Help The Help

Aug 12, 2011People We Lerve

Last week, I saw The Help at a packed screening in New York. The excitement around the release of this film has been palpable. Whenever a hugely popular book is made into a film, we all know what’s coming next, but that does not stop our hopes that this time the studio won’t fuck it up. Every twenty years or so a big budget studio film about poor black folks hits the big screen and there is incredible white support for these stories. It is a far different situation than the Tyler Perry genre. The African-American film going community supports Perry’s films about upwardly mobile African-Americans with marital problems. The movies I am referring to are The Color Purple, Sounder, Glory, and Precious all of which were Oscar contenders and, in fact, winners. No offense to Tyler Perry, I mean… Madea may be all that, but she ain’t gonna win an Academy Award anytime soon.

There is already Oscar buzz for The Help and for some reason, Emma Stone‘s name has been bandied about and I must put and end to this now. She was so miscast and so overrated that it is shocking. If we are to utter the words ‘Oscar’ and ‘The Help’ in the same sentence, it can only be for the brilliant work of Viola Davis and Octavia Spencer. One look from each of them tells a sad story of personal loss and the indignities they suffered for being ‘the help’ to the white supremacist society of Mississippi. Though Jessica Chastain needs an honorable mention for her role as the ditsy blond meets a Marilyn Monroe type (is that an oxymoron?), the honor of Oscar buzz must stay with Viola and Octavia. Sadly, more films showcasing such brilliant African-American actresses will not be made each year, which is why performances like these must be acknowledged come Oscar time.

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