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The Help

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The Movie Twin Critics features two reviews of the same movie from Shauna Johnson and Donna Broadus.

Here’s Donna . . .

My Movie Twin Critic, Shauna, and I were anxiously waiting to see The Help not only because of the book, (which we both loved) but for me, because I grew up and spent 33 years in Jackson, MS. We hit the movie on opening day with popcorn and Twizzlers in hand. I must say that we were not disappointed!

I was a bit hesitant that the movie would not live up to the book (as a lot of movies based on books don’t) but I was happy to be proven wrong! The movie followed very closely to the storyline of the book and I believe that is because Tate Taylor, the writer and director of the movie, has been a longtime friend of Kathryn Stockett, the author. He too grew up in Jackson and knows the place and people well. The visual imagery of 1960s Jackson shown was exactly like I remember them and stirred memories in me from my childhood. I loved seeing my childhood places in the movie such as Brent’s Drugs, The Jitney 14, The Capri Theater, and The Mayflower restaurant. My Father had an office supply store in the same area for over 20 years so seeing those places on the big screen brought back a lot of memories.

All of the actors who played the characters in the movie portrayed them to perfection and just as I imagined them when reading the book. I loved seeing all of them come to life on the big screen!

The women who played the maids, Abileen ( played by Viola Davis) and Minnie ( played by Octavia Spencier) were a joy to watch and drew us in to what it must have felt like being a black maid working for a white family. Bryce Dallas Howard, who played Hilly Holbrooks’ character, was one you truly grew to despise on the screen as well as in the book. Emma Stone was a perfect Skeeter and Sissy Spacek was a wonderful surprise as Hilly’s mom, Missus Walters. I have to say though that one of my favorites was the twin girls who played the little girl Mae Mobley, whom Abileen looked after. The chemistry between Abileen and Mae Mobley tugged at my heart throughout the movie and left me in tears at the end.

I felt honored to be able to attend this movie with my friend and fellow movie critic, Shauna. In 1963 Jackson, MS we would not have been able to sit in the movie theater together as she is black and I am white and that fact was not lost on us both. The movie did show that not all women were “Hilly Holbrooks” and that friendships were formed outside the norm. It also touched on the fact that there were many unknown ‘heroes’ in the civil rights movement that we do not know of to this day., and this movie is a tribute to them. Courage is doing the right thing not only in the face of danger, but also in what may not be popular at the time.

This movie is on my list of the Best for 2011 and most likely will see Oscar nominations for not only acting, scenery, and best screenplay, but possibly for Best Picture as well! One word of warning….Be prepared for laughter, tears and clapping at the movie! I give this one a Thumbs up!

 

Here’s Shauna . . .

If you want to ride a rollercoaster of emotions while simply watching a motion picture, then I recommend seeing the movie version of Kathryn Stockett’s “The Help”.  This adaptation from the NY Times best-selling novel was in a word, AMAZING!!!! I’m still choked up about this movie, a couple of hours after watching it.  Abilene, Minnie and Skeeter, were characters who were well-developed and easy to connect to.

Abilene (played by Viola Davis), is the heartbroken yet tender-hearted mother; a black maid who continues to raise, nurture and love the children of her employers.  She’s a kind, soft-spoken woman who wears her heart on her sleeve and bites her tongue as opposed to speaking her mind.  Yet, Minnie (portrayed by Octavia Spencer) is the opposite, she’s a brash, tough talking, bundle of sass who’s also a black maid who has made her rounds in Jackson homes because she doesn’t take crap from anybody, and will let them know.  In modern terms, think “bobble head, finger wagging” and you can imagine Minnie.  Skeeter (played by Emma Stone) is a well-bred, yet awkward recent Ole Miss Journalism graduate who isn’t like her married Jackson friends, she’s different.  She’s not looking for a man to marry or kids to raise, she wants to change the world; she wants to see what life is like, she wants to tell this controversial story, of these women’s lives from their point of view.

