Archive for Sissy Spacek

The Help

Posted in Drama, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on December 1, 2012 by Mystery Man

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PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

Aibileen Clark (Viola Davis) is a middle-aged black maid who has spent her life raising white children and has recently lost her only son. Minny Jackson (Octavia Spencer) is another black maid and Aibileen’s best friend whose outspokenness has gotten her fired a number of times; she has built up a reputation for being a difficult employee, but she makes up for this with her phenomenal cooking skills.

Eugenia “Skeeter” Phelan (Emma Stone) is a young white woman who has recently moved back home to her family’s plantation after graduating from Ole Miss to find that her beloved childhood maid, Constantine (Cicely Tyson), has quit while she was away. Skeeter is skeptical, because she believes Constantine would not have left without writing to her.

Unlike her friends, who attended university to find husbands (and are now all married and having children), Skeeter is single, has a degree, and wants to begin a career as a writer. Her first job is as a “homemaker hints” columnist in the local paper. With Constantine gone, Skeeter asks Aibileen, the maid to her good friend, Elizabeth (Ahna O’Reilly), for her help in answering domestic questions. Skeeter becomes uncomfortable with the attitude her friends have towards their “help,” especially Hilly Holbrook (Bryce Dallas Howard) and her “Home Help Sanitation Initiative”, a proposed bill to provide for separate toilets for black help because she believes (as she puts it) that “black people carry different diseases to white people.” Amidst the era of discrimination based on color, Skeeter is one of the few who believe otherwise, and she decides to write a book based on the lives of the maids who have spent their entire lives taking care of white children.

The maids are at first reluctant to talk to Skeeter, because they are afraid that they will lose their jobs or worse. Aibileen is the first to share her stories, after she overhears Hilly’s initiative, and realizes that the children whom she has been raising are growing up to be just like their parents. Her friend Minny has just been fired as Hilly’s maid as a punishment for Minny using the bathroom during a thunderstorm (revealed by Aibileen to have spawned a tornado and killed eighteen people: ten white, eight black), instead of going to use the separate outdoor toilet. Hilly poisons all the other families against Minny, making it impossible for her to find other work, and her daughter is forced to drop out of school to find a job as a maid. Minny initially declines to participate in Skeeter’s book research, but later agrees to share her stories. Aibileen helps her find work with Celia Foote (Jessica Chastain), who is married to a rich socialite (Mike Vogel), but is an outcast from the other society ladies (as influenced by Hilly), because she was born into a working-class family and her husband is Hilly’s ex-boyfriend. Also, unlike Hilly, Celia treats Minny with respect.

Skeeter writes a draft of the book, with Minny and Aibileen’s stories in it, and sends it to Miss Stein (Mary Steenburgen), an editor for Harper & Row in New York City, New York. Miss Stein thinks there may be some interest in it, but requires at least a dozen more maids’ contributions before it can become a viable book. Believing that the book will only be publishable during the Civil Rights movement, which she believes is a passing fad, Stein advises Skeeter to finish the book soon. No one comes forward, until Medgar Evers is assassinated in Jackson, Mississippi, and Hilly’s latest maid is brutally arrested (for attempting to pawn one of Hilly’s rings, to pay for her twins’ college tuition, after Hilly had refused to give her a loan). With racial tensions running high, the maids realize that Skeeter’s book will give them an opportunity for their voices to be heard, and Skeeter suddenly has numerous stories to include. Minny shares one last story with Skeeter and Aibileen, which she calls the “Terrible Awful,” to ensure that no one will reveal that the book was written about Jackson, Mississippi. As revenge for being fired and accused of stealing, Minny bakes a chocolate pie and delivers it to Hilly. After Hilly has finished two slices, Minny informs her that she has baked her own feces into the pie. Minny tells Aibileen and Skeeter that if they add that part into the book, Hilly will try to prevent anyone from figuring out that she made her eat human feces and will convince the town that the book is not about Jackson. The book is almost finished, except for Skeeter’s own story of being brought up by Constantine. Skeeter manages to find out what had happened to Constantine, when her mother, Charlotte (Allison Janney), finally explains that she reluctantly fired her in order to save face during a reception. Soon afterwards, feeling guilty about the incident since the Phelans are quite close to their help, Charlotte had sent Skeeter’s brother to bring Constantine home from Chicago, Illinois, where she was living with her daughter Rachel, but he discovered that she had died, not long after leaving Jackson. However, Constantine’s daughter forgives them knowing that the family they served genuinely love them.

