glossiness and very brief detached asides to actual history (usually on television sets), it's obviously not going for a deep historical rendering of the violent racist south. The movie would have done well to jettison much of Skeeter's story, both for pacing (it's far too long) and thematic strength, but Stone is such an engaging actress that it feels strange to object to having more of her around. Her storyline does eventually return, movingly, to the subject at the heart of The Help.

In the end where The Help wins over its audience, provided that they're okay with a surface take on a deep troubling subject, is with its trio of central performances. The intertwining still relevant topics of civil rights struggles, labor and racism are so large and overwhelming that it can be hard to breathe in their vicinity. What potency The Help does achieve it gets from its entertaining actresses sharing the thick pressure cooker air: Davis inhales, Stone fumes, Spencer erupts.

One final exasperated exhale from Aibilene is just the right cathartic move to end with. The audience breathes with her. And isn't this her story after all?

Related:
Oscar Discussion With Katey 
Review Index 

Tuesday
Aug092011

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"