 This picture is set during the early 1960’s in Jackson Mississippi.  It follows the lives of these women, and how each of them intertwines not only with each other, but also with other residents of Jackson.  A courageous and difficult decision is made by Skeeter to tell the story of the lives of these maids to the world knowing that their accounts during this time fresh on the cusp of the civil rights movement could get them nothing less than killed.  However, Skeeter wants to be their voice, she wants them to be heard, so that others outside of Jackson are aware of how these women who are visible but so invisible are treated and live their daily lives.

As I sat and watched this movie, trying not to focus on the book, as I had read the book previous to watching the movie (and it was fantastic), I wanted to give the movie a chance to unfold the stories it was portraying and it did just that.  One minute I was laughing, another I was fuming at the inhumanity and bigotry; I was choked up, fighting back tears at the gentle and/or difficult moments, at the end I felt like I had gone through an emotional rollercoaster, but one that was needed.  This movie was almost three hours long, but it did not feel long as the storylines easily flowed and entwined providing the perfect emotion at the right times.  I don’t want to give too much away about this movie, but it just grabbed my heartstrings and pulled, yanked, jerked and definitely evoked diverse feelings within me.

Rich with the tapestry of blatant racism, segregation, ignorance, history, love, hate, courage, honor this movie had it all.  I mentioned love and hate.  As much as I could connect with the three main characters and love them, the protagonists for their different personalities, there was also the strong dislike, some would say, hatred for the antagonist, Hilly.  Oh this woman, she was an outright, racist, “godless” bitch!  I couldn’t stand her.  I wanted to reach through the screen and just punch her lights out.  Her character she portrayed was so strong-willed that nobody crossed her; nobody could stand up to her.  Hilly was the trendsetter, what she said, was the “law” of the land. However, by the end of the movie, there was a little chink or chunk that had been taken out of her sometimes sugary sweet yet hard bitchy demeanor. Hilly got her comeuppance.

The supporting cast was full of wonderful actors such as Cicely Tyson, Allison Janney, and Sissy Spacek.  Cicely was a pleasant surprise when she first appeared on the screen, I actually gasped as I knew she would give a great performance as she has done in past productions.  She did, she lived up to the standard that is associated with her previous works. A few days before going to see the movie, I found out that Allison Janney would be portraying “Skeeter’s”mother. Initially knowing this, I was let down because she did not match the petite yet tough demeanor of this person in the book.  For me, the cards were stacked against her before I even watched her.  In my mind, I had an idea of who this person looked like, no idea who should portray her, but Janney wasn’t the first person I would have picked.  However, she did a phenomenal job and changed my mind.  Sissy Spacek was a comical relief to the movie, I know, I said, Sissy Spacek was a comical relief to the movie.  Her portrayal of Hilly’s mother was great!!!! She provided the release to many a heavy or heart wrenching scene.  She was spot on for the role of Hilly’s mother.  Awesome, awesome, awesome, “Carrie” sure did grow up.

As I eagerly approached the movie house, I passed an elderly man who told me to “go on git in thar.  You have to see this movie.”  It kind of set the tone for me and I was not disappointed.  I mentioned to my movie mate, Donna, that this was the first time in a long time that I had to stand in line to watch a movie.  This was well worth the wait.

In a film world of blow ‘em up, shoot ‘em up, kill ‘em movies, it was heartening to view something that was so human and so real, and probably loosely  based on reality that I could identify with.  Donna, who’s one of my good friends, is from Jackson, Mississippi so watching the movie with her definitely helped with the human reality aspect. She kept pointing out landmarks that were used in the movie. Places that she had gone to growing up, that was cool.

I wasn’t even a dot in my parents’ eye during the early ‘60’s but this film transported me back to that time.  Great fashion, I did love the wardrobe that the women, not the maids, had worn. Loved the cars, loved the houses, there was great cinematography used.  I got the sense of contrasting lives an easy life, for some, but the difficulties and hardships of others.