The book is accepted for publication and is a success, much to the delight of Skeeter and the maids. She shares her royalties with each of the maids who contributed, and is offered a job with a publishing company in New York City. She tells her boyfriend about the job and the book. Revolted by her ideas of racial equality, he immediately breaks up with her. Later in the afternoon, Hilly hatches a plan to get rid of Aibileen as Elizabeth’s help, by falsely accusing her of stealing silver. Elizabeth tries to defend Aibileen, but to no avail. Aibileen denounces Hilly as a godless woman and tells her that she will never have peace if she continues her vindictive ways, leaving her in limbo. As Aibileen tries to convince Hilly and Elizabeth of her innocence, Elizabeth’s daughter, Mae Mobley, arrives and pleads with her not to go. Elizabeth is forced to accept the firing of Aibileen, and Mae Mobley cries by the window, shouting for Aibileen as she leaves to start a new life

REVIEW:

I don’t think it is a mystery that racial relations weren’t the best in the 50s, some can even say they were nonexistent. For the longest time, whites looked down on all other races, going so far as to think they couldn’t drink from the same water fountain or use the same toilets for fear of different diseases. The Help turns out to be a film that, after seeing some of the comments that were populating (infecting) the internet after the election, this country really needs to see, so that they can realize how stupid racism is!

What is this about?

In 1960s Jackson, Miss., aspiring writer Eugenia Phelan crosses taboo racial lines by conversing with Aibileen Clark about her life as a housekeeper, and their ensuing friendship upsets the fragile dynamic between the haves and the have-nots. When other long-silent black servants begin opening up to Eugenia, the disapproving conservative Southern town soon gets swept up in the turbulence of changing times.

What did I like?

Acting. This is a powerful film and it needed some strong performances from its cast. Some of them give the best performances of their career, such as Octavia Spencer and Emma Stone, while others are just business as usual such as Allison Janney and Viola Davis. Leave us not forget the outstanding bitchiness and believable hatred from Bryce Dallas Howard and the lovable naiveté of Jessica Chastain. They say you’re only as strong as your weakest link, but I did not find a weak link in this entire film…well, maybe the men.

Levity. With subject matter as heavy as this, I really expected this to be some heavy, tear jerking drama, but it turns out that there were quite a few moments that almost made this a comedy. For someone like me that isn’t particularly a fan of serious stuff, it made this film much more enjoyable than it would have been otherwise.

Pacing. I looked at how long this film was and though I was in for some never-ending melodrama, but it actually moves along at a decent pace with no places that grind the film to a screeching halt. The audience is sure to stay with the proceedings from start to finish.

What didn’t I like?

Stray. I haven’t read the book, but from what I hear, there were some things left out, most notably something about a certain kind of pie that is brought up every chance they get, but was left out of the movie, and no, I’m not referring to the *ahem” chocolate pie that Minny was serving.

Male. Maybe it is because I’m a guy, but I found the lack of any kind of central male character a bit disturbing. It was almost as if these women denied the existence of the men in their lives. The only one that got any kind of major acknowledgment were the two we never saw, Minny’s husband Leroy, and Celia’s husband, who does show up at the end, Johnny.

South. The setting for this was perfect. I can’t imagine this working as well if it were set in someplace like Boston. That being said, one can’t help but be frustrated by the attitudes and actions of these women and how they treated the women that work for them. I am a native Southerner, living most of my life down here, save for a few years moving around (dad was in the Air Force), but it is things like this that just flat out make you wish you were a Yankee, for lack of a better term. Just plain disgusting that anyone could ever think like this, and the fact that some people still do is even worse!

The Help surprised everyone when it was released in 2009. No one thought it would be racking up awards like it ended up doing. In that same vein, I didn’t expect to like it. I figured it was just some chick flick with racial overtones. Man, was I wrong. I highly recommend this film to everyone. It is a definite must-see!

4 3/4 out of 5 stars

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Blast From the Past

Posted in Comedy, Movie Reviews, Romantic with tags , , , , , , , , , , on February 16, 2010 by Mystery Man

PLOT:

Calvin Webber (Christopher Walken) is a brilliant, eccentric, and paranoid Caltech nuclear physicist (see mad scientist), living the stereotypical happy 1960s life during the Cold War. His extreme fear of a nuclear holocaust leads him to build an enormous self-sustaining fallout shelter beneath his suburban San Fernando Valley, Los Angeles home. One night, while he and his pregnant wife, Helen (Sissy Spacek), are entertaining guests, a family friend comes to inform him that John F. Kennedy and Nikita Khrushchev are getting into a debate. The family turns on their television, and watch in horror. When the Cuban Missile Crisis begins, they ask their guests to leave, and they head down into the shelter. Meanwhile, a pilot is having problems with his plane; he is ordered to eject, believing his jet will crash into the Pacific Ocean. Just as the Webbers descend into the shelter, the plane veers off and crashes into the Webber home, leaving their friends and family to believe the family has died. The family, having seen the resulting fireball just as they lock themselves in their shelter, believe that the unthinkable has happened and that they are the sole survivors of a nuclear war. The locks on the shelter are set for 35 years and cannot be overridden by anyone inside or outside the shelter – for “their own protection” according to Calvin Webber.

