Chelsea: Topless in Moscow, Michael Kelly and Bryce Dallas Howard (Review)

Chelsea Handler Netflix

This week on Chelsea the comedienne and talk show host started National Netflix “Bring Your Niece to Work Day.” She also kept her celebrity guests to a minimum; Bryce Dallas Howard and Michael Kelly and Maria Sharapova (who is more of a sports celeb;  not on the same show. Handler also got her “baps” out (aka boobs, breasts, bristols, you get the idea) when she visited Russia and went to a spa.

Out of all the episodes on offer this week it was the Russian visit that really stood out. (Not just for the semi-nudity either. Although Handler’s figure as she nears her mid-40s is impressive…) It was the “on the street” interviews, the surreal  nature of that spa visit,  the Olympic training portion and Sharapova’s clear dislike of Chelsea that made the episode.

The five grand slam tennis champion was pleasant enough at the training “camp.” However, once they moved to the meal, with a journalist and an unidentified chap in a jumper, things went a bit awry.  Chelsea, slipping into her “ugly American” impression asked a number of “annoying” questions.

As the meal progressed, Maria became cooler toward Handler.  At one point, where Chelsea mentions having diarrhea for a week, Sharapova murmurs, “Did we really need to know that?”  The talkshow host pauses,  smiles thinly and continues but the look in both women’s eyes were cold as a Siberian winter.

It seems that Sharapova, despite moving from Mother Russia when she was  child, age nine,  took offense at Chelsea’s faux jibes at the country and its people. It could well be down to the fact that Russians have no real discernible sense of humor. (Those featured on the show obviously had their funny bones removed at birth…)

Back on the shores of the US, and the studio of Netflix, Chelsea started the week with her niece Charley Albert.  It was an amusing episode that was vaguely reminiscent of days when your boss brought his/her kid to work.

The best bit of that episode was Bryce Dallas Howard explaining that not using your parent’s name in show business is insulting. (It also does not hurt in casting opportunities either.)  The daughter of America’s favorite child actor turned box office hero, Ron Howard, gave good interview and spent plenty of time focussing on Charley.

On the “A Prodigy in Our Midst”  Chelsea also appears to give her “guest” ratio.  One celebrity, one politico and one sports figure. While this does seem to be an accurate description of her guest list, Chelsea did not mention that politicians get the lion’s share of air time.

Michael Kelly was on the next episode “Putting Compton Back on the Map.”  Kelly talked about “House of Cards” – a Brit import that starred the brilliant Ian Richardson  in the UK and Kevin Spacey on this side of the pond – and how real politicians react to him.  A sort of two for the price of one deal.  

Political guests included the Mayor of Compton: Aja Brown,  who gave great interview, recurring guest recurring guests David Axelrod, Barney Frank and a non-returning one; James Carville. Sports figures Sharapova and multi-millionaire Eddie George rounded out the the sports section. George did not go over too well with the studio audience with his diatribe of too much money is not enough. 

The highlight of the three episodes on offer was the “Mission to Moscow” segment. Not because Chelsea bravely bared those 40 year old boobs, again, but because it was a brilliant little travelogue a’la Chelsea.

Racist Russians, a reason behind the whole “mail order bride” business; women vastly outnumber the men, and the realization that the former pin-up of tennis has no sense of humor.

Chelsea streams on Netflix three times a week. Tune in and enjoy this quirkily formatted talkshow with Handler and her cohost Chunk.

The Help…Mississippi’s Burning in a skirt

Actress Emma Stone is certainly very busy these days. It seems like only yesterday she played the love interest in the nerd-rom-com that was Super Bad. Now, when she is not being wooed by Jim Carrie via YouTube, she seems to be in everything.My daughter Meg pointed out this film to me. She then rented it from iTunes and pretty much insisted that I watch it. I am glad I did.
Set in Mississippi during the civil rights unrest that was the sixties Emma plays Skeeter Phelan. Skeeter has graduated from college and now wants to be a writer. She returns to her home town to re-establish ties with old friends and to check on her mother who has cancer.

The first thing Skeeter does is get a job with the local paper, ghost writing for the Agony Aunt columnist who is having a baby. Viola Davis plays Aibileen Clark one of the many black ladies who work as “the help” to the white members of the community. The whole cast work brilliantly in this ensemble film. I will admit that I was overjoyed to see Cicely Tyson in a big-ish cameo as Skeeter’s family maid. Of course I have to mention Sissy Spacek  who has the small role of Hilly’s long suffering mother. She is delightful to watch.

Now amazingly the film’s main  plot deals with the issue of toilets. The local white community follows Hilly Holbrook’s lead on the “separate but equal” practice which was prevalent in the sixties. Hilly has gotten the local government to pass a law that makes it a criminal act to use the white residents bathroom. The help must instead use an outside one specially made for them.

As played by Bryce Dallas Howard, Hilly is a nasty piece of work. A bully who is sly, malicious, and vengeful Hilly rules over her little flock of the Ladies Club with an iron fist. It seems that while the black community might be good enough to clean the white folks’s houses, cook their meals and look after their children, it is not okay to use their employers bathroom.

Skeeter is outraged at this new law and decides to write about the ‘separate but equal’ travesty. She teams up with local housekeeper Aibileen with the idea of writing a book. This book will be filled with all the terrible, funny and sad things that the black workers have encountered . At first the only “help” that will work with Skeeter is the slightly hesitant Aibileen, but as events in the Mississippi town get worse she finds herself inundated with offers of more stories.

Mary Steenburgen has a microscopic role as the editor Elain Stein who encourages Skeeter to write her book and guides her toward publication with her company. It was nice to see Steenburgen on screen again and I do wish they had used her a bit more.

I loved this film. It has the same feeling as Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe and Driving Miss Daisy. This film made me angry, made me laugh and made me cry. I cannot begin to express how well this film was presented. The sets, the location, and the costumes all felt like the south in the sixties.

The characters as they were written also felt right. Overall a real gem of a film. It attempts to show that some people were racially aware in the civil rights fraught sixties. I think it does this very well, without resorting to bloodshed or gun play.

And on a closing note, never has the phrase “Eat my Shit.” been so appropriate and funny.