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Posts tagged ‘Downtown Abbey’

Oscars 2016 ~ Is Cate Blanchett Turning Into Meryl Streep?

Stepmother 1At first when I saw “Cinderella,” which I just loved, btw, I wondered whether the superb performances by the two leading ladies, Lily James(“Downton Abbey”s Rose) and Cate Blanchett as the not-so-Wicked-but-merely-troubled-and-lonely Stepmother, would even be considered for this year’s Oscar race. I now think that two-time Oscar Winner Blanchett for Best Supporting Actress is definitely a possibilty for a nomination. I think she’s becoming the New Meryl Streep, and will get nominated for her usually outstanding work in almost anything she does, even Disney fairy tale extravaganzas. So the precedent has been set. At least in the Supporting Actress category.

I mean, look, if Meryl Streep can get nominated for playing a Witch in “Into the Woods”, her astounding 19th nomination! Then Blanchett certainly could for another fairy tale character.

Sasha Stone of http://www.awardsdaily.com says her most-looked-forward-to film of 2016 is the upcoming Todd Haynes “Carol” which is the lesbian love drama based on Patricia Highsmith’s “The Price of Salt.” And yes, Blanchett is the lead in “Carol.” So theoretically, she could get TWO nominations this year. Bringing her net total so far to six, with two wins.

And considering, as Sasha points out, this is another bleak year ahead for roles for actresses, Cate Blanchett very well pull off this double-nominated hat-trick.

And on the male side, I personally think it’s Eddie Redmayne by a mile for Tom Hopper’s “The Danish Girl” opening now Nov.26, right in the heat and heart of the Oscar season.

Eddie LiliCould Eddie Redmayne do a Tom Hanks(as they say) and pull off two Best Actor wins in a row? He sure could.

Could he beat out Leonardo DiCaprio in “The Revenant”? And get two Oscars while Leo wasn’t won one yet? Yup.

As Oscar Grand-daddy Tom O’Neil is always pointing out in his Slugfests “They sometimes like to give you two.” O’Neill, of course, is at http://www.goldderby.com

Witness Luise Rainer, Spencer Tracy, Olivia de Havilland, Hanks, Kevin Spacey and Sally Fields…and more. Streep has three. Jack Nicholson has three…

Sometimes what is going to happen at the Oscars is SOOO clear. Even at this distance…

 

Joanna Froggatt “Downtown” Classiest Winner Golden Globes, J.K. Simmon & Patricia Arquette also triumph

Joanna Frogatt“Downtown Abbey”s very own Joanna Froggatt, who played the rape victim Anna won in her TV category( Supporting Actress TV/mini-series) and gave tonight’s classiest acceptance so far. Claiming that she hopes she was able to give a voice to similarly affected women everywhere. J. K. Simmons also won as expected for his sadistic/funny/frightening/enlightening music-teacher-from-hell in the great “Whiplash”. Huge, thunderous applause for him. And also for Patricia Arquette who also marched to her expected win for “Boyhood” as the Mom of Moms. Both gave perfectly poised speeches that will probably ensure that they will give MANY, MANY more & similar speeches on their way to their inevitable Oscar wins in a month and a half.

Out-of-the-blue winner so far(it’s still going on) was Amy Adams for “Big Eyes.” She also won last year at the Globes for “American Hustle” in the same category. Best Actress in a Comedy or Musical. She looked depressed and sad on the Red Carpet. No longer. She’s fine. But probably won’t get an Oscar nomination for “Big Eyes” which is perceived as a flop.

Chalk this one up to the Hollywood Foreign Press Association’s wanting to give Harvey(Weinstein) SOMEthing. May means his other films won’t win tonight. That measn YOU “Imitation Game.”

Best Screenplay went, inexplicably, to “Birdman.”

Best Score went to “Theory of Everything.”

And Richard Linklater, whose a helluva nice guy, one of the nicest film directors I’ve ever interviewed, won, of course, for “Boyhood.”  Probably signaling “Boyhood” will win Best Picture.

They’ve saved the BIG awards, in film, for the last 45 minutes.

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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 Abbey” is back and better than ever!

Whatever was “Downton Abbey” going to do?

What do you do to follow-up World War I as a plot point and setting? Well, you just continue with the high level of scintillating scripting by series creator and sole writer Julian Fellowes and the superb acting of the outstanding British cast that the public has come to know and to love, upstairs and below-stairs. And yes, the great “Downton Abbey” is more than back and, I’m happy to say, is better than ever.