A few days after the locks have been engaged, Mrs. Webber goes into labor and gives birth to a baby boy, whom they name Adam. During the roughly 35 years they are down in the shelter, the world above drastically changes, while the Webbers’ life remains frozen in 1962. Adam is taught in several languages, all school subjects, dance, boxing, and many other things. The family passes time watching black and white movies via a projector. Adam is given his father’s baseball card collection, and shares in IBM, Polaroid, and AT&T.

In the present (which would have been October 1997, though this is not specifically stated in the film) the timer on the locks releases, and Calvin decides to check out the surroundings above the shelter (in full protective gear), which has turned into a ghetto. He mistakes this for a post-apocalyptic world and wants his wife and grown son (Brendan Fraser) to stay in hiding, but suffers from chest pain. Adam, who is naïve but well-educated, is sent for supplies and help, thus beginning his adventures.

Much of the humor in the film is derived from his being unaccustomed to the lifestyle of the present (such as using the term negro, and believing “shit” is a French compliment), believing “gay” means happy, and finding awe in simple things of modernity. Early on, he meets Eve Rustikoff (Alicia Silverstone) at a card store, where she works, and where he went to sell his father’s classic baseball cards. She stops the store owner from ripping Adam off and is immediately fired. Adam asks Eve to take him to the Holiday Inn, in exchange for a baseball card, worth 4,000 dollars. The next morning, at the Holiday Inn, Eve comes to give back the card to Adam, and after a brief conversation, Eve informs Adam that she has to look for a new job. In exchange for $1,000 a week, Adam asks Eve to work for him, she agrees to help him buy the supplies and his search for a “non-mutan” wife from Pasadena. Meanwhile, Adam meets Eve’s homosexual housemate and best friend, Troy (Dave Foley), who offers advice and commentary as Adam and Eve fall in love.

At the conclusion of the movie, Adam’s father and mother move into a home at the surface that their son has had constructed with the wealth he has acquired from selling stocks, which acquired great value from splits over the years. Only his father is informed that the catastrophe they went into seclusion for was in fact a plane crash, for fear his mother would be incredibly angry at her husband for her years of mistaken confinement.

The film finishes with Adam’s mother at peace with her newfound freedom from the shelter, Adam and Eve engaged to be married, while Calvin, certain that the “Commies” have faked the collapse of the Soviet Union, starts pacing out measurements for a new fallout shelter.

REVIEW:

Blast From the Past tells the story of a couple who are forced underground by what they belive is the nuclear holocaust. While down there, the already pregnant wife, gives birth to their son whom the name Adam. 35 yrs later, they decide its time to see what has happened to the world above. After a failed and flawed view by the father, Adam is sent to get supplies. Hilarity ensues and we get a really good film.

The good…you can call me an old soul, but I just love film that tackle the eras from the 30-early 60s. Obviously, with the focus on the early 60s in this film, as well as the swinging soundtrack to go along with it, the picture already has a gold star in my book. Only Brendan Fraser could pull off this role. Other actors would try to read too much into the character and not just have fun with it. If you watch Fraser, you can see he’s truly having fun being the man-child. I think the ony other person that might have been able to pull this off would be Will Ferrell, but he doesn’t have the childlike innocent look that Fraser had in this picture. I also have to commend them for getting Fraser lookalikes to play him at his younger ages. Not only did they look like him, they even had his mannerisms. Dave Foley provides a nice little secondary character that is totally undervalues when people talk about this film. Alicia Silverstone lights up the screen with her beauty. This is one of the roles she was made to play. **side note–loved the shoes** The story didn’t win any points for being the best written, but un;ess you’re just one of those that picks apart everything, its hardly even noticable because this is such a cute, fun, entertaining film, and that’s what really matters.

The bad…as much as I hate to say this, I feel there could have been some kind of villain. Either someone who also was in a time capsule or maybe more of Nathan Fillion as he wanted Eve back. Speaking of Eve…Adam and Eve? Seriously? I’m not sure if that was cute or cliché.  It is obvious that Troy is attracted to Adam as well, maybe they could have put a scene in there where he tries something. Not saying that not having that in there was bad, just a suggestion.

If you can’t handle these overly sweet films, then you better stay away from this picture, or you’ll end up rotting your teeth. Yes, it is that sweet. The innocence of Adam pretty much embodies the film. Except for one scene where Adam and Eve semi make out and some innuendo here and there, mainly in the club, you could literally put this thing in black and white and released it in the 50s. It is good to know that not every picture has to have special effects and sex in it, and those that don’t are considered family flicks. Blast From the Past is refreshing in that it is a romantic comedy that is so simplistic in its approach, that you love it without even realizing it. This is a must see for any and all!

5 out of 5 stars