March 21, 2012

Storytelling

It's been 3 years since Avatar that I can finally enter a movie theatre without feeling nauseous. To celebrate this long awaited victory I chose to see two movies in the last three weeks, Shame and The Help. Shame was chosen from a movie trailer and The Help has been all over the news with Oscar nominations and awards. Two very different movies, one good and one great in my opinion.

Shame, starring Michael Fassbender, is about a financially successful man who uses sex as a way of coping with demons in his past. His sister, played by Carey Mulligan (An Education), is haunted by the same troubles but deals with them in a different but equally dysfunctional manner. Shame is raw and sexually graphic but directed in a way that it is not arousing or erotic but rather emptied and sad. The superb acting of Michael Fassbender converts scenes of sensuality and indulgence into those of suffering and diversion. I should mention that I knew nothing of Michael Fassbender before Shame. I now know a LOT about him. Mighty fine physical attributes aside, Mr. Fassbender is an exceptional actor who deserves recognition.


The Help is a story about abuses suffered by a group of black American maids in the 1960's and the small vindication they receive with the aid of a white, female reporter. It's built on poor verses rich, white verse black, woman verses men themes which provide feel good moments similar to ones I had when I watched Bambi for the first time. This was good entertainment but I also got the feeling I had seen it before. Like The Color Purple meets Mean Girls. Octavia Spencer has received most of the acclaim for The Help. Other than being the vessel for delivering the most dramatic moment in the film, I'm not sure why. I can think of other actors who could have delivered up the same scene equally well (Whoopi Goldberg, Kathy Bates come to mind). I'm not saying that Mrs. Spencer isn't a terrific actor in her own right, I just didn't see the range in this film.



And yes, this review is rather far from the starting gate but I live in Switzerland. It's either wait six months or download. I hear Star Wars should be out any day now.

Watching these two films, one which is commercially successful and the other artistically successful makes me pause and think about what kind of writer I want to be, what kind of writer I'm capable of being and how important it is to bring something fresh to the table. And then Stobby gets all 1984ish. Do I serve something that's become so common the audience is now convinced it's what they want or do I attempt provoking alternative points of view and risk offending most, but not all? I think I have to do both. And I have to find the talent to do it while I desperately strive not to be cliché.

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