“The Butler:” The year’s first Oscar contender?


By Isaac Mathewson
 
 Last year was a very strong year for movies. There were many good films ranging from blockbusters to Oscar-nominated films. However, this year is mediocre. It’s not necessarily a bad year; it’s just not as strong as it was last year. “The Butler” is probably one of the year’s first Oscar contenders.
 
 “The Butler ” tells the story of an African American butler Cecil Gaines, played by Forrest Whitaker, who goes from working on a cotton farm to becoming head butler under seven different presidents from Eisenhower to Reagan. The film also depicts his perspective on the fight for equal rights for the African American community.
 
The film was directed by Lee Daniels who directed “Precious.” His direction is superb as is the screenplay written by Danny Strong. The film is inspired by a true story, but Cecil Gaines is actually fictional.  There was an African American butler in the White House who went from pantry man to a respected head butler. Even if the film is mostly fiction, it still has relatable characters and it accurately depicts major historical events.
 
Perhaps the best aspect of this film is the casting. Apart from Whitaker there are many well known actors. Among them are Oprah Winfrey as Cecil’s wife Gloria, Robin Williams as Dwight D. Eisenhower, John Cusack as Richard Nixon, Alan Rickman as Ronald Reagan, and Jane Fonda as his wife Nancy, among many others. It is a pleasure to have them on screen even though most of them come and go. Some of them, particularly the presidents, may seem like strange choices at first, but as the film goes on they prove to be acceptable.  It is Whitaker who pulls the film through,  giving one of the best performances of his career, and possibly securing him another Oscar nomination.
 
If you are not a big fan of political films or films that discuss racism you will probably be bored by this film. Although  if you like these kinds of movies, you’ll probably enjoy this. Even if you are not a fan of this genre, the large cast of famous actors might keep your attention. All I have left to say is that this is a well acted and written film that I could see as an easy contender for the Oscars and the Golden Globes this year.
 
 Motion Picture Rating: PG-13
 
 Some violence and disturbing images, language, sexual material, thematic elements and smoking
 
 
My rating: A

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