The Help – A Movie Review

The Help PosterSet in Jackson, Mississippi during the time of civil rights activism in the 1960s, The Help is the story of a young, college-educated, white woman, named Skeeter, and her attempt to write a book about life in Jackson from the perspective of the Afro-American maids who worked in white houses. To do so, Skeeter must carefully interview a large number of maids without their white employers finding out. Being part of the white establishment of housewives and housewives-to-be herself, Skeeter is in a unique position to examine both sides of the sad reality of discrimination.

I really enjoyed watching this movie on a number of levels. First, it brought forth the issue of discrimination in a time that was actually not that long ago – only a decade before I was born. Through the writing and excellent acting, we see how discrimination was actually not such a simple issue, but rather there were different levels of understanding and ignorance amongst the white people involved. And of course, we can see firsthand how it was part of the cultural practices of the agricultural South.

Minny, Aibileen, and Skeeter PhotoI also liked the way feminist issues were raised in the movie, and how the protagonist, Skeeter, being a single, young, educated woman whose aspirations were to become a great writer, had to confront so many obstacles from her peer group, family, employer, etc. because she didn’t fit the mold of what a “good Southern belle” should be. Even when she goes to get a job at the local newspaper, the editor gives her the task of writing a domestic advice column, something she knows nothing about (of course). And when her friend tries to set her up with a boyfriend, the young man accuses her of taking the job to attract a good husband, much to her dismay. Of course, it’s doing the research for the advice column that gets her interviewing the maids in the first place….

Southern White Women and Black Maids ImageMy only criticism of the movie is that it perhaps doesn’t go far enough in depicting what certainly must have been a more violent, abusive, hateful reality for black women working in white homes. I can only imagine what atrocities must have occurred. While the movie hints at some of these things, like the feeling of ‘ownership’, and the physical and mental abuse that took place, it doesn’t actually depict these things in scenes. I didn’t read the book, so I don’t know what it contained, but I can say that the director chose to create an emotional, touching film, with a number of humorous scenes and an uplifting, somewhat predictable ending. It could have been depicted much more harshly, or rawly. Or maybe it could have had a surprise ending with a twist. I wonder what black women who actually served as maids in that time period would have to say about it.

Nevertheless, I was thoroughly engaged and entertained during the movie, several scenes bringing me to laughter and others almost to tears. I give this movie 8 out of 10 stars, and highly recommend it to anyone who wants to learn a bit more about life in that time and place, especially concerning the life of women, both white and black.

And the acting was superb: Emma Stone, Viola Davis, Bryce Dallas Howard, Octavia Spencer, and Jessica Chastain, all did fantastic jobs! I particularly liked Chastain’s character Ms. Celia, whose social awkwardness, yet caring heart, was so well portrayed. I also enjoyed Spencer’s performance of Minny, whose facial expressions, body language, and black southern dialect really brought the character to life.

Check out The Help at IMDB. Or watch the trailer below:

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IMDB – A Useful Site for Movie Lovers

IMDB Image

One of the most useful sites on the internet for people who love to watch movies and TV is the Internet Movie Database, a.k.a. the IMDB. There are a number of reasons why this site is more useful than others.

First, the site is interactive, meaning that by becoming a user you can actually participate in rating and reviewing movies. In fact, according to the Wikipedia, there are over 100 million users on the site each month – that’s insane! With all of those people rating and reviewing movies, you are bound to get some really good quality information. There are even some pretty serious users out there who have contributed a great deal of their own thoughts and ideas for our own benefit.

Second, you can use the IMDB to weed through all the dull movies and hone in on all the really good ones. For example, you can jump straight to the IMDB Top 250, which is the list of the top 250 highest rating movies of all time, according to IMDB users. The Blog of Big Ideas has certainly been using this feature recently.

IMDB Entry ImageAnother good thing you can do with the IMDB is sort by genre and rank by user rating. So for example, if it’s late at night and you are in the mood for a good horror flick, just click on the horror genre link and take a look at all the best horror movies. You can do the same by decade, gender, etc.

Not sure you want to watch the movie that looks interesting? Well no worries! You can read a synopsis (like Lynn and ladyvader99 sometimes do), look at all the positive and negative reviews, and even watch a few clips or view the trailer, all right there on the site.

Johnny Depp at IMDBFinally, we all have our favorite actors, actresses, and movie directors, so why not learn more about them and see the the entire chronological list of all the movies they have ever made. Take a famous actor like Johnny Depp, for instance. Did you know that he dropped out of school at the age of 15, has acted in 55 different movies and TV series, has won 3 Oscars, and has even produced and directed three movies of his own?

Nothing beats the IMDB for good movie information. I strongly recommend it for anyone interested in learning more about movies and TV.

Japanese Superfoods

I’ve been thinking a lot recently about the importance of eating good, healthy foods. And then I saw a post by Kyle Quandel about superfoods. He writes:

Recent dietary research has uncovered 14 different nutrient-dense foods that time and again promote good overall health. Coined “superfoods,” they tend to have fewer calories, higher levels of vitamins and minerals, and many disease-fighting antioxidants.

