Can Occupy Wall Street help “The Help”? – AWARDS ALLEY
By Sean O’Connell
hollywoodnews.com: Reading stories this morning of the NYPD’s efforts to extinguish the Occupy Wall Street movement in downtown Manhattan, my mind turned to the ladies of “The Help.” The messages of the OWS movement might not be as unified as organizers hoped, and the causes have fractured to include too many personal agendas over the last few weeks. But the one thing that never wavered was the desire of the protestors to have their voices be heard.
Reflecting on the grassroots sit-in, which started in New York and spread across the country, I thought of Octavia Spencer’s character, Minny Jackson, who wanted little else than the basic human right to use a toilet. I thought of Emma Stone’s Skeeter, a person sitting in a position of power who heard the requests of the minority and decided to take the difficult road by doing something about the injustice. Skeeter’s hardly the 1%. But Stone, director Tate Taylor and novelist Kathryn Stockett made her something far more important than that. They made her a decent human being.
Can the Occupy Wall Street movement help “The Help” during this Oscar season? It’s possible. The film has what it takes from a critical and commercial standpoint to get into the race. And based on today’s actions in New York City, I’d argue it has the cultural relevance to make some noise in the ongoing awards marathon.
Taylor told me he never intended his film to be a Civil Rights picture. But “The Help” does shine a light on a period in our history where the culture was imbalanced, and a few people on one side of the equation risked a lot to tilt things back toward the center.
According to a recent poll on Gold Derby, the frontrunners for Best Picture currently are Alexander Payne’s “The Descendants” and Michel Hazanavicius’ “The Artist.” Two worthy films. But step back for a minute. Payne’s film, in part, centers on a Hawaiian landowner (George Clooney) wrestling with a million-dollar property deal. And “The Artist,” while excellent, tells the story of a top-of-the-world silent film star (Jean Dujardin) who might have to move out of his palatial Hollywood mansion and stop dining in Los Angeles’ finest restaurants because the “talkies” are squeezing him out.
Can you relate? Can Academy members? When it comes time to vote. Films are going to need No. 1 votes from Academy member to carry enough weight to get into the Best Picture race. Maybe full-time industry folks who couldn’t physically participate in an Occupy movement will feel compelled to have their own voice be heard in another way … with an Oscar vote. Maybe they’ll see “The Help” as the movie that speaks to our fractured times, as a story that reflects on our nation’s past to comment on its present. And maybe, in a season lacking a legitimate frontrunner, that will be enough to power “The Help” to the top of the heap.
Let me end on a stirring note. Viola Davis accepted the Hollywood Ensemble Award at the Hollywood Awards Gala on behalf of her “Help” co-stars last month. And she says, in seven minutes, what I’m trying to capture here.
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