Friday, January 3, 2014

Lee Daniel's The Butler (2013)

I’ve been running up against a great deal of material relating to the Oscar push for Lee Daniel’s The Butler. Personally I don’t think it has a chance in hell of winning anything, but it’s nice to know that the Weinsteins still have enough cash to throw at what will amount to a losing cause (Actually if they want to actually do some good they could throw money my way and I will use my questionable talents to speak glowingly of the film).

Snarky comments aside having seen the film I’m a bit puzzled by what the Weinsteins hope to get out of the Oscar push. Frankly it’s not that good.

Based on a true story, Lee Daniels’ The Butler (that really is the title thanks to legal action that won’t let them call it simply the Butler) is the story of a young man who learns to be a butler and then raises up from rich family to swanky hotel and eventually to the White House. He quietly battles racism in high places while his son openly and vocally battles it in the street. It’s a film full of big name cameos that give us fleeting looks at the people he meets.

The Butler isn’t really a bad film. It’s a good film that is much too earnest for its own good. It tells it’s story with an intensity and seriousness that we don’t really get much these days.

On the other hand it feels like it was made by rich white folk who are trying to do good by slumming to tell the story of poor blacks. You can kind of feel that its heart is I the right place, but its more good intentions gone bad. My feelings come from two places, first the film marches through events with a speed that is frightening. We get a few minutes in one time and place before we jump a couple years ahead. We’re being shown the important bit instead of allowing characters and situations to grow.

The other problem is the cameos. While I applaud them going against type (John Cusack as Nixon) or the irony (Jane Fonda is Nancy Regan) most of the appearances are so fast that we never get past the “hey look it’s---“ feeling. It’s a feeling doubled with some of the head scratcher choices (Cusack).

Again it’s not a bad film, but it is far from special. Certainly it’s light years ahead of Lee Daniel’s last film The Paperboy which may have been one of the worst big studio films of the last five years, certainly one of the most confusing (I mean one would have thought the actors and actresses would have have better sense than to appear in that)

My question is do people actually think it’s going to get Oscar nominations? And if not why are they throwing good money after bad by trying to promot it as such?

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