Archive for the 'historical' Category

14
Feb
17

Victoria, Episode 4

jenna-c

Jenna Coleman continues to win me over in Masterpiece’s (and ITV’s) Victoria. This week the main problem was poor Albert’s search for a role in the U.K. Naturally, he wants to be more than Mr. Victoria. The queen is aware of the problem, but at first missteps by calling him in for a project. He perks up but when he learns that he won’t be signing documents, just blotting them as any clerk could, he is disappointed.

Victoria’s worry is getting pregnant right away. She’d rather not, though she wants children in time. It’s a natural preference, but in those days not easily done. She receives some wrong advice about jumping up and down ten times after having sex. She does this for a while before Albert finds her and tells her it won’t work.

The big social issue of the episode is American slavery. English abolitionists appeal to Victoria to lend her support, but she wisely passes this off to Albert, who though gawky and nervous about his accent and his English agrees to give a speech against slavery. When that goes over, Albert gets some dignity.

I like this couple that often disagree, but always do with respect. It’s a complex relationship because of their cultural differences and Victoria’s position as a monarch, while Albert has no title, until the Queen figures out how to confer one without ruffling her uncle’s feathers. The Queen is certainly politically astute for such a young woman, which is fascinating.

If find I’m losing patience with the subplot with the ladies’ maid who’s supporting a woman and child. What irks me is that the information about her connection to them comes out so slowly. The mystery is too drawn out. I’d like to see that story speed up.

22
Jan
17

Victoria

jenna-louise-coleman-as-queen-victoria

Masterpiece’s new drama, Victoria, stars Jenna Coleman as the famed British queen. Beginning when Victoria’s uncle dies and she changes her name from Alexandrina to use Victoria, her middle name, and she becomes the monarch.

From the start Jenna Coleman’s Victoria stands up for herself opposing the manipulative Sir John and her plotting uncle.

After two episodes, I’m drawn in and eager to see how Victoria handles her power and how she and Albert finally end up together. In episode two the focus is on the question of whom Victoria will marry. Her heart, she believes, belongs to Lord Melbourne, her prime minister whose wife ran off with Lord Byron, the poet. In the drama, he lets Victoria know that they can never be together.

The first episodes feature sumptuous costumes and settings. The story moves along nicely. There’s a B story focused on a maid, who’s hiding her past working in a bordello. I’m not sure where that’s going. The maid is elusive and stand offish with the cook, who tries to get to know her. That story hasn’t grabbed me, but perhaps in time, I’ll develop more of an interest.

Victoria has a different feel and tone than Downton Abbey or Poldark, so it shouldn’t be judged on their terms. In its own right it’s a fine drama.

 

 

03
Jun
16

Moulin Rouge

moulin-rouge-john-huston-9

I didn’t know John Huston directed Moulin Rouge in 1952. A friend, who also likes old movies,  shared a couple DVDs with me and this is one of them. I never saw the 2001 Moulin RougeI (and probably won’t because it sounds like a very different story).

Huston’s Moulin Rouge is a biopic, the story of the famous painter Henri Toulouse-Lautrec. Lautrec, played convincingly by José Ferrer, frequents this cabaret where all the colorful characters of 19th century Paris convene to dance, drink and often fight (not only the men, but most likely, the ladies). Lautrec was born into a noble family. At and early age he is injured falling down the stairs and the doctors fail to repair his bones as they should. Thus Lautrec’s growth is stunted making him a social misfit.

Yes, he’s witty, smart and talented, but when his first love rejects him running from the room when he declares his love, Lautrec decides he’ll never fit in the country, in his father’s world so he heads to Paris and paints the dancers and clowns at the Moulin Rouge and shares drinks and barbs with the best artists of his day: Cezanne, Monet, etc.

Twice in his life he meets a pivotal woman. The first is a low class manipulator and I pitied Henri as he pined for this deceptive sponge. Later he meets a woman worthy of love, but he’s too jaded to expect that a woman would really love him.

I didn’t expect much of this film, mainly because I’d never heard of it. I found it an absorbing biography of a witty, fascinating artist.

