I Read the F*@#ing Books | The Help

I read Kathryn Stockett’s The Help a few months ago having received a free Kindle download. I have to say I wasn’t that interested in it. I had heard a lot about the book since the 2011 film adaptation directed by Tate Taylor after it gained a lot of Oscar buzz but I didn’t watch the film and it took me a long time to get round to reading the book. Having rectified this, I want to share my thoughts on both of them.

The Help is set in 1960s Mississippi. The book is told from three women’s perspectives: Aibileen, her good friend Minnie and Skeeter. Aibileen and Minnie are both black maids working in the households of Skeeter’s (a white woman) friends. Aibileen is smart, well-read and respected by her community. She left school at a young age due to the need to earn but keeps up with her writing at which she is quite talented. Minnie is the firecracker of the pair, she has been fired from numerous jobs for talking back to her employers, but the one person she doesn’t stand up to is her abusive husband. Having just returned home from college, Skeeter begins to see the way in which her friends and her community treat their employees and decides to enlist the help of Aibileen and Minnie to publish a collection of their stories, exposing the true experience of ‘the Help’.

The film is very true to the book in events, characterisation and sequence. There are a few minor changes that I do think matter. I read the book first and my main criticism of it was that it seemed very sanitised. Terrible things happened, such as the enforcement of the rule that the maids had to use toilets outside, but there didn’t seem to be a lot of anger about it. Only one of the maids, Gretchen, was angry at Skeeter’s privileged position and this resulted in Aibileen telling Gretchen to leave her house. This was removed from the film. I think that’s a shame because it showed the reality of tension between the communities. For the most part The Help sticks rigidly to the idea that if you’re a ‘good’ person you’ll get along with anyone which to be frank, for the time it was set, seems a bit rose-tinted to say the least.

Another thing that irked me about the film was that I felt like Aibileen’s intelligence was dumbed down. She is a kind, nurturing woman, but she is also shown to be fiercely smart in the novel. One of the most famous lines in the film is the whole “you is kind, you is smart, you is important”, but Aibileen doesn’t say this in the book, she says “you are kind” because she has a strong grasp of language! It’s such a small detail but it seems like they were trying to make her seem less well read, more provincial even for no reason.

I guess the biggest criticism of The Help is that it is attempting to be the true story of black women in America in the 60s, but it is written by a white woman. Incidentally, a white woman who grew up with black maids. Of course she is going to have a certain bias. Even more disappointing is that the film is directed by a white man. The result is a perfectly pleasant book and film, but don’t assume that you’re going to get anything close to a historically accurate representation of black women’s experiences. The cast of the film is terrific but it’s such a shame that their source material was so weak. This was a cast that could has dealt with BIG issues with grace and integrity but instead they’ve produced a film that just pays lip service to the era.

Neither the book nor the film were my cup of tea, plus they’re so similar that I don’t think one is better than the other. If I had to, I’d say the book is superior due to the extra depth it gives Aibileen. I realise this might be quite controversial because it both are very popular, but I’d honestly say just skip both.

What did you think of The Help?

 

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December Film & TV Wrap Up

I was very excited for cinema trips in December. I know most people have been most hyped up about Star Wars, but seriously, I’ve been looking forward to the ‘Untitled Pixar Movie About Dinosaurs’ since they announced it in like, 2011. For reals.

The Good DinosaurThe Good Dinosaur

This is just the most incredible looking film. When the opening sequence started with vistas over mountains, rivers and fields, me and David looked at each other and both said “OH MY GOD!” (we whispered it of course). It looks SO GOOD. The animation is insanely beautiful and after the hyper imaginative world of Inside Out, Pixar have gone for a realism style for the setting of The Good Dinosaur.

