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The Help (2011) Review | Jamie Daily

The Help (2011)
84th Academy Awards 2012
5/5 Stars
Nominated for 4 awards, of which it won 1.
Nominated for Best Picture (Brunson Green, Chris Columbus, Michael Barnathan), Best Actress (Viola Davis), and Best Supporting Actress (Jessica Chastain).
Won Best Supporting Actress (Octavia Spencer).
Watched August 23, 2012.


It is  the early 1960s in Jackson, Mississippi.  Eugenia “Skeeter” Phelan (Emma Stone) is just returning from college to realize that she has not only outgrown her friends-turned-housewives, but that the maids she has known and loved her whole life are not happy members of her bridge club society.  To pursue her dream as a writer in a southern belle culture that still supports stay-at-home mothers over a working woman any day, she takes a job at the local paper writing the cleaning column.  Knowing nothing about cleaning, Skeeter enlists her friend Elizabeth’s maid Aibileen (Viola Davis) to help.  From cleaning columns to civil rights stories, their relationship and project takes a drastic turn when Skeeter gets the idea to tell the story of Jackson through the point of view of “the help.”


This comedic drama was not something that hit me right away when I initially saw it in theaters.  However, after rewatching it I discovered the emotional depth and the sadness of the maids’ internal dialogues.  The Help has so many integral characters that you would think their stories and personalities might become lost or muddled, but Tate Taylor does an excellent job of bringing Kathryn Stockett’s book to life on screen.  Aibileen has always been a maid–she has raised 17 white children who start out so beautiful and innocent, but then grow up to be just like their racist, segregationist parents.  The Civil Rights Movement is happening all around the country, but the middle class town of Jackson is still chugging along in what other states would have considered the past.  It was a way of living that contradicted the segregation laws of the time–living in harmony with one another while being required to stay apart.

Minny Jackson (Octavia Spencer), Aibileen’s best friend, knows the dangers surrounding her and her family more than most, but still stubbornly stands up for herself when abused by her employer, Hilly Holbrook (Bryce Dallas Howard), the steamy villain.  Hilly, who is the epitome of a segregationist, believes in living completely apart from the maids, which includes but is not limited to having designated toilets depending on one’s race.  After Minny pretends that she has used Hilly’s toilet, Hilly immediately fires her in fury.  This leads to one of my favourite pieces of the film–Minny is hired by Miss Celia Foote (Jessica Chastain), the outcast woman who the others consider white trash because she married one of “their” men.  In a display of acting so powerful, comedic, and emotionally heartbreaking, these two nominees battle time appropriate stereotypes together and build a relationship that Hilly would have found repugnant.  It is a display of love and friendship that I had not expected from The Help anywhere else than between Skeeter, Aibileen, and Minny.


There is not a single performance in this film that should be singled out to be knocked down.  Emma Stone’s usual comedy is dialed down to show a depth and an actress so in tune with the emotions of her character that I forgot immediately that she was the diabolical star of the recent Easy A and the wonderful Hannah in Crazy, Stupid, Love.  Skeeter has an innocence and determination that she must have been born with, but then cultivated  in college, away from the influence of her home town.


The film deals with not only segregation, but also young love and heartbreak, a miscarriage, and cancer.  Despite Hilly’s best efforts, the love that is shown between so many characters truly makes this a wonderful piece.  More than anything, I would recommend this film to you if you have somehow overlooked it.  It is much more than what many would perceive as a “chick flick,” but is a genuinely wonderful period piece full of humor, fear, and maybe slightly over-the-top villainy.

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Sources: moviefone Dream Works StudiosRotten TomatoesIMDBKids TV Movies on New York TimesRope of SiliconEntertainment Weekly

Dimanche/Sunday (2011) Review | Jamie Daily

Dimanche/Sunday (2011)
84th Academy Awards (2012)
4/5 Stars
Nominated for Best Animated Short (Patrick Doyon).
Watched August 28, 2012.


There is so much obvious symbolism in this little 10 minute short that I don’t know what to do with myself.  From vultures to giant trains, from tractor-preoccupied grandpas to sticky food–it is clear from the beginning that this simple animation from Canada speaks volumes of innovation and technology being the vultures of society while the older generation are stuck in their ways of the past.


It is a story of a boy and his family.  Surrounded by adults, he preoccupies himself by placing coins on the railroad tracks.  After church, in which he puts one of his train-squished coins in the collection plate while his father sleeps, he is taken to his grandparents’ house.  Just as his father’s animated thought bubbles are always preoccupied by tractors and farming equipment, so are his grandpa’s.  When the train comes through, it is a hulking black mass that dwarfs the entire town by stretching hundreds of feet above the roofs to extend past the frame of the screen.


