I Saw That!

One woman's opinions about popular entertainment.

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Location: Chicago, Illinois, United States

Amateur boxing coach, Christian (but not so heavenly-minded that I'm no earthly good) singer, writer, self-defense advocate, childfree. feminist www.smartwomenboxingtraining.org

Tuesday, February 07, 2012

The Artist (2011)

George Valentin (Jean Dujardin) is a popular silent screen star in the late 1920's.  After a personal appearance at the screening of his latest film, Peppy Miller (Berenice Bejo) accidently bumps into him.  Peppy is an aspiring dancer.  Later, when she is in danger of being fired from a film by movie mogul Al Zimmer (John Goodman), Valentin steps in to save her job.  An attractive develops between the two, but Valentin is married, and unhappily so at that.

A change is coming. . . .the studio where Valentin has experienced his success abruptly decides to stop making silent films and switch to talkies.  Valentin wants no part of the new technology, and he's sure that there's still an audience for silent movies.  His career disappears, while Peppy, who's become an actress, soars at the box office.  However, their paths keep crossing each other.

This is an old-fashioned love letter to a form of movie making that no longer exists.  It's filmed in black and white, and yes, you have to read the dialogue.  But there's a lot of dialogue that's not spelled out, but it's clear what is going on.  The camera especially loves Ms. Bejo, and Uggie, the dog who accompanies Valentin, is adorable. 

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Monday, February 06, 2012

The Help (2011)

I resisted seeing this movie for a long time.  Wasn't really interested in seeing yet another story about mistreated Black folks in the South, during the early years of the Civil Rights Movement, who are saved and/or aided by a sympathetic white person.  But then this movie and two of its actresses were nominated for Academy Awards.  "I guess I'll go see it so I'm informed on Oscar night," I thought to myself. The performances of Viola Davis and Octavia Spencer were good, as well as that of most of the other players such as Emma Stone, Allison Janney, Brice Dallas Howard, Sissy Spacek, and a woman whom I consider a queen, Cicely Tyson. 

Based on the popular book of the same name, the plot concerns college-graduate Skeeter (Stone) who is inspired by the abrupt absence of the maid who practically raised her, and the third class citizenship of the maids who work for her friends to write a tell-all book from the maids' point of view.  It's tough going because the maids don't want to speak out.  They could lose more than just their jobs in early 1960's Mississippi.  It is also a story about Skeeter's independence and different way of thinking that sets her apart from her Southern belle friends, who are happy with the "separate but equal" situation of the times.

Yes, the movie is good, but not great.  The character of Hilly (played by Ron Howard's daughter Brice) is at times like a female Simon Legree, sneering and gloating over how she treats her maid, Minnie (Spencer).  She's the typical example of racism-served-with-Southern-hospitality, which we've seen in similar films before this one.  You know that some characters will be redeemed, some will become strong, and still others will continue on in who they are before the film is over. 

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