There’s nothing like an underdog to shake up the Oscar race. (And that sometimes makes it a lot more fun to watch, too.)
After months of pundits predicting that the Best Picture race would be a showdown between “Lincoln,” director Steven Spielberg’s study of the sixteenth president fighting to free the slaves, and “Zero Dark Thirty,” Kathryn Bigelow’s story of how the US government found Osama bin Laden, Ben Affleck’s movie “Argo” took home the Golden Globe for Best Motion Picture – Drama. Many had predicted the film about a fake movie crew rescuing Americans from Iran in 1979 was losing its award-season mojo after Affleck wasn’t nominated for Best Director for the Oscars.
The Best Motion Picture – Drama prize can be a harbinger of what movie will win Best Picture at the Oscars as well, though sometimes the fact that the Globes divides the prize into Best Motion Picture – Drama and Best Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy has hampered those predictions. (“The Artist,” last year’s Best Picture winner, was declared a Musical or Comedy by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association and so won that prize, not Drama.) And, of course, sometimes they don’t match up at all. The winners for Best Drama at the Golden Globes in 2007, 2009, and 2010 were all different from the eventual Best Picture winner.
Another interesting development? Anne Hathaway took home the Best Supporting Actress prize over Helen Hunt for “The Sessions” and Sally Field for “Lincoln,” the two other nominees who are predicted to be her biggest rivals for the Oscar.
While “Les Miserables” snagged the Best Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy award, its chances are probably waning in the Best Picture category, and the fact that the Globes award two motion picture prizes means that one inevitably is not the winner for Best Picture.
To no one’s surprise, Daniel Day-Lewis won Best Actor – Drama from the Press, meaning that there’s probably little to no chance of an upset for the Best Actor category at the Oscars. Jessica Chastain winning Best Actress – Drama for “Zero Dark Thirty” and Jennifer Lawrence taking the Best Actress – Musical or Comedy award for "Silver Linings Playbook" means that it will probably be a showdown between the two of them for Best Actress on Oscar night.
Tarantino favorite Christoph Waltz winning the Best Supporting Actor prize for "Django Unchained" also gives him the edge in that category going into Oscar night over rival Tommy Lee Jones for “Lincoln,” who is thought to have a good chance of winning the prize from the Academy.
Michael Moore, Heidi Ewing, Rachel Grady and others turn out for Cinema Eye Honors documentary awards
On the eve of Academy Awards announcements, the documentary community was out in full force celebrating its own at the 6th Annual Cinema Eye Honors for Nonfiction Filmmaking at the Museum of the Moving Image in Astoria, Queens. And what a community it was! From notable presenters such as Michael Moore, to delighted winners like Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady (Detropia), the word “supportive” was thrown around with gusto throughout the evening.
This spirit of community was embodied by Esther Robinson, the evening’s charming hostess and Cinema Eye co-chair. Not only did Robinson show off a photo of her newly adopted baby to the entire assemblage (would that ever happen at the Oscars?), but she also gave quite a pep talk to the crowd, which included many notable filmmakers. “Everyone in this room is doing something spectacular,” Robinson remarked, “We get up every day and we make something from nothing. It has meaning, it’s important, and it changes the world.”
The love and encouragement continued, pouring out of the mouths of up-and-comers and veterans alike. New filmmaker Jason Tippet accepted his award for Only the Young by expressing that, “It feels nice to be accepted into a community like this, and meet people whose films you’re obsessed with.” Tippet was honored with co-director Elizabeth Mims for Outstanding Achievement in a Debut Feature Film.
Documentary film legend D A Pennebaker accepted the Legacy Award for his 1993 film The War Room, which took viewers behind the scenes of the 1992 Bill Clinton campaign. He responded to Tippet’s sentiment by sharing his feeling that, “It’s amazing to see a roomful of people who are like my good friends, [pioneering doc-makers] Albert Maysles and Ricky Leacock. People who want to pick up a camera and make a film.”
Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady acknowledged that the documentary community provides more than just good feelings. Ewing and Grady’s film Detropia, the evening’s only nominee to receive two awards (Outstanding Direction and Outstanding Original Score), was a largely self-distributed effort. “We leaned on the community, and you delivered,” helping to raise over $70,000 on Kickstarter toward distribution and landing the film in over 100 cities.
One of the evening’s most emotional moments came during Michael Moore’s impassioned acceptance speech on behalf of 5 Broken Cameras filmmakers, Emad Burnat and Guy Davidi. Their film about Israeli settlements encroaching upon Burnat’s Palestinian village was named Outstanding Feature. Moore, who befriended the filmmakers after 5 Broken Cameras screened at his Traverse City Film Festival, said of their work, “You walk into that film, and when you walk out you’re a different person.”
A complete list of Cinema Eye Honors winners can be found here.
ABC Entertainment owns the television airing rights for two lucrative geek brands, now that parent company Walt Disney Pictures controls Marvel and has acquired Lucasfilm from Star Wars creator George Lucas. The network is prepping Joss Whedon’s S.H.I.E.L.D. TV series, with production getting underway this month for a Fall TV season debut.
Network president Paul Lee cites the Marvel universe’s cross-generational appeal and Whedon’s storytelling style as reasons to be hopeful that the S.H.I.E.L.D. pilot gets picked up for series. Meanwhile, there are plans to re-examine the dormant Star Wars live-action TV show – which is a carryover from Lucas’ administration – and determine whether or not that’s something worth pursing.
Whedon’s show brings together Avengers veteran Clark Gregg reprising his Agent Phil Coulson, with television actors Ming-Na Wen (Stargate Universe) and Chloe Bennet (Nashville) among those playing S.H.I.E.L.D. employees created for the small screen. Speculation points to Samuel L. Jackson showing up as organization head Nick Fury (admittedly, the actor’s stirring that pot himself), but otherwise the series is shaping up as a separate entity that does not overlap with the Marvel Cinematic Universe timeline (e.g. Coulson’s alive and fine).
S.H.I.E.L.D. is expected to follow the template of Whedon’s cult TV creations Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Firefly, examining contemporary family identity and moral responsibilities through a pop culture show that breezily see-saws between tongue-in-cheek action and serious drama (a la The Avengers). That is, we anticipate as much emphasis on the (dysfunctional?) team dynamic as the characters’ world-saving deeds.
Lee assures IGN that his fellow ABC executives recognize the series’ potential, in terms of how it meets the network’s “smart with heart” criteria that means they have more shows watched by parents and kids together (known as “co-viewed shows”):
“Absolutely Marvel has the ability to bring the whole family around it. The truth about Joss is he has some great relationships in [S.H.I.E.L.D.] so there are a lot of really funny, male/female relationships – very flirtatious ones that go through it. But it’s also Joss too and it’s Marvel and there’s a lot of action to it.”
The relatively diverse S.H.I.E.L.D. casting has Lee believing the show can appeal to “men and women and kids,” rather than just Marvel’s target male demographic. Hence, ABC heads will be watching the pilot earlier than those for other prospective new TV properties and plan to initiate marketing shortly after giving the series an official green-light (chances are good that will happen):
“By the way, the script’s great. So I don’t want to jinx it, because that may not mean a good pilot or a good series, but we’re very excited about it. Joss is wonderful to work with. And by the way, [he's] thrilled to be on television, which I’m enjoying!”
Whedon’s last small screen foray, Dollhouse, wasn’t exactly a satisfying venture, but coming off Avengers‘ $1.5. billion theatrical returns – and the increased carte blanche creative control that comes with it – has probably buoyed his spirits.
Meanwhile, ABC could be dusting off the 50 hours’ worth of scripts assembled by Lucas, producer Rick McCallum and geek-favorite writers like Ronald D. Moore (Battlestar Galactica, Caprica) for a live-action Star Wars TV series that unfolds during the years separating the prequel and “original” film trilogies. Lee’s informed EW that such an option is being considered right now:
“We’d love to do something with Lucasfilm, we’re not sure what yet. We haven’t even sat down with them. We’re going to look at [the live-action series], we’re going to look at all of them, and see what’s right. We weren’t able to discuss this with them until [the acquisition] closed and it just closed. It’s definitely going to be part of the conversation.”
However, the potential cost may prevent this. Lucas’ original estimates were that the required effects will cost $150-200 million or an average $3-5 million episode price tag; though, before the acquisition, steps were being taken by the filmmaker and Industrial Light & Magic (ILM) to reduce expenses to $50-60 million (or $1 million per episode). Indeed, Lee admits the scale and approach preferred by new Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy will affect their decision:
“It’s going to be very much up to the Lucasfilm brands how they want to play it. We got to a point here with Marvel, a very special point, where we’re in the Marvel universe, and very relevantly so, but we’re not doing The Avengers. But S.H.I.E.L.D. is part of The Avengers. So maybe something oblique is the way to [approach the Star Wars universe] rather than going straight head-on at it.”
Sandy Schaefer blogs at Screen Rant.
What are the surprises? A few films that were far from sure things snuck into the Best Picture race. “Lincoln,” “Argo,” “Zero Dark Thirty,” “Life of Pi,” and “Les Miserables” were all considered locks for the big prize, and “Amour,” a film about an elderly couple struggling with the wife’s illness, and “Silver Linings Playbook” were considered to have a fairly good shot. A film about a little girl struggling to survive in her Southern community, “Beasts of the Southern Wild,” and director Quentin Tarantino’s movie about a slave fighting to free his wife, “Django Unchained,” were considered possibles but not sure things, yet each scored a Best Picture nomination.
Also doing better than expected was the film “The Master.” While it didn’t garner a Best Picture nomination or best director nomination for Paul Thomas Anderson, the film’s acting ensemble earned three nods total, with Joaquin Phoenix earning a nomination for Best Actor, Philip Seymour Hoffman getting one for Best Supporting Actor, and Amy Adams snagging a nod for Best Supporting Actress. Phoenix in particular was a surprise; in what was thought to be a tight Best Acting race, he bumped an actor who was thought to be a major contender in the category, John Hawkes for “The Sessions,” from consideration. It will be interesting to see how Phoenix’s nomination affects the race, as many were predicting that if anyone could upset Daniel Day-Lewis for “Lincoln,” it was Hawkes.
Quvenzhané Wallis also made history as the youngest-ever actress nominated in the Best Actress category, at age 9. She was considered a possible nominee, but far from a sure thing because her movie "Beasts of the Southern Wild" was so under the radar and she herself is so young. Meanwhile, Emmanuelle Riva, nominated for “Amour,” is the oldest-ever nominee at 85.
The best supporting actor category went mostly as expected, with the only possibility being that Leonardo DiCaprio might steal co-star Christoph Waltz’s spot for “Django Unchained.” However, Waltz earned the nomination. A surprise nominee snuck into the best supporting actress category, however – Jacki Weaver, who has been nominated previously for the film “Animal Kingdom” but has gotten virtually no awards buzz for her performance in “Silver Linings Playbook,” got a nod.
The best directing category also contained a couple of surprises. More love than expected for “Amour” and “Beasts of the Southern Wild” led directors Michael Haneke and Benh Zeitlin to each earn a nomination, while expected contenders like Kathryn Bigelow for “Zero Dark Thirty” and Ben Affleck for “Argo” were shut out. It’s happened before that the winner for best picture didn’t also get a statuette for best director (notably when the film “Crash” won for Best Picture but “Brokeback Mountain” director Ang Lee took the directing prize), but not often.
As 'Pretty Little Liars' continues to race through its adrenaline-pumping third season, the stakes have been raised, the body count continues to rise, and there is no end in sight as to who the final “A” will be behind those mysterious, deadly texts stalking the quartet of Rosewood. In a recent press interview at the WB Mondo International Press Tour, co-star Lucy Hale candidly shared her thoughts on 'Pretty Little Liars' and some of her own favorite TV shows.
How do you identify most with ARIA, and what were the biggest differences?
LUCY HALE: She’s really sensitive and she’s really about the relationships with people. She’s close with her family. She’s close with her boyfriend and her friends. And, you know, that’s where the heart of Aria really comes from, because I’m the same way. But she’s more of a... I feel I’m a little bit... I’m older in real life than Aria, so I guess the struggle with the character was just trying to keep her young and a little naive to life. Because I feel like Lucy is 23. I started the show when I was 20. I was just sort of keeping that bright-eyed, excited-about-the-world kind of thing. And obviously, I couldn’t relate to the situations that they’re going through. I’ve never had a friend pass away and I’ve never had someone try to ruin my life and reveal all my secrets. So, yeah, I guess that’s how I struggled.
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What were you like at Aria’s age?
LUCY HALE: Oh, man, 16 and 17? I just moved out to California, and so I guess, in that sense, I was very naive about L.A. and about Hollywood and about auditions. And I think it’s a good thing. Because if I were to have moved out now, I would have been like, this will never happen; I’m just going to go back home and go to school. But I was just very excited about trying new things. And coming from a smaller town and to one of the craziest cities in the world, I was just very excited about new experiences, I guess.
Who’s changed the most during the course of those three years? Do you think it’s you or Aria?
LUCY HALE: That’s one I’ve never gotten. I think for me personally, I’ve just gotten busier. It’s just been like scheduling kind of. I’ve gotten to meet a lot of great people, do a lot of interesting things. But I think internally, Aria has had to grow up so fast, you know. They’ve gone through so many things, and I think she’s gotten really tough and she’s gotten really strong. So I’d have to say for me I still feel like the same person. I think Aria’s just changed as a person in general, if that answers your question, yeah.
What you think of the way people watch TV when it comes to home video and if you do that with shows as well?
LUCY HALE: Absolutely. You know, for me I’ve caught on to shows that, you know, are done we’re done a few years ago, but it was something I wanted to watch. And I think that, you know, with DVDs and even with watching online, I feel like a lot of people watch our show on Hulu and on YouTube, and a lot of people internationally. It’s incredible. It’s just I want our show to live forever, whether we’re shooting for a long time or whether it’s through media.
Do you get watch the special features or any of that stuff?
LUCY HALE: Oh, I love a good blooper reel, because I love to see... because our show is so intense all the time. And it’s really not when we’re shooting, because we’re goofing off and we’ll have to do something over and over again because we’re cracking up about something that happened before we started shooting. And so I love that kind stuff, because at the end of the day, you realize it’s real people and this is their job. So I guess that’s why I like it.
Are there shows you’ve discovered watching them that way?
LUCY HALE: Well, I started watching BREAKING BAD late into the game. So I still have a little bit to catch up on. But the other day I started watching 'Saved by the Bell' again, because I used to watch it growing up. I don’t know. I guess it was a comforting thing. So I went through Netflix and I got a box set.
On a show like yours, it could have been a nightmare if you guys hadn’t got along.
LUCY HALE: I’m telling you, when I read the script, and I was like “This is going to be great.” I was like, “But four girls? This is going to be a nightmare.” But I’m telling you, it is the perfect experience. We’re not all necessarily best friends off set, but we all respect each other. We all get along. And it’s sort of we go there, everyone’s professional, everyone’s ready to work and excited about it. But, yeah, we did. We spent our first Thanksgiving together. So it’s been three years this past Thanksgiving that we’ve done the show. And it’s just great, you know. I love the people I work with, and I couldn’t ?? we’re very, very lucky. I think that the reason we all get along is because we all look very different. I think we’re all going to have very different careers. And I think we’ve realized what we have to offer. But Ashley is definitely the girl that I’ll talk about clothes with or about guys or something, so she’s like my little gossip friend. Shay is into philanthropy work. She’s really big into charity. But she’s also good at home decor