a.k.a. "The Oscar Messenger"

Posts tagged ‘Ireland’

Downtown Abbey, Season 3, Ep.3 ~ Recap & Review

“Downton Abbey” continues on as such a delectable television delight that I just feel compelled to write about it again! Right now! And this will contain spoilers so if you don’t want to know what happened in Ep.3 last night, then DO NOT READ ONWARDS! SPOILER ALERT TO THE MAX!

Mrs. Hughes, the housekeeper, does not have cancer. Poor Lady Edith has rebounded remarkably well from her altar-side betrayal by the spineless Lord Strallin, and writes a letter to the London Times about British women getting the vote, and the episode ends with it being published!

Edith, it seems, is now an embryonic Suffragette, and we glimpse that this may be her character’s main focus from now on. And good for Edith!

When her older, beautiful sister, Lady Mary, tries to commiserate with Edith over her abandonment by Lord Strallin, Edith dismisses it with “that was horrid” and moves right on to the next topic! British Stiff Upper Lip philosophy in action! Which can be summarized as “Don’t talk about it, get on with it!” She’s doing as her grandmamma, the Dowager Countess told her, “Stop whining! And DO something!”

Her younger sister, the beauteous Lady Sybil, y’know, the one who “Married beneath her station” to the Irish Chauffeur, Tom Branson, has been stranded in Ireland as her hunky hubbie has fled from the country due to the start of the “The Irish War”,it seems he’s been instrumental in perpetrating, including the burning down of a castle of a family who was friends with the Crawleys, the Drumgooles.

The Dowager Countess Grantham otherwise known as Cousin Violet otherwise known as Dame Maggie Smith, puts it all in perspective with a “Thank goodness! That house was hideous!”

And her son, the Earl, promptly shuts her up.”Mother, please! You’re not helping matters any!”

But Tom Branson seems to have been directly involved in planning the conflagration and is now sought by the police and has had to flee the country in fear of his life, leaving his pregnant wife behind.

“How could you?” Lord Grantham exclaims!

Lady Sybil finally arrives unscathed, but now neither of them can leave Downton until their child is born, which means it will now be born British, not Irish, as father Tom wanted.

There has always been so much trouble in Ireland I just don’t know when one war begins there and another ends. The Troubles there really never ended until modern times.

And the pregnant Lady Sybil, and mainly Branson, are really the focal points of this episode, which is more of a place-holder than the last, explosive one. Although as you can see, there was plenty going on at Downton, always.

Meanwhile, below-stairs, the stalwart Anna is dismayed that her jailed husband Bates has stopped writing to her. And Bates, and we see him often in various prison situations, is equally disturbed that she has not written him, but the “bit of bother” in the jail is eventually resolved by the episode’s end with Anna going to bed with the packets of Bates’ dirty envelopes. Ah! How ineffably,painfully romantic!

Meanwhile, in another fast developing subplot, the fired housemaid Ethe Parks, who did not look like a major character at the start of her storyline in Season 2, now is taking more and more center stage as the Seasons wear on. She has become a prostitute and ends up going to Mrs. Crawley(the wonderful Penelope Wilton)for aid for herself and her little boy who has no father. She wrenchingly at last lets him go into the hands of the boy’s late, ne-er-do-well father’s parents, the Bryants, IOW, his grandparents, who are, of course, conveniently wealthy. And can make sure the boy goes “to the right schools” which is everything to these people in these times.

Penelope Wilton endeared herself forever to me by her memorable performance in this year “Best Exotic Marigold Hotel.” She was the dark character in that light film, the one who can’t change and just doesn’t like India.

But I digress. Mrs. Crawley or Cousin Isabelle, Matthew’s mother, is also aflame with righteous reformist zeal as she not only aids damaged-goods Ethel, but in the end takes her in, at least temporarily, as her house-maid.

Their housekeeper/cook, Mrs. Byrd is scandalized.”It is not part of my duties to wait on the likes of her.”!?!

Downstairs is also all lit up with the arrival of the sexiest new footman imaginable (played engagingly by Ed Speleers), who calls himself Jimmy, but whom Mr. Bates insists is now “James.” And suddenly we’re reminded that Thomas is gay, and yet ANOTHER sleeping-dog subplot is re-awakened, as we see Thomas’ eyes lighting up at the sign of comely Jimmy.

All the downstairs ladies like rock-star footman Jimmy, too, like the hapless Daisy, the lovelorn kitchen-maid who is in this Episode promoted to “Assistant Cook.” Mr. Bates urges Lord Grantham to get this staff “back up to snuff” as they were pre-War. And a sassy, new kitchen maid Ivy is hired, whom Daisy, of course, at first sight, doesn’t like one bit.

