a.k.a. "The Oscar Messenger"

Posts tagged ‘Dame Maggie Smith’

Best Supporting Actress, Wide Open or Not?

sarah PaulsonRoonwy MARA 2Is this year’s Supporting Actress race wide open or not? I think the HFPA(Hollywood Foreign Press Association) who give out the Golden Globs, er, I mean, GLOBES, dynamited both the Best Actress race and the Best Supporting Actress races, by insisting that Rooney Mara for “Carol” and Swedish actress Alicia Vikander of “The Danish Girl” MUST be considered in lead.aLICIA vIKANDER1

And they are 100% right! Both are leading roles. However, after seeing how dismal Rooney Mara’s “Carol” turn is, and how GREAT Cate (the Great) Blanchett’s is in the title role, I think voters are going to have no trouble nominating Blanchett, and overlooking the sub-par Mara for “Carol.”

I would never have thought that yesterday. I had to see it to believe it. I mean, Mara did win Best Actress in Cannes, which I guess in this day and race really means nothing.

And since Best Actress is incredibly jammed already, there just may not be room for Mara AND Blanchett, and/or for Mara and Vikander, who gives a truly transcendent performance as the conflicted wife of a transitioning transgender man-to-woman in “The Danish Girl,” played brilliantly by probable nominee for Best Actor, and last year’s winner, Eddie Redmayne.

Brie Larson in “Room” and Saorise Ronan in “Brooklyn” SEEM locked and loaded as they say. And then there’s Blanchett in “Carol” and Vikander. With only one slot left for Carey Mulligan in “Suffragette” with Lily Tomlin’s “Grandma” and Charlotte Rampling’s “45 years” nipping at her heels. Never mind Dame Maggie Smith coming up fast on the outside for her glorious, smelly, homeless woman “Lady in the Van.”

So who is going to fill up the now empty Best Supporting Actress race?

Well, as I said before, I would love it if Sarah Paulson (above top picture) got nominated for “Carol.” Since the HFPA’s Edict of Nantes, they CAN’T nominate Rooney,in Supporting, they might just go far Paulson’s steely Best Friend and ex-lover of Carol. That would be great and people WILL get to see “Carol”. And see Paulson in it and how good she is.

Paulson was pretty stellar in “Twelve Years a Slave” wherein she horrified voters as the vicious slave-owners wife, who throws a glass decanter in future Oscar winner Lupita N’yongo’s face, scarring her for life.

And then there’s room for probable nominee screen legend Jane Fonda getting in for a five minute scene in “Youth.” I bet they are going to nominate her sight unseen because she is well, Jane Fonda.Jane Fonda Youth 1

I keep banging the drums for Parker Posey in Woody Allen’s “Irrational Man,” but no one seems to be listening to me. Posey has another juicy role coming up next year in Woody’s next opus. Maybe the Academy will wait for that role before they get on the Parker-Posey-is-now-legit(to us)-train.Itrational Man 2

I’ve mentioned before two look-alike blondes Elizabeth Banks and Rachel McAdams in, respectively, “Love and Mercy” and “Spotlight,” the front-runner at the moment for Best Picture. Both blonde beauties may have been pushed further inside the race than they ever might have been otherwise by the HFPA’s ruling on Mara and Vikander.Elizabeth Banks1Rachel McAdams1And let’s not overlook the wonderful Oscar perennial Laura Linney, who really holds Ian McKellan’s house and home(and picture) together as the put-upon drudge of a housekeeper in “Mr. Holmes.” If the voters view “Mr. H.” to see Sir Ian’s great nonogenarian detective, they’ll see how beautiful Linney’s work is opposite him. I thought people would forget this charming film and McKellan’s and Linney’s lovely work in it, but it seems they’re not.Laura Holmes 1And last but not least, you can never count out Dame Helen Mirren’s campier-than-thou take on the late real life gossip columnist Hedda Hopper in “Trumbo,.” who underneath her elaborate headgear was a ruthless red=baiter.Helen Mirren Trumbo

There’s nothing like a Dame as the ole saying goes. A rubric that AMPAS lives by. They’ve always have got to get a “sir” or a “dame” in there somewhere to give the evening class.

Have I left anyone out? Probably. But I’ll catch you up on these magnificent ladies on the flip side.

Is “Downton Abbey” Winding Down? Say It Isn’t So!

Downtown 1Oh no! Say it isn’t so! But could “Downton Abbey” one of the most beloved television series of all time be running out of…..steam? Time is marching on, all over the Crawley family, and well, when I saw that penultimate scene of SPOILER ALERT!!!!!

