The Help

The Help

Here’s another movie where I’ve read the book and need to start this post with the dreaded words “the book was better”. It was.

It is good to see a story from this era told from women’s perspectives. The white women were not free from the strictures of their society and were expected to let the help raise their children while they played cards and kept their white gloves clean.

The women’s perspective is a quieter one than we are used to seeing. There is no crime here or racially motivated attack that the white police must investigate – a storyline that has been used and abused since the wonderful To Kill a Mockingbird. This is a story of struggle that takes place in lounge rooms, nurseries and toilets.

The Help is not the best film; it could have been so much more with a little editing of the screenplay and a little more character development. I felt watching it that a lot of the characters were little more than a distraction. Some had a lot more to do in the book  and I think the screenplay writer tried too hard to include everyone rather than developing and studying in depth the relationships between the maids and the white folks. Did we really need to see the romance that went nowhere? – in the book we do but in the movie it was pointless it in no way added to what was experienced in the movie and really just distracted from the important story; the plight of the help.

The Help is refreshing in that it showed me a different moment in history. Far enough from slavery for freedom to be a reality but still a way to go before the final days of segregation. Slavery is still a player in this movie and it is a memory passed on from the help’s grandparents. They are still dealing with the repercussions and in 50s Mississippi it still seems so close.

The white folk are predictably obnoxious except for a few who like to treat all people with respect. Dignity in hard times shines from the help. The sadness of watching children grow and loving them deeply but not being given recognition as a parenting figure is tragic. The way these women were passed from pillar to post as if they haven’t spent years with a family raising their children was horrible. In contrast it was nice to see the love the main character had for her nanny and how devastated she was when her parents fired her.

In this town any black American standing up for themselves was punished by word of mouth if the police couldn’t be involved. They would be bad mouthed to every employer and find themselves jobless when they could not afford to be. In the end the sweetest partnership was between a maid shunned for standing up for herself and a white woman not considered good enough for the social class she found herself in. Segregation was also inflicted on the poor white as well as the help but of course to nowhere near the same degree.

This movie could have been so much more but it just doesn’t have any real emotional depth. Just because there is no murder or outright vile racism does not mean we shouldn’t feel outraged by this story. Unfortunately the movie ends up more of a light hearted romp through an era than the emotional ride it should have been.

Advertisements

Mean Girls

Mean girls

Mean Girls, very mean girls but not as mean as I expected. It’s taken me a long time to see this film and I wonder if that has slightly spoiled the experience. People luuuurve this movie and I knew that so I thought it would be awesome. I was ever so slightly disappointed though. I don’t luuuurve it but I like it, I may even love it.

Everyone loves Tina Fey now (and so do I, she is hilarious) but I think she was holding back when she wrote this screenplay. It really felt like Heathers for the noughties or Clueless with less money rather than anything new.

It’s the same old formula you’ve seen before (Heathers, Clueless…), three girls take on a new girl and slowly turn her into versions of themselves against her better judgement. Then they all learn lessons about being yourself and not being so judgey (not so much like Heathers admittedly, although being killed off because you’re a horrible person is quite the lesson really).

Further, Lindsay Lohan is a horrible actor. If I’d known she was the star I probably would have struck it off the list immediately. Well, maybe not but I would prefer to know if something contains Lindsay Lohan prior to watching it so I can prepare myself for bad actor rage.

Tina Fey, Amy Poehler and Rachel McAdams are all good actors though, which lessened the bad actor rage although it didn’t lessen the horror of the Lindsay Lohan voice over. Why did it have to be her? Even her voice gives me bad actor rage!

However! The joy of Mean Girls is that the dialogue is clever and it is funny. There are lots of blink-and-you’ll-miss-it puns and word based in-jokes and it’s less reliant on physical or slapstick tomfoolery. Of course there is plenty of that too. This is a teen film after all and where would we be without a few cheap laughs.

As I like to warn Miss 11 – this is a kissing movie. Romance y’all. Teen romance! There, I said it, and that is all on that.

The basic message which no-one can fault is ‘love yourself for who you are and people will love you back – eventually, maybe’. There is a message to young women to stop carrying on about people’s flaws and differences and just get on with being a good person. Concentrate on what is good in people. I like that message, I may even love it.

