All Articles Tagged "The Help"

Just Two Black Directors?! White Men Directed 90% Of This Year’s Summer Films

April 9th, 2014 - By Kimberly Gedeon
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Director Tim Story. Zibi/

Director Tim Story. Zibi/

White male directors have damn-near monopolized the film industry! Out of 39 major films slated to launch this summer, 37 of them were directed by white men — only two were directed by black men, The Wrap reports.

Yeah, you heard right! More than 90 percent of the films you’ll be watching in May, June, July, and August will be directed by white men — unless you decide to only watch Think Like a Man, Too (directed by Tim Story) and When the Game Stands Tall, a sports drama directed by Thomas Carter. Both are black directors.

The other 37 films, however, are “incredibly white,” as Bustle says. This includes Maleficent, Annie, Expendables 3, The Fault in Our Stars, Blended, Transformers 4 and even Get On Up, a James Brown biopic.

Octavia Spencer, best known for her role in The Help, recently told The Grio that it’s the lack of financial backing that is the main culprit behind the dearth of black film directors in major film productions. “Black directors don’t get the funding for their films,” Spencer said. “That’s the problem, not that white directors are telling these stories. It’s a Catch-22 really.”

In fact, The Help was directed by Tate Taylor, a white male, and Spencer adds that she sees no issue with white directors tackling black narratives:

“Do I feel that white directors have to tell only white stories? No. Do I feel that black filmmakers should only tell stories about black people? No,” she continued. “If we say that, then that means Asian people cannot write about anybody but Asians. I don’t think a woman should only write about women…I think you, as an artist, you are driven by what compels you to tell that story.”

Racism isn’t the problem per se, but it’s an issue of cronyism. As Shonda Rhimes explained during her acceptance speech two months ago, the film industry has been a “white boys club” for 70 years and they hire who they know — which is more than likely to be their white friends.

“People hire their friends.They hire who they know. It’s comfortable. You want to be successful, you don’t want to take any chances, you don’t want to rock the boat by hiring people of color,” Rhimes said. ” I like the world that we work in to look like the world that we live in. Different voices make for different visions.”

As studies have shown time and time again, diversity reaps more profit. So it’s beyond us why the homogeneous Hollywood film industry still hasn’t gotten the picture (pun intended).

’12 Years A Slave’ Wins The Box Office In Limited Release

October 22nd, 2013 - By Kimberly Gedeon
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Daniel Deme/

Daniel Deme/

Gravity is out of this world! The film has solidified its place as No.1 for three consecutive weeks. “The movie featuring Sandra Bullock and George Clooney has joined  Lee Daniels’ The Butler and Fast & Furious 6 as the only pictures to claim three weekend crowns,” this year, USA Today added. The box-office hit raked in a total of $170.6 million.

But the real story might be 12 Years a Slave, the film about a Black man kidnapped into slavery starring Chiwetel Ejiofor. The critically-acclaimed movie was only been shown in 19 theaters and still pulled in $960,000 in total. Each location grabbed $50,000 — “one of the top averages ever for a movie opening in that number of theaters,” The Hollywood Reporter says.

Many critics agree with CNN’s label of 12 Years a Slave: “agonizingly magnificent.” While the pain-filled portrayal of slavery may cause the viewers to grimace, audience members are captivated by the protagonist Solomon Northup. “It’s Ejiofor’s extraordinary performance that holds 12 Years a Slave together. He gives Solomon a deep inner strength, yet he never softens the nightmare of his existence. His ultimate pain isn’t the beatings or the humiliation. It’s being ripped from his family,” CNN said.

After The Help, The Butler and Django Unchained there might be some surprise that yet another race-conscious film is capturing audience attention. ThinkProgress explained it best:

Unlike Aibileen Clark (Viola Davis), the housekeeper in The Help, who goes from quiet acceptance of her lot to speaking her mind, or Django (Jamie Foxx), who begins Django Unchained in irons and ends it galloping off towards freedom with his wife, Solomon spends much of 12 Years A Slave traveling an opposite trajectory.

While the main characters from The Help and Django Unchained were somewhat bound in the beginning of the film, Solomon — being born a free man — lived and breathed liberty until he was forced into the brutality of slavery in 1841.

The film, which was released by Fox Searchlight in select theaters, reached primarily two types of audiences: African-Americans (of course) and the art house and cinema-nerds. However, this critic-favorite plans to reach different targets as it expands to 100 theaters next week.