Carson proposing marriage to Mrs. Hughes, and her accepting! Oh no! I knew the end must be drawing nigh.

As we head into 1925, I just saw so many storylines being wrapped up by screenwriter/genius Julien Fellowes that…well, it was all just too much, and too obvious. Lord Grantham and his Lady wife, Cora, have accepted poor sorrowful Edith(whose always been crying heretofore)’s love child, Marigold, as one of their own. Tom, the Irish chaffeuur-turned-son-in-law is heading off to America with his daughter Sybbie. Rose has gotten married, to a Jew, who doesn’t look Jewish at all, and THEY are also headed off to the US.

Mrs. Patmore has bought her own Bed and Breakfast. And Lady Grantham has also accepted her new ladies’ maid, Baxter’s criminal past.

The Dowager (Dame Maggie Smith), grander and wittier than ever, spurned her Russian suitor’s request that they run away together. And Dear Cousin Isabel(Penelope Wilton) was also proposed to by Lord Merton, and she ALSO turned him down. And that as they say is that.

Beautiful executed costumed and performed by all concerned. Don’t get me wrong. And with a terrific gay story line this year for the loveless Thomas(the excellent Rob James-Collier) exposing even further the gay ills of his time, there WERE high-points and I enjoyed every gloriously gowned minute of it.

But then there was the perplexing situation that arose around last year’s rape victim, the stalwart Anna(Joanne Frogatt won a much deserved Golden Globe for it). It seems now SHE was suspected of killing her predator Green, throwing him under a bus in Piccadilly Circus. And in a mirror image of her equally stalwart husband Mr. Bates’s jail term in Season 3, the saintly Anna is now imprisoned(falsely we all know) and I just said “HOLT ON A MINUTE!”

Fellowes was needlessly re-cycling plots for his marvelous characters, and tarnishing them in the process. To have Anna dragged to jail. And then TWO marriage proposals for the two older ladies on the show, it was just too much of a red flag, saying that he’s winding everything up at Downton and/or running out of ideas.

And letting us all down lightly.

All good things must come to an end, and it is said that Fellowes has been offered a lucrative television deal here in the States for a series about the rich in  America at the turn of the last century called “The Gilded Age.” And he like the characters of Tom and Rose all have their sites set on America. Say it isn’t so!

“Downton Abbey” really raised the level of Series Television to new heights of excellence in every single category, but now it, like the British way of life and class system it portrays, is beginning to fall apart. Or at least getting slightly frayed around the edges.

I hope this isn’t true, but…

 

Another Oscar Hopeful Bites(the Dust) at TIFF “Maps to the Stars” Won’t Fly with the Academy

Well, “Maps to the Stars” which I saw yesterday at TIFF was hyped as an Oscar possibility. Best Picture and down the line, but after seeing it yesterday at a P&I screening I have to say, it’s over.

“Maps to the Stars” by the King of Canada, David Cronenberg has gone out of his way to insult Hollywood at every twist and turn of this dark, dark comedy thriller. And who am I to say that Hollywood  doesn’t deserve this harsh satirical treatment? It certainly does. But poor beautiful Julianne Moore, who is degraded in every way imaginable, certainly doesn’t. She’s a great actress, playing a neurotic, aging, delusional one. And she takes into her home a very creepy Mia Wasakowska(sp?) as a personal assistant from hell. Carrie Fisher herself, in a very funny cameo, foists Agatha on Moore,

But the denouement, which I won’t reveal here, is something the Academy just won’t stand for, and may not even nominate poor Moore,even in Supporting… Is the Academy going to nominate a performance by a poor actress who has a scene on the toilet where she has to pee and fart at the same time? I think not.

But Moore is magnetic and ultimately tragic, and she did win the Best Actress Award at Cannes this year for this abortion…but…peeing and farting…? WTF? When there are people to nominate in Supporting, like Patricia Arquette and Dame Maggie Smith, I think not.

There is also a Justin Bieber-like character in this, but really, his character and plot-like are pointless…All I can say is David Cronenberg has done “it” again.

And again, I’m typing this from the unbelievably quiet press room, where the only sound is typing. And the television broadcasting “The Judge”s press conference behind me on a large screen, but I’m not watching it.

More soon, I am so sure.

Live, more or less, from Toronto.

 

 

Oscar Disappointment “Boyhood” WAAAAY tooo long at 3 hours!