I’m glad I waited to sing its’ praises until now, un petit en retard, the airing of the new Season 3, Episode 3 is tonight at 9pm EST.

SPOILER ALERTS!!!!!!

Because in Ep. 2, the subplot of what happens to middle sister, the less good-looking of the three glamorous Crawley sisters, Lady Edith, just lands on one like an unexpected ton of proverbial bricks,just as it does poor Edith. She is shockingly abandoned at the altar by her groom, the older, and partially wounded in the War, Lord Anthony Strellin.Bastard!

It is heartbreaking and beautifully under-played by Laura Carmichael, as the luckless Lady Edith, and her mother the Countess of Grantham, Elizabeth McGovern. Lady Edith’s two grandmothers are no slouches in the sympathy department either as the magnificent Dame Maggie Smith and the dazzling Shirley MacLaine, offer their support to the sobbing Lady Edith, too, in wrenching scene after scene that tears your heart out and throws it on the grounds of the sumptuously manicured estate.

I was not expecting to be so impacted by this storyline of the less lovely, but utterly sympathetic, sister’s May-December hook-up with much older Lord Stallin. But yet I was. And better yet, it was an utter surprise.

You just don’t see the stupendously well-mannered and stiff-upper-lipped Lord Strallin doing something so cowardly and dastardly as this. But he does. And now the series has a new villain! Although we may never see him again. The least he could do is pop off due to stress and leave poor Edith all his money, house, grounds, the lot!

Humiliating poor Edith in front of an entire church-full of the assembled landed gentry of The County AND their horrified servants! It’s a trauma that you know is going to echo down this season, and the next and the next. Will Edith ever be lucky in love? All signs now point to “No.”

And this unbelievable, shocking debasement comes in Episode Two, right after her older sister, the beautiful, but difficult and opinionated Lady Mary (the superb Golden Globe nominee Michelle Dockery) has married so well and so grandly to the series dashing and desirable heart-throb, Matthew Crawley(Dan Stevens).Lady Mary and Matthew got married in grand style in Episode One, only to witness Lady Edith’s disgrace in Ep.2 Never a dull moment at Downton!

And Downstairs, the plot thickens and sickens, too. Mrs. Hughes(Phyllis Logan) the saintly housekeeper may have cancer. The abandoned and disgraced former housemaid Ethel(Amy Nuttall), has become a prostitute. AND former partners-in-crime,the villainous, but handsome gay valet Thomas(Rob James-Collier) and the equally witch-y Ladies’ Maid to Lady Grantham, Mrs. O’Brien (Siobhan Finneran)are now at each others throats,threatening each other, forecasting all kinds of skullduggery to come.

Worrisome and interesting, also, is the contrast of continuing downstairs problems of dutiful Anna,(Joanna Froggatt) head house maid, who married and fell in love with the valet Bates(Brendan Coyle), who is now in jail for the murder of his ex-wife, the no-good blackmailer Vera.

This May-December love story, with Holloway prison thrown in, has proven tremendously popular as “Free Bates” T-shirts being sold on the PBS website abound.

The intrepid Anna takes it into her hands to go out into the world beyond Downton, in this case, London, and try to find out just what happened to the loathsome Vera Bates. Was it murder? And if not her beloved husband, then who? Or was it suicide? She tracks down a neighbor of Vera’s in the East End and bribes her to talk about Vera’s last day. I think gets some clues, even though she doesn’t know it yet.

One) that Vera was scrubbing her nails quite violently the last time her friend saw her and
Two)that she was surrounded by rain-drops that made her look like she had a halo, according to the aggrieved friend.

Mark my words, Agatha Christie fans, those tiny details mean SOMEthing!

And one never tires of the endless interior and exterior shots of Highclere Castle, otherwise known as Downton Abbey itself. It’s presence (it IS one of England’s stately homes after all) continues to overwhelm its’ inhabitants, and it is itself the series focal point and most awe-inspiring character.

Lord Grantham (Hugh Bonneville) looks like he’s losing all his and his rich American wife’s money, too,in Episode One. And her mother, the uber-rich American, Mrs. Martha Levinson (a perfectly brassy Shirley MacLaine)though in residence for Mary’s wedding, won’t give them a red cent.

