Archive for September, 2019

The Downstairs Revolt

Downton Abbey

Director: Micheal Engler

Cast: Michelle Dockery, Elizabeth McGovern, Maggie Smith, Imelda Staunton, Tuppence Middleton, Hugh Bonneville, Matthew Goode, Allen Leech, Penelope Wilton, Robert James-Collier, Laura Carmichael, Joanne Froggatt, Kate Phillips, Phyllis Logan, Brendan Coyle, Geraldine James, Jim Carter, Max Brown, Stephen Campbell Moore, Michael Fox, Harry Hadden-Paton, James Cartwright  

Lovers of the hit BBC TV series Downton Abbey can now watch all their favourite characters on the big screen, with the highly anticipated film version called Downton Abbey which has just been released. The story follows the wealthy Crawley family in 1927 when they are asked to entertain royalty. King George V and his wife Queen Mary are coming to visit the Yorkshire area and the royal retinue will spend one evening at Downton Abbey much to the consternation of the fiercely loyal staff of Downton Abbey led by Mr Carson and Mrs Hughes.

Expertly scripted by Oscar winner Julian Fellowes (Gosford Park), Downton Abbey is a royal treat with sumptuous costumes by Anna Robbins and gorgeous production design by Donal Woods.

The best lines in the film are given to Oscar winner Maggie Smith (California Suite, The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie) who plays the formidable matriarch Lady Violet Crawley who exchanges numerous barbed comments with a mysterious cousin Maud Bagshaw played by Oscar nominee Imelda Staunton (Vera Drake) who has an unnatural attachment to her lady maid Lucy Smith played by Tuppence Middleton (The Current War).

As the Crawley’s entertain the royal couple, there is much intrigue afoot provided by the disgraced butler Barrow played by Robert James-Collier who discovers a secret world to experience his hidden sexuality while the dashing chauffeur turned son-in-law Tom Branson played by Allen Leech (Bohemian Rhapsody) discovers a covert plot to assassinate the king.

Lady Edith played by Laura Carmichael has some exciting news for her husband Bertie Hexham played by Harry Haddon-Paton while the cook’s assistant Daisy Mason played by Sophie McShera (Cinderella) flirts with the hunky plumber Tony Sellick played by James Cartwright much to the consternation of her beau the ambitious footman Andy Parker played by Michael Fox (Dunkirk).

Whilst the upper classes are dining and having balls, there is a downstairs revolt led by Mr Carson played by Jim Carter and Mrs Hughes played by Phyllis Logan who plot to get rid of the royal servants so that they get an opportunity to serve the royal family at an evening banquet held at Downton Abbey with a rather surprising result.

Downton Abbey is ravishingly filmed with a witty script by Fellowes who injects a suitable balance of humour and poignancy into the narrative to make this British period drama both entertaining, thoroughly enjoyable and absolutely thought provoking.

With an existing fan based already created by the hugely popular BBC series, Downton Abbey is a film not to be missed and it’s no wonder it become a Box Office sensation in both America and England on its opening weekend in September 2019. Highly recommended viewing for those that cherish elegant British period films in the vein of The Remains of the Day, Brideshead Revisited and Howard’s End.

Downton Abbey gets a film rating of 9 out of 10 is strictly for fans of the series and beautifully written and acted by a truly noble ensemble cast.

2019 Venice International Film Festival Winners

Venice International Film Festival, known as La Biennale di Venezia takes place annually in late August, early September and is regarded as the oldest Film Festival in the World

Golden Lion (Best Film): Joker directed by Todd Phillips

Grand Jury Prize: An Officer and a Spy directed by Roman Polanski – no poster available at time of publication

Silver Lion (Best Director): Roy Andersson – About Endlessness  – no poster available at time of publication

Best Actor:   Luca Marinelli – Martin Eden

Best Actress: Ariane AscarideGloria Mundi – no poster available at time of publication

Best Screenplay Award – No. 7 Cherry Lane by Yonfan  

2018 Venice International Film Festival Winners

Venice International Film Festival, known as La Biennale di Venezia takes place annually in late August, early September and is regarded as the oldest Film Festival in the World