After the incredible reviews for “Boyhood”, I had my expectations high. Higher perhaps than they should’ve been. I was expecting to see The Second Coming.

At three hours, it was waaaay toooo long. I couldn’t wait for him to graduate high school and get the hell out of the house!  And then, set in Houston, it seemed we were going to be dragged through college with him (the University of Texas is a backdrop) as well.”Oh no!” I thought.

I was unfortunately feeling that sinking feeling of when is this going to be over???

The non-actor playing the central character Mason was OK in the child hood scenes where all he had to do was be a kid. But he was constantly being upstaged by his precocious and obnoxious older sister,Samantha, who turns out to be director Linklater’s daughter Lorelei! Who btw doesn’t look like either of her biological parents, who are played to the hilt,  and then some, by the more-remarkable-than- she’s=ever-been Patricia Arquette, in the role of her career, as Mason’s patient, loving mom, and Ethan Hawke, who holds his own, too, as Mason’s dead-beat dad.

The thing that astounded me throughout the film, however, was not simply the fact that everyone in it was really aging as they would in real life, but the incredible 12 year long dedication of Arquette and Hawke and all involved to director/writer Richard Linklater. This is his second time-lapse, if you will film. The other also with Hawke was the “Sunrise” trilogy, of which I only saw the last film, and was underwhelmed by that one, also. Of his recent films, I liked “Bernie” better.

I guess you had to see the other two first. I felt when I saw it that it would get no Oscar action. And it didn’t. The Gotham Awards and the Indie Spirits are where this film will clean up. As its’ doing at the box-office.

But Oscar, I don’t think so. It’s not a Best Picture picture. It’s more of simply a film stunt. And Ellar Coltrane as Mason is more of an absence than a presence, but I guess that’s what the director intended. As we SLOOOOWLY procede to Mason’s adolescence and his interest in photography grows and grows, we see something of the young filmmaker Linklater merging with the character. I would’ve liked to have seen more of that. It’s a film of tiny, small moments. I would’ve liked more substance.

Most successful is the painful portrait it paints of a dysfunctional single mother (Arquette) who is constantly drawn to drunken, abusive men. She drags her two children through three horrible marriages, and while accurate, paints a very bleak, bleak picture of American married life today.

As the daughter, Samantha bemoans the fact “that we have to move AGAIN!” every time one of Arquette’s marriages break up.

I found it depressing and disturbing rather than enlightening. And bourgeois beyond belief.

Oh well! On to the next Oscar front-runner that going to sink from over praise.

Linklater might get a Best Director nod, and perhaps win. And Patricia Arquette’s is the best written part. And she plays it wonderfully with warmth and intelligence and makes you realize this talented actress has been underestimated and under-utilized her entire career. Until now. She is so good she could be nominated in either category. Best Actress or Best Supporting Actress. But if she’s in Supporting she’ll be up against the likes of Dame Maggie Smith for “My Old Lady.”

She’s so good and is the performance that really stays with you, as she ages from cute-as-can-be hippie Mom, to a matronly, committed Psychology professor single mom with a degree, who is something like 15 pounds heavier. You  root for her all the way. And she gets the big Summing Up Scene at the end.

So while “Boyhood” like in real life has its joys, it is also something I couldn’t wait to get out of.

And as I was leaving this public showing of the film, I heard people with puzzled expressions on their faces saying “It was three hours!” and “It’s so ordinary.” That about says it all. Don’t believe the reviews. It’s a critics darling, clearly, but Oscar? I don’t think so.BOYHOOD 1But it might get SOMEthing big. Like Arquette winning Best Actress. Or even Linklater winning Best Direcot or Best Original Screenplay. I don’t think he’s ever won an Oscar before, so this clearly is his year. And every body likes him and Arquette, is very popular in Hollywood. They’ll get nominated. But Best Picture? No. It will go to a much bigger studio film. But Linklater could finally win Best Screenplay. He’s been nominated in that category before.

The childhood references  it revels in are going to be lost on the aged Academy members. this childhood wasn’t their childhoods. Harry Potter any one?

TIFF Announces 2014 Slate! Foxcatcher, Maps to the Stars, more

Foxcatcher 1Julianne Moore 1TIFF logo 1Imitation Game 1It’s a starry line-up as always as TIFF today announced its’ upcoming slate of Galas, which always take place at the Roy Thomson Hall, and formal dress is required, and Special Presentations, which almost always happen at the classic Elgin(pronounced “El Gin” with a hard “g”) theatre.