At the end of the movie, I wanted to clap, or give a standing ovation, so instead of clapping or standing, I stayed through the end of the credits.  Many other patrons also stayed through much of the credits both in my movie time slot and the people who watched it before me, as evidently they were deeply touched by the story that was told. I see and smell Oscar written all over this movie and the character portrayals. Very well done!  A definite thumbs up.

 

 

Art

Rain and Fire in Sedona

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Ange Alex

A rainy day in Sedona? What are we going to do. Everything we have planned is outdoors. I am pretty sure that is why people come to Sedona, for the beautiful OUTDOOR activities, like hiking, biking, Jeep tours, viewing the red rocks and photography. 

What to do, what to do.

Oh, I know. I had the privilege of meeting some great artists that work in fire and glass! The perfect indoor activity when your outdoor plans are washed away!

The Melting Point in Sedona, conveniently located across the street for the Whole Foods (two birds with one stone, yeah!), is a group of artist focusing on creating and teaching others how to create as well.

When we entered the facilities, it was like entering a fine arts gallery. So many beautiful works of glass art. Jordan Ford is the general manager and one of the Artists. He came out of the workshop and told us the rules, then brought us into the fold. 

We were about to become glass blowers! 

Jordan had a love for the natural world from a very early age. He went on to study geology in college but that is when he discovered glass. He currently has Bachelor’s Degrees in both Earth Science/Geology and Visual Arts/Glassblowing.

Jordan says , “It’s the process of blowing glass that drives me. I find the physical act of making glass so overwhelmingly fascinating. I approach most of my work with a consideration for the more classical techniques – it’s the framework that I use as a jumping point for experimentation.”

Not only is Jordan incredibly talented, he is really personable and extremely funny. He made everyone in the room feel at ease and we all often irrupted in bouts of laughter.

Another artist that was helping us is Austin Littenberg. Austin became interested in the art of glass blowing at age 16 after watching a documentary. He spent over 12 years developing his craft and learning the technical precision needed to work at this level.

Austin views the many ways Art presents itself and is in tune with it all, and it shows.

Clearly these two artist love what they do, and I for one am grateful for their expertise and their willingness to show the world their art.

They worked with us to create a beautiful cactus, complete with three flowers, one for each kid, and a Sedona rock like base. We loved the patience they showed and the skill to make us feel at ease. We never felt like  we were about to do something we just couldn’t. It felt like we had been doing this before. That is the measure of a true instructor. 

Our work of art was complete and we left there feeling accomplished and quite honestly, amazing! 

Both Austin and Jordan have remarkable skills but also wonderful comedic timing. They were a absolutely pleasure to meet and I look forward to keeping up with their art in the future.

If you find yourself in Sedona and want to meet some really wonderful people, stop by The Melting Point and say hello! While you’re there, blow some glass!

How could I forget one of them most important things; They have a studio dog! Austin brings his sweet baby girl to work with him and she is an angel! We loved her! Make sure you give her some love when you visit!

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Artists to Watch

Cry With Us! Puddles Pity Party in Orlando

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Ange Alex

I owe him a poem:

Here’s a story of a sad clown who one night in February was traveling through O-town. 

He brought a suitcase and a lot of gum, he brought music and videos and tons of fun.

He sang high but mostly he sang low, and he put of one hell of a good show.

He gave a bearded guy a cupcake and danced with a lady, a wolf he would make

There is no doubt he is a boss sir, he even got love from Kevin Costner.

Fans filled the plaza for a night of delight as the 7 foot clown gave us some real insight.

He sang Bowie and Queen and even some Who, also Cash, Lorde and “Let it go” too

Videos played of pets and babies crying, also beautiful artwork and people smiling.

Last night Orlando was anything but mad as we showed much love for a clown that is sad.

Ok, I’d cry too after that poem. Here’s some more info:

If you haven’t been to see a Puddles Pity Party show, you are missing out. 

