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Is ‘The Help’ A Legitimate Oscar Contender?

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The Help. It’s about maids, black people, racism and a plain, ugly girl played by a beautiful actress. It’s a movie born and raised to be an Oscar contender, an accessible, lighthearted picture about a serious issue. It’s this year’s Blind Side, good-hearted and purposeful, harmless while entertaining. It’s also a box office hit, and Oscar voters love box office hits.

The movie was also released in the summer, and Oscar voters forget movies that are released in the summer.

The Help debuts on DVD and Blu-ray today, in perfect time to make tens of millions more dollars before Christmas. It’s worthy of those dollars, a perfect blend of wholesome and meaningful, a great gift, especially for women.

But is it a legitimate Oscar contender?

It’s quite likely The Help will be one of the ridiculously large amount of movies nominated for Best Picture this year. In fact, it would be surprising if it wasn’t. The bread-and-butter drama is a mainstay of the Best Picture category… but that doesn’t mean its chances for winning are good.

In its corner it has widespread appeal, lots of box office cash and a social issue that voters love. Oh, and Oscar nominee Viola Davis, who delivers a great performance as a black maid in the 1960’s who agrees to reveal what it’s like… to be a black maid in the 1960’s. Davis is terrific and a worthy candidate to win an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress. Great acting can lead to rewards in other categories, including Best Picture.

It’s just not going to happen. As good as The Help is, the movie just doesn’t have the punch to win the coveted award. The movie’s lead actress does a fine job, but Emma Stone’s presence is ultimately inconsequential; she doesn’t command the movie like a lead should. The other actresses – namely Octavia Spencer, Bryce Dallas Howard and Jessica Chastain – have received some award talk, but they’re all overshadowed by Davis’s performance.

Then there’s that being-released-in-the-summer issue. The Help received lots of Oscar talk when it was released in August, but that was August. A lot of good movies have come out between then and now, and it’s shaping up to be a competitive December. Any buzz The Help once had is gone.

DreamWorks Pictures will understandably make an Oscar push over the next month, aided by its sudden availability on DVD. It will earn the movie an Oscar nomination. But it will never win the Best Picture race, nor does it deserve to.

In the mean time, you can read our original The Help movie review.

As for the Blu-ray release, the 2-disc DVD+Blu-ray combo pack includes deleted scenes, a making-of featurette and a small documentary about the real maids who worked in segregated Mississippi.

By Erik Samdahl
Related categories: Awards & Oscars, Comedies, Drama Movies, DVD Releases
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