Three of the films I’m most looking forward to seeing are David Cronenberg’s “Maps to the Stars” which netted Julianne Moore the Best Actress award at Cannes,

Bennett Miller’s follow-up to “Moneyball” “Foxcatcher” which is about wrestling, not baseball, and the British WWII spy film “Imitation Game” with Benedict Cumberbatch( PBS’ Sherlock Holmes to many) as the lead character who is a closeted homosexual.

There are many, many films more that were announced today. Go to Sasha Stone’s invaluable Oscar site http://www.awardsdaily.com for more info. Toronto always has soooo many films, you can’t see them all.

One movie I’ve already seen, today as a matter of fact, was the Dame Maggie Smith, Kristen Scott Thomas & Kevin Kline starrer “Me and My Old Lady” with Dame Maggic pulling out all the stops in yet ANOTHER tour-de-force performance that is soooo good I’m glad they are including it at TIFF. She deserves it.

And so now, the Oscar Race officially begins! Could Dame Maggie surprise and make it into the Best Actress race? She certainly deserves it. She’s plays a 92-year-old English woman living in France.  And I’m SOOOO glad I saw it today!

 

 

 

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Downton Finale Tomorrow~Over So Quickly!

Downton Finale Tomorrow~Over So Quickly!

I guess it speaks to the excellence of its’ continued supremacy, ratings-wise and otherwise-wise. In every respect, “Downton Abbey” has continued its’ amazing level of suspenseful perfection all through its’ sublime Season Four. Yes! It’s almost over! It just flew by! It can’t be! Say it isn’t so! But tomorrow we experience a luscious, super-duper, two-hour(probably) finale! Centering around Lady Rose’s Coming Out as a debutante Ball and accompanying festivities.

What’s going to happen? What’s next? Well, for someone who watches every episode at least four times over, there are some hidden spoilers.

The finale will jump ahead a year. We know this because that’s what Lady Grantham revealed about her brassy American mother (Shirley MacLaine) and neer-do-well brother (Paul Giamatti)s returning to Downton for Rose’s Coming Out Ball, which also seems to be taking place at Buckingham Palace!

So a year from where we left off feeling awful about poor Edith’s pregnancy, she and Aunt Rosamund will have been long back from Switzerland, and presumably Edith’s sad unwanted unwed mother crisis will be long over. Aunt Rosamond( Samantha Bond) and the Dowager Countess of Grantham(Maggie Smith)’s scheme will have been successful in hiding poor Edith(the excellent Laura Carmichael)s shame. And I predict poor Edith will be sadder than ever.How much more bad luck can one person take?

The main question being will the vanished Mr.Michael Gregson ever turn up? He just may. But at the very last second and we’ll all have to wait til SEASON FIVE to see how this cliff-hanger turns out.

Bravo to Samantha Bond’s continuing development of Lady Rosamund Painsswick. Maybe next year she’ll even be listed in the show’s opening credit! And in her previous film life, in her youth, she used to be a James Bond girl!

It’ll be a year, too, that has gone by for the beleaguered Bates and Anna. And though the villainous valet Green will be long gone, the mystery of how he fell into the traffic on Picadilly, may be revealed. Or maybe that will be left til next season, too.

But be sure about it, Julian Fellowes will see that SOMEthing major happens to Anna and Bates, who now have replaced Matthew and Mary as the series unlikely but main love interest.

Penelope Wilton’s Cousin Isobel instead of being shunted aside and neglected after her only son Matthew’s tragic death seems to have become a more important character than ever. And in her own right. And she seems to have two prospective suitors in the good village Doctor Clarkson and also Mary’s godfather, Lord Whathisname, who sent her flowers on the last episode.

Wilton is a marvelous foil for the ever brilliant Maggie Smith. Watching the two of them constantly duel with each other, verbally, is a delicious delight of this and all the other seasons.

My fave Thomas (Rob James-Collier) has not had a lot to do this season so far. He’s not had another gay love interest, at least not yet. Jimmy(Ed Speelers) is still there, but nothing at all has happened between them and since the dastardly O’Brien’s abrupt departure, he’s not really had an ally downstairs. The new ladies maid Baxter seems taken up with Mr. Mosely now, of all people. It’s a touching twosome that Thomas doesn’t like for one second. He’ll be sure they don’t last.

If anybody seems poised to stir up more trouble for Bates and Anna, it’s him. With his insatiable curiosity about what’s happening in Downton, he won’t stop til he gets to the bottom of, well, everything. And ANYthing. He knows something has happened, but he doesn’t know what. But dollars to donuts he’ll find out in this episode.

