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Entries in The Help (38)

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"

Monday
Aug082011

10 Word Reviews: Maids, Apes, Robots

A few movies we haven't yet said much about. In the interest of saying something -- more will definitely follow in the case of The Help and The Rise of the Planet of the Apes both of which I suspect we'll be talking about thru Oscar season -- here's two handfuls of words for each.

2011... the year of the put upon maid?

The Housemaid (Im Sang-Soo)
in which a nanny/maid contemplates her own Fatal Attraction
10WR: South Korea continues its Actressy roll. Classy/Trashy, expertly shaped. B+ 

The Help (Tate Taylor)
Maids in the South tell their provoactive stories to a feisty young writer
10WR: Ungainly in telling yet super compelling. Well seasoned cornpone acting.
UPDATE: FULL REVIEW 

Transformers Dark of the Moon (Michael Bay)
giant fucking robots return so that visual f/x may occur and billions may be made
10WR: Surprisingly coherent explosiveness. But debris clears immediately (i.e. totes forgettable) C+ 

Cars 2 (John Lasseter & Brad Lewis)
in which Mater the tow truck, the Jar Jar Binks of Pixar, travels the world.
10WR: Noisy unfunny lemon stuck in traffic jam of easy gags. D-

Septien (Michael Tully)
in which..., no, I don't know what happens. Something about three abused backwoods brothers.
10WR: Incomprehensible indie auteurism. Masturbatory but at least someone's getting off. D

Rise of the Planet of the Apes (Rupert Wyatt)
a science experiment gone awry has deadly simian consequences
10WR: Overly familiar beastie, schocked back to life by superb staging. B+
10 Word Bonus Thought: As new directors go, we suspect Rupert Wyatt could "A"  

COMING SOON: I know that everyone is already talking about Andy Serkis's killer work as "Cesar" in terms of its Oscar battles to come. But I want to let the film settle before I sound off. Anyway, I already suspect this conversation will make me crazy because it'll end up being a "supporting" discussion and "Cesar" is the lead of the film. James Franco's stardom is a red herring ;)