The worry about just what is going to happen to Downton, and therefore the entire series, was just enough to start “Downton Abbey”s Season 3 off with a bang and I know if they can manage to pull us all back in WITHOUT the backdrop and drama of World War I, well, then we’re well and hooked all over again, and in for a full season of Downton drama and delight.

However, I do have to point out that Season 3, like many “seasons” of British television is only 7 episodes long! And so, you better make your date with Downtown tonight at 9pm.

And if you’re out and can’t be in to catch it, PBS.org is playing all the episodes online starting the next day, Monday. For a limited time. So one way or the other you can’t miss the magical magnificence of “Downton Abbey.”

Oscar’s New “It” Girls ~Jennifer Lawrence V. Jessica Chastain

When it was announced last week that one of Oscar’s “It” Girls (last year’s version), was playing a leading role and not a supporting one, and was being campaigned as such, in the still-to-be-seen “Zero Dark Thirty,” the etherally beautiful redhead Jessica Chastain herself, it sent Oscarologists scrambling like frightened chickens.

Because OF COURSE the brilliant Chastain, who was a Supporting Actress nominee last year in “The Help”(she lost to cast member Octavia Spenser) was going to turn the Best Actress race upside down and shoot to the top of everyone’s list, again sight unseen. Well, wasn’t she?

Everybody and his brother it seems is trying to topple purported front-runner for “Silver Linings Playbook”, the Weinstein Co.s Oscar “It” girl and a former nominee for Best Actress for “Winter’s Bone”, Jennifer Lawrence.

It is said the equally beautiful Lawrence is so out in front of all other contenders this year at the tender age of 22, that all we who do this are left with is trying to figure who else will be nominated, not who will win in that coveted category. Jennifer Lawrence has already won this. So say ye pundits all.

St. Ann Thompson of http://www.indirewire.com Thompson on Hollywood says that Jennifer Lawrence in “Silver Linings Playbook” is a “slam-dunk” Lawrence also tops the Gurus o’ Gold chart by double digits. Check them out at David Poland’s http://www.moviecitynews.com. She’s Numero Uno at http://www.Goldderby.com, too  . I saw “SLP” today and I have to admit, yup, I think they might all just be right.

Light as air and paper thin as a potato chip, for all its’ background setting of manic depression and mental hospitals, “Silver Linings Playbook”s Jennifer Lawrence won me over. In spite of myself. I wasn’t a fan. I didn’t “Get” her, but now I do. She’s the new Elizabeth Taylor.

She’s an incredibly beautiful and photogenic young woman with a slammin’ body. She’s big, too, in all the right places.At 5’9′,’statuesque would be a good way of putting it. Curvaceous. And you see, she makes everyone fall in love with her. And yes, that’s a list that now includes me. Until today, an ardent anti-fan.

In “Silver Linings Playbook,” she won me over. She didn’t have me at “Hello,” but by the end of this film, she had me. She’s moving. You come to care about her. It’s her, a not the male lead “The Hangover”s Bradley Cooper, who is the emotional center of this wacky, wonky, weird film.

She’s got timing on her side,too. Oscarologists call it “momentum.”

It’s ONCE AGAIN ” a weak year for Best Actresses.” Some say the front-runner is 8-year-old Qu’venzhane Wallis in “Beasts of the Southern Wild.” And even though I have just been informed that she has indeed joined SAG, the disqualification of her from SAG Award voting consideration still, unfortunately, stands.

So Jennifer Lawrence’s massive lead still endures, and she’s VERY sympathetic in SLP. She’s poignant. She’s trying to get  Cooper’s Manic Depressive mess, Patrick, to fall in love with her, and what director/writer David O. Russell is also deftly doing is trying to get the audience,the WORLD to fall in love with her damaged widow and ex-sex-addict Tiffany. And it seems to be  working. Lawrence may be crowned in February, the new Queen of Hollywood.

“Silver Linings Playbook” won the Audience Award at Toronto and also the Hamptons Film Festivals. And the Weinstein Co. is seeing this as their major Oscar contender now that “The Master” has pretty much tanked all over the place.

The release date says everything about an Oscar seeking film. And Harvey Weinstein knows how to position his fillies JUST RIGHT. I thought that “The Master”s early Sept. bow was odd, to say the least.

