-Random Thoughts–October 2011


I finally saw The Help last night. Yes, I know I’m a little behind, but life has been crazy and, for some reason, I just wasn’t drawn to it. And the only reason I actually made myself go was because of the reviews, both professional and personal—everybody was raving about it.

Well, now I know why.

The Help is a truly wonderful film featuring two of the best performances in recent memory. Octavia Spencer and Viola Davis deliver a one-two punch of acting prowess that hits you square in the gut. They are powerful, heartbreaking, tender and authentic in their roles as black maids in Mississippi in the 1960s.

The Help certainly does have a strong message, but it is delivered with such humanity—and humor—to make this one of the most enjoyable uncomfortable movies you’ll ever watch.

If you haven’t had a chance to see The Help yet, and it’s still playing near you, DO NOT miss it. I nearly did and I would have regretted it.

So Eddie Murphy is hosting the Oscars. I can’t remember the last time there were such mixed emotions about a host choice. Well, I’m of two minds on this (fence-sitting is fun sometimes). One part of me is just appalled at the gross publicity-seeking element: One of the producers of the Oscar telecast (Brett Ratner) has a new movie coming out, Tower Heist, starring—-Eddie Murphy. The same Eddie Murphy who hasn’t had a legitimate non-voiceover, adult hit since, really, Coming To America in 1988 (Dreamgirls was a critical success for Murphy in 2006). So he could, quite possibly, be using the Oscars as a springboard to a comeback. Most actors just use Quentin Tarantino for that.

Another part of me, however, says who cares what the motivation is? Hosting the Oscars is a TOUGH gig and nobody seems to want to do it. I’ve heard that every year they ask Tina Fey and every year she says no. I’m sure they ask many other A-list entertainers as well, who all turn them down. Why? Because too much can go wrong and if you don’t need it, why do it? And the only ones who need it are the ones trying to break in and the ones trying to come back. And if you’re trying to break in, it’s just too risky (see: James Franco). So, who’s left? The ones trying to come back (see: Steve Martin). And they ALWAYS have a movie to promote.

So, all that being said, there are few performers past their prime who are as insanely talented as Eddie Murphy. Back in the day, he was the biggest star in the world, for a reason. He was edgy, hilarious and fearless—everything an Oscar host needs. But the Oscars aren’t ready for Ricky Gervais yet, so why not give Eddie Murphy a spin and see if he’s got any of the old magic left.

I’ve heard two big concerns about Murphy’s potential performance. One, people are fearful that Murphy is still carrying a monster grudge towards the Oscars because he didn’t win Best Supporting Actor in 2007 for Dreamgirls (he did get up and leave when Alan Arkin won for Little Miss Sunshine) and that he’ll have a giant chip on his shoulder and won’t treat the show with the “reverence” it deserves. To that, I say, bollocks. So what if he comes out with an attitude? That’s actually the Eddie Murphy we WANT to see.

The Eddie Murphy we DON’T want to see is the one that we’ve seen for the past 20 years: Norbit, Dr. Doolittle, Mr. Klump and Pluto Nash. If THAT’S who shows up, we’re all in for a long night.

So, I’m crossing my fingers that the Eddie we see is the one who pushed the envelope and had a knack for mining comic gold in the most bizarre of places. He’s trying to be an action comedy superstar again with Tower Heist….let’s give him the benefit of the doubt that maybe Axel Foley isn’t dead yet.

I just need to vent for a second. I have been looking forward to the American screen adaptation of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo ever since I heard the cast and director announced last year. I loved the books and I loved the Swedish film versions of the books. I loved Noomi Rapace so much in the lead role of Lisbeth Salander in the Swedish films that I was really doubtful when they cast American unknown Rooney Mara to play the iconic character, but all the buzz and snippets I’d seen had led me to believe Mara will really be able to pull it off.

And then came the FANTASTIC teaser trailer for the film just before the summer. With no dialogue and just fast and furious shots of the film set to a portion of composer Trent Reznor’s blistering version of Led Zeppelin’s “Immigrant Song”, the trailer was electrifying and as if I wasn’t excited enough for David Fincher’s movie, this was the ultimate tease: TEASER TRAILER

But now, as the movie’s release date gets closer, for some reason, the studio has decided it needs to have a more traditional trailer, one with dialogue and a reveal of what the movie is actually about. The problem? The trailer shows WAY TOO MUCH. It’s a good thing I’ve already read the book, or this trailer would spoil everything. Trailers are supposed to tease the audience, whet the appetite and make you want to see more. This trailer? It feels like there’s really nothing LEFT to see.

It’s just frustrating, because I have been excited about this film for so long and now I feel nothing about it will be fresh and surprising. I still will be standing in line on opening day, but I’ll just be a little less excited. Shame on you, MGM.

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo opens in theatres on December 21.

Ok, so we’re in the final 2 ½ months of the year, which means the Oscar race is nearing full speed. So far, here are the movies that have already come out that I feel are serious contenders for Best Picture:

The Help
The Tree of Life
Midnight in Paris
The Ides of March

And here are the ones to watch out for in the next couple of months, all of which should be in the running as well:

The Descendants November 18

War Horse December 25

The Artist November 23

J. Edgar November 9

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close December 25

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo December 21

Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy December 9

So start to plan your trips to the theatre and let the races begin!

The 84th Academy Awards will be handed out on Sunday, February 26, 2012.