It is a bit jarring then that the characters themselves are done in a much more cartoony style. I guess it’s easy to forget that Pixar movies are for kids but The Good Dinosaur definitely is. The premise is that the meteor tht killed the dinosaurs missed earth meaning that dinosaurs and humans co-exist. The twist being that the dinos have developed (taking on agricultural skills) while the humans are still primitive. Arlo is a apatosaurus who struggles to find his place on his family farm, he is small, weak and cowardly. A cruel twist of fate leaves him lost and miles from home and he has to seek help from the human boy Spot.

There were lots of things I loved about this film. The way the T-Rex are done as ranchers is brilliant (a slight raise of the arm gives the impression of horse-riding), Peter Sohn’s Forrest Woodbush, the paranoid styracosaurus is hilarious and the friendship between Arlo and Spot is touching. However, overall it is slightly disappointing. The plot borrows massively from The Lion King which straight away is unlike Pixar. It’s also incredibly earnest in it’s ‘moral message’, and I know it’s for kids, but I think even an eight-year-old would feel a little patronised by it.

I feel like I’m judging it a little harshly, but we expect so much from Pixar anything less than an A+ feels disappointing. I did love it, I just didn’t love love it.

star-wars-the-force-awakensStar Wars: The Force Awakens

Easily the biggest release of recent years. I’m not the biggest Star Wars fan, I’ve seen the other films but only once, but I totally got swept up in all the hype. I also wanted to see it fairly quickly so I could avoid the spoilers. For that reason I’m not going to go into the plot too much – it’s the new Star Wars film, there’s not really much else that is needed to be said to be honest.

Like the rest of the world, I really liked it. There are a few things about it I didn’t love (sorry Chewie fans, but what is the point of him in general?) but overall it’s a really fun ride. I love that the Star Wars films are quite diverse in their casting in general and this installment brings the first female villain as well as a great new heroine in Rey.

It definitely panders to the fans who disliked the prequels. It ticks all the boxes in terms of nostalgia, action and humour. All round a great film.

gothamGotham

The Netflix show of choice last month was Gotham. This is essentially Batman: The Very Beginning. Instead of Bruce Wayne, the main character is Detective James Gordon – Commissioner Gordon before the Commissioner part. The first episode sees the murder of the Waynes and Gordon (played by Benjamin MacKenzie of The OC fame) promising Bruce that he will find who did it. However, Gordon faces a series of unforeseen challenges as a new recruit to the corrupt Gotham Police Department.

While not perfect, there are loads of great characters in this. It’s incredibly over the top – Robin Taylor’s Penguin and Jada Pinkett Smith’s Fish Mooney especially – but it’s quite addictive and very watchable. I’m looking forward to the next season for sure.

Reggie YatesReggie Yates Extreme UK

Lastly, I’ve been watching the new documentaries from Reggie Yates on the BBC iPlayer. The new series is based in the UK and looks at the struggles men face – the titles are ‘Gay and Under Attack’, ‘Men at War’ and ‘Dying for a Six Pack’. I really like Reggie Yates, he has a great perspective on a range of issues and looks at it from his own viewpoint and is able to imagine that of his teenage brothers.

The ‘Men at War’ episode was particularly controversial as, in a very Louis Theroux-style, Reggie met men who were frankly ridiculous in their anti-feminism/anti-equality/anti-women extreme opinions. I think it missed a trick in not engaging with real issues such as inequality in matrimonial law instead of the ludicrous statements some of the men featured were making, but I guess the point was to show the extremes. Regardless, it definitely put to bed the argument that we don’t need feminism within the first 10 seconds!

What have you been watching recently? I’d love some documentary recommendations if you have any?

Favourite Film & TV 2015

I love a top 10 at this time of year. Unfortunately my memory sucks so you’re getting a top 8. Also, disclaimer time; I have not been to the cinema nearly enough this year and I’m always very late to watch TV stuff so I’m sure I am missing a TONNE of great stuff. Please take pity on me and leave me your recommendations from the year to check out.

FILM

Inside Out

One of Pixar’s most imaginative films takes place inside the mind of a child with her emotions becoming the main characters. It’s perfectly cast, beautiful and a joy to watch (even though it is also incredibly heartbreaking at times). Not only the best animated film of the year, but one of the best films of the year.