Golden Lion (Best Film): Roma directed by Alfonso Cuaron

Grand Jury Prize: The Favourite directed by Yorgos Lanthimos

Silver Lion (Best Director):  Jacques Audiard – The Sisters Brothers

Best Actor: Willem Dafoe – At Eternity’s Gate

Best Actress: Olivia Colman – The Favourite

Best Screenplay Award – Joel and Ethan Coen – The Ballad of Buster Scruggs

2017 Venice International Film Festival Winners

Venice International Film Festival, known as La Biennale di Venezia takes place annually in late August, early September and is regarded as the oldest Film Festival in the World

Golden Lion: (Best Film) – The Shape of Water directed by Guillermo del Toro

Grand Jury Prize: Foxtrot directed by Samuel Moaz

Silver Lion (Best Director):  Custody directed by Xavier Legrand

Best Actor: Kamel El Basha for The Insult

Best Actress: Charlotte Rampling for Hannah

Best Screenplay Award – Martin McDonagh – Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri

Acting as Artifice

Once Upon a Time in Hollywood

Director: Quentin Tarantino

Cast: Leonardo di Caprio, Brad Pitt, Margot Robbie, Emile Hirsch, Bruce Dern, Dakota Fanning, Maya Hawke, Timothy Olyphant, Austin Butler, Damian Lewis, Al Pacino, Kurt Russell, Margaret Qualley

Oscar winner for Best Original Screenplay for Pulp Fiction and Django Unchained, writer and director Quentin Tarantino returns to the big screen with his 9th feature film the brilliantly titled Once Upon a Time in Hollywood starring Oscar winner Leonardo DiCaprio (The Revenant) and Brad Pitt as buddies actor Rick Dalton and his stunt double Cliff Booth in a fictional tale set in Los Angeles in 1969.

1969 was the year that the real life film director Roman Polanski’s pregnant wife Sharon Tate was brutally murdered by the followers of the Charles Manson cult which shocked the American film industry to its rotten core.

Firstly two disclaimers: this is an extremely long film and secondly it’s really only aimed at serious movie buffs and serves as Tarantino’s ode to the end of Hollywood’s Golden Age before the film making industry got taken over by corporations, sequels, digitization and streaming.

Margot Robbie as actress Sharon Tate

Tarantino artfully pays homage to the act of buying a ticket and going to the cinema in a rather poignant scene when the young actress Sharon Tate superbly played by Oscar nominee Margot Robbie (I, Tonya) actually pays to watch a film she is starring in at a Westwood cinema.

The rest of this marvelously meandering film belongs to the two major stars, DiCaprio who is superb as the washed up TV actor Rick Dalton who is desperately trying to make a Big Screen comeback but lands up starring in a string of Spaghetti Westerns in Rome.

Oscar nominee Brad Pitt (12 Monkeys) is phenomenal as the stunt double past his prime Cliff Booth in one of his best onscreen performances yet especially the gorgeous scene when he takes his shirt off on the roof of Dalton’s Hollywood Hills mansion in the scorching Californian sun to fix the TV aerial.

Booth also inadvertently stumbles across the hippie cult followers of Charles Manson in an abandoned studio lot in Chatsworth, California featuring some great cameos by Dakota Fanning (Ocean’s 8, War of the Worlds) as Squeaky Fromme , Oscar nominee Bruce Dern (Nebraska) as George Spahn and Margaret Qualley (The Nice Guys) as the seductive hippie hitchhiker Pussycat.

Tarantino expertly captures the zeitgeist of Los Angeles in 1969 at the peak of the counter-culture movement with lurid production design by Barbara Ling and costumes by Oscar nominated costume designer Arianne Phillips (Walk the Line, A Single Man, Nocturnal Animals, W. E.).

With some expertly placed cameos including Oscar winner Al Pacino (Scent of a Woman) as hot shot producer Marvin Schwarz and Damian Lewis as real life star Steve McQueen.

Once Upon a Time in Hollywood is slowing moving in the first two acts of the film, while the third act is phenomenal especially the hippie flame throwing sequence.

Tarantino could have quickened the film’s pace in the beginning to actively propel the narrative forward but he is a notorious auteur and not interested in packaging films to please audience expectations.

Unbelievably, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood did get a standing ovation at its glittering film premiere at the 2019 Cannes Film Festival so Tarantino did something right.

This film gets a rating of 8 out of 10 and accurately portrays acting as artifice.

This is not Tarantino’s best work but written and directed in the vein of his crime thriller Jackie Brown, Once Upon a Time In Hollywood is strictly recommended for Tarantino fans and those that enjoyed Pulp Fiction, Django Unchanged and Inglourious Basterds.

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September 2019
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