Beans (legumes), berries (especially blueberries), broccoli, green tea, nuts (especially walnuts), oranges, pumpkin, salmon. soy, spinach, tomatoes, turkey, whole grains and oats, and yogurt can all help stop and even reverse diseases such as hypertension, diabetes, Alzheimer’s, and some forms of cancer.

Delicious stuff! Living here in Japan, however, I realized that some of those foods, like berries, turkey, and walnuts are expensive and hard to come by. Actually, Japan has a few of its own superfoods that are worth mentioning.

Natto

by Jasja Dekker


The first is natto (made with fermented soy beans or black beans), which are loaded with probiotic enzymes and vitamin K, which Mercola claims can prevent cancer and heart disease. It has a strong smell and a really gooey, sticky texture, which some people don’t like, but once you get used to it, you can learn to like it.

Another superfood in Japan is miso, which is also a fermented concoction of generally soy beans, rice, salt, and a special fungus called kojikin (which is also used in brewing sake). Most people know miso from its most common form: a soup served with meals. But raw miso is also great as a dip for vegetables, especially cucumbers.

A third superfood in Japan is wakame, a type of seaweed. Often served as part of soups or salads, wakame is loaded with vitamins and minerals and antioxidants. It is even said to help protect against radiation.

by syntheticpanda


Finally, there is one of my favorites: green tea. It is an excellent way to prevent colds and common illness, while getting a good dose of vitamins. Even better, is matcha, which is a ground up, concentrated form. While bitter, it can be best described a powerful way to get a big dose of all the goodness green tea has to offer. In that sense, it is a medicine.

Momo in Japan

While I was surfing tags for Nepal, I came across this wonderful photo of delicious Momo in Nepal. For those of you who don’t know what Momo are, this is what it said:

If there is one food you will learn about in Nepal, its the Nepali Momo! It is often eaten as an appetizer or a snack and found in almost all restaurants or sold by vendors in street corners.

I was wondering how much a plate of Momo costs in Nepal. Here in Japan, you can get momo at a Nepalese Restaurant, but it costs at lot more. For example, this restaurant in Tokyo charges 680 yen ($8.50) for 4 momo!

So how much would a plate cost in Nepal?

By the way, here in Japan, the most popular type of dumpling is a Chinese style dumpling called Gyoza.

Japanese Gyoza

by Toyohara

Earthships – Sustainable Housing for the Future

Earthship

by Dominic Alves

Have you ever heard of an Earthship? If not, you are in for a real treat.

An Earthship is a house made of recycled and natural materials, such as tires, cans, bottles, earth, dirt, and plastic. It is also an off-the-grid house, meaning that it doesn’t need to use public utilities (like electricity). It can keep itself cool in the summer and warm in the winter due to its thermal design. Instead it generates its own energy from the sun and the wind. It also collects and recycles its own water from the rain. Finally, many Earthships have greenhouses in which they grow their own vegetables and herbs.

Does living in a house made of old materials sound like it would be ugly or dirty? Actually, Earthships are incredibly beautiful. They are real works of art. In fact, they are much cheaper to build than conventional houses built today. And the fact that they are self-sufficient and sustainable means that they are good for the environment.

Check out this video of Earthships:

 

Would you live in an Earthship? Would you like to build an Earthship? What do you think?

The Exciting Sport of Bullriding

Bullriding

by AL_HikesAZ

One of the most exciting American sports is bull riding. Have you ever heard of it or actually watched it before? If not then you are in for a real treat.

Bull riding is when a cowboy gets on the back of a giant, angry bull and tries to stay on its back for 8 seconds. That sounds like a very short amount of time, but actually it is extremely difficult for anyone to stay on the back of such a fierce beast. It’s also very dangerous.

One of the key rules in bull riding is that the bull rider must only use one hand to ride the bull. The other hand can never touch the bull – it has to remain in the air the entire time. Riders are scored by judges for the best rides. Unfortunately, however, many rides end in the bull rider getting thrown off the bull. That is what makes it so exciting to watch.

Check out this video of some bull riding in the USA:

Memphis Tennessee

I was born in a town right on the banks of the Mississippi River called Memphis. Named after a city in Egypt on the banks of the great Nile river, Memphis is one of the most important cities on the Mississippi River. Memphis is in the southern state of Tennessee, and is famous for a number of  interesting things.

First, there is a very big pyramid in Memphis, which serves as an indoor stadium for sporting events and concerts. Just like the pyramids in Egypt, you can see it from far away. But unlike the Egyptian pyramids, it was built recently and is black.

Second, Memphis is considered the home of blues music. There have been many famous blues musicians from Memphis, and there is a well-known street there called, Beale Street. You can walk up and down Beale Street any night of the week and listen to live blues music in any of the bars and restaurants there.

Finally, Memphis is probably most famous for the King of Rock’nRoll. Who is the king of Rock’nRoll? Elvis Presley. Although Elvis was actually born in Mississippi, he made Memphis his home. Now, people from all over the world come to Memphis to visit his house, called Graceland. It is a very interesting place, especially if you like Elvis.

Welcome

Welcome to my website. I will write about things I am interested in over the coming months. Please drop by and say hello. I hope you find something interesting here.