It FollowsIt Follows

Best described as a sexually transmitted demon, It Follows is an instant cult horror hit. It’s quietly terrifying and never goes for the cheap thrill while he soundtrack heightens the atmosphere much like an early Carpenter film. The premise sounds slightly silly to begin with, but it works so, so well.

TrainwreckTrainwreck

Like most Apatow films these days, Trainwreck is about 30 minutes too long, but this is forgiveable as it is very funny. It’s the film that has put Amy Schumer in the spotlight his year and rightly so, girl has spot on comic timing. A needlessly long runtime is one of my pet peeves but the dance routine at the very end more than makes up for it. Great turn by wrestler John Cena too.

Jurassic World Jurassic World

Probably the best dinosaur movie of 2015 (honourable mention goes to The Good Dinosaur for it’s sheer beauty), I love it for the influx of dino merch it has inspired apart from anything else! Still, a good blockbuster that lived up to the anticipation preceding it.

Star-WarsStar Wars: The Force Awakens

Talking of living up to it’s hype, I’m betting that the new Star Wars film will be a late entry to everyone’s best of list. It’s a massively successful return to form for the franchise and an exciting start to the upcoming six (yes, six) new additions to the space opera.

TV

GOT S5Game of Thrones Season 5

Yeah, my fave every year. I feel like season 5 got off to a fairly slow start (the books also stutter around this time), but when it stepped it up, it did so in a big way. I liked the changes in the narrative in this series (I compare the books and the show in this post if you’re interested) and I’m really excited for season 6 to start in April. I don’t want to spoil anything but NOOO, Davos, don’t goooo!

SharkShark

I loved this BBC series all about sharks, appropriately titled Shark.  Sharks are largely feared and definitely misunderstood but they are vital to the survival of the oceans so they should be respected and protected. I’d love to see more sharky stuff on TV like this and not Jaws (as much as I love that film).

The HuntThe Hunt

Another year, another incredible BBC and David Attenborough natural world series that knocks everyone else out of the park. This year it focused on the measures that carnivores have to go through to survive. As usual the filming was breathtaking, the techniques innovative and it was packed with never seen before footage and behaviours. Love, love, LOVE.

What wonderful things have you watched this year?

November Film & TV Wrap Up

Well, this past month has been appalling for watching stuff. I don’t know what I’ve been doing, but it’s not been watching films that’s for sure. Here’s the handful of TV stuff I’ve been enjoying though:

Scream TV Series

Scream: The TV Series

OK, so maybe ‘enjoyed’ isn’t the right word for this one, but I have finished watching the first series of Scream (I’m assuming that there will be a second series). There are good things about it – it’s true to the Scream sense of humour for one with self-aware, pop culture peppered quips. However, it suffers with some bad acting and central characters that are kind of boring. It’s definitely not one to raise your expectations for.

Still Game

Still Game

Faring better on Netflix, is Still Game. This is one of my favourite shows ever so I was happy to see it being added to Netflix, it’s quite niche to Scotland but I’m sure it’ll appeal to a wider audience if they give it a chance. I can’t see how anyone doesn’t find it funny to be honest. If you’re not familiar with it, it’s about two pensioners in the Glaswegian town of Craiglang. Just watch it though.

Siddiquis Gogglebox

Gogglebox

I’m really loving Gogglebox this series. It’s such a great concept and I think they have a really great mix of characters this year. The Siddiquis are probably my favourite family, although I do feel sorry for Umar who seems to have the most uncomfortable seat on the whole show in the middle of that corner sofa! This is why I haven’t been watching very much, I just like getting the gist from Gogglebox!

