I finally managed to get my hands on the movie Helvetica (affiliate link). It is a wonderful documentary about this famous type face, and how it has managed to infiltrate our daily lives on almost anything we see written in the street. Beautiful movie shots, nice music, and interviews with some well-known typographers.
Somewhere hidden inside the movie is an interview with typographer Erik Spiekermann where he gives his opinion about the typeface helvetica. He speaks very quickly but in a few seconds he makes a great number of points that I have started to notice as well: Helvetica works great with lots of white space around it and Helvetica needs careful attention with weights. (In fact I think one of the reasons that Arial looks so poor is that people usually only use the regular and bold variants. Helvetica comes in an endless range of weights.)