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Fading summer & Southern belles
August 18, 2011 - April Diodato
What happened to summer? It seems as if one day, we were being scrambled in the hot sun like eggs in a frying pan, and the next, it was brisk enough to necessitate pants. Pants! How oppressive. As we cling to the last scraps of this fleeting season, be sure to capitalize on the remaining days during which pants are an option, not a requirement. Spend some time basking in the sunlight in your backyard or your favorite local lake, be it Erie, Chautauqua or Cassadaga. Drink a summertime cocktail while it still feels appropriate. Try to check off those last few things (or first few – no judgment here) on your summer to-do list. If the academic calendar means nothing to you, there is still a solid month left. However, for members of the collegiate set, only a few days remain – and Fredonia’s bars are about to get a lot more crowded if they haven’t already.
WHAT'S HAPPENING - Bring your freshest, funkiest moves to the Dunkirk Pier tonight for the return of Boogie Fever. Music on the Pier is from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m.
- “The Tree of Life” will be screened Saturday at 8 p.m. and Tuesday at 7:30 p.m. at the Fredonia Opera House Take advantage of this opportunity to see this controversial, limited-release film – we may be hearing about this one often come Academy Awards season. It stars Brad Pitt, Sean Penn and Jessica Chastain in a story about three sons, examining the evolution of their characters across the span of their lives.
- Walleye Willie's will have live music each night this weekend – Trio on Thursday, Porcelain Bus Drivers on Friday, and Three Amigos on Saturday.
- Lucky Lanes will open for their season at 7:30 p.m. on Friday. There’s nothing quite as nostalgic as the smell of fried food and bowling shoes. Who didn’t spend many a weekend night at Lucky Lanes during their formative years? However, for those dominating Wii bowling at home, expecting to wipe the floor with their competition this weekend, let me break this to you as gently as I can: your skills may not translate to real life.
- Blood, Sweat & Tears will perform at the Chautauqua Institution this Friday at 8:15 p.m.
- Coming up next weekend is Willow Creek Winery’s “Jammin in the Vines II,” featuring Big Leg Emma, Shotgun Jubilee, Waterband and Side Effect with Gina Vecchio, as well as plenty of wine, chicken barbecue and camping. Purchase tickets for the Aug. 27 festival at www.tickets.com , www.biibent.com , Willow Creek Winery, and www.willowcreekwines.net.
- Thunder in the Streets will be held Friday from noon to 1 p.m. on West Third Street in downtown Jamestown. There will be live, professional stunt shows by Starboyz, a beer and wine garden, food, vendors, many, many motorcycles and live music by Pressure Sensitive, Coal Train, and Leon and the Forklifts.
Sometimes, there’s nothing like an uplifting, girl-powered period piece to shamelessly enjoy with some popcorn on a lazy summer afternoon. “The Help” fits the bill, with an engaging story, strong performances and very big hair. Emma Stone continues her winning streak as Skeeter Phelan, an aspiring writer who tries to earn her big break while simultaneously effecting change in Civil Rights era Mississippi. Skeeter decides to pen an account of what was considered to be unspeakable at the time – the relationships between black maids and the white families they worked for – and forges a friendship with two maids in particular, the duty-driven Aibileen Clark (Viola Davis) and outspoken Minny Jackson (Octavia Spencer).
“The Help” harkens back to a time when bratty Southern belles reigned supreme and “separate but equal” was the law. Bryce Dallas Howard is appropriately grating (you know she does it well if you’ve seen her in “The Loss of a Teardrop Diamond”), as queen bee Hilly Holbrook, who has made it her mission to install a separate bathroom for “the help” in each home. This is the last straw for Aibileen, who finally decides to tell Skeeter her story in an effort to finally bring some progress to Jackson, Miss.
The supporting characters were the pudding in the pie in “The Help,” particularly the atrocious members of the Junior League, the sassy but sweet Minny, and, my favorite, the airheaded but well-meaning Celia Foote (Jessica Chastain). A jealousy-inducing outcast with a penchant for form-fitting frocks, Foote finds a friend in her maid and she struggles to find acceptance from the invidious ladies who would rather hide under their bridge tables than invite her inside. Chastain is one to watch this year, starring in more than a half-dozen films within the coming year (including the aforementioned buzzed-about “The Tree of Life”).
“The Help” has gotten some flak for its fluffiness and stereotypical characters, but I think it can be appreciated for what it is – a feel-good film infused with some girl power and inspiring narrative. It tackles some serious subject matter, specifically the extreme, violent oppression permeating the South in the 1960s, and some scenes are difficult to watch, but it doesn't seem that its intention was to be a bleak, hard-hitting drama. I have to say, this movie made me feel quite fortunate to be a woman living in 2011, where equality is generally the rule instead of a lofty goal, when marriage is an option rather than an obligation – although we still have a long way to go.
“The Help” is now playing at the Dunkirk Movieplex. Bring tissues.
GET OUT OF TOWN
This subheading would serve as an appropriate reaction to the event I’m about to inform you about. Sean Penn – that’s right, Sean Penn, the Academy Award-winning actor -- will be appearing at the Niagara Fallsview Casino Resort next Thursday and Friday, Aug. 25 and 26. For those willing to shell out upwards of $90, hear Penn answer pre-recorded interview questions about his life and career. A video booth will be set up at the Fallsview’s Avalon Theatre between noon and 7 p.m. on the day of the show. Let me guess – he won’t be answering any queries about Scarlett Johansson or any other pressing issues he doesn’t feel like talking about.
April Diodato is the OBSERVER Lifestyles editor. Send comments, events and unsubstantiated gossip to firstname.lastname@example.org