At his grandparents’ house, the boy’s grandma gives him a bowl of what I assume are nuts.  However, they are all stuck together.  There is a bear head on the wall who is actively seeking attention from the boy.  Once his grandma gives him a furry hat (everyone else is wearing fur, and now he is as well), he runs outside to the train track with a coin from his grandpa’s pocket and places it on the tracks.  The bear pulls his head out of the wall and comes running, only to be hit by the train.  With bitter sadness, the boy picks up the coin and sees the side with the bear.  Instead of taking the money, he puts it back on the track, where it is taken away only seconds later by the ever-present vultures that are constantly atop the power lines.  As the sun sets, he and his family drive home in the dusk, past the giant factory that also lies beside the tracks.


According to Double B Reviews, the factory is no longer open and thus money is a huge preoccupation for the town.  Dimanche/Sunday is a study of animation and of life and death.  There is so much animal death presented through roadkill, and of course the train, that many of the short reviews I have been able to find online where disturbed.  The director, Patrick Doyon, was “inspired by his childhood” (Educational Media Reviews Online).


If it wasn’t for the symbolism, I probably wouldn’t have liked this animation.  Having been trained on shorts and understanding that no second should be wasted, I knew that their statements had to be everywhere.  If you are curious about Canadian animation or the points I have talked about above, I would certainly advise seeing this film.  However, if you’re in it for the plot or the characters, you might find your 10 minutes wasted.


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Sources: Antagony & Ecstasy Animation MagazineIMDBDouble B ReviewEducational Media Reviews OnlineWIUX Blog

The Descendants (2011) Review | Jamie Daily

The Descendants” (2011)
84th Academy Awards (2012)
5/5 Stars
Nominated for 5 awards, of which it won 1.
Nominated for Best Picture (Jim Burke, Alexander Payne, and Jim Taylor), Best Actor (George Clooney), Directing (Alexander Payne), and Film Editing (Kevin Tent).
Won Writing–Adapted Screenplay (Alexander Payne, Nat Faxon, and Jim Rash).
Watched August 19, 2012.


“George Clooney gives the performance of his life as a man in search of a moral compass on a Hawaii that is no paradise” (Guardian).



I LOVE this film.  I saw it last year with my mom (back when I worked at a movie theatre and saw almost every movie known to mankind) and couldn’t take my eyes off the screen.  The cinematography, coupled with the writing and acting create something beautiful, raw, and captivating.


The Descendants is an Alexander Payne genius adaptation from the original book by Kaui Hart Hemmings.  It follows Matt King (George Clooney), the direct descendant of a Polynesian Princess who married an American missionary’s businessman son.  He and his cousins are temporarily still owners of an impressive piece of untouched Hawaiian paradise, but due to certain laws toward trusts, the land must be sold, which would make the family multimillionaires–again.  Matt alone holds all the cards because he is the trustee.


This isn’t the only trick life has handed him.  His wife (Patricia Hastie) was recently in a boating accident where she hit her head and is now in a coma.  Matt must take the driver’s seat in parenting for his sassy 10 year old daughter Sammie (Amara Miller) and alcoholic, 17 year old daughter Alexandra (Shailene Woodley).  One life punch after another, Payne travels the fine line between comedy and drama, leading Clooney to his best performance to date.


The ironic and distinctive character types come together in a brilliant clash in this character driven exploration of life, love, and the messiest parts of existence.  Enhanced by the incredible cinematography and classic hawaiian soundtrack, it is easy to lose one’s self in this hilarious, devastating, island-hopping road to self discovery.  The only thing I could find wrong with “The Descendants” in the Oscars were its limited nominations, single win, and that Woodley didn’t manage to score herself a nomination.


It isn’t a light hearted chick flick, or an action packed Die Hard film.  Nor is it a comedy in comparison with today’s favorites of “Ted” and “21 Jump Street.”  Despite all of this, do yourself a favor and see this film to experience Clooney’s stellar performance, Woodley’s exquisite characterization, and Payne’s untouchable genius.

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The Goodbye Girl (1977) Review | Jamie Daily

“The Goodbye Girl” (1977)
50th Academy Awards 1978
3/5 Stars
Nominated for 5 Academy Awards, of which it won 1.
Nominated for Best Actress (Marsha Mason), Best Supporting Actress (Quinn Cummings), Best Picture (Ray Stark), and Writing – Original Screenplay (Neil Simon).
Won Best Actor (Richard Dreyfuss).
Watched August 14, 2012.


