Friday, January 27, 2012

Feature Friday (1) -- Midnight in Paris needs a little Help

Midnight in Paris:
Owen Wilson
Rachel McAdams
Kathy Bates

4 Nominations

This is a charming movie about an American writer (Wilson) in Paris with his snotty fiance (McAdams). Whereas she wants to spend the whole time riding in taxis and shopping at American stores, he wants to see more than tourist traps. He wants to experience a different, more romantic -- 1920s-esque -- side of Paris. When he is picked up one night by an old-fashioned car, he is transported to a different time and era where he meets the likes of F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway and Picasso. 

This world set in Paris in the 1920s seems so idyllic. The great authors, the music, the flappers... For a fan of classics such as The Great Gatsby and Farewell to Arms, this movie will resonate with you. Definitely a Woody Allen film, with the customary quick, informal conversations and strange, offbeat characters. Some characters are lovable and others loathable. Overall, the movie as a whole is enchanting, humorous, and witty.  

The music and the settings (Paris today and Paris of the past) drive this movie. It is romantic and rich. It makes you want to go and experience Paris -- a city full of art, music, and culture. 

My favorite part: The 1920s. This movie has a message that people will always wish for a time in the past -- a man from 2011 wanting to live in the 1920s, while the girl from the 1920s wishes for the 1890s -- I enjoy the message that it isn't about the when but about what you do with where you are. Sometimes nostalgia can keep us trapped in the past where we don't belong. However, the 1920s still seemed so fun! The cusp of a world beginning to transform.

What the critics say:
 "The best Allen movie in 10 years, or maybe even close to 20 - is all about that idea: Reckoning with the past as a real place, but also worrying about the limits of nostalgia." (Stephanie Zacharek, Movieline) 
"In Woody Allen's beguiling and then bedazzling new comedy, nostalgia isn't at all what it used to be - it's smarter, sweeter, fizzier and ever so much funnier." (Joe Morgenstern, Wall Street Journal)
Books to read:
The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
A Moveable Feast by Ernest Heminway
A Paris Wife by Paula Mclain
Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins 

The Help:
Viola Davis
Emma Stone
Octavia Spencer
Bryce Howard 

4 Nominations

Based on the bestselling novel by Kathryn Stockett, this movie and book alike are beautiful and well done. This story addresses an important part of our country's history with a grace and humor that draws in the viewer and then hooks them. It is a movie (book) the presents its audience with a new perspective.  

It is the story of African American maids who silently bear the mistreatment by their employers until a young woman comes along offering to help them tell their story. Skeeter (Stone) wants to be a writer and while at her friend's house, she discovers a topic that is heavy on her heart but dangerous to embark on. Aibileen (Davis), a maid, agrees to discuss with Skeeter what it is like for the help in 1960s Mississippi. The story begins to unfold as Skeeter and Aibileen discuss the mistreatment of the hired help and inspire others to speak up as well.  

The Help is full of rich, beautiful and strong characters. Every one of them will take their turn breaking your heart, while making you laugh. This movie (book) is less about the cinematic elements and more about the heart of the characters and the moral of the story. 

My favorite part: I love the relationship between Minny (Spener), one of the maids, and Celia Foote. Minny was a little rough around the edges. She was too honest for a maid and it had led her to some trouble and job losses. After which, she finds herself at the home of Johnny and Celia Foote. Celia is a rare breed. As beautiful as she is vapid, but extraordinarily kind.

What the critics say:
"A deeply touching human story filled with humor and heartbreak is rare in any movie season, especially summer. That's what makes The Help an exhilarating gift." (Peter Travers, Rolling Stone) 
"This is a good film, involving and wonderfully acted. I was drawn into the characters and quite moved, even though all the while I was aware it was a feel-good fable, a story that deals with pain but doesn't care to be that painful." (Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times) 
Books to read:
The Help by Kathryn Stockett
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee 

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