22
Mar
16

A Night to Remember

A NIGHT TO REMEMBER

A Night to Remember (1958) is a disaster film with dignity. It lacks the sentimental love story, which was central to Titanic, but that’s why it’s a better film. Directed by Roy Ward Baker, the film shows the swells enjoying the high life and the boisterous fun below in steerage mixed in with the misplaced wire messages about the iceberg and the frustrating refusal of nearby ship called the California to believe the Titanic’s distress messages.

The film shows people of all sorts, some willing to help their fellow passengers and others who’ll kick and claw their way into a lifeboat. The film weaves the facts in so you don’t feel like it’s a history lecture. You root for the characters all the while knowing most won’t make it. When the boat starts tilting so much that it’s at a 45° angle, you feel dreadful.

The Criterion Collection offers a good essay on the film here.

26
Jan
16

downton abbey, S6, Ep. 3 & 4

End of ep 4

I’m a bit behind in my musings on Downton Abbey.  The major events in episode 3 were Carson & Mrs. Hughes’ wedding. After a kerfluffle over what the ever-practical Mrs. Hughes would wear (she didn’t want to make a big deal about a dress and thus had no pretty, let alone elegant dresses), Elsie Hughes looked lovely in a coat that Cora wound up giving her. The trouble before the wedding reached its pinnacle when Cora, who had a headache from arguing with the dowager, discovered Anna, Mrs. Patmore and Mrs. Hughes all in her bedroom trying on one of her coats that Mary said she could wear. Cora through an out-of-character fit, but then Mary hadn’t explained or asked and it did look like a trespass over social boundaries. Soon Cora, true to form, apologised and wound up graciously giving Mrs. Hughes a gorgeous, embroidered coat that perfectly matched the plain dress Mrs. Patmore had ordered from a catalog. How lucky!

Edith took the reigns at the magazine. She sacked the complaining editor and worked all night to get the edition out. She lucked into meeting an attractive male acquaintance who asked her for drinks and then wound up staying up all night to help her with the magazine. How much cleaner than saving the pigs! Does that make it more or less romantic? What happened to Mary’s pig-beau?

Anna continued to have pains and fears of a miscarriage. The family elders continued to bicker over plans for the hospital and once again Thomas had a semi-comical, semi-sad Chekoves-que job interview at a big estate in decline. In the final scene I’m sure I wasn’t alone in rejoicing that Tom and Sybie have returned to Downton for good! (We could have guessed since Tom has been shown in promotional interviews and photos.)

Episode 4

Mr & Mrs. Carson were on their honeymoon for most of the episode. Several characters mentioned how hard it would be to call Mrs. Hughes Mrs. Carson. That little problem was solved at the end when everyone agreed that at the house she’d be Mrs. Hughes.

The squabbling over the hospital continued. Violet called in an aristocratic friend to assist her in her cause. Unfortunately, Lady Shackleton flip-flopped at the dinner party. Her main use proved to be that she brought her nephew, Henry, who is one of Mary’s suitors from last season.

Anna felt she was about to miscarry, so late at night Mary whisked her off to London via York, where the super Royal York Hospital with all it’s nifty skill and technology is. Hmm. Well, it worked out because Mary got to have cocktails with Henry and flirt a bit. Anna was okay and had a procedure that saved the baby. Still I wouldn’t want to take a train trip lasting I’d guess a few hours when I was miscarrying. Seems the last thing a woman would want to do would be to be on a train.

Daisy, who’s very eager to see that Mr. Mason get the house and farm that the Drewes have vacated since Mrs. Drewes kidnapped Edith’s daughter Marigold (what was she thinking?), almost sabotaged her job. She’s gotten to be quite a firebrand. She took Cora’s interest in Mr. Mason and a vague comment that Cora would see what she could do as a promise. When she hears a rumour that Mr. Mason won’t get the the land, Daisy works herself into a frenzy that culminates in her determination to tell off Cora. Every single servant urges her to calm down, to watch it, to wait and hope for the best, but Daisy obstinately ignores. At the pinnacle of her rage, Daisy storms upstairs. She’s willing to put her job on the line. Fortunately, before she can irrationally lash out against Cora, the Crawley’s tell her that they’ve decided that (although it’s not a great financial decision) they’re giving Mr. Mason the farmland. I doubt there was a luckier character on the show than Daisy at this time.