If you’re wondering where the movie Carrie falls in with the movie frenzy, the thriller landed at No. 3 behind Captain PhillipsTom Hanks’ maritime thriller.

Have you seen any of these? Tell us what you thought!

Octavia Spencer And Viola Davis To Reunite For James Brown Biopic, ‘Get On Up’

October 1st, 2013 - By Jazmine Denise Rogers
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Source: WENN

Source: WENN

Over the summer when we told you that 42 actor Chadwick Boseman had been cast to play legendary father of funk, James Brown, we also told you that the film’s director, Tate Taylor, was looking to reunite The Help actresses Octavia Spencer and Viola Davis. We’re happy to report that both ladies have officially been cast for the upcoming film!

According to Deadline, Viola will be playing James Brown’s mother, Susie Brown, who gave birth to the musical icon at just 16 years old and left him to live with relatives.  Octavia will be playing the late singer’s aunt, Anne Tunney aka Aunt Honey, who was reportedly a very important and formative figure in James’ life. Chatter regarding True Blood’s Nelsan Ellis being added to the cast is still circulating, but nothing has been confirmed as of yet.

Filming for the long-awaited movie begins in November in Mississippi and it’s already scheduled to hit theaters October 17, 2014. It’s been a long time coming for this biographical film, which was originally supposed to be written and directed by Spike Lee. Eddie Murphy, who at one point was cast to play James, praised Spike’s script for the film.

“That’s a great, great piece. I wish it could come together. It has everything and his story is incredible. Imagine how incredible Ray Charles’ story was — and he’s at the piano. James is doing splits and running and jump off the wall. Angel dust. Shooting out tires. James’ sh** is bananas,” Eddie told Black Tree TV.

Somewhere along the line, Spike was replaced by Tate. Either way, we’re glad this project is finally happening!

Why BET’s ‘Being Mary Jane’ Is A Win For Women Of Color

July 9th, 2013 - By La Truly
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The night of the premiere, I decided not to watch Being Mary Jane. I saw the hash tag all up and through my Twitter timeline with all sorts of comments as people followed the storyline. I didn’t want other opinions clouding my thoughts as I watched. So, I waited a day, found the show online, and watched in solitude.

The original movie-turned-show chronicles the life of Gabrielle Union’s character, Mary Jane Paul. She’s a largely successful television news anchor who is gorgeous, smart, and wealthy, but who is quite unlucky in love and unfortunately is the sole breadwinner for her entire family.

I watched with baited breath praying that the acting would not suck – it did not. Neither was the storyline dull or unrealistic. In fact, it was so realistic, I found myself laughing throughout, remembering similar instances in my own life. I enjoyed it from the opening post-it note to the ending booty call, because although it might not be a squeaky clean portrayal of a black woman – it’s an honest one.

I can fully appreciate Mary Jane for the same reasons I appreciate Kerry Washington’s portrayal of Olivia Pope in Scandal – the unmitigated honesty. The typewritten disclaimer at the beginning informed viewers that the show isn’t trying to account for the lives of every black woman everywhere…just one. The show doesn’t seek to lump all black women into one group of  romantically challenged workaholics, it just lets us follow one woman who is trying to navigate that space in her life. A life full of choices to be made. Sometimes she gets them right, and sometimes she gets them wrong. You know, like a human being?

I saw glimpses of myself or people I know throughout the storyline. Who hasn’t gone back to the man who is no good for them but feels so good to them? Who hasn’t fought for a cause they truly believe in on their job only to be shot down? Who hasn’t flooded themselves with messages of affirmation and encouragement? Who hasn’t tidied their whole house and gotten “effortlessly” sexified in a matter of minutes before inviting their boo inside? And yes, who hasn’t employed the quick “squat-and-wash” method of washing up before an impromptu hot date?

I screamed when Mary Jane was Facebook chatting with her ex. More than once I have started typing, then rethought it and deleted, started again, then deleted it again only to end up with coy one or two-word answers – trying to tailor my responses to get the responses I wanted from a guy – whether via Facebook chat or text message.

My point is – I wasn’t mad at the creators of the show for displaying a truth that many of us won’t admit to living. I was thankful, in a way, for being shown that I’m not the only one who wrestles with some of these issues.

