a.k.a. "The Oscar Messenger"

Posts tagged ‘maids’

Masterpiece “Downton Abbey” Swirls Its’ Way to a Magnificent Conclusion!

I am sooooo addicted to Masterpiece Theatre’s well, masterpiece, “Downton Abbey”! I was wondering when I was going to have the time and space to write about it, but now, with only one more episode left, the Second Season Finale, there’s no time left to start throwing superlatives at it! But don’t worry, at least its last show will ALSO be two hours long, like tonight’s was.

With all the Oscar excitement happening every other minute, I have barely had a chance to catch my blogger’s breath to spend the time and give the respect  to “Downton Abbey” that it deserves for being the magnificent achievement in series television that it is. It’s overwhelming. As all great art should be.

I have NEVER been so swept up by a British TV series in decades! Decades! Of course, it reminds one of “Upstairs, Downstairs” which I love as well. It’s all about the VERY rich Crawley(what a dreadful name) family, and their three marriage-aged daughters, Lady Mary, Lady Edith, and Lady Sybil AND their servants.

The difference between “Upstairs, Downstairs” was that it was set very firmly at 25 Eaton Place, a town house, in the grandest of styles, in London itself. It was about life in a CITY house, with servants. And lots of stairs.

“Downton Abbey” is set in an overwhelmingly majestic mansion that is nearly a castle in Yorkshire. DEFINITELY the country. And there’s a lot of stairs there, too, but with grand stair-cases.

And presiding over all of Downton’s magnificence, is the brilliant Dame Maggie Smith, always a personal favorite of mine, since, well, since forever.

I had the great good fortune to have seen her onstage in her youth(and mine) do Margery Pinchwife in “The Country Wife” ( with the divine and busty Patricia Routledge as Lady Fidget, who yes, was hilarious, and yes, couldn’t stop fidgeting!) And she was equally at home as Ibsen’s “Hedda Gabler” which she did under the direction of the late great Ingmar Bergman, which I saw her do in the West End.

Maggie was overpowering and as excellent in serious roles, though  she is today  mainly known for her great comedy. And certainly her Dowager Countess of Grantham, the grandest of grande dames, is the grandmother of the Crawley brood. She seems simply hilarious, but as World War I broke out in the Second Season, Dame Maggie began to be able to show that her Dowager Countess had real metal as well as smarts AND heart. It’s a magnificent, career-capping performance that matches the majesty of Highcleere Castle,(yes, it really IS a castle) that is standing in as the fictional Downton Abbey.

Everyone in the series matches Dame Maggie. They HAVE to! All the many characters REALLY engage you and keep you watching no matter what. Particular favorites of mine are the two eldest Crawley daughters, Lady Mary (Michelle Dockery) and Lady Edith (Laura Carmichael).

Michelle Dockery, who is new to me (as are much of the cast except of course, Dame Maggie and American actress Maureen McGovern, as the mother of Crawley girls and Lady Grantham’s daughter-in-law) is SUCH a discovery as a new British leading lady. She has much of the weight of the series love story to carry and she does it with tremendous power, as she high-lights all of the many facets of Lady Mary’s VERY complicated character. You love her. You hate her. You want her to be happy, then you don’t want that at all. Then you love her again.

The same can be said of the less-seen Lady Edith, who is just as conflicted. Laura Carmichael looks a little like Maggie Smith when she was young, and you can see her being the grand-daughter who takes after her granny. Although as the plain, middle-sister sandwiched between two beauties Lady Mary and Lady Sybil, she has a very hard time of it. Especially in Series One, where her constant sparring and betrayal of Lady Mary, formed much of the drama pre-war in “Downton Abbey,” which they all just refer to as Downton. As if it were a person in their lives.

And one of the great glories of this superb series is Downton really is a tangible presence in all its’ characters’ lives. They can’t live with it, and they can’t live without it. And they are all living in a world that very shortly will be gone with the wind. Literally. As World War I changes everything.

In Series Two, I was not ready for my beloved British servants/masters series to turn into a war-time drama, but dear readers, dear cineastes, the War only lasts for part of Series Two. Enough to take away one of the most memorable characters, but I decided not to spoil any of this once-in-a-lifetime viewing pleasure, so I won’t put any spoilers here.

But suffice it to say, I will have A LOT MORE to say about this wonderful, unbelievable triumph of great writing, Julian Fellowes, who was the author of “Gosford Park” and great acting and directing. Down to the smallest part all the roles are perfectly cast, and “Downton Abbey” ends its Second Series on next Sunday on PBS. It’s another two-hour episode, and it never flags. It never gets tired. And it’s always enthralling.

So my greatest rave would be two words SEE IT! Next Sunday! At 9pm! The Sunday BEFORE the Oscars!

But more good news is that they are going to have a Series Three which starts in 1920! And Shirley MacLaine is joining the cast as Lady Cora(Maureen McGovern’s mother) and the Crawley girls’ American grandmother. That should be a hoot and a half!

My favoritie line of THIS evening’s episode ~ Maggie Smith to her grand-daughter Laura Carmichael as Lady Edith “Edith, don’t be depressive! It’s soo middle class!”

