October 20, 2016
        "Manchester by the Sea" leads the Gotham Award nominations                Tom Ford, Marc Platt and Kenneth Lonergan to be Honored at 20th Annual Hollywood Film Awards                Tom Cruise is in his action hero comfort zone with "Jack Reacher: Never Go Back"                "Moonlight" could be A24's big Oscar horse this year                Ewan McGregor steps behind the camera with "American Pastoral"                Hollywood Contenders: A second crack at Golden Globe predictions for 2016                "The Accountant" seeks to help give Ben Affleck another blockbuster                85 countries will be competing for Best Foreign Language Feature nominations at the Oscars                Tom Hanks to receive Hollywood Actor Award for "Sully" @ Hollywood Film Awards                "Certain Women" showcases Laura Dern, Kristen Stewart, and Michelle Williams                Ben Affleck is perhaps Hollywood's biggest and most diverse superstar                "The Birth of a Nation" looks to survive controversy and contend for awards                "The Girl on the Train" hopes to transport Emily Blunt to the Oscar race                "The Jungle Book," "Zootopia" and Craft Artists to be Honored at the 20th Annual Hollywood Film Awards                Ben Affleck's "Live By Night" officially is a 2016 contender        

The Help is being punished for a lack of minority-driven films

HollywoodNews.com: I’m not going to get into a point-by-point rundown of why I think many of the criticisms being hurled at The Help are just-plain wrong. First of all, Entertainment Weekly’s Owen Gleiberman already did just that, so I’ll merely link to his piece. Second of all, much of the outcry over The Help comes not from what is in the movie itself, but rather what isn’t in the film, and (more importantly) what isn’t in the marketplace. It is a clear case of film critics (and social commentators) reviewing not the movie itself, but everything outside the film.

As a stand-alone film, it works as a solid, if not awe-inspiring character piece involving a number of women (black and white) who exist in an employer/employee relationship during the middle of the 1960s Civil Rights Movement. If the picture were one of a dozen films being released by a major studio that centered around African-America actors, its flaws would be less of an issue, merely reasons for calling the film good rather than great. There may be a dearth of African-American-centered major studio releases. But it is silly to condemn the one ‘shining’ example and punish it for the non-existence of other pictures like it.

Much of the problem comes from critics who want to pretend they are political pundits and judge a film as if said film is supposed to represent an all-encompassing picture in regards to its subject matter. Precious was just about one single young woman and the struggles in her life (her problems would be little different if she were a poor white teenager born with equally awful parents). Closer was a character study about four messed-up people in some form of romantic/sexual relationships, it was not an all-inclusive and generic ‘this is how men and women operate always!’ fable. I rather enjoy Crash as a series of individual character studies that delves into race relations as opposed to a sweeping generalization on race relations. Twilight is about a single young woman and her choices in regards to the men in her life, she does not represent every young teenage girl ever.

And, as such, The Help is NOT an all-encompassing story about the Civil Rights Movement. It does not portend to represent every single black woman who suffered under Jim Crow. It does not portend to claim that African-Americans were only able to take their institutionalized freedoms because of plucky white women of the era. There is of course a trend of African-American stories that are told from the point of view of the White Outsider Who Must Learn A Lesson, but I’d argue that this is not one of them.

Photo by Dreamworks Pictures

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About Scott Mendelson

Mendelson's Memos: The basics - 30 years old, married with one child, currently residing in Woodland Hills, CA. I am simply a longtime film critic and pundit of sorts, especially in the realm of box office. The main content will be film reviews, trailer reviews, essays, and box office analysis and comparison. I also syndicate myself at The Huffington Post and Open Salon. I will update as often as my schedule allows. Yes, I'm on Facebook/Twitter/LinkIn, so feel free to find me there. All comments are appreciated, just be civil and try to keep a level discourse, as I will make every effort to do the same. Read more at Mendelson's Memos:

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