Classic Tina Fey (as teacher Mrs Norbury) quote, that I loved: “you all have got to stop calling each other sluts and whores. It just makes it ok for guys to call you sluts and whores.”

Nice. I may even love it.

If I was going to recommend a teen rom-com movie to anyone I would recommend this one, alongside Heathers and Clueless, so you really get to span the decades in terms of fashion and who is considered a good-looking young man (Christian Slater (he was good looking once okay , stop judging me!)? Paul Rudd (I know, weird right? – he was considered a rom-com hotty for a minute there)? The guy in Mean Girls (whoever he is)?). At least because it seems that not much else has changed.

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

TGWTDT

The problem with The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is that I have actually seen it all before. I have also actually read it all before.

Actually, this remake felt like re-watching the Swedish version except they changed the ending. Duh! Why change the ending when so many people have read the book and seen the Swedish version? I don’t actually like that, no sir.

I have a tendency to remember foreign language films in English – does everyone?. So it didn’t even feel very new to see the movie in English.

I suppose I wanted to see what an American production would do with it and I was pleasantly surprised by the lack of dumbing down I expected.

The Girl with the DT is complicated. There are so many characters and all their Swedish names sound the same (sorry Swedish people your names are generic to mine ears…). While reading the book I even wished the names where a bit different so I could keep track, is it just me? Am I name blind? Although it is something that mainly happens when I’m reading Swedish to English crime novels. So I think I am just Swedish name blind so there’s probably a pair of glasses I can buy for that. Or maybe Swedish name blindness correcting laser surgery. Yes, that.

Aah, yes, movie. I like Rooney Mara but I wasn’t so fussed with Daniel Craig (second Daniel Craig movie in a row – that’s enough). I preferred Michael Nyquist as Mikael Blomquist (see! Swedish names!). Noomi Rapace is still my favourite Lisbeth Salander because she was the first portrayal I saw of a kick-arse character and she matched the Lisbeth in my head.

Lisbeth is not the main character but she goes through so much in the movie/book and you really start to feel her pain and frustration at her lot in life. She is constantly forced to interact with people in line with their requirements like having to be nice – she hates that. I suppose there is a little bit of Lisbeth in us all sometimes when we just want to hide and be left alone to do what we do. I just hope we don’t all have the psychopath streak as well…

This film is graphic and tells a story of hatred. Hatred of women, hatred of difference, religious hatred it doesn’t really hold back. The violence is lessened in this movie than in the book or the Swedish version but it is still confronting and you will flinch. It’s realistic and it’s gross and it’s horrible but it’s not unnecessary. The violence forms the characters and violence is the basis of the story. The horrible things people do.

The cold of the Swedish weather is palpable and really is part of the violence the characters experience. The sterile beauty of the scenery is perfect considering the sterile and vicious lives the main characters are investigating.

This version is a bit plodding through the middle but that may be because I actually knew what was meant to happen next all the time. The changed ending was a pain but probably wouldn’t have been if I hadn’t already actually known what was meant to happen next all the time.

Don’t think I’ll bother with the sequels when they come out. I’ve actually already seen them.

Being Elmo: A Puppeteer’s Journey

Elmo pic

It’s hard to watch this documentary now without thinking of the charges against Kevin Clash (recently dismissed from Court due to lack of evidence I believe). Since Being Elmo: A Puppeteer’s Journey was made about him, he has had a severe fall from grace, whether or not the offences occurred, he is still tarnished. Luckily for us this hasn’t affected Elmo’s image and understudies have landed that sweet gig.

Lovable red monster Elmo is Clash’s most famous creation. Although not physically created by Clash, Elmo’s character is all his creation. It’s hilarious to see Elmo’s first appearances on Sesame Street with a deep cave-man voice that is just so wrong! Elmo is a squeaker or at least he has been since Clash got his hand up Elmo (OMG! – so bad it’s good).

We watch Clash’s ascendance from poor Baltimore suburb boy to Sesame Street king, from a kid who secretly makes puppets from his Dad’s jacket to the man surrounded by muppety eyes in the Sesame Street workshop. He makes his way through local TV and Captain Kangaroo, turns down The Dark Crystal (what? Who does that?) even though Jim Henson is his absolute idol but eventually wins a gig on Labyrinth (oh yeah!).

This is really an inspiring story – a boy with a passion makes it all the way to the top and along the way creates one of the world’s most beloved characters. His story will inspire so many children out there to follow their dreams even if other people tell them that what they do and what they love is weird. People are weird, quirky, funny, individual – we should just get used to that.

Clash is an amazing puppeteer. He taught himself to make puppets by watching Sesame Street as a child (as close as he could to the TV but he didn’t get square eyes! We were lied to!), he was bullied at school for playing with toys but later crowned the student most likely to make a million once people realised this was a talent worth praising. He was no longer a weirdo but a boy whose talents were bringing him to the notice of all the right people – the people who knew Jim Henson.

The standout stars are Mr and Mrs Clash though. I don’t think there are many parents who could have been as supportive as these two, especially as they were bringing up five children on minimum wage incomes. Even the coat incident didn’t faze them and as there was no other room in which to store Clash’s puppets they were stacked on shelves in their bedroom. So supportive! Supportive shelves even!

It’s so unfortunate that the controversy surrounding Clash now taints this documentary. It’s nigh on impossible to watch without thinking about what might have been going on at the time. Clash no longer works with Elmo or even on Sesame Street and I know from watching this doco that it must devastate him.

A pity about the controversy – as this is a lovely and inspiring doco, you’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll spill your tea (or maybe that’s just me).

Skyfall

skyfall

James Bond has been around for a long time. Even with different faces and phases, we know him well. Will Bond have sex with that woman? Yes, he probably will. Will Bond have sex with that man? No, probably not. Will Bond take a massive beating but then get up and win the fight? Yes, he probably will. Will Bond get in a car chase and drive like a champion? Yes, he probably will. Will Bonds enemy be some camp dude with a pet? Yes, he probably will. Will Bond get behind a computer and hack into the security system of his enemy? No, he won’t and herein lies the heart of Skyfall – James Bond is old school, the world he lives in is not.

Today’s greatest criminals (in movies and TV anyway) are those that use our trust in the infallibility of computer systems and shake the foundations of that belief with the magic of super-hacking (yes, super-hacking alright? It’s a thing or whatever). What does James do in the face of this insidious invisible evil? Shooting at it or driving at it isn’t really helpful and this is his skill range. Seducing it isn’t much of an option either.

Skyfall sees MI-6 fall to the evil hacking genious of some camp dude with bad teeth but sadly no pet (no, not Austen Powers). Luckily they have Q junior the new “no exploding pens” Quartermaster who is all about the computers. But then there’s M and Bond and they are all about the exploding pens.

Bond and M both look old in Skyfall. Daniel Craig is particularly craggy and physically Bond has clearly jumped the shark. The better days are behind him and M both, with M facing some serious attempts to close down MI-6 as anachronistic and M as the figurehead of anachronism. The glory days of espionage are clearly over in the minds of modern British politicians.

The interesting thing about Skyfall is that it clearly pits itself against the modern Mission: Impossible style action espionage films that have embraced the computer hacky world but Bond is not Ethan Hunt. Changing him into an Ethan Hunt would be a mistake for the franchise, somehow too obvious and boring (it would probably kill off the franchise) – so how do they proceed? Bond does not embrace technology (unless it explodes or has hidden guns) and Skyfall reflects that. Skyfall is full of old school action – car chases, shoot outs, even a William Tell apple shoot (the action is literally reflecting a world hundreds of years old). I’m surprised Bond didn’t pull out a blunderbuss and start stuffing cloth balls of gunpowder down it.

So what comes out on top? Olde school or new school? Well that would be a spoiler wouldn’t it? Plus – does Bond overcome the odds and win the day? Yes, he probably does. That ain’t no spoiler sweety.

What I loved was the play out of the battle with Bond and M representing the old school and everyone else not representin’ and the way the movie itself followed this out. Old school car chases, the return of the Aston Martin, Bond seducing and shooting his way through the film, all the action sets were old school, low CGI, dirty and Bond doesn’t do any Ethan Hunt style stunts because that’s not Bond so the film doesn’t do it either.

This is not an action blockbuster, it’s a Bond film and it’s a beauty. If you like Bond films, you’ll love this one. If you don’t like Bond films you know Bond well enough anyway to enjoy Skyfall. The action is all old school Bond and is so fulfilling. Even the movie poster recalls old school Bond.

Admittedly, I love a good Bond film and Skyfall is one.