Editor’s note: Welcome to the last of a 32-part series dissecting the 84th Academy Awards, brought to you by the Large Association of Movie Blogs and its assorted members. Every day leading up to the Oscars, a new post written by a different LAMB was published, each covering a different category of the Oscars. To read any other posts regarding this event, please click the tag following the post. Thank you to all 30 participants, especially those who took on extra articles. Hope you enjoyed this year’s round of LAMB Devours the Oscars!
By Marshall of Marshall and the Movies
Why It’s Here: It’s supremely well acted down to its core, beginning at the top with an Oscar nominee in 2008 for Doubt, Viola Davis, and continuing down to small appearances by Academy Award winner Sissy Spacek and nominee Cicely Tyson. It also features star-making performances by Octavia Spencer and Jessica Chastain, both of whom found recognition in Best Supporting Actress this year, the former likely to win it. The movie also features breakout turns by rising stars Emma Stone and Bryce Dallas Howard, both of whom will surely be taken much more seriously now.
It’s also the kind of movie that the Oscars love – one that brings up controversial topics like race relations but adopts a very light-hearted, sentimental graze to dealing with them. In other words, the critics pick apart the context and the presentation while the text itself remains rather innocuous. It’s a movie worth starting a conversation about due to its implications of what the South was like then and what America is like now. In the end, while it may do some condemnation, it affirms basic human dignity and goodness.
It was also a word-of-mouth box office sensation over the summer, beginning with a modest $26 million and then amassing nearly $170 million in total revenue. It won critical approval without becoming a critical darling, hitting that sweet spot for the Oscar race. The ad campaign began by targeting the faithful readers and book club members who propelled Kathryn Stockett’s book to the top of the best-seller charts, but the talk soon spread past them. Everyone had to see for themselves what women had been discovering for the past few years.
How It Got Here: Viola Davis planted herself in the Best Actress conversation early and never left the front-runner position. Spencer’s domination would later be established, only really contested by co-star Chastain, and that was mainly because she was in so many 2011 releases. The talk about the acting kept The Help in the conversation throughout the season, picking up 5 Golden Globe nominations, 8 Critics Choice Award nominations, a spot amongst the American Film Institute’s top 10 films of 2011, and various critical prizes for its acting.
The feel-good nature of the film gave it cross-branch appeal, but there is no doubt that this is an actor’s movie. Look no further than the SAG Awards where it cleaned house, winning every category it was nominated in – including Best Ensemble Cast, their equivalent of Best Picture. The actors’ branch garnered three nominations on The Help at the Oscars, but outside of Best Picture, that was all it got.
How It Will Fare: The SAG Ensemble award will likely be the pinnacle of the awards season for The Help in general. Spencer will definitely win Best Supporting Actress, and Davis seems pretty certain to win Best Actress. But there are many complementary nominations needed to win Best Picture. One of them is directing; The Help did not receive that. One of them is screenwriting; The Help did not receive that, either. One of them is editing; The Help failed to show up there as well. In fact, it’s pretty ominous that a lauded period piece would not score a single below-the-line nomination … but this one didn’t.
Those who thought that this was the best movie of 2011 should take comfort and solace in the fact that The Help will definitely be going home with some gold. Two acting Oscars is a big prize, never mind the fact that the Academy has never handed out two trophies to African-American actresses on the same night. Davis would also be only the second African-American EVER to win Best Actress. History could be made.
As the movie’s slogan says, change begins with a whisper. It looks like what began with a whisper will end with a bang.
Tags: Best Picture, Marshall and the Movies, The Help