And Miss O’Brien, who is usually referred to in the butch-est of terms as “O’Brien,” is seen lurking about in the background wearing her darkest blacks as Thomas ogles the sexy Jimmy. Uh-oh! Not since the Wizard of Oz and Margaret Hamilton have we seen such a witch!Cue the hisses and boos every time she comes on!

And I can’t wait for the NEXT episode, next Sunday! 9pm!

Meanwhile, Episode 3 is now up on PBS.org, in case you missed it.

“Downton Abbey” is the best series on television right now. I don’t know HOW you can bear to miss it!

Oscar Nominations FINALLY Announced! Quick Reactions!

So there they are, surprising one, surprising all, even me. That’s right, dear readers, dear cineastes, the Oscar Nominations for 2011 have finally been announced, and yes, I did wake up VERY early to get the news! And the shocks! The delightful shocks, like for instance, predicting Best Actress completely accurately. Meryl, Michelle, Viola, Glenn, and ROONEY MARA!

She “knocked out” Tilda Swinton, who was one of the SAG five nominees for Best Actress this year. Her film”We’ve Got to Talk About Kevin” is something the Academy clearly DIDN’T want to talk about. The mother of a school shooter is clearly now outside their “wheelhouse.”

As is Michael Fassbender full frontal onslaught and yes, his urinating, while nude, onscreen in “Shame.” I KNEW that they would not like to nominate THAT! But yes, they DID nominate Damien Bichir, which I am happy to say, I predicted.

The noble Mexican illegal immigrant/gardener is definately a heroic figure to the Academy, as Bichir, a great actor in any language, tries his best to save his teenage son from gang-life in today’s L.A.

I’m also happy to report that Gary Oldman also POPPED UP with no American precursors WHATSOVER in Best Actor for “Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy” and it’s about time this great British Actor FINALLY got his first nomination!

This is probably attributable to the supposedly large British voting bloc within the Academy. TTSS got the most BAFTA nods of any film this year over across The Pond. And Oldman certainly richly deserves this for his astounding decades-long body of work. And you can see my interview with him over at my You Tube channel www.youtube.com/StephenHoltShow

Who he “knocked out” of the Best Actor face, one of the SAG Five men, was Leonardo Di Caprio for “J.Edgar” which I just totally attribute to homophobia on the part of the Academy which not so long ago denied Best Picture to “Brokeback Mountain” and gave it instead to the OK “Crash.” The worst moment in Oscar history. For me, anyway.

So out of the ten possible choices in my Oscar Nomination Predictions, Leo was the only one I got wrong. To leave out such a big star as Leo is in a Clint Eastwood-directed movie, I find shocking, SHOCKING! But Gary Oldman is a more than worthy choice, and so is Damien Bichir. Congratulations to them both!

However, I underestimataed the Academy’s enthusiasm for their #1 voting change. Because I thought it would be eight and NINE got in. Again, I got one wrong. “My Week with Marilyn” which is STILL MY OWN PERSONAL #1 movie of the year, although it did get Acting nods for the extraordinary performances of Michelle Williams as Marilyn Monroe and Kenneth Branagh in Supporting Actor, for his terrific turn as Sir Laurence Olivier.

You can see alllll the nominations listed at www.awardsdaily.com

“Hugo” to MY great shock bested “The Artist” in the number of nominations it got. 11 to “The Artist”s ten. Both got nominated for Best Picture and Best Director, which would be Martin Scorcese for “Hugo” and Michel Hazanaviscius for “The Artist”.

It was Jennifer Lawrence’s finest acting moment when she pronounced Michel H.s name correctly. Hah-zana-VIZ-use, phonetically. Accent on the VIZ.

“The Artist” also was nominated for Best Actor, Jean Dujardin, Best Original Screenplay, Best Supporting Actress – Berenice Bejo, Best Score – Ludovic Bource who was won at the BFCA AND the Golden Globes, Best Cinematography, Best Costumes, Best Editing and Best Art Direction.

“Hugo” scored mainly in the technical categories or “below-the-line” as they’re called in industry parlance, but no acting categories whatsoever, and may be the first Best Picture nominee with the most votes to ever not have ANY actors nominated at all. Not a good sign.

Historically, the film with the most nominations USUALLY wins, but not always. But “The Artist” is the clear favorite here.

Steven Spielberg saw his “War Horse” surprise in Best Picture, but also saw no actors from his film get in, and he himself didn’t either for Best Director.