While people have a right to dislike any work of art they choose, I noticed that most of the criticism of Mary Jane (which was luckily not a lot) stemmed from a belief that it showed black women in a poor light. It’s the same mentality that met Viola Davis when she decided to play Abilene in The Help. It’s the mentality that black actresses are not allowed to show the whole truth. Just the pieces that sparkle and smell clean. If the image isn’t 98.7 percent positive, we get uncomfortable.

My response? We have got to get over the fear of telling the truth about ourselves individually and collectively. One person’s truth doesn’t necessarily blanket a whole race. And if art reflects life then for goodness’ sake, allow it to. I’d like to take for granted that most people are smart enough to watch television without coming away with all-encompassing thoughts about an entire group of people from ONE television show. While I love watching Scandal, I believe that anyone who draws the conclusion from the show that all black women are looking to be mistresses to white men are incredibly unintelligent human beings with no real right to voice their opinions. Just saying.

Being Mary Jane seems to be a story of trajectory framed in a way that many women of color will be able to appreciate. And, hey, it debuted with four million viewers so I think that signifies a win with some longevity. There are layers in it and the character as there are in our everyday lives and I’m excited to see what is revealed throughout Mary Jane’s journey.

What Did You Think? Oprah’s Next Chapter Tackled Mean Girls And Mixed Feelings About Skin Tone

June 24th, 2013 - By La Truly
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black women in hollywood

Last night, Alfre Woodard, Gabrielle Union, Phylicia Rashad and Viola Davis sat with Oprah Winfrey to discuss the ins and outs and ups and downs of navigating Hollywood as women of color on Oprah’s Next Chapter.

With such an array of talents and accolades  in one room it was most intriguing to watch the discussion of everything from how inconsistent work can be, to leaving within their means in such a volatile industry, to supporting fellow Black actresses.

Gabrielle Union, who was essentially Oprah’s reason for this particular installment of Next Chapter, revealed quite a bit about her internal struggle with her mean girl demons and expounded upon the jaw-dropping-ly honest speech she gave during an ESSENCE luncheon earlier this year. When receiving the Fierce and Fabulous award, Union recounted how she had been only pretending to be fierce and fabulous for much of her life. She uncovered how she had at one point torn others down to feel better about herself.

“I had to really examine all of the choices I’ve made as an adult and what I like and don’t like,” she said. “And there was a lot I didn’t like. So from that point in like, my early thirties, I started really living my truth and my words matched my actions.”

An always timely message for women of color, and actually just women in general, as the “crabs in a barrel” mentality is one that seems to pervade in many parts of our lives, as if we all can’t succeed and shine together.

It was interesting to see the reactions of the older women because it was clear that they came up in a different era entirely, one where fierce support of each other reigned supreme. The differences were very evident as Viola Davis spoke of refusing to apologize for herself and of being “pathological about being supportive. To anybody.” She also spoke of how Black writers in Hollywood seem to only want to write characters that are not flawed, or show the ugly side of humanity because they are afraid of how they will appear to others.

Phylicia Rashad, in all her regal elegance, gave insight into the truth of The Cosby Show, remembering how many believed it was not a realistic portrayal of Black America at the time, when it absolutely was, in fact.

“I grew up in Houston, Texas in the third ward and it was very realistic. And it wasn’t just realistic in Houston, Texas – it was realistic in Charlotte, North Carolina, in Atlanta, in New York, in Richmond, in Hampton… It was realistic in a lot of places…I guess it just depends on (who you know) and what you know. People will always have something to complain about. [It goes back to] knowing your life and who and what you are. You can stand in that and it doesn’t really matter.”

The discussion covered a range of topics including light skin v. dark skin which segued perfectly into the “Dark Girls” documentary that followed. Twitter rang out, praising the OWN Network for sitting these beautifully talented women down to discuss their truths and change.

Check out videos from last night’s discussion. What did you think?

Alfre Woodard on the Fierce Competition Among Black Actresses

Award-winning actress Alfre Woodard has been working in Hollywood for more than three decades. For years, she says, the mention of another African-American actress’s name would spark negativity and, oftentimes, the b-word from her managers and agents. Watch as Alfre shares a revelation she had about the women she was competing against.

MN Daily Salute: Viola Davis

February 20th, 2013 - By Raven Carter
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Source: WENN

Source: WENN

Viola Davis

CALLING: Actor and activist


Viola Davis has made us proud on and off screen through dedication to her craft and the ability to intertwine her passion for improving education into her movie roles, while simultaneously introducing a new aesthetic of beauty to be celebrated in Hollywood.