Polar bear

The Hunt

The latest David Attenborough series from the BBC is all about hunters and their quest for food from the jungle to the poles and it is incredible. I’ve seen on Twitter when the show has been featured on Gogglebox people complaining that they don’t want to see animals getting killed and I honestly don’t understand it at all. Would they rather see animals starving to death? Carnivores got to eat too, people! I always root for the hunter #sorrynotsorry! Seriously though, this show is full of remarkable footage and never before seen behaviours or both the hunter and the hunted so I’ve learnt loads from it. Favourite programme of the year!

What have you all been watching recently? I obviously need some recommendations so leave them below!

Christmas Gift Guides 2015 | Film Buffs

Everyone loves films right? Admittedly some more than others, but we all had our genres we love to watch. This gift guide has something for everyone, from the hardcore film buffs to the people who enjoy the occasion night in on the sofa with a film and a bucket of popcorn.

Film Buff Gift Guide

Top row left to right: Clapperboard Cushion (£8); Gone with the Gin: Cocktails with a Hollywood Twist (£6.99); Retro Treats Popcorn Bowl (£15); Retro Sign Necklace (£48)

Give your living room the aura of a film set with this sweet cushion from George at Asda. Perfect for hiding behind during scary films too; This is a punderful little book packed with cocktail recipes inspired by the films. A Gone with the Wind/Gin drink-along would be pretty fun; I love the retro popcorn boxes you see quite often, but especially this ceramic one as it’ll last a lot longer. Good sharing size too; Top of my own list though is this acrylic necklace. It’s so detailed and absolutely gorgeous!

Bottom row left to right: GoPro Hero (£94); Gourmet Popping Corn (£9.99); Little White Lies Subscription (from £29); Movie Poster Print (from £9.99)

If it’s time for someone to put their money where their mouth is, challenge them to make their own films; For the foodie film fan there are lots of treats out there but I really like the look of these popping corn mix bag. The shop also sells seasoning too; I love Little White Lies and I think that this is the best options if you do want to get something like a magazine subscription for someone. Every issue is glorious, the Jim Carrey issue is one of my faves; Finally another good idea is an alternative movie poster print. I would obvs go for the Jaws one but there are absolutely hundreds of option on Etsy.

I want all this stuff for myself now!

I Read the F*@#ing Books | V for Vendetta

V for Vendetta

Let’s start with a quote from Alan Moore: “I wanted to give comics a special place when I was writing things like Watchmen. I wanted to show off just what the possibilities of the comic book medium were, and films are completely different.”

And another one: “If we only see comics in relation to movies then the best that they will ever be is films that do not move. I found it, in the mid 80s, preferable to concentrate on those things that only comics could achieve. The way in which a tremendous amount of information could be included visually in every panel, the juxtapositions between what a character was saying, and what the image that the reader was looking at would be. So in a sense … most of my work from the 80s onwards was designed to be un-filmable.”

So it’s been no secret that Alan Moore hates the adaptations of his books. It’s actually uncomfortable to think that he is now so unhappy with the process of adaptation that he has requested his name to be removed from all film credits. However, I don’t at all think that adaptations are valueless, nor do they render their source material obsolete.

I saw the film V for Vendetta years ago and liked it. David has had the graphic novel on his shelf for sometime so I decided there was no better time to read it than the run up to Guy Fawkes Night. The plot is essentially the same: A fascist  totalitarian government has taken over England following a nuclear war (in the film it is after a deadly global epidemic). Standing against this is V, an enigmatic masked figure, an anarchist who seeks to bring the government to its knees while pursuing his own personal vengeance. Evey is a working class girl who becomes unwittingly tangled in V’s activities and must determine whether he is the terrorist the government paint him as or the catalyst to free the country.

There are lots of differences between the book and film but for me the most major one was the change to the character of Evey. In the book we meet 16-year-old orphan Evey when she is preparing to head into the city, her first night as a prostitute having been driving to desperation by her low paying factory job. She is almost immediately caught by ‘Fingermen’, police patrolmen who assault her until she is rescued by V. In the film, Evey is a young professional working for the national TV station. Her life is not without tragedy, she is still an orphan and she is also attacked by Fingermen while out breaking curfew. However, she’s not at the same level of disenfranchisement when she meets V so her willingness to work with him doesn’t ring as believable.