My favourite part of the show was when Gwen, who in the first season was a maid who with Sybil’s help became a secretary, showed up at Downton. She came with her husband, an aristocrat. When she arrived Thomas and Anna recognised her. The family members didn’t. Thomas, full of envy, blustered about how Gwen prospered, but he’s working in the same house in 1925 that he was in 1912 (or earlier). When serving, Thomas spilled the beans and got Gwen to reveal that she had been a kitchenmaid at Downton. While Thomas tried to embarrass her, Gwen regaled the family with stories of how dear Sybil helped her get the education and job that propelled her into the workforce and how that ties into her current association with a new woman’s college, Hillcroft. All the Crawley women now fully support this novel idea to educate women who need to work.

Baxter, Cora’s lady’s maid, is called upon to agree to testify against the man who urged her to steal from her previous employer. At first she was reluctant, but Mr. Mosley convinced her that if she didn’t other women would probably be tricked by him and would end up in jail or as prostitutes (that’s what has happened to some of women he’d conned).

Odds and Ends

  • Tom wants to do something more than just be the agent for the estate. He’s got an inkling that it may have to do with racing cars.
  • Mary and Henry met in London and romance may bud there, again.
  • Quite a few people–Anna, Robert, and Violet–experienced some kind of health worries or aliments. Will this mean that down the line the Crawley’s may actually need that new hospital with all it’s modern equipment and knowledge.
  • Violet made a good speech on how when government gets into an area, people lose power and autonomy. Typically, I don’t buy that line of thought, but Violet was quite convincing.
  • As usual the dresses were amazing.

 

 

20
Jul
15

Poldark

poldark-2

At first glance from my PBS emails, I didn’t think much of this summer’s Poldark. However, last week there wasn’t much to do in the evenings and I needed to keep awake to overcome my jet lag, so I watched an episode a night. While it’s not a top tier Masterpiece, it has grabbed me.

Poldark, Ross Poldark, had to fight for the red coats because he got in trouble gambling. In Virginia most of his company is killed. Ross survives but it takes him years to return home. When he’s back, he learns that his love, who though him dead, is about to marry his cousin, his richer cousin. Also, his father’s died and the family home and estate is in ruins. Poldark sets to regaining his wealth by reopening a mine and tending to his farm.

Unlike many in the town, Poldark is fair-minded and not blinded by status. He pays his workers well and lends a hand to those who fall on hard times. When he sees Demelza, a young village woman abused by her father, he hires her as a housemaid to work with his two unkempt, often drunk servants.

It’s tough seeing his love married to his weak, insipid cousin and the local society women do nothing but annoy Poldark. As time goes by he’s aware that Delmelza’s more than just a decent housekeeper. Under her rough manners, she’s wise, kind and beautiful. Rashly, he marries her upsetting all social proprieties.

I like that the show presents an era we rarely see on Masterpiece. Poldark’s house is dark and run down, unlike Downtown Abbey or The Paradise. It’s a rougher time, especially for the lower class. There’s a lot about borrowing money and wrangling to gain financial advantage. Even those draped in silk with their walls lined with ancestral portraits aren’t free from worry. It shows how the Crawley’s financial woes were more common throughout time.

The program can get a bit far fetched or descend to the bodice ripper conventions, but that’s easily forgiven. Overall, Poldark entertains and sheds light on 18th century Britain.

17
May
15

Mr Selfridge Finale, Part 1

In the US, we got episodes 9 and 10 together for our finale.

So I came to them with great anticipation. We’ve known that Nancy’s a con artist and that Loxley’s scheming to get even with Harry for helping Mae, his ex-wife, though Loxley’s so one dimensional, it annoys me. The less screen time he gets the better. Many viewers have read about Harry’s life in Woodhouse’s Shopping, Selfridge and Mr Selfridge and we know that after Rose died, Harry’s life began to unravel as he became more indulgent and reckless. So far this season we haven’t seen too much of that — yet.