And the still unseen “Django Unchained” is opening strangely late. On Christmas Day, no less. For a Quentin Tarantino civil war/revenge tale with a great deal of gore in store, that seems a bit late, too. And a bit odd.

But HW placed “Silver Linings Playbook” just right. Right in the middle of Oscar season’s Phase One. Which is RIGHT NOW. That should have told us everything. In fact, TWC has even moved its’ release date one week earlier. To NEXT week. And then it’s going wide. VERY wide.

In the end “Silver Linings Playbook” is a Rom Com. A very well done and starrily cast rom-com with Robert DeNiro,  even, as the hero’s OCD Dad. And it’s not much more than that. And it’s the old Boy Meets Girl, Boy Loses Girl, Boy Gets Girl story. Comedies and comedic performances like Lawrence’s don’t usually get the gold. Soubrettes don’t win Oscars. Or do they?

So therefore someone with gravitas, like the Juilliard-trained Jessica Chastain, it is thought, could sneak in with a last-minute serious role in a drama. Anthony Breznican, the new Oscar Analyst at EW, puts Jessica first and she’s even *gasp* on the COVER of their upcoming Holiday Preview Issue. And so is “Les Mis” and Bilbo Baggins and  Abraham Lincoln and Santa Claus.

So gentlemen, it looks like we have a contest brewing for Bactress.

Chastain’s the CIA operative, who for ten years drives the hunt to find and kill Osama Ben Laden. “Zero Dark Thirty” is the code name for this operation. And Katherine Bigelow, the first female director to ever have won an Oscar (for “The Hurt Locker” three years ago), is helming it. Marc Boal of “The Hurt Locker” did the screenplay and it’s film editor, is the same film editor who just edited “Argo” so stirringly. Is that good or bad? The trailers look AWFULLY similar to “Argo”s and in them Chastain utters not ONE WORD. Er,….Are they hiding something? Saving the best for last?

So of course this news is giving Oscarologists pause. Chastain was in a staggering SEVEN films last year. And her range is thought to be limitless. I have never seen her be anything less than brilliant.

Until last night when I saw “The Heiress” on Broadway and the role of the spinterish, repressed Catherine Sloper, defeated her roundly in the first act. Chastain, like Lawrence, is a great beauty, and both Chastain and Lawrence are well on their way to being screen legends.

Lawrence, in “The Hunger Games” raked in a total of something like $400 million this year, quite a feat for a franchise anchored on a woman.

But I just couldn’t buy Chastain as homely and socially awkward in the first act in the worst wig I’ve ever seen on a Broadway stage.”The Heiress” Act I was like a bad sitcom.

Cherry Jones on Bway in ’95 (she won a Tony) and Olivia de Havilland in the classic movie (she won an Oscar ) were too clearly in my mind. They really SEEMED plain. They weren’t ACTING plain. Plain is something you can’t act anyway. But in “The Heiress” Jessica Chastain unfortunately tries to do so. And that wig makes her look like a white Topsy.

However in the second act, when Catherine begins to transform, Chastain changes into a better wig, which helped her  step up her game and passably helped her redeem herself. But only just. She was totally believable by the chilling end of “The Heiress.”

Two time Tony Winner Judith Ivey stole the show as the pitty-pattiest of Aunts. And director Moises Kaufman’s all-over-the map direction directed everybody except Ivey in the wrong direction. Ivey had the Henry James style right and showed up everyone else as hollow or misguided.

Chastain also had no help at all from the men on stage with her, the usually reliable David Strathairn and the all-but-invisible “Downtown Abbey”s Dan Stevens. Strathairn seemed to be trying to make the necessary ogre of Catherine’s father, Dr. Sloper into someone nice and warm, almost like a tea-cozy. And Dan Stevens seemed to disappear into the furniture every time he appeared to enter .

On screen, Sir Ralph Richardson, in his greatest screen performance,, was frightening beyond belief as one of the most monstrous fathers in cinema history. And Montgomery Clift, in his movie debut, was unforgettable as the wastrel suitor, Morris Townsend. IOW, Chastain couldn’t carry his rangey leading role. Or did so just by the skin of her beautiful teeth.

Will her role in “Zero Dark Thirty” be strong enough to upset Jennifer Lawrence’s Oscar Love Fest? Will dark drama trump light comedy?  We’ll just have to wait and see.

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