The show had me smiling and laughing so hard my stomach hurt, but I was also moved so many times by the range of Puddles voice. True entertainment never gets old and I have a feeling he is going to last forever.

I loved the interaction he had with the crowd. He pulled numerous people up to help him on stage and all of them were good sports, one man even singing the entire song, “All by myself” karaoke style! The show was so well thought out and planned but with room for some hilarious improv. Especially at the end when he pulled the 3 fans from the audience dressed like clowns. At the end of them performing together, Puddles suddenly remembers that he is scared of clowns! Genius! 

Hands down one of the best performances I’ve seen in years.

 

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Dance

“20/20:Visionary”: Looking Back, Looking Forward

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Photograph by Charlie McCullers, courtesy of Atlanta Ballet.

Last weekend (March 18-20) the Atlanta Ballet gifted the city with “20/20: Visionary,” three pieces, including a world premiere, presented at the Cobb Energy Center.

The world premiere, “Playground,” by British choreographer Douglas Lee, belied its name by being a shadowy piece danced between upright, rolling chalkboard set pieces. Prepared for a lighthearted, joyful expression of childhood, I was surprised that the work instead exposed the darker side of childhood memories. There were some light moments, such as the towering billboard inscribed with multiple lines reading, “Jackie must remember the steps” – clearly a humorous aside about Jackie Nash, one of the most capable company members and perhaps the quickest study in rehearsal. There were some easily-seen choreographic devices–a lot of theme and variation, even more pushing around of set pieces–but there were a few exceptional moments as well, including intricate, slow-motion manipulation of a dancer’s body by another dancer.

Pen-Yu Chen & Tara Lee in “Boiling Point.” Photo by C McCullers, courtesy of Atlanta Ballet.

The opening work, “Boiling Point,” by Darrell Grand Moultrie, was playfully performed at breakneck speed. Dancers are often told to “make it look easy,” and the company took that concept to heart. Highlighted against the men in black costumes, the women wore bits of metallic fabric, providing splashes of intense color and exposing powerful bodies with long muscles. The piece began with the stage space open almost to its fullest, and the dancers running across like a rushing river. They rolled, twisted, turned, and slid like water itself. The choreography juxtaposed synchronicity with counterpoint, traditional with innovation. There was a gargouillade, rarely seen even in classical ballets. The lines of the bodies were critical to the piece, and often layers deep. The flow was almost nonstop, with only an occasional flick of a wrist or toss of a head to provide momentary stasis. The standout was Christian Clark, who sometimes nearly managed to integrate himself into the group but then something distinctive and powerful in his dancing drew the eye to him again.

“Red Clay” from “Home in 7.” Photo by C McCullers, courtesy of Atlanta Ballet.

“Home in 7,” a work by Amy Siewert, closed the concert. A portrait of Atlanta, the ballet was a rich tapestry woven from music, spoken word, and movement. Performed in 7 segments to a libretto written and performed by Marc Bamuthi Joseph and an intriguing, haunting string score composed and performed by Daniel Bernard Roumain, the dance, too, was a poem, shimmering like summer moonlight on the Chattahoochee. John Welker opened the ballet with tiny explosions of movement “Secrets.” Perhaps the most enchanting segment was “Home of the Braves:” 5 men using baseball imagery, holding their formation as they slid precisely between pitches and catches. “Red Clay” evoked August nights, intolerance, and redemption—Atlanta history, a story familiar to many. I first saw this ballet in 2011, and it has grown in depth as the dancers have matured technically and emotionally. Atlanta loves its ballet company, and never more than when it showcases its home city.

John McFall is ending his tenure with the company at the end of this season. For newcomers to Atlanta Ballet offerings, this will have been a dynamic performance. For long-time supporters, it will have been an opportunity to reflect on his legacy. There are a couple more opportunities to see the company under his watch, and then he will pass the torch to Gennadi Nedvigin, the company’s fourth artistic director. Stay tuned!

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