Best Director including Scorcese and Hazanviscius as I said, and also Woody Allen for “Midnight in Paris” and Alexander Payne for “The Descendants.” The surprise Best Director in the Fifth slot was Terence Malick for the controversial “Tree of Life” which also got nominated for Best Picture!

Best Actor nominee for “Moneyball” Brad Pitt is in “Tree of Life” too, don’t forget, and so is The Girl of The Year Jessica Chastain. Both arguably giving better performances than they did with what they were nominated for “Moneyball” and Chastain in “The Help”, OK, but not great.

I think “The Artist” is still way out front for Best Picture. And I still think BOTH Jean Dujardin and Michelle Williams could upset.

“The Iron Lady” only got two nominations. For Meryl’s great lead performance and for Best Make-Up, which it probably will win.

Glenn Close’s passion project of 30 years “Albert Nobbs” got three nods. For Close, Supporting Actress Janet McTeer and again, Best Make-Up.

And the biggest surprise of all is the Ninth BP nominee, “Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close!” And Max Von Sydow for Best Supporting Actor in a wordless mute role in the 9/11 drama.

Glenn Close miraculous in heart-rending “Albert Nobbs”!

Glenn Close, who has never won an Oscar, but been nominated four times is certainly heading for a fifth nomination with her career-best, shocking, moving, heart-breaking portrayal of “Albert Nobbs.” Close also co-produced and co-wrote this beautiful, incredible movie, set in 19th Century Ireland, where most of her countrymen’s aspirations revolve around getting out and going to America. But not Albert Nobbs. Nobbs wants to continue to pass as a man, even though he’s biologically a woman, and to save up enough money to open a tobacconists shop in a nearby Dublin street.

Albert works as a waiter in a high-class hotel. And Close captures the minutiae of this very frightened, up-tight, intense, TENSE,  worried creature.

“Albert Nobbs is a funny little man,” one character says about him, and that he is. He’s just considered an odd duck, but a very, very good waiter. He is an all around excellent dogsbody/servant. Albert Nobbs is the essence of humble, slavish, self-effacing servitude to a fault.

Albert is so good at respectfully, perfectly serving, he gets tips. And he has been saving, super-frugally for all his years in service. And the scenes of him counting his paltry savings by night, which he’s hidden under the floor boards in his nearly empty, poor-as-a-church-mouse room are incredibly moving. He’s got room and board, but very little else.Pinching pennys is hardly describing the self-deprivation that Nobbs has subjected him/herself to all her hard-scrabble life.

Asked to share a room with a gangly, six foot-something house painter by his landlady/boss(the magnificently florid Pauline Collins), Nobbs is terror-stricken at sharing his bed, fearing that this huge, butch man, may find out his “secret.” And inevitably, that happens. In such close, poverty-stricken quarters how could it not?

I don’t want to reveal any more except to applaud the flamboyant star turn of Janet McTeer, who let’s just say, befriends the poor, frightened Nobbs. Nobbs then reveals to his new-found friend and his equally friendly wife that he has fallen in love with another servant, a young woman named Rose Dawson, who is also marvelously played by the up-and-coming Mia Wasikowska.

Close does something here I’ve never seen her do before which is UNDERPLAY everything. And playing such a tense, quiet man is a very difficult task for an actress to set herself. But producer/writer Close has challenged herself on every level imaginable.

The late transvestite Warhol Superstar Candy Darling once said to me about her transgendered life, “The whole trick is in the passing.” Meaning getting away with it. Being convincing as the opposite gender. And Candy certainly was that.

I myself lived an Albert Nobbs-like existance when I was a young protegé of Candy’s, and the hardly passable Jackie Curtis. And I feel that “Albert Nobbs” really NAILS the reality of a transgender who is DESPERATELY trying to pass.

Every moment, every gesture, every vocal intonation must be believable and Glenn Close REALLY pulls this off. Some people may wonder WHY he/she is doing this. But as the film so succinctly and straightforwardly shows, living as a man and getting away with it, is infinitely worth the risk, because men, even of his/her class(working) and a servant, had a much more respectable and decent life than any woman of that time.

“Albert Nobbs” is the absolute pinnacle of Glenn Close’s long and varied career. I certainly hope the Academy will nominate her. And her superb, unforgettable portrait of the most frightened and intense of poor souls, should win her accolades everywhere. At least I hope they do.

This film totally blew me away with its’ beauty, grace and heart-break.

Kudos to Glenn Close for taking on such a risky, gender-confouding role.  Albert Nobbs is a displaced person in his own body. And its’ a tragic, heart-rending tale. It’s one of the best performances of the year in one of the best films of the year.

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