Though Davis’s name has only recently begun to be heard on the tongues of nearly every prominent figure in the movie business, she’s actually been a strong force in the entertainment industry for some time now. Davis majored in theatre at Rhode Island College, where she graduated from in 1988 — and later received an honorary doctorate in Fine Arts from in 2002 —  and a year later attended Julliard for four year as a member of the school’s Drama Division’s Group 22 from 1989–1993.

Only a few years later, the St. Matthews, SC, native won her first Tony and Drama Desk Award for her portrayal of a 35-year-old mother fighting for the right to abort a pregnancy in King Hedley II. A number of roles in major Hollywood productions followed that win, including parts in Antoine Fisher, Out of Sight, and Solaris. In 2008, Davis was nominated for a Golden Globe and an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for her role in Doubt, and  a year later she was inducted into The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Just one other year after that, Davis won a second Tony Award for her role as Rose Maxson in a revival of Fences, becoming only the second African American woman to win the award after Phylicia Rashad.

It could be said that in 2011 Davis took on her biggest role yet as Abilene Clark in the movie adaptation of The Help. Despite criticism from some who weren’t interested in seeing Black woman portrayed in a servant role, Davis was lauded for her performance with nominations for Golden Globe, BAFTA, Screen Actors Guild, and Academy Awards.

It was during the recognition for her role in The Help, that Viola repped for naturalistas everywhere when she hit the red carpet at the 2012 Oscars without her characteristic straight wigs, but with a teeny weeny afro that she was encouraged to rock by her husband.  For staying true to herself while still giving her all to her roles on the big screen, we salute Viola Davis.

Click here to meet all of our salutes.

‘I Can’t Be Another Housekeeper:’ Viola Davis Narrowly Escapes Maid Role In New Film, ‘Beautiful Creatures’

February 7th, 2013 - By madamenoire
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From Eur Web

In “The Help,” Viola Davis famously played a maid who discovers her own power.

Her new film “Beautiful Creatures” is based on a book in which her character Amma is also a maid – but with telepathic power.

All dark magic aside, the maid part of the deal, for Davis, caused initial hesitation in moving forward with the role.

“As soon as I saw that Amma was a housekeeper, my radar went up because of ‘The Help,’” Davis told us during interviews for the film last weekend in Los Angeles. “I said, ‘I can’t be another housekeeper.’”

Check out the rest of the interview on

Paying It Forward: Octavia Spencer Creates Contest for Aspiring Filmmakers

January 26th, 2013 - By Drenna Armstrong
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"OctaviaSpencer pf"


There are few people in this world who can say they’ve made it to a certain level in their careers without hard work and perhaps, someone who didn’t mind lending a helping hand.

Oscar winner Octavia Spencer has taken it upon herself to lend that hand in her industry. EURweb is reporting that Spencer is currently holding a contest on her Facebook page for aspiring filmmakers. She explained that she knows the struggle of “making it big” in the industry because it was the same way with her and many of her friends.  As she stated:

“What many people don’t know is that it takes an average of 15 years to become an over night success. At least that’s how long it took me and my friends. But, in that time you must create and continue to hone your skills. If you are a musician, write poetry and turn it into an amazing song. If you are a filmmaker write a short and shoot it. I’ve done it twice now. I know it’s not easy. Two of my friends shot beautiful, award winning shorts on the CANON EOS 60D. One of those films was shortlisted to potentially receive an Oscar nomination yesterday. Trust me I know money is tight.  So, in honor of Award Season, I’d like to help someone else see their dream realized.”

Each film, which must be in short form, must be posted right on her page and cannot exceed 20 minutes in length. All filmmakers can enter as many films as they’d like but can only submit each film once.  The winner will receive a Canon EOS 60D, Platinum 6000 digital tripod and $1,000. The second and third place winners will receive $500 and $250, respectively.

All entries must be submitted before February 10th and the winner will be announced during Oscar weekend (the show will air live on February 24th).

This is a wonderful thing Spencer is doing. Not only is she encouraging up and coming artists by sharing her story (which clearly hasn’t been easy), but she’s also doing her part to further a filmmaker’s talents. There’s something to be said for a person who sees that their success can be used to build up someone else.

If you’ve got a film or have been thinking about making one, get to it and submit!

Are Oscars Worthless? Octavia Spencer Says Winning Has Done Nothing For Her Career

September 18th, 2012 - By Brande Victorian
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Source: WENN

Winning an Oscar is said to be the pinnacle of an actor’s career, but is walking away with a gold statue and recognition from your peers really worth anything tangible, like better movie roles and more money? Octavia Spencer says no.