My other source of disappointment is the removal of Rosemary Almond and Helen Heyer. Not only are they two of the very few female characters but their story arcs are key and offer two very different perspectives to the machismo of the Cabinet members and their cronies.

Stylistically, the film is very slick, as one might expect from the Wachowski Brothers (most known for The Matrix). Again, I have to say this loses some of the grit from the book, but the slow-mo knife-fights are intended to add a sort of ‘super-human’ quality to V which is also alluded to in the book.

Overall, the book is layered and at times has an unexpected subtlety which is missing from the film version. It creates a dystopian England that doesn’t seem all that far-fetched and in V creates a symbol for anarchy which has since been adopted (rightly or wrongly). Above all, it demonstrates Moore’s (and illustrator David Lloyd’s) mastery of the graphic novel form. So while the film is good, the book is excellent.

Have you seen or read V for Vendetta? What did you think?

October Film & TV Wrap Up

I’ve decided to start doing more film and TV related posts so I thought a good way of getting into this would be a monthly wrap up of what I’ve been watching much in the way that I do with books. Unfortunately, this has actually been a pretty bad month for watching stuff, but hey ho, let’s just go with it.

Catastrophe

Catastrophe

I’ve just watched the first season on All 4 so will be starting series two now. It’s about a couple who after a 6-night stand discover she is pregnant so decide to make a go of it. It’s a really warm and funny sit-com and as the series’ are super short (6 episodes) is really fast paced – I guess like Sharon and Rob’s relationship. Highly recommend.

the-apprentice-20151

The Apprentice

Stuff the X-Factor, Strictly Come Dancing  and even The Great British Bake OffThe Apprentice is my favourite TV “talent” show. Mostly for the complete and utter lack of talent. They’ve even dropped the whole “12 of Britain’s best business minds” schtick. Nope, its 12 chumps who don’t mind looking useless on telly. I love that they still have the same old wonderfully dated tasks where no-one is allowed to do internet based research. Gutted that the power of Claude’s glare is being diluted by the week though, he’ll be missed on the interview week. Hope they’ve found a real monster to replace him.

The Interview

The Interview

Guys, I watched The Interview. The film that got far more coverage than it deserved thanks to North Korea freaking out over the negative portrayal and the fact that it was a comedy about an assassination attempt on Kim Jong-Un. Really they should have thought about what complete and utter shite it is and counted on no one sober wanting to watch it. Don’t get me wrong, there are one or two genuine LOL moments, but mostly, it’s more of the self-indulgent crap that Franco, Rogen et al. seem to be so fond of these days. My prevailing impression of it was that James Franco was doing far too much with his face the entire time. Literally a different ‘comedy’ face in every shot. At one point he says “that is the strongest ecstasy I have ever done in my life”. I don’t think that was in character, I think that just happened.

What-We-Do-in-the-Shadows-A-Vampire-Comedy

What We Do in the Shadows

A much better comedy was this Kiwi vampire mockumentary from Jermaine Clement and Taika Waititi. Although the mockumentary format is a bit tired now, this was well suited to it. It follows four vampires who live together and have to tackle the mundane such as whose turn it is to do the dishes, as well as the slightly more unusual such as not hitting a main artery when draining someone. Ridiculous but fun. Worth it for the Rhys Darby cameo as the alpha werewolf alone.

Scream Episode One

Scream

I’ve only watched one episode of the new Scream TV series so I don’t have much of an opinion yet but I will say that it already seems awful. It’s the self-aware element of the film dialled up to eleven. Plus the new ghost face mask looks ridiculous – like they’re actually trying to make it seem scary which kind of defeats the whole point, doesn’t it? Anyway, more on this next time.

What have you been watching recently? Any recommendations?