You are currently browsing the category archive for the ‘The Help’ category.

My writeups, if you haven’t already gathered, rank  the nominees in reverse order of how I like them.  But here, as John mentioned, we’re ranking the best picture movies as if we were Oscar voters.

1. The Artist.  Yeah, picking this film is almost cliche at this point in awards season.  But that’s only because it is the best film of this lot by leaps and bounds.  The others really aren’t in the ballpark.  At this point I’ve waxed rhapsodic about so many aspects of the movie that really, all that’s left to say is that all these wonderful aspects of the film: writing, directing, acting, cinematography, just everything all combines together into one really great movie.

2. Midnight in Paris.  It is a sign of how poor an Oscar year it is that when I saw the film over the summer, I was wavering over whether I thought I’d give it Oscar consideration and now it is my second-favorite film of those nominated.  It is light, fun, and not particularly deep.

3. The Help.  It is a decent movie, and pretty much nothing like what people are projecting onto it.  Race issues get people riled up, and I don’t know if that’s good or bad, but if you can look past all that, you’ve got a fine movie.  Maybe a little bit bloated and unfocused at times, but it is funny, warm, and entertaining.  Not one of the nine best movies of the year, but certainly no outrage.

4. The Descendants.  And here’s the part of the list with films that make me go, “Eh.”  I currently have  this film as the 36th best movie of the year.  There are certainly plenty of good things about the movie, like George Clooney and Judy Greer and Matthew Lillard and Shailene Woodley constantly being in a bikini.  Each of us has voiced our problems with the plot, chiefly the underdeveloped plotline surrounding the land deal.

5. Moneyball.  As I’ve mentioned, great job figuring out how to turn the book into a movie, but they didn’t get quite all the way there.  Every single supporting character seemed underdeveloped and underutilized to me.  But hey, it is hard to be angry about a best picture-nominated film about the economics of baseball.

6. Everything Loud and Incredibly Close.  Another one of those issue movies where people make all sorts of outlandish claims about the film trying to “solve” some really huge issue and obviously failing to do so.  It is insane, to me, that anyone could think this film was about healing the wounds from 9/11.  Sure, clearly, the events form the backdrop here, but the movie is much smaller than that.  It is about a kid who lost his dad, isn’t particularly close to his mom, and is trying to figure out his world.

7. War Horse.  Not as bad as some people would have you believe, but hardly a great movie.  My biggest problem was that it was hard to get attached to any character, so while obviously it was sad when they died and happy when they lived, it wasn’t that sad or happy.

8. Hugo.  Just a bad movie and and a horrible movie-watching experience.  Sure, it is pretty and it is great that it references the birth of cinema.  But I dunno, I prefer my movies to have an interesting story and not be boring.

9. The Tree of Life.  Speaking of boring movies that don’t have a story!  Look, I understand if you want to make the argument that this film is high art.  I won’t even disagree.  But as a movie, it is horrendous.  One of the items on the film’s imdb trivia page states that in an Italian theater, two reels of the film were switched and nobody realized the mistake for an entire week.  If your film can be shown out of order for an entire week, there is something seriously, fatally, tragically wrong with it.  I’m not saying it is the worst movie I’ve ever seen in my life, but I’m also not saying I’ve ruled it out.

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Unlike other categories where voters pick one nominee, in Best Picture they rank them 1-9. Therefore my pick the winners post will follow the same format.

1. Midnight in Paris. In a season filled with nostalgic pursuits, this is the only one that seriously worked for me. It’s just an absolute delight and I had so much fun watching it. It has an enjoyable, original story and fills it with interesting characters. They’re most characters you’re already familiar with, but the film’s takes on them and their interactions are a good time. It’s all just a whimsical fantasyland. And its simple if elegant message about the nature of the past and nostalgia hit home for me.

2. The Tree of Life. Ambitious, beautiful, moving, grand. I love its structure of wispy memories paired with gorgeous music. It’s a bizarre creature that washed over me and I loved it. Plus it’s the only nominee with dinosaurs.

3. The Help. Probably the film here that surprised me the most. It’s very entertaining and I found it really effectively evoked a time and place (which always helps get me through the times the schmaltz gets dialed up to eye-rolling level). Great performances as well.

4. The Descendants. I didn’t love it, but it has some undeniable beautiful, heartfelt sentiments and moments. Even as the stories never really came together in a satisfying manner – this is the only movie where I wanted to hear more about a perpetual trust! – a sense of sadness settled within me. I have a lot of goodwill for this film though I wanted it to be more.

5. The Artist. I just never took to this like everyone else seems to have. It’s fine enough, but there’s just not enough there. It gets some flak for being slight in that it’s thematically light, but its bigger sin is being narratively slight. Not enough happens and the thrill of the silent, black and white aesthetic wears off.

6. Moneyball. I can’t deny its technical proficiencies, but even after a second viewing it still feels like maybe a quarter of a story. I just think the filmmakers concentrated on parts of the Moneyball story that I find less interesting.

7. Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close. I never expected to like this and hell if it isn’t… adequate. It can be contrived and exasperating, but its unique perspective and occasional moments of earned emotion pull it through.

8. Hugo. It just didn’t do much for me. In fact, it mostly just bored me. I kept waiting for the magic to begin… then it ended. I guess my hard heart is a tough nut to crack.

9. War Horse. I’m going to ruin this movie for you: it’s just a damn horse. So when people do a bunch of stupid stuff for the main character they’re doing stupid stuff for a horse. And judging from the music you’d think the horse scores a winning touchdown every 20 minutes or so. Still, it has a few good WWI scenes.

The 84th Academy Awards is almost here! Leading up to the event, we’re going to put all the hours we spent watching these films to good use by giving our thoughts on all the categories, big and small. We may not be experts on everything, but I daresay that’s never stopped anyone from blogging before. On the (very remote chance) you disagree with us or the (much more likely chance) you want to applaud our picks, please chime in below.

Actress in a Leading Role

The nominees are:

  • Glenn Close, Albert Nobbs
  • Viola Davis, The Help
  • Rooney Mara, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
  • Meryl Streep, The Iron Lady
  • Michelle Williams, My Week with Marilyn

JOHN

This is a tough category this year. I think, by a hair, the best performance of the year came from Meryl Streep. Not only did she have to tackle playing a real person but at a variety of ages in different stages of mental decline. This film calls for her to dodder around in her senility and jabber with the ghost of her dead husband but she handles it well. I shudder to think how bad The Iron Lady would have been without such a good central performance.

But if I’m being honest I’m rooting for Viola Davis. She’s always awesome and maybe a win would land her some more sizable, and meatier, roles. Streep already has two Oscars and I don’t think she’d begrudge her pal Viola a win. If I have any complaint about Davis in The Help it’s that she painfully out-acts Emma Stone in too many of their shared scenes!

I didn’t like My Week With Marilyn and I wasn’t looking forward to seeing it, but hell if Michelle Williams isn’t very good in it. She does a good job channeling Marilyn Monroe, including her insecurities and playfulness. I suspect I enjoyed Glenn Close’s performance more than my colleagues. I’m not sure she would have made my list but she really sells the restraint and social ineptitude of her character. And while I’m fine with Rooney Mara, I wonder how much of it is that she gets to sport an accent and wear a bunch of leather. I can’t recall ever being particularly taken by her performance.

And if I had my druthers I’d stick Elizabeth Olsen in.

JARED

Oscar did well here.  It would have been hard for them to do poorly, but they’ve shown a certain capability for that.  I’ve now seen Rooney Mara in four movies (this one, Youth in RevoltThe Social Network, and The Winning Season) and I’m very much impressed with her mutability.  I’d love to see her in an action spy show like Alias, or, at least, what I’m assuming Alias was.  She’s good here, but given what the character did for Noomi Rapace, I wonder if the love here is actually for the role.

Albert Nobbs is a challenging portrayal to reward.  The character has devoted his or her life to staying in the background, inconspicuous.  So Close is all small, controlled mannerisms here.  I think it is a performance that needs to sit a little bit to really appreciate, to get how she played at being a man, not really sure of her place in society when not at work.

I may have Davis third, but she’s absolutely deserving of the statue.  I’m not really one for race debates, especially when it comes to Oscar, because then you end up with Crash.  All I want to say is that should Davis take home the trophy, regardless of what caused people to vote for or against her, she’s a fantastic actress who earned the award on merit.

Not like I have anything new to say about Meryl Streep.  Other than that I hope she’s in the sequel to RED.

It isn’t news that I’m in the tank for Michelle Williams.  I’m assuming something was planted in brain when I saw Dick in theaters, but my love more directly stems from The Station Agent and The Baxter.  Anyway, Michelle’s Marilyn is a heck of a performance.  To take such an iconic figure and breathe such life and nuance into it?  Man.  She did Marilyn when she was on, when she was drugged, when she was nervously trying to act.  She dominates the film and is such a joy to watch.

BRIAN

Rooney Mara

ADAM

Rooney Mara

The 84th Academy Awards is almost here! Leading up to the event, we’re going to put all the hours we spent watching these films to good use by giving our thoughts on all the categories, big and small. We may not be experts on everything, but I daresay that’s never stopped anyone from blogging before. On the (very remote chance) you disagree with us or the (much more likely chance) you want to applaud our picks, please chime in below.

Actress in a Supporting Role

The nominees are:

  • Berenice Bejo, The Artist
  • Jessica Chastain, The Help
  • Melissa McCarthy, Bridesmaids
  • Janet McTeer, Albert Nobbs
  • Octavia Spencer, The Help

ADAM

Berenice Bejo.  (He is a man of a few words.)