A large part of me loves everything about the writing, the characters, and the acting in “The Goodbye GIrl.”  There are witty monologues, predictability that only a romantic comedy can bring, and plenty of tears.  The film begins with Paula (Marsha Mason) and her daughter (Quinn Cummings) coming home to discover that Paula’s live-in boyfriend has skipped town to be in a film in Italy.  Devastated by being “dumped on” by another actor, Paula immediately jumps into dancing, trying to get back in shape so that she can get a job to feed her daughter.  Adding insult to injury, she later finds out that her now ex-boyfriend sublet their apartment to an actor from Chicago for the next three months.  Incensed when Elliot (Richard Dreyfuss), shows up on her doorstep in the middle of the night, they make a deal with one another.  They will share the apartment.  This in itself opens the door to both comedy and predictability.


Because Paula had been previously hurt by an actor (or two… or three), she is incredibly hesitant to put any positive feelings into her strained relationship with Elliot.  He is an eccentric person who sleeps in the nude, plays guitar at midnight, meditates (loudly) at 6am, and eats only health food.  He does very little to help the situation by always pointing out that it is technically his apartment since he paid for it, and he doesn’t have to abide by any of her rules.  This continues until one afternoon, when Paula is robbed and Elliot semi-attempts to get her bag back.  For the first time, we see a truly good side of Dreyfuss’ character, as well as the crushingly realistic devastation of Mason.


I’ll leave the rest for you to discover, as I am sure you can probably figure it out for yourselves.


I see “The Goodbye Girl” as typical 70s filmmaking.  Granted, in the future, I will be much more educated on this decade, but the film stood out to me as something very similar to most of what I have already seen from the era.  In that sense, I enjoyed it.  It isn’t necessarily something that stands the test of time, with the ever changing American movie taste being what it is, but in terms of the majority of its nominations, I can agree with them.


If we take away the witty, unrealistic dialogue, and watch the scenes together instead of admiring them separately, the story as a whole does not flow in a likely pattern.  Things happen either too quickly or too slowly, and Paula’s behavior toward Elliot for most of the film has me wondering how he ever fell for a woman like her.  Granted, many of her personality “faults” are rooted deeply within her and make sense due to her character’s past. Something about Elliot makes me feel as if he doesn’t take that sort of nonsense lightly.  The rate at which he falls for her threw me completely off guard, so much so that I couldn’t even enjoy the end of the movie–you know, the romantic bit, which is something I normally go gaga over.


Because of this, I gave the film 3 out of 5 stars.  If you are a fan of classics from the 70s and have somehow missed this one, please add “The Goodbye Girl” to your list!


Sources: IMDBRotten TomatoesRoger Ebert.Suntimes

A Ship Comes In (1928) Review | Jamie Daily

A Ship Comes In (1928)
1st Academy Awards (1929)
2/5 Stars
Nominated for 1 award: Best Actress (Louise Dresser)


It seems that reviews are in short supply for this film, and it’s no wonder.  I’m sorry to anyone who has harbored a deep-seated love for this early 20th century flick, but I was very glad when the seventy minute film was over.  My third silent film on this journey and already I have lost my passion for it.  Maybe it is because when compared to “7th Heaven,” “A Ship Comes In” falls flat.


“A Ship Comes In” is another black and white silent film, and after watching this one, I have to be honest that I’m sort of dreading the rest of 1929.  “7th Heaven” was an incredible way to start out–I adore that film!  Although there were some impressive editing highlights in “A Ship Comes In,” I was very bored and unimpressed with the majority of it.


The film is about a family who immigrates to America.  The father, Mr. Pleznik (Rudolph Schildkraut), is incredibly optimistic, and eager to become an American citizen.  He gets a job as a janitor in a justice building and preciously tells his family that his boss is the emperor of America.  Five years later, he becomes a citizen, and directly afterward is entangled unfortunately in the crossfires of an anarchist’s hate crime toward the judge who gave him his naturalization papers.


Louise Dresser, who plays Mrs. Pleznik, was nominated for Best Actress and it is no wonder that she lost to Janet Gaynor, the star of “7th Heaven.”  The New York Times movie review states that “her actions, due to the direction, are far too slow,” and I would certainly agree.  She is set a difficult task–to communicate a loving mother of three who does not speak English, and after the happiness of her husband’s naturalization, is handed heartbreak after heartbreak.  Her performance does not meet the demands of her character.


If you are a genuine film noir advocate and love to spend your free time immersed in early 20th century films, then by all means see this film if you have somehow missed it.  But if you don’t fall into this category, I would not recommend it.

Sources: IMDBNew York Times