CLEANING UP

“Lee Daniels’ The Butler” Did It: Four Mysteries Solved By The New Film

Lee Daniels’ The Butler comes out today, featuring an all-star cast including Forest Whitaker, Oprah Winfrey, Jane Fonda, Terrence Howard, and Daniels favorites Lenny Kravitz and Mariah Carey. Basically everyone in the world is in this movie, all to tell the inspiring tale of Cecil Gaines, the titular butler inspired by the real life Eugene Allen, who served under seven presidents from Eisenhower to Reagan.

While Gaines toils away in the presence of greatness, privy to some historic presidential precedents — Eisenhower sending troops to Little Rock, JFK ‘s civil rights address, LBJ’s Civil Rights Act, Nixon being drunk  — his son Louis makes history as an activist, participating in sit-ins, hanging out with Martin Luther King, joining the Black Panthers, etc. The entire film is a lesson in the civil rights movement and it brings that tumultuous time alive like no film in recent memory.

It also brings to light some unsolved mysteries, answers to which are found throughout the film. We’re tying a smart sweater around our shoulders and peddaling through Cabot Cove à la a young Angie Lansbury to solve these cases.

Queerty, She Wrote. Check out 4 mysteries solved by Lee Daniels’ The Butler.

1. The Case of Oprah’s Stolen Oscar

oprah-butler

Mystery: Anyone who’s ever seen The Color Purple knows that Oprah and Whoops Goldberg were openly robbed for Best Supporting and Lead Actress, respectively. Yet no one called the cops. It was actually grand theft Oscar that March night in 1986, when The Color Purple tied the Shirley MacLaine-Anne Bancroft bitchfest The Turning Point as the most-nominated film without any wins: 11. Where’s Oprah’s goddamn Oscar?

Case Closed: Right here. She’s fantastic in Lee Daniels’ The Butler as Cecil’s long-suffering, alcoholic wife, Gloria — bringing to mind another standout Lee Daniels-directed performance, Mo’Nique in Precious. While she doesn’t dance around in a spandex bodysuit like Mo, O does dance around in a two-tone jumpsuit and fake afro. Sounds like this case is ready to be put to bed.

2. The Case of Mimi’s Emancipation

mimi

Mystery: Mariah Carey was five minutes late to the press conference last week and it was the most amazing thing we’ve ever seen. In a room full of stars, including Oprah Fucking Winfrey, Mimi managed to outshine them all. But she’s in the movie for less than the five minutes by which she arrived tardy. Why?

Case Closed: Mariah plays the young Cecil’s mother, a field worker — slavery was technically over, but conditions had barely changed. The diva appears free of all the trappings of her diamond-encrusted life and makes the most of her few minutes on film. As for the why, Mimi explained during that press conference that she was just glad to be included with such a stellar cast. Divas can be team players, too.

3. The Case of Terrence Howard’s Missing Tooth

oprah-howard-butler

Mystery: Terrence Howard’s a good-looking man, much like Oprah has a little money set aside. His distracting prettiness almost cost him the role of her lascivious neighbor, Howard, however. Then he removed something that’s been a part of him for the past 25 years.

Case Closed: “Lee called me and he was like, ‘TT, I’m having trouble. I want to put you in this movie, but I can’t now. There’s this one character left but you’re too pretty for him. I don’t know what to do!’ ” Howard told CNN. “And he’s like, ‘Can we cut your hair off or maybe give you an eye patch or a scar or something?’ And I was like, ‘You know what, I got a crown on this front tooth, you know, I can take that out.’ He’s like, ‘Don’t you do it! Don’t you do it! … I’ll set up a dentist appointment right away!’”

4. The Case of Martin Luther Queen, Jr

lafayette

Mystery: Watching Louis Gaines hang out with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. before he got shot that fateful day in Memphis, Tennessee, you might take pause to wonder who’s portraying that legendary, mustachioed civil rights pioneer.

Case Solved: Then if you just imagine the mustache away, draw on some eyeliner and wrap that crewcut in a sequined scarf: Voilà! Lafayette Reynolds from True Blood. Nelsan Ellis is just one of the many famous people tapped to play even more famous people, so you’ll have a game of Name that Actor playing in the back of your head throughout the entire film:  James Marsden as JFK; Minka Kelly as Jackie Kennedy; Liev Schreiber as LBJ; Robin Williams as Eisenhower; Alan Rickman as Reagan; Jane Fonda as Nancy Reagan; but John Cusack as Nixon is simply incredible. And drunk. We weren’t kidding before.

Lee Daniels’ The Butler opens nationwide today. Get showtimes and tickets here.

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16 Comments

  • mpwaite

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  • QuintoLover

    Minka Kelly is Jackie? Pssh. They should have gotten Rose Byrne. WAY better actress.

  • Mr. E. Jones

    No mention of Reagan and his ignorance of AIDS I guess?

  • Scribe38

    Looking forward to seeing this movie and Queen O getting what’s hers. She was robbed of her damn Oscar.

  • Snapper59

    I was thrilled as hell Anjelica Huston won the Oscar for “Prizzi’s Honor”. Orca was “robbed” of nothing.

    You can always tell when Queerty is collecting a paycheck from something.

    Anjelica: “I want you to do me now.”
    Jack Nicholson: “Mae-Rose, now? Here? On the rug?”
    Anjelica: “Yeah. Now. Right here on the oriental.”

  • boring

    @mpwaite: That is the best Billy Crystal impression I’ve ever seen.

  • gaym50ish

    When “The Color Purple” was nominated in practically every category that year, “Out of Africa” was also nominated for everything. “Out of Africa” won in nearly every category and “The Color Purple” won NOTHING!

    What a travesty that was! At a minimum, Whoopi should have been best actress, Danny Glover should have been best actor and Oprah should have been best best supporting actress. It seems like the big production with the sweeping landscapes will always win for best picture, but Meryl Streep’s performance didn’t hold a candle to Whoopi’s, and Robert Redford should have taken a back seat to Danny Glover

    The proof of the film’s impact is how often it has been shown on TV over the years. “Out of Africa,” on the other hand, practically faded into obscurity until it surfaced on one of the premium movie channels just this year.

  • gaym50ish

    Actually, my memory was faulty when I assumed that Streep and Redford won that year. Geraldine Page was best actress for “The Trip to Bountiful” and William Hurt won best actor for “Kiss of the Spider Woman.” Those performances were deserving enough, but we still have never seen anything like Whoopi Goldburg’s performance.

  • Snapper59

    @gaym50ish: Yeah, I totally believe you saw “Kiss of the Spider Woman” and “The Trip to Bountiful” and can judge.

  • boring

    Films released in 1985 that were infinitely better than eye-rolling Oscar bait The Color Purple:

    MOTHERFUCKING After Hours
    Better Off Dead…
    Brazil
    CLUE
    Commando
    Day of the Dead
    Enemy Mine
    Friday the 13th: A New Beginning
    Fright Night
    Just One of the Guys
    Krush Groove
    Lost in America
    Mishima: A Life in Four Chapters
    A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge
    Once Bitten
    Pee-wee’s Big Adventure
    The Purple Rose of Cairo
    Ran
    RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD
    The Stuff
    To Live and Die in L.A.
    A Zed and Two Noughts

    Goddamn, 1985 was an amazing year for film.

  • redspyder

    @gaym50ish:

    Anjelica Huston
    Best Supporting Actress, Prizzi’s Honor
    – Academy Awards, Winner
    – BAFTA Awards, Nominated
    – Golden Globes, Nominated
    – Los Angeles Film Critics Association Awards, Winner
    – National Board of Review, Winner
    – National Society of Film Critics Awards, Winner
    – New York Film Critics Circle Awards, Winner

    Oprah Winfrey
    Best Supporting Actress, The Color Purple
    – Academy Awards, Nominated
    – BAFTA Awards —–
    – Golden Globes, Nominated
    – Los Angeles Film Critics Association Awards, Nominated
    – National Board of Review —–
    – National Society of Film Critics Awards —–
    – New York Film Critics Circle Awards —–

    Seems like a whole bunch of people were involved in this ridiculous notion of a conspiracy to deny poor Oprah any of those Best Supporting Actress wins.

    Maybe its as simple as she wasn’t good enough.

  • boring

    Note how no one’s stirring shit for Oprah not getting recognition for BELOVED, by the way.

  • Tackle

    That’s because she was terrible in Beloved. Her inexperience as an actress showed. However Thandie Newton did a great job in Beloved, with a very difficult role. Playing a flesh & blood ghost. Kimberly Elise also did a good job in “Beloved”. But Oprah was great in,
    “The Color Purple”. Whoopi Goldberg was excellent in ” The Color Purple”, but terrible in Tyler Perry’s, ” For Colored Girls”. She just was NOT believeble as the religious fanatic mother, a similar part that Piper Laurie gave a masterpiece preformance as the mother of “Carrie”. It’s strange how one minute someone can turn in a great preformance, and the next, not so much.

  • Polaro

    “The Color Purple” was a great movie. The Oscars are the Oscars…

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