BRIAN

This is the first of a series of posts where I am generally apathetic about the winner. The distance between my pick and my least favorite nominees in supporting actress is pretty narrow, so I won’t dwell on this bunch much. Missing in this group is Jessica Chastain for Take Shelter, Shailene Woodley in The Descendants (I don’t want to hear it, Jared), Helen McCrory in Hugo, and Allison Pill in Midnight in Paris. All would have been strong contenders for my pick but since all were ignored, here we go:

I didn’t like Albert Nobbs very much at all, and contrary to John’s crackpot theories about her being a ringer for the Babysitter Bandit from “The Simpsons”, Janet McTeer wasn’t anything revelatory in it. I actually was surprised that she wasn’t in it for longer, considering the buzz she had been getting. Melissa McCarthy was funny and stole the show in Bridesmaids, but this also didn’t really stick with me. Much like the movie is getting notice and recognition for writing a gross-out movie for females, McCarthy was nominated for playing the gross-out role usually portrayed by men. But just because its novel doesn’t mean its anything special.

As for The Help performances, I liked Chastain and Octavia Spencer in their respective roles. I was more disappointed to not see Bryce Dallas Howard nominated for playing against type and really chewing the scenery in the fun “Worst Racist Ever” role. Chastain had a tremendous year — I clearly would have preferred to see her nom’d for Take Shelter — so I think this is mostly a cumulative nod. Spencer wasn’t playing a very nuanced role, so she never got to show the depth her fellow cast member Viola Davis did.

My pick would go to Berenice Bejo — She was an adorable ingenue with heart, class, smarts and that came through with having much less screen time than Jean Dujardin. I’d be really pleased if she took home the Oscar, even though that’s looking increasingly unlikely.

JOHN

This slate of nominees sure shows of the year’s range of quirky characters. We’ve got the silent actress hamming it up, the over-the-top bubbly blonde, the sassy black maid, the woman dressed as a man, and the overweight weirdo from a buddy movie. With a group like that I get worried about distinguishing the acting from the written character. Of course the performer goes a long way in building a character… but it helps when the script gives them good lines. Still, it’s a fine group.

I guess I think of this most in regards to Melissa McCarthy. She steals a lot of scenes, but that’s the job the script gives her. I know McCarthy has some range. Check out the differences between her work in Bridesmaids compared to more softer roles in “Mike & Molly” or “Gilmore Girls.” I especially dug the confident bravado she brings to the character, but, like with many performers in the Apatow oeuvre, I feel like I can see the wheels turning in her head during more improvised scenes and she’s just spit-balling lines. So, I’m conflicted and sway back and forth.

Spencer will probably walk away with the Oscar, but I think I somewhat prefer Jessica Chastain. I can’t really explain what drew me to her and it may also have to do with her all around extraordinary year. If she got a nod for Take Shelter instead it would have been a slightly easier decision. Both are quite memorable in The Help and I think Chastain ends up displaying a little more range. Honestly, it’s possible I would even abstain in this category if I were a real voter since I don’t really care much who wins among this solid if not mind-blowing crop.

JARED

Sorry for pulling a Brian here, but I’m a little miffed Elle Fanning didn’t make the cut, especially in a year with a theme of Hollywood on Hollywood.  On a plane ride with access to Super 8 after I’d already seen it in theaters, I fat-fingeredly found my way to the scene around the train crash, where she first “acts” and where she pretends to be a zombie, just because she’s so good in them.

Without a doubt, the best performance of this lot is Berenice Bejo.  Her role required a wide range of emotions and the ability to express them both broadly and in a subtle manner.  Additionally, the character and movie required a good deal of physicality.  And get your mind out of the gutter, I’m talking about her dancing and just motion in general.  Unfortunately, I have a little bugaboo about category fraud and to me, Bejo is a clear lead of The Artist.  As such, I can’t give her my vote, sadly.

Jessica Chastain, like an increasingly impressive number of twenty-somethings, appeared on Veronica Mars, and thus will always have my respect.  I realize she pretty much “had” to be nominated, given her year, but I don’t buy that reasoning.  You want to celebrate someone for being solid in a bunch of movies that happened to be released in the same year?  Fine.  Create an award to honor it.  We did, sorta, doing a Laura Linney of the year a few years back.  But Oscar should be for a single performance.  And I just don’t see it here.  Chastain, to be sure, was fine in the role, but there’s nothing to distinguish her from, say, Bryce Dallas Howard.

If Janet McTeer had a few more scenes, I could see her atop my rankings.  I was particular impressed with how she seemed to move and have the presence of a man, particularly of her (presumably lower middle) class.  It was an interesting juxtaposition with Close’s more timid, androgynous Nobbs.

I love that Melissa McCarthy got an Oscar nomination.  Just such an un-Oscar role.  Obviously having a good script helps a ton.  But comedy is an underappreciated talent, I think.  There’s so much that goes into timing and the ability to be funny on screen even after multiple takes.  And especially with physical comedy it is so tough not to go over the line and just look stupid.

But I’m going to go with the consensus (among awards-giver-outers, at least) and pip Octavia Spencer here.  It is a character type that doesn’t often receive Oscar love, so I’m glad to see it rewarded.  Spencer is, in large part, comic relief, but she does get a depth and some meaning to her character, aided in large part by the nuance she brings to it.  In a group of solid performances, she’s just a little bit stronger.

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