Posts Tagged ‘Maggie Smith’

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.

A Noble Vagabond

The Lady in the Van

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Director: Nicholas Hytner

Cast: Maggie Smith, Alex Jennings, Roger Allam, Frances de la Tour, Jim Broadbent, Claire Foy, Dominic Cooper, James Corden, Stephen Campbell Moore

The Madness of King George director Nicolas Hytner brings to the screen the hilarious and bizarre autobiographical stage play by Alan Bennett, The Lady in The Van about an itinerant and basically transient lady who wilfully parks her colourful van outside Bennett’s smart Victorian townhouse in Gloucester Crescent in Camden Town, North London in the beginning of the 1970’s and then stays for fifteen years.

The Lady in question is Margaret Shepherd, wonderfully played against type by Oscar winner Dame Maggie Smith (The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, California Suite) who is already garnering critical acclaim for her role. Dame Maggie Smith has more recently been reintroduced to a whole new generation of fans with her portrayal of Violet Crawley, The Dowager Countess of Grantham in the hit BBC TV series by Julian Fellowes Downton Abbey.

In The Lady in the Van, which is semi-autobiographical, the cantankerous and destitute old lady who seems to live her whole life in a van forms an unimaginable bond with famed British playwright, Alan Bennett who incidentally also wrote the screenplay for this film and the Oscar nominated Madness of King George.

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In a typically English way of dealing with the semi-transient, The Lady in the Van self-reflexively explores themes of old age, homelessness and caring whilst giving the destitute a sort of vagabond nobility, whilst Bennett and the actor playing Bennett never morally judges the situation as inexcusable despite what the neighbours think.

British stage and TV actor Alex Jennings (The Queen, Wings of the Dove, Belle) plays Alan Bennett but the film belongs to Dame Maggie whose wonderfully acerbic performance elevates her dire situation as a homeless woman living in a van to that of eternal royalty. Only Dame Maggie can pull off this type of role, with a combination of poignancy, passion and dignity, making The Lady in the Van a delightful treat for all those lovers of British cinema.

All the best lines in The Lady in the Van are naturally reserved for Dame Maggie and whilst the rest of the cast merely contribute as a collage of colourful and eccentric Londoners including cameos by Dominic Cooper, Claire Foy, Stephen Campbell Moore, Frances de la Tour, Roger Allam and Oscar winner Jim Broadbent as a corrupt cop intent on extorting money from the mysterious and often rude Lady in the Van.

Whilst the directorial embellishments of Nicholas Hytner can be forgiven, it is the masterful script by Allan Bennett, which is so witty and droll, that makes The Lady in the Van such a pleasurable cinematic experience. Of course Dame Maggie Smith fires on all cylinders in this critically acclaimed performance by an actress who has given audiences so many memorable performances in such films as A Room with a View, Ladies in Lavender, Gosforth Park, Evil Under the Sun and more recently The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel.

The Lady in the Van is highly recommended viewing for those that love a slightly irreverent British drama, wonderfully acted and beautifully written by the man who had to endure this mysterious woman on his doorstep for almost fifteen years.

53rd BAFTA Awards

The  53rd BAFTA Awards /

The British Academy Film Awards

Took place on 9th April 2000 in London

BAFTA Winners in the Film Category:

american_beautyBest Film: American Beauty

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Best Director: Pedro Almodóvar – All About My Mother (Todo sobre mi madre)

Best Actor: Kevin Spacey – American Beauty

Best Actress: Annette Bening – American Beauty

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Best Supporting Actor: Jude Law – The Talented Mr Ripley

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Best Supporting Actress: Maggie Smith – Tea with Mussolini

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Best British Film: East is East

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Best Original Screenplay: Charlie KaufmanBeing John Malkovich

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Best Adapted Screenplay: Neil Jordan The End of the Affair

Best Foreign Language Film: All About My Mother (Todo sobre mi madre) Spain

Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/53rd_British_Academy_Film_Awards

A Blissful and Marvellous Reunion

The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel

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Director: John Madden

Cast: Judi Dench, Maggie Smith, Dev Patel, Celia Imrie, Diana Hardcastle, Richard Gere, Ronald Pickup, David Strathairn, Penelope Wilton, Bill Nighy, Tamsin Greig

After the surprise success of the delightful 2012 film, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, it is no wonder that director John Madden decided to do a companion film and organize a more extravagant and blissful reunion of the cast of the first film with newcomers Richard Gere, no longer the Gigolo, and David Strathairn to make up the male parts for the Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel set in Jaipur, Mumbai and San Diego.

Whilst the original film was a sort of bitter-sweet adventure, the second film is a celebration and continuation of everything so wonderful and colourful about the possibility of spending one’s Twilight years in the exotic location of Jaipur. This is Shady Pines with colour and vibrancy, wit and humour and proves that the older generation of actors can still pull off a charming and marvellous sequel infused with the energetic Sonny wonderfully played again by Dev Patel (Slumdog Millionaire) and his impending wedding to Sunaina played by Tina Desai.

In The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, Sonny has big plans for expansion and hopes to acquire another rambling hotel in Jaipur to extend his collection of gorgeous establishments for the aged and semi-retired. The scenes between Patel and veteran actress Maggie Smith are crackling with wit and exuberance especially as they approach a major hotel chain based in San Diego for some much needed venture capital to expand their business enterprise.

Back in India, director John Madden expands his palette from the first film and each shot of The Second Best Marigold Hotel is a simulacrum of all the great films made about that subcontinent from David Lean’s A Passage to India and Mira Nair’s Monsoon Wedding making for a positively blissful and gorgeous cinematic reunion.

Subtly directed and beautifully acted, although the story is at times whimsical, each of the British actors from Celia Imrie and Diana Hardcastle to Ronald Pickup and Bill Nighy have more scope and depth in this companion piece which will surely delight all audiences who so enjoyed The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel.

Silver haired Richard Gere’s role as an enigmatic guest Guy Chambers and seducer of Sonny’s mom add to the romance of the Jaipur establishment. The structure of the film is centred around the marriage of Sonny and Sunaina from the lavish engagement party to the actual flamboyant and vibrant wedding. Intertwined with the portrait of young love, is the growing affection between Evelyn and Douglas played with the usual quirkiness by Bill Nighy.

The scenes between Dench and Smith are poignant and nuanced, both Oscar winning accomplished actresses as they give viewers a sense that their imminent cinematic retirement is drawing near, yet their stardom will last forever. Oscar winners Maggie Smith and Judi Dench have had amazing stage and screen careers and it is encouraging to see them still commanding the big screen in an age of the digital blockbuster.

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Whilst The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel is not as brilliant or as unique as the first film, it still stands on its own as a delightfully fine companion piece. Judging how packed the cinema was, there is a huge market out there for these gorgeous films aimed at retired viewers who are not always willing to sit through some of the Hollywood commercial cinema which makes up the bulk of the studio releases.

The Second Best Marigold Hotel is recommended viewing for those that enjoyed the first film, and similar movies like Enchanted April, Tea with Mussolini and Ladies in Lavender.

 

 

Film Directors & Festivals
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