Oscar Index at Movieline Keeps the Quality(& Enjoyment) Level at 100%!

All season long, Oscar season, I mean, of COURSE, I look forward every Wednesday evening to Stu Van Airsdale’s erudite, witty analysis of the preceding weeks Oscar madness on his unfailingly fun Oscar Index at www.movieline.com  It’s ACCURATE, too. Even if he doesn’t agree with MY thoughts on The Race. But that’s OK, because he is always persuasive, showing me the error of my Oscar-y ways.

And yes, he’s right on the money again with the idea that it’s “The Artist” but also, “The Help” that is on everyone’s minds. Whether I like to admit it or not.

Me? Moi? You KNOW I love “The Artist” and its’ nominated stars. And I TOLD Jean Dujardin that he was going to win The Oscar and he laughed and smiled and CHARMED his way into the 38,000 (and counting) You Tube viewers who’s enjoyed me, the Oscar Messenger, giving Jean and Berenice Bejo and Michel Hazanaviscius the Oscar News here at ~ www.youtube.com/StephenHoltShow

I haven’t been able to top that highpoint yet all season, so I’m leaving it in the main frame. The two of them, Jean and Berenice were an utterly winning couple, just as they are in the film, and no, not in real life. The beautiful Berenice is married to Michel Hazanaviscius. So her real name is Berenice Hazanaviscius. Glad she kept the Bejo. And yes, she, too was nominated for an Oscar for Best Supporting Actress, as I foretold her she would be.

So, non, it’s not “The Artist” I have issues with I just love it to pieces. And so I agree with Stu V.A. who has “The Artist”, Jean, and Michel all in their number one slots in their respective categories. It’s that I just couldn’t wrap my head around all this “Help” love.

To give Oscars to African-American women for playing MAIDS, I just think is the highest form of racial ineptitude. I think  with a black President, it’s just downright insulting, but Stu V.A. has had Octavia Spencer in his #1 position as Best Supporting Actress all season long. And I just couldn’t buy it. But now with Spencer’s wins at the BFCA, the Globes AND SAG, she seems almost a DONE deal.

I just don’t think she was THAT good in the movie. That it was not an “Academy performance” but evidently everybody except Kris Tapley, disagrees with me.

I mean, give the “Help” ONE SAG award, but not ALL THREE!!! However, that’s what’s going down.

And Viola Davis, who IS a great actress, certainly gives great speeches, too. And if there ever was one single article that may win an actress a Best Actress Oscar, it’s the poetic, persuasive, insightful, almost panegyric piece that Mark Harris just wrote in www.grantland.com this week, in his Oscarmetric section.

Viola Davis should thank HIM, because he makes the case that there was no SUBTEXT in this year’s Oscar race and that “The Help” and especially, the performance of Viola Davis COUPLED with her great speechs have created a narrative that the Academy, guilt-ridden white people all, may just indeed buy.

And it’s NOT a great picture. It’s good, at best. And yes, “The Artist” is much better…

But TWO Best Actress (lead and supporting) wins for “The Help”??? I was not convinced, but now I’m beginning to think so.

Though I still hope Michelle Williams upsets this at the BAFTAs….

Viola Davis is a great actress and she deserves all the acclaim she’s getting. But I still think it’s a Supporting performance and that Michelle Williams is better in a more difficult role in a better movie.

We’ll see what the BAFTAS have to say…

P.S. I turned on my television set this AM and who should be onscreen at “The View” but Viola Davis!!?! I thought I was seeing things. I think she’s been on “The View” AT LEAST three times previously this season! Or maybe FOUR! Somebody’s pushing this to the max. That would be Disney/Dreamworks. Also means they are REALLY sweating Harvey Weinstein’s campaigns for Meryl Streep for “The Iron Lady” and Michelle Williams for “My Week with Marilyn.”

Does this mean V. Davis is being OVER-exposed? And god forbid, pushy? I am the first to say that she’s a great American actress and deserves her time in the sun, and she certainly seemed to be enjoying it. What did she have to say? Well, I just caught my major role model Barbara Walters saying “It’s always great to have you here on the ‘The View’, Viola.” And then they signed out!

I think this cuts both ways. It’s good to keep her in the public(and the Academy’s) eye. And yes, I’m sure they watch “The View” or at least the female members do. Which means that Disney/Dreamworks is targeting the female Academy voters. Of whom, as you all know, there aren’t very many! So they are fighting over the Streep-aged demographic. But this shows they are really sweating a Streep win? But who are THE MEN, the bulk of the Academy membership voting for?? That’s what I’d like to know. And again, my guess is the beauteous Michelle Williams as Marilyn Monroe. The Babe Factor still rules Hollywood, I’m so sure. Will the Academy’s left-y social conscience trump the Beautiful Young Nude Girl syndrome. We shall see.

Only the Actor’s Branch overlaps with the SAGS. And that by not much. It’s two different groups of people. SAG and AMPAS. One is female-filled. That would be SAG and one is male dominated and that would be AMPAS.

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