Harry’s got a lot on the line as he’s started a price war to make good on the promise to his board to get them a 10% dividend. Loxley’s circling the waters hoping to bring Harry down. As for romance, Harry’s proposed to Nancy completely unaware that she’s a con artist. Granted she seems to be falling for Harry, but she’s still too cunning for my tastes. How I wish Mamma Selfridge or Princess Marie would go to the Information Bureau and have her looked up! Or Violette. She seems to have her suspicions.

This season isn’t the program’s best. It feels like they’ve gotten new writers to take over and they don’t have a sense of what viewers like me want.

The episode begins with Harry showing everyone a warehouse of goods that they must sell so he can keep his board members happy. Everyone rises to the occasion, which does show a devotion to the game of retail and to Harry himself. It reminds me of The Paradise and I would get caught up in the glamor of shopping and sales. There was an art to this business, which is sadly fallen by the wayside.

Loxley, who’s name must be synonymous with unctuous, has a fit when he reads in the paper that Lady Mae, his ex-wife is going to get married. The scene came off as rather over-the-top in terms of emotion. Loxley is meant to be a character your hate, but mainly he’s become a caricature. He then calls a meeting with two board members who for some reason see him as worth listening to. Why? The man’s clearly unscrupulous and was losing money himself until he started profiteering.

Harry stops a supplier from overcharging Nancy who’s buying lumber for houses she didn’t plan to build. In the car to the store she admires his bargaining prowess. He’s saved her. Swoon. Then things go pear-shaped as the car approaches the store. Protestors outside pelt Harry and Nancy with eggs. If you don’t like a business practice, boycott the sale. There’s no reason to get nasty. But this barbarism results in Harry deciding he needs a new head of security and since George needs a new job . . .

So George gets a job as head of security back at Selfridges, where he belongs.

Princess Marie informs Harry that she’s gotten delivery of her family jewels. She can now wipe the slate clean and carry her weight financially. Harry brushes aside any thoughts of repayment. Harry confesses that he and Nancy are secretly engaged, which sets off the princess’ radar. She’s leery of Nancy Webb, so she does some detective work. She discovers that Nancy’s architect is a fraud when she sees him hocking the engagement ring Harry gave Nancy. This storyline has gotten tense. It seems the truth about Nancy will come out and it’ll devastate Harry.

Billy, the biological father of Doris and Mr Groves’ son Ernest, stops by unannounced to visit Ernest. Mr Groves sent him packing and later chewed out Miss Mardle for interfering, which she did do. She responds by calling Groves a hypocrite and criticizing him for seeing things in black and white. She had a point, but could have been more humble. After all, her meddling led to Doris’ death. This storyline has seemed forced. Doris getting hit by the car and having an affair seemed dreamt up to add Drama! The scene where Mr Groves and Miss Mardle have it out, seemed, like many this season, to be forced and unnatural.

The French aviator, who’s something of a churl, takes Violette out on a date — to Victor’s to “play out past history” if you believe what he says. She would have guessed as much before she gets to the alley where Victor’s club is, but never mind. It’s boorish in the extreme to flaunt that you’re going out with someone in front of your or their past love. Violette is extremely uncomfortable and should run from this sadistic man. He completely lacks insight or sensitivity when it comes to women. Violette is a strong-willed woman so even though her father’s meddled in her love life and said Victor’s off-limits, I don’t get that she feels she must go out with Jacques. At home Harry consoles Violette, who for some unknown reason feels she must marry this Jacques though she’s young and attractive. It’s just bizarre. Why does she feel so hopeless? Her mother didn’t marry till she was in her 30s. I doubt Violette’s that old.

Gordon vows to tell his father that he loves Grace. She’d put an end to their romance after Mr. Crabbe caught them kissing.

Mr. Grove consents to allow Billy to visit his son once a month. I do wonder if Billy would continue to visit if at some point he meets a new girl . . . .

Loxley manipulates the board members, who’re putty in his hands, into calling an emergency board meeting. Mr. Crabb gets hysterical, but Harry’s ready for them. He knows he could be ousted and in the end has the last laugh by not showing up. There’s a clause in the store’s by laws that says he can postpone a board meeting for two weeks. So he does.




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