This past award’s season was all about “The Help” actress, and she cleaned up in virtually ever best supporting actress category she was nominated in, from the SAGs to the Golden Globes, and the coveted Academy Awards. Octavia knew the hoopla wasn’t going to be all it was cracked up to be, remarking after she won her Golden Globe, “The studios are still not going to beat down my door unless it’s a small part in a big comedy, and I’ve done those.” Months later, and with an Oscar under her belt, her prophecy is proving to be true. In an interview with The Vulture, the star of the upcoming flick, “Smashed,” talked about how not much has changed since award season when it comes to her career. Here’s a bit of the Q&A:

While you were on set [for “The Help”], did you have a sense that your career was in the middle of a big shift?
No, the reality for me was that I thought my phone would be ringing a lot, and it wasn’t. And this project [“Smashed”] came along, and it was a great film, and it was [prior to] the success of “The Help.” Now, looking back, they get huge kudos from me. So no, because my phone wasn’t ringing off the hook, I didn’t feel like anything was changing.

Well, it must have started ringing at some point, because you have some pretty great projects coming up, like Diablo Cody’s movie andSnow Piercer.
Well, the funny is thing is that I got the Diablo Cody movie and I got “Snow Piercer” before I got any nominations, so I knew I had both of those projects in November. I don’t want to sound as if [I’m complaining]. The reality is that there are so few roles out there for women and for women of color, and I’m a character actor, this I know. And I’m getting to see more of the roles that are out there, but there aren’t many. And zilch have been studio movies. Zilch. So my challenge and my opportunity now is to take the opportunity to create my own work. I’m fine with that.

So what you’re saying is that you booked a lot of roles off The Help, but winning the Oscar — lovely though it may have been — wasn’t necessarily a big needle-mover.
It’s a needle-mover in the sense that I get to go into room and meet with really important people. If that translates into job offers, then we’ll see. It’s a needle-mover, but not that much.

It was a needle-mover in another way, at least: During the Oscar season, you wore — and I know you’re going to be modest about this — a lot of gorgeous Tadashi Shoji dresses.
I’m not going to be modest: I did! [Laughs]

What advice would you give to the stars who are about to embark on that Oscar gauntlet of press and promotion and parties, like you did last year?
See, for me, I’ve been doing this for seventeen years, so I just looked it as an opportunity to meet people and enjoy myself. I would say: Be kind to yourself, get rest, but go and enjoy yourself. Don’t look it as a job, because if you go into it expecting anything and it doesn’t happen, then you’ve lost a lot of time. If you go into it without a lot of expectations, you can enjoy the process and enjoy the fact the George Clooney’s going to walk through that door, Brad Pitt’s going to walk through that door, all these people that you ever dared to dream of meeting. I was always excited: Oh my God, there’s George! I’ll be right back, I’m going to say hi to George. That’s how I took it, and enjoyed every moment of it.

Though “The Help” and the recognition that came with it may have pigeonholed Octavia Spencer in Hollywood, the truth of the matter is unless you were a phenomenal, well-known actor or actress before winning an Oscar, the little gold man doesn’t seem to do much for anybody. I can’t say if this is specifically race related, but just thinking off the top of my head, the acting careers of Halle Berry, Jamie Foxx,  Jennifer Hudson, and Monique all seemed to go rapidly downhill after their Oscar wins, regardless of the type of role they played. This is often why such awards are considered more of a popularity contest than any indication of one’s value in the business.

What do you think about what Octavia had to say about her career post-Oscar?

More on Madame Noire!

Octavia Spencer Gets ‘Help’ With Gastric Bybass Surgery

March 24th, 2012 - By MN Editor
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Octavia Spencer, the recently awarded Oscar winning actress for her role in The Help is not shy about her battles with weight loss. The 5 ft 2 in actress recently underwent a risky gastric bypass surgery and lost a significant amount of weight. Unfortunately, it seems as though she is having a lot of trouble losing any more weight due to her hard to break eating habits

Sources say “The problem is Octavia is always hungry, and she doesn’t want to eat a salad or fish for dinner,”  “Octavia likes her favorites – fried chicken, mashed potatoes and hot rolls with plenty of butter. Once you have that surgery, you can’t eat like that.”

Read more here…

They say old habits die hard, but do you think one should deprive themselves of what they love when it comes to food?