The Help

OK, hands up if you hated The Help? Go on. Did you find it offensive that Hollywood can only present black experience filtered through the prism of a white narrator? Really? You did? Well, you know what? – and I’ll try to say this nicely: you are a moron. You may have a genuine grievance elsewhere in filmed entertainment and media, but in this case you are completely wrong wrong wrong. No, ye Naysayers, The Help is an important film specifically because it is not set up as “An Important Film”; it’s not a black story or a white story, it’s the story of us, of ALL of us, who’ve witnessed or experienced or ignored or abetted the disempowerment of some by others. It’s about the triumph of the human spirit – human spirit, not black spirit or white spirit – in the face of those who would diminish us, and it’s about how we find love and common decency across the divide. I loved it. Completely.

And though it’s actually a complex ensemble piece, no one, and I mean patently absolutely NO ONE on this planet, can fail to have been moved by Viola Davis’ truly exceptional star turn as the maid Aibeleen who’s finally given a voice and some respect. Indeed, for all the hype around Meryl Streep’s Thatcher, it’s Viola Davis in my book – from the trudge to the steely restraint to the towering warmth – who acted her off the damn screen. Davis was robbed, robbed, of the Oscar. Emma Stone’s in the movie too, and you forget that she is, SOOOO good is Viola Davis. Jessica Chastain is great, Olivia Spencer, great, Thingy Howard, great – Tate Taylor: great great (hot) great. But Viola Davis: magnificent.

The Help shot in Mississippi, in the cities of Greenwood – great vid here from the Greenwood CVB – Clarksdale, and Jackson – including, famously, gaining access to the Governor’s Mansion for a handful of the key scenes.

Crazy Stupid Love

Crazy Stupid Love takes no time with set up, it goes straight for the sucker-punch. Steve Carrell plays Cal, a middle-aged Dad whose life falls apart quite spectacularly when his wife asks for a divorce. He’s jarred from his melancholia by the friendship of a handsome young player called Jacob (a pitch-perfect turn by Ryan Gosling) who recognizes something of his late Dad in the bumbling Cal. And thus Jacob re-styles Cal, teaches him the finer points of dating, and sends him out into the world. He’s only side-tracked from this Samaritan’s mission by the arrival in his own life of the delightful, charming fire-cracker Hannah (Emma Stone – let’s hear it for Emma Stone!) who turns his own world upside down. Throw in a love-sick baby sitter, a couple of scenes with Marisa Tomei, a brilliant Asian sidekick with nowhere near enough screen time, a bit of Josh Groban, crackling chemistry, great pacing and a really funny script, and you’ve got what’s actually a pretty delightful grown-up rom-com.

It also filmed in LA – I recognized several of the stores and walkways at the Westfield Century City Mall, where Jacob takes Cal shopping (Jacob: “Are you the billionaire owner of Apple Computers?” Cal: “No”. Jacob: “Oh, ok. In that case, you’ve got no right to wear New Balance sneakers, ever.”) Westfield is very pro-film, and sponsored one of the strands at the Produced By Conference last year.

Easy A

I read something recently that disturbed me. The scurrilous Daily Beast article suggested that we only love Emma Stone because she’s the convenient cutsey redheaded replacement for Lindsay Lohan. I’d like to respond to that idea most vigorously and most sincerely: that’s just not true. I love Emma Stone because she’s bright and funny and quirky and she’s got that husky voice and that expressive face and she’s got absolutely perfect comic timing. Also, she’s not a selfish drug-addled thieving minx. I would pay to see Emma Stone in just about anything. I would not pay to see Lindsay Lohan in anything, except prison overalls.

Take the snappy, smile-worthy Easy A for instance. Emma plays Olive, a highschooler who tells a little lie which gets completely out of control and ends with her (quite unfairly) being tarnished as the school slag. Can you imagine being outraged if Lindsay had been so besmirched? I thought not.

So, I loved the film, I thought it was heart-warming (serious!) and I laughed out loud too. Easy A filmed entirely on location in the California town of Ojai. filming90201.locations has a photo spread of the choice ones. I’d actually never heard of Ojai until later that very same day when, spookily enough, I happened to read it was where Reese Witherspoon got married. So now you know.

Easy A

I believe in equality probably more ferociously than just about anything on this planet. So:

  • In light of tomorrow’s rather tragic attempt at Belgrade Pride – in the face of serious threats of violence (the last one was cancelled, the one before broken up by thugs), it’s basically being held behind closed doors…..
  • And in light of the rabid intolerance that’s let to multiple suicides of bullied gay youth all over the Land of the Free,
  • And in light of President Obama’s bewildering failure to deliver on any his oh-so-hopeful campaign promises on equality issues such as DADT and DOMA et al
  • And therefore to honour the eloquent, heroic, drop-dead Dan Savage (yes, I admit to a humungous man-crash) and his simple, moving, inspiring “It Gets Better” viral campaign….

I give you Easy A, which looks like a timely lesson in dignity and humour. It’s got (outstanding) Emma Stone! And (terrific) Amanda Byne! And that funny kid from Cougar Town. It’s otherwise known as Lets Not And Say We Did – which, I frankly think is a much better title. So:

Makes me feel better already.

Zombieland

Locations – or at least places – play a big part in Zombieland. Not least the fact that the characters are named after their all-American home towns, now lost to the Zombie apocalypse. The movie’s mostly a cross-country jaunt by a group of mis-matched travel companions, riding out the disaster and heading for Playland amusement park in Los Angeles where the youngest traveller had once had happier times.

I was interested to read though that the movie didn’t ever get as far as California; Playland actually filmed at the Valdosta, Georgia Wild Adventures Water & Theme Park. I also chuckled at the idea that the movie star mansion that features so grandly in the film, is not only NOT a Hollywood home – it’s an Atlanta mcMansion – it’s also for sale. Go ahead, gawk.

As for the movie – and taking into account my generally low-brow tastes when it comes to Zombie horror – I thought it rocked. Emma Stone exhibits a notable combination of beauty, vulnerability and grit, Woody Harrelson works his 501s quite nicely thank-you-very-much, and Jesse Eisenberg carries the film’s core role like a geeky super-hero. The plot is handled with aplomb and, on reflection, there’s an interesting subtext of loss that you don’t normally see in this kind of film. Especially a film this fun. Superior.