And the great Shirley MacLaine’s proclamation that she now has no ladies maid may usher in Baxter’s quick exit a la O’Brien last season. Julian Fellowes doesn’t drop these juicy plot hints for nothing. And is Lady Susan, Rose’s hated mother going to return for her Coming Out? And O’Brien with her? Will Shrimpy, her father attend? I think that some of them might turn up. My money’s on Shrimpy.

And what will happen to Mary and her many beaux? My prediction. Nothing. Love Mary’s ascendance to be a take- charge, no-nonsense business woman in the running of the estate.It totally fits with her bossy personality. I don’t see either Lord Gillingham or either for the other two making any impact on Mary’s now-frozen assets. She’s turning into an Ice Queen, but it suits her.

It’s funny to note how Dan Stevens’ departure(and Matthew Crawley’s violent sudden death in a car crash at the end of Season Three) has not really slowed down Downton’s plot or appeal whatsoever. There are, after all, nearly 20 other characters to pick up the slack, and they are all excellent actors.

Bates and Anna, I feel, and their rather incredibly dark storyline this season, involving Anna’s rape, has certainly carried and dominated and propelled the season and provided Anna (Joanne Frogett) and Mrs. Hughes(Phyllis Logan) with many tremendously juicy scenes to play. And of course, Brendan Coyle as Bates is marvelous suggesting menace of all sorts. He’s almost turning in to a kind of Bill Sykes figure.

Bill Sykes was the terrifying villain in Dickens “Oliver Twist”. But we love Bates, er, don’t we?

Stay tuned. To be continued FOR SURE. I think they’ve already started shooting Season Five in London!

“Downton” goes dark. As in Serious.

Dear Cineastes, dear readers,and fans of great television everywhere, I must put up a sort of spoiler warning in that Episode 2 of Season 4 is going to take the whole series in a serious direction and that none of you will have seen coming.

Episode One is all tea cakes and roses compared to what’s happened now that we’ve seen Episode Two.

If you thought the sadness of Lady Mary and her mother-in-law Isobel Crawley and sad-sack Mosely’s reactions to their grief over Matthew’s death was tough stuff, you ain’t seen nothin’ yet, folks.

Ladies and gents my hat is once again off to the great writer Julian Fellowes for throwing us a curve ball of well, WRECKING ball proportions.

I’m not going to say what happened tonight. It spoils it if you know it’s coming. I knew SOMEthing was coming and it was soooo big and sooo bad that no one who’s seen the show (in England) would reveal it. So I will continue on in that silence.

But let me just say it was ANOTHER masterfully written scene, or series of scenes, where there is a great house-party, the likes and size of which we’ve not yet seen on “Downton.” Sumptuous. And it’s because Dame Nellie Melba has come to Downton Abbey to give a recital. I’m not quite sure why she came, but embodied beautifully by Dame Kiri Te Kanawa, it’s an episode that will never be forgotten.
Because, well, it’s not Dame Kiri’s fault…but no. I’ll say no more.

However EW did let something slip in its Downton Abbey Special Issue, about Episode 2, so I knew SOMEthing BIG was about to explode. And they let slip WHO it was happening to. But I won’t even go that far. You’ll just have to watch it online or on your PBS local station that may not yet have aired it.

Like for instance, in NYC, WLIW is not airing til tomorrow night. And I won’t be home in time to watch it AGAIN.

It’s something abrupt and unexpected. Coming completely out of the blue. And well, it’s shattering and VERY disturbing and beautifully played by all involved.

I guess you COULD say if you think that the excellent actress who plays Mrs. Hughes has not been sufficiently challenged so far, trust me, from now on, SHE IS. Oh god! What is her name???

Holt on a minute! I’ll go look it up!

Phyllis Logan! It’s PHYLLIS LOGAN! And it doesn’t happen to HER, but she becomes dreadfully involved in the event, and this is going to play out FOR THE WHOLE REST OF THE SEASON. Mark my words. THIS is now the main story line. It will overwhelm everything else.

Until of course, the wild mind of Julian Fellowes comes up with something equally amazing. Which I’m sure he will.

Well, done! Kudos to all! And it just means you CAN’T MISS AN EPISODE!!!

Downton’s Back! And as charming/involving as ever!

Yes! We can all relax! They are all back!

And how we’ve missed them! “Downton Abbey” England’s answer to “Breaking Bad” is just as addictive, and could be called “Breaking Good.” Everyone’s best foot is forward in a two-hour whopper of a Season premiere.

No spoilers here, so feel free to read on. The joys of Downton are what they ever were ~ Delightful, nonpariel, and utterly charming,  AND involving! I found myself moved to tears at least twice.

How could it not be so? We’ve spent three years getting to know and love these characters, suffering their highs AND lows. I felt like a much-beloved friend died when Lady Sybil passed so unexpectedly in child birth last year. I was sent reeling. For days!

Knowing that the highly popular romantic hero Matthew Crawley, played so well by the dashing Dan Stevens, had decided not to renew his contract, and that he would be written out. RE: He would have to die some horrible death, which he did. I knew he was going so I wasn’t AS effected as I was by Lady Sybil’s equally abrupt passing.

I think it’s not a spoiler to say that his absence is deeply felt by one and all. And it’s six months later, and grief is hanging heavy in the air. Downton does grief well. But I can’t go further than that right now. I have to assume that this first gigantic come-back episode is still playing for some in different time zones, and I said no spoilers.

But I will continue. I think it’s OK to say you’re going to see A LOT of Carson, the head butler, in this episode. And that in the first minute, the hated ladies maid O’Brien departs with Lady Rose’s family. Her mother Susan was very taken with O’Brien in the last episode when they were in Scotland, and she hires her away from the distraught Lady Grantham and whisks her away to India.

And from that, much plot ensues. I miss her already. I wonder if Siobhan Finneran, who played bad so magnificently just decided to not renew her contract, too, and that she got tired of being so thoroughly despised by millions of viewers,and that she just wanted OUT. And will pop up in some sunshiny comedy, being maternal with many children. Or that writer Julian Fellowes just decided he had gone so dark with her, that there was nowhere else to go with so dastardly a villain. But I missed her, too. I can’t believe I’m typing this, but I did.

Like Lord Grantham, (the great Hugh Bonneville continues his benevolent reign) We can all identify with his “I don’t want things to change” attitude. That everything should stay “as they were”. But ah, life, is not like that! And Downton Abbey is subjected to many,many changes as the Roaring ’20’s begin to ROAR and the household both upstairs and downstairs is not immune to sands of time drip, drip, dripping through the hourglass. It’s not the chaos of WWI, but let’s say turmoil, if not chaos, ensues.

But they’ll always be an England.

I wondered what would happen to the excellent Penelope Wilton, Matthew’s well-meaning, socially conscious mother, now that she’s a widow, but author Fellowes does not neglect her character at all. She’s not shunted to the side, and is given A LOT to do. And I was very, very glad to see this. Wilton was able to show considerable range, I don’t think it’s a spoiler to say that. Her cousin Isobel is an essential character now more than ever. This is where the British really do excel. The 60-ish Wilton would’ve been written out in an American drama. The British revere and respect their character actresses of une age certaine.

And of course Dame Maggie Smith is Dame Maggie Smith, dominating all she surveys and every scene she’s in. And of course, the entire Abbey and the series itself. What WOULD they do without her? She lifts the level. She raises all boats.

And I have a warm spot in my heart for the lovelorn second sister, Lady Edith, played to perfection by the lovelier than ever Lucy Carmichael. I’ll just leave it at that.

Bravo! And I can’t wait til NEXT week! This mammoth two-hour season starter was setting up a lot and introducing new characters, and I liked all of it.

There were a few minor quibbles. But as Noel Coward once wrote “Don’t quibble, Sybil.” And quibbles are spoilers, so just  stay tuned!

“Downton Abbey” Ends and Begins to Shoot Season 4

Well, that was a BANG-up finale to perhaps the strongest season yet, Season 3, of “Downton Abbey,” a few weeks back now. It’s taken me this long to come to terms with its’ being over soooo quickly, and also so tragically…

SPOILER ALERT! SPOILER ALERT!SPOILER ALERT!

I knew Dan Stevens, who played the handsome, perfect Matthew Crawley, was leaving at the end of this season. There had been MUCHO publicity about it. How could this be? No Matthew! Oh Nooooo! You can’t DO that, Author Julian Fellowes! Noooo! How will we, nevermind Lady Mary, his pregnant wife, do without him?????

But Stevens’ three year contract was up, and I personally feel he’ll rue the day. I don’t think his fans will ever forgive him for leaving. And he’ll never live up to the career high of “Downton” and the classic, unforgettable heart-throb he created in Matthew Crawley.

So, we knew his character’s end was nigh. But it was the really harsh and violent CHOICE of how they choose to write him out, erase him completely, that was startling. Yes, Matthew Crawley is dead. Really dead. Dead as a Dickensian door-nail.

And the sight of the intense close-up of his handsome corpse with the blood running in a rivulet down his beautiful, dead blonde face was really something that stuck in my mind. I wish I could get it OUT of my mind! It’s haunting! That’s the word!That someone so young and so dashing and so rich, someone who had survived the trenches of WWI, only to die, like James Dean, too soon, too soon…WELL!

And as I watch that episode over and over and over again.
(What ELSE is there to watch on TV that’s THAT good? I mean, really!)

Well, that shot and the scenes of marital bliss leading up to it with his address to his newborn baby son, “My dear little chap.” Well, it began to get to me more and more the more I re-watched it. And of course, the tragedy of Lady Mary, the ever more and more magnificent Michelle Dockery’s fate, as a newly widowed single mother, is even more magnified the more that I see it. The happiest of images of her in that sun-filled room and her little baby grabbing at her finger…*sob*

But not to worry, dear fellow, Downtonians. They are already shooting Season 4. And we know Shirley MacLaine will be back for a least one more go ’round with the legend herself Dame Maggie Smith…The way the show keeps moving forward in time, the Dowager Countess must be now circling 100!

Another departure I saw coming in Ep.7 was the exit of Downton’s own Wicked Witch of the West, O’Brien. Author Fellowes had pretty much written himself and O’Brien’s character, into a corner with the utter blackness of O’Brian’s hideous, irredeemable soul, so she had to go.

And at the end that episode, we see her cozying up to Lady Susan, who is not at all happy with HER Lady’s maid, and is about to be posted to Bombay with her husband Cousin Shrimpy. Et voila! There goes O’Brien off to deepest, darkest India.

And I imagine Siobhan Finneran, the excellent Irish actress who has had the difficult job of making us love to hate O’Brien, for three seasons now, may have just had enough of this unrelenting, no-where-to-go-but-down character.

That brief scene in the happy, new love nest of the ideal working class couple Anna and Bates, where Bates whispers the words “Her Ladyship’s Soap” into O’Brian’s shocked ear. Well! It sends a chill down O’Brian’s spine that I felt, too, and sends her packing from the Bates’ house without her even having had her tea!

“Get Back in the Knife Box, Miss Sharp!” Indeed.

What will Season 4 bring? Well, STAYED TUNED! I know I will be!

Downton Abbey Season 3 ~ Ep.6 ~ There Are Fairies at the Bottom of the Abbey

SPOILER! SPOILERS! AND MORE SPOILERS! ALERT!

CODE VIOLET!

Or rather, as she’s called by some of her family, Cousin Violet (Dame Maggie Smith) was in full purple sail in Ep.6, the penultimate episode of “Downton Abbey” Season 3. Yes, dear readers, dear Downtonians, Season 3 is ending next week. *sob*sigh*sharp intake of breath* Alas!

Quality television is sooo rare these days and “Downton Abbey”s got it. In Spades.

And in the dreamy episode 6, Cousin Violet prompts Cousin Isobel to say “Have you changed your pills?” In one delicious set-to after the other, over Uber-social reformer Cousin Isobel’s (the superb Penelope Wilton) wanting to maintain former prostitute and former Downton maid, Ethel, as her cook and house-keeper.Shocking!

MEANWHILE!

Rob James-Collier’s sinister bad boy and head valet Thomas comes out of the shadows and is really at the center of this magnificent episode, which is, yes, an exploration of the attitudes towards homosexuality in the unenlightened Roaring 20s. In Post War Downton, everyone downstairs seemed to be roaring at Thomas. So bad Thomas, become poor gay Thomas and overwhelming sympathetic.

Thomas’ redemption began in Ep. 5 as he broke down crying at the death of Lady Sybil in childbirth in Ep.4. Rob James-Collier’s breakdown was as involving and empathetic and it was surprising in its’ power. “She didn’t even know I was alive!” he sobs “She was the only one who was nice to me!”

The death of Lady Sybil is going to be an ever-occuring and equivalent touchstone to the”Upstairs Downstairs” death of Lady Marjorie on the Titanic. Everything from now on will keep referring back to the untimely death of the lovely Lady Sybil at 24 years of age.

One keeps coming back to the fact of “Why? Why did they kill her off in such unceremonious, but incredibly compelling dramatic fashion?” And I keep coming up with the answer Well, she couldn’t act very well, so what else were they going to do with her?

With her abrupt passing, Tom Branson, the stupendous Alan Leech has really come into his own as the grieving father, former chauffeur and left-behind Irish son-in-law, who, in this episode begins to take over the running of the estate. He’s the new manager. And as magnificently played by Leech, he’s also becoming a very major character and dare I
say it? A heart-throb.

Which brings me back to the other emerging male star of Season 3, Rob James-Collier’s Thomas, who in this wonderful and also horrifying episode is called upon to play depths of emotion, his character has never been called upon to play so far. There are layers upon layers of dreadful humiliation as his frustrated gay feelings have nowhere to goand get him in to terrible trouble this episode.

Led on by the devilish Miss O’Brien, a former friend, Thomas thinks that Jimmy(Ep Speleers), the flirty footman is infatuated with him.

And so one night, he attempts a very beautiful kiss of the sleeping footman, the gorgeous Jimmy, who awakens and threatens to punch Thomas’s headlights out.

This disturbance is witnessed by the witless Alfred Nugent, and is reported upon by both Alfred and Jimmy to the Head Butler the super proper, Mr. Carson, who is revolted. And calls Thomas in to tell him he’s “foul” among other choice insults as he prepares to fire him. Thomas movingly says as he’s leaving”I may not be like you. But I’m not foul.”

And the major plot now revolves in this gripping episode of what are they going to do with Poor Gay one-handed Thomas?

James-Collier really proves himself to be a considerable actor as he is called upon by the brilliant, subtle script to play all the levels of loneliness, hurt, heart-break and degradation that homosexuals of that time, and earlier, were subjected to.

Oscar Wilde’s name was mentioned and that scandal that landed Wilde in jail in the Gay ’90s, was a mere two decades earlier than Downton’s time of 1920. And Thomas is constantly threatened with jail for his innocent, aborted kiss. As Wilde was. He was found guilty and sentenced to two years imprisonment at hard labor because he was gay. It ruined his health and destroyed his talent.

And of course, who is behind all these machinations? Thomas’ former partner-in-crime Miss O’Brien, the wicked witch of Downton, who, I’m happy to say, does get her comeuppance quite grandly at the end of these two hours of television glory.

Oh! And Bates gets out of jail! I almost forgot! And it is in Bates’ and Anna’s new home, a cozy little cottage on the estate, bien sur, that we watch them happily refurbish as poor, gay, lonely Thomas sinks deeper and deeper into depression and hopelessness that the wicked trap, ,which evil Miss O’Brien has set for him snaps shut.

There is a saving punch-line to all this, but neither Bates nor Anna knows what it means, and why it causes Miss O’Brien so suddenly to heel, bitch.

And the words that brought her down off her broom=stick and back to earth with a resounding thud?

“Her Ladyship’s bar of soap”.

Anyone who has been watching since Season One will know what that means, but it’s too complicated and dastardly to explain here.

As I have to also comment on Lady Edith’s emerging career as a newspaper columnist! Laura Carmichael also outdoes herself in this episode and she begins, through writing to find herself. I could identify.

It also takes this busy, jam-packed episode to London, where she is chaperoned by her Aunt Rosamond, Lady Painswyck. And so we get to see more of that delightful character. who is the Dowager(Maggie Smith)’s smart London daughtet, and watch with unalloyed joy as Lady Edith, the mouse of the glamorous Grantham family, begins to assert and find herself through journalism! A column! She becomes a blogger, Roaring ’20’s style, and of course, her editor falls in love with her.

Laura Carmichael is magnificent as she goes from the recently jilted bride, left at the altar in Ep.2, and we delight in her triumph as she becomes the butterfly that was still in the cocoon at Downton and begins to spread her wings ~ a bit. Though she is still very shy and proper. And she can’t believe people are responding to her writing! I know how that feels!

ANOTHER wonderful Downton episode, two hours of heaven, then next week, two more hours and it will be gone until next season. And yes, there is going to be a season 4 and maybe much, much more according to a Vanity Fair article on Julian Fellowes, whose brilliant and sole creation this is. He does all the writing of all the episodes of all the seasons himself! It’s all him! It amazes me!

Because that almost never is allowed to happen in American television, which is why British television is so superior to ours almost always. Because the British have this thing about “The Writer” and it’s called respect. And it’s a beautiful thing.

“Downton Abbey” which is becoming the most successful series ever on PBS, can be seen on Sundays at 9pm on Ch.13 in New York and is rebroadcast on Monday at 1am. Or rather Tuesday morning at 1am. It can also be seen on Ch.21 WLIW on Mondays at 8pm.Don’t miss it!

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