The Help star, who is up for a Best Actress Academy Award at Sunday's (26Feb12) ceremony, will be feted by executives at her APA agency, which also represents another Oscar nominee, British actor Gary Oldman.
Stars including Oprah Winfrey, Denzel Washington, Sissy Spacek and The Help author Kathryn Stockett will be among the guests who gather to honour Davis' achievements during the glitzy party at the Hotel Bel-Air.
On Tuesday, the Producers Guild of America's award nominations were announced; today it was the Writers Guild's turn.
Most notable among the nominations for the year's best screenplays are Steven Zaillian -- nominated twice for his adapted Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and Moneyball scripts (the latter of which he co-wrote with Aaron Sorkin) -- and Woody Allen's 20th career nomination, this time for his original screenplay to Midnight in Paris.
The WGA will hold a ceremony on Feb. 19. Read on for the full list of nominees.
50/50, Written by Will Reiser; Summit Entertainment
Bridesmaids, Written by Annie Mumolo & Kristen Wiig; Universal Studios
Midnight in Paris, Written by Woody Allen; Sony Pictures Classics
Win Win, Screenplay by Tom McCarthy; Story by Tom McCarthy & Joe Tiboni; Fox Searchlight
Young Adult, Written by Diablo Cody; Paramount Pictures
The Descendants, Screenplay by Alexander Payne and Nat Faxon & Jim Rash; Based on the novel by Kaui Hart Hemming; Fox Searchlight
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Screenplay by Steven Zaillian; Based on the novel by Stieg Larsson, originally published by Norstedts; Columbia Pictures
The Help, Screenplay by Tate Taylor; Based on the novel by Kathryn Stockett; DreamWorks Pictures
Hugo, Screenplay by John Logan; Based on the book The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick; Paramount Pictures
Moneyball, Screenplay by Steven Zaillian and Aaron Sorkin; Story by Stan Chervin; Based on the book by Michael Lewis; Columbia Pictures
Better This World, Written by Katie Galloway & Kelly Duane de la Vega; Loteria Films
If a Tree Falls: A Story of the Earth Liberation Front, Written by Marshall Curry and Matthew Hamachek; Oscilloscope Pictures
Nostalgia for the Light, Written by Patricio Guzmán; Icarus Films
Pina, Screenplay by Wim Wenders; Sundance Selects
Position Among the Stars, Script by Hetty Naaijkens-Retel Helmrich, Leonard Retel Helmrich; HBO Films
Senna, Written by Manish Pandey; Producers Distribution AgencySource: THR
The recent Disney Blu-ray releases including Pirates 4 and Cars 2 have gotten me pretty down about the future of the format. Slowly but surely well-compiled discs are becoming collector's items. Either you pick up the bare bones release (or download it on iTunes or rent it online or see it on Netflix…) or you pick up the 17-Disc Super Deluxe Wongo Bongo Ultra Edition 2-Pack that's stuffed with the specialty behind-the-scenes features produced in conjunction with the movie. Maybe it's a cost thing maybe it's a dying interest but when it comes to DVD extras there's no in-between.
Thankfully Disney isn't completely done cutting us off from moderate releases with The Help Blu-ray showing off an exquisite transfer along with a healthy serving of features that should interest any fan of the material. One of the reasons I thought the movie was so successful was the true-to-life replication of 1960s Mississippi realized in sharp colors and stunning production design. The Blu-ray makes it all pop too—maybe even too much for some of the scenes darker moments—but it the disc lives up to the big screen experience.
Director Tate Taylor was ingrained into the history of the original Help novel having grown up with childhood friend Kathryn Stockett (author of the book) in the town of which the story is based. His experiences and love for the source material made for a great film but also help the disc's extras to rise above your run-of-the-mill studio-produced features. Taylor has a care for the material and its origins and in the "Making of The Help" feature the director guides us through the entire process from Stockett's original conception to honing his longtime friendships with Help actresses Octavia Spencer and Allison Janney to shepherding the project to completion. Every step of the way Taylor relishes in the experience and pours his heart and soul out on screen. His challenge of stepping in to the Director role is almost has powerful as the movie itself.
Additionally the disc features a few key deleted scenes that as Taylor compassionately explains would have changed the entire tone of the movie as good as they are. Spencer and Viola Davis are already on the road to the Oscars but even the cut material is award worthy. An extra treat is a mini-documentary on the real life women who inspired the book conducted by Taylor and Spencer. It's a sweet look a the true stories behind The Help and a great annotation to the movie's narrative. Thrown in for good measure is Mary J. Blige's music video for "The Living Proof " another Help related piece of the puzzle that could pop up at the Academy Awards.
Reasonably priced discs with solid extras are a rarity but The Help proves it doesn't take that much to impress. Get a director who loves the material and let him run wild. For fans of the book movie and history in general those kind of compassionate extras go a long way.
This week sees the release of The Debt, a multi-generational look at the high stakes world of international espionage. Helen Mirren, Tom Wilkinson and Cirián Hinds star as retired Mossad agents whose years of dedicated service have made them revered names in the industry. The film takes place in two parts, the first being set in the year 1997, as our heroes are now retired agents. The second part is a flashback to 1966 as the trio tracks down a Nazi war criminal with Jessica Chastain, Martin Csokas, and Sam Worthington play their younger counterparts, respectively.
Taking on the task of capturing the essence of a tremendous actress like Helen Mirren is no easy one. Does up-and-comer Chastain have what it takes? Who is she? Where did she come from?
Jessica Chastain has been working in film and television since 2004, but got her start on the stage. It was while she was performing in a production of Romeo and Juliet that one of her co-stars encouraged her to audition for Julliard. She ended up getting a scholarship from Robin Williams and, in her senior year, landed an ongoing deal with TV producer John Wells. She would do a number of television series over the next few years (including ER and Law and Order: Trial By Jury) as well as appear in a touring production of Othello alongside Phillip Seymour Hoffman.
Chastain’s first film role was the title character in the independent film Jolene, co-starring Chazz Palminteri and Dermot Mulroney. Right out of the gate, Chastain received an award for her performance, taking Best Actress honors at the Seattle International Film Festival.
She followed that up with a stellar turn in the thriller Stolen with Jon Hamm and Josh Lucas. From there, her career seemed to be on the fast track; just last month, Chastain starred in The Help, based on Kathryn Stockett’s international bestselling novel about a female writer who, during the civil rights movement, writes a book about the life experiences of African-American maids. The film has already proven to be a smash hit.
Jessica also starred with Michael Shannon in Jeff Nichol’s Take Shelter, which has already won big at the Cannes Film Festival. Although it was only released wide in American theaters this week, The Debt was making a splash with audiences at the Toronto International Film Festival last September. Toronto audiences will get another glimpse of Chastain when the Ralph Fiennes-directed Shakespeare adaptation Coriolanus, in which the actresses starred with Gerard Butler and Fiennes himself.
Jessica was also very fortunate recently to have had the chance to work with one of America’s great directors, Terrence Malick (The Thin Red Line, The New World), in the highly anticipated The Tree of Life. The film stars the likes of Brad Pitt and Sean Penn and tells the story of a shattered relationship between father and son over the course of a lifetime. The film won the prestigious Palme d’Or at this year’s Cannes Film Festival. Chastain’s complex and fascinating performance impressed Terence Malick enough to secure her for at least one more opportunity: an untitled project slated for 2012.
Clearly Jessica Chastain is someone to keep a close eye on in Hollywood. Her next project will see her co-starring with Al Pacino in an adaptation of Oscar Wilde’s Salome that Pacino will also be directing. It's obvious: Chastain’s unique screen presence and obvious devotion to her craft have her well equipped to be an enormous star.
Suffice to say, she won’t be under the radar much longer.
The Planet of the Apes prequel, directed by Rupert Wyatt and starring James Franco and Andy Serkis, stunned film experts in America last week (ends07Aug11) when it debuted with takings of $54 million (£34 million).
And the ape epic is still swinging from the top of the chart, racking up another $27.5 million (£17.19 million) in ticket sales. Its 10-day total now stands at a healthy $104.9 million (£65.56 million).
New drama The Help, based on the bestselling novel by Kathryn Stockett, opened in second place with $25.5 million (£15.94 million).
Other new entries included horror sequel Final Destination 5 at three and Jesse Eisenberg's action comedy 30 Minutes or Less, which debuted at five.
The writer was looking for inspiration when pal Tate Taylor introduced her to the actress and the idea for Mississippi maid Minny Jackson was born.
Taylor went on to direct the movie adaptation of the bestseller and Spencer was the only actress who didn't have to audition for him.
In fact, the director and his star have been longtime friends and once shared an apartment.
The film, also starring Bryce Dallas Howard, Emma Stone and Viola Davis, is well on its way to becoming the sleeper hit of the summer after taking in over $10 million (£6.25 million) in just a day. The movie was released in the U.S. on Friday (12Aug11).
Twentieth Century Fox’s Rise of The Planet of the Apes last week opened with a much better than expected $54.8 million and with great word-of-mouth and strong mid-week numbers posted a solid second weekend of $27.5 million to hold the top spot. This gives the simian rebels over $100 million in banana powered revenue after just 10 days of release and makes it one of the few certified hits of the late summer.
Disney’s acclaimed The Help is based upon the best-selling novel of the same name written by Kathryn Stockett who met writer-director Tate Taylor when they were 5 years old. Starring Emma Stone, Viola Davis and a terrific ensemble cast, The Help is certain to enjoy long term box office success and much attention come awards season. The film earned $25.5 million for the weekend and over $35 million in its first five days.
Final Destination 5 in 3-D will again draw audiences looking for the vicarious thrill of watching other human being dispatched in the most creative and often brutal way imaginable. The franchise has killed it pretty consistently at the box office with 2009’s “The Final Destination” in 3-D taking $27.4 million in its debut. The Warner Bros. release slaughtered $18.4 million this weekend and continues in the murderous tradition of the first film which debuted over a decade ago. IMAX also added its boost to the box office with the tagline “experience death on a whole new scale” to intrigue audiences.
Sony Animation’s The Smurfs has been a family favorite since its debut enjoyed a solid third weekend of $13.5 million, passing the $100 million mark on Sunday. Overseas the film has been a smash taking in $60 million this weekend for an international total of $141 million and worldwide revenues of $242 million. Now a box-office force to be reckoned with, Sony has announced a Smurfs sequel set for release on Aug. 2, 2013.
Sony’s 30 Minutes or Less rounds out the top 5 stealing $13 million in its debut. This is the seventh R-rated comedy to be released this summer and stars The Social Network’s Jesse Eisenberg as a pizza delivery guy who has a bomb strapped to his chest and is forced to rob a bank. Also starring Aziz Ansari and Danny McBride the film attracted a 58% male and 42% female audience with a majority of that audience under 25.
Fox’s newcomer Glee: The 3-D Concert Movie based on the hit TV show from Twentieth Century Fox debuted just outside of the top 10 in the eleventh spot with $5.7 million thus proving the unpredictable nature of the target teen audience.
The fifth consecutive “up” weekend vs. last year puts us on track to wind up the summer season on a high note with just three weekends to go.
Weekend Box Office
Top Movies for Weekend of August 12, 2011
Movie Weekend Gross Total to Date
1 Rise of the Planet of the Apes (PG13) $27.5M $104.9M
2 The Help (PG13) $25.5M $35.4M
3 Final Destination 5 (R) $18.4M $18.4M
4 The Smurfs (PG) $13.5M $101.5M
5 30 Minutes or Less (R) $13.0M $13.0M
Like the comfort food that lines the tables of its characters The Help – Tate Taylor’s adaptation of Kathryn Stockett’s bestselling novel – is sweet and savory and made with love. And though it’s a tad overstuffed and perhaps lacking in some vital nutrients it will undoubtedly leave a smile on your face.
The film is set in Jackson Mississippi in 1962 and dwells in the cloistered world of privileged white housewives who when not producing babies devote their lives to bridge club and Junior League and charity balls and gossip while their black domestic servants – the titular “help” – cook their food clean their houses and (for the most part) raise their children. Into this stratified milieu arrives headstrong and liberal-minded Ole Miss graduate Skeeter Phelan (Emma Stone). An aspiring writer Skeeter takes a job as cleaning-advice columnist for the local newspaper but her real ambition is a secret side project: a book that will honor the work of Jackson’s black housekeepers and draw attention to the mistreatment they often endure.
Such a book would naturally upset the accepted order of things in Jackson an order zealously protected by Miss Hilly Holbrook (Bryce Dallas Howard) the most prominent of the Jackson socialites. Hilly is no mere villain; she’s the embodiment of all the cruelty and intransigence of the Jim Crow South – George Wallace in a beehive. The film purports her to be one of Skeeter’s best friends but it’s hard to believe our kind-hearted heroine would associate with this bigoted snob (or for that matter with the rest of the white women in the film all of whom are depicted as either overtly or obliquely racist). This is a women whose pet civic project is an initiative to require Jackson homeowners to install separate toilets for their help because they “carry different diseases.” If The Help allotted Hilly a shred of humanity her friendship with Skeeter might seem plausible but to do so would dampen the film’s emotional punch – its raison d’etre as we learn later.
The Help is much kinder to its black servants two of whom – Aibileen (Viola Davis) and Minny (Octavia Spencer) – agree to collaborate with Skeeter on her secret exposé. Aibileen who raises white children with affection and warmth even as she bears the heartbreak of having tragically lost her own son is the film’s anchor. Sassy stubborn Minny is its spark. (Her scenes with Jessica Chastain’s Celia a lonely airhead in desperate need of culinary advice are the film’s most endearing.) Given the film’s two meatiest roles Spencer and Davis deliver its most memorable performances. That’s high praise indeed considering that the cast is uniformly excellent.
The Help’s final act might as well be subtitled the “Humbling of Hilly Holbrook ” as the film sets about gleefully dismantling the brunette piñata it has so carefully and conspicuously erected. Hilly sees her front yard defaced by discarded commodes eats a pie spiked with feces receives a verbal beatdown from seemingly every other character and sprouts a massive pimple – even her complexion disapproves of her it seems. Skeeter’s book when it is published is a smashing success – but less for its ennobling of Aibileen Minny and their fellow-maids than its devastating take-down of Hilly and her Junior League cohorts. We are all invited to revel in the near-slapstick shadenfreude but in between the snickering it’s worth pondering whether the film has perhaps lost its way. Was The Help really intended as a revenge fantasy?
Taylor a Mississippi native who has worked primarily as an actor and boasts only one feature filmmaking credit – 2008’s Pretty Ugly People a film that earned $6 537 at the box office according to boxofficemojo.com – seems an odd choice to helm such a high-profile project as The Help. That is until you learn that he and author Stockett grew up together and remain close friends. His hiring might strike some as cronyism but it doesn’t hurt the film. Taylor demonstrates a confident grasp of the character and contradictions of Jackson and he shows restraint with material that in less judicious hands could have amounted to so much southern-fried sap. Which isn’t to say The Help doesn’t tug on the heartstrings – indeed it’s precisely designed to do so – but it never surrenders to sentiment.
Arriving in theaters this week amid a groundswell of rapturous buzz is The Help, Disney/Dreamworks’ adaptation of Kathryn Stockett’s bestselling novel about three women living in pre-civil rights-era Jackson, Mississippi, who collaborate on a secret literary project. Much of the reason for that buzz is the film’s cast, which includes such formidable talents as Emma Stone, Viola Davis, Jessica Chastain, Bryce Dallas Howard and Octavia Spencer – all of whom are at the top of their game in the film, helping to craft a story that resonates deeply without ever succumbing to sentiment.
We sat down recently with the stars of The Help, as well as its director-screenwriter, Tate Taylor, and his childhood friend, Stockett, to talk about the process of bringing the beloved novel to life on the big screen:
Tate Taylor and Kathryn Stockett
Disney/Dreamworks today released the first trailer for their upcoming adaptation of Kathryn Stockett’s bestselling novel The Help, starring Emma Stone, Viola Davis, and Octavia Spencer as three women living in Civil Rights-era Mississippi who decide to collaborate on a secret writing project. The inspirational drama marks the sophomore feature effort for director Tate Taylor, whose 2009 debut, Pretty Ugly People, grossed $6,537 at the domestic box office, according to BoxOfficeMojo.com. Judging from the hype surrounding the trailer, we imagine The Help will probably do a little better:
For those eager for more Help action, a 90-second version of The Help trailer will air during the Barbara Walters 20/20 Royal Wedding Special, William & Catherine: A Modern Fairytale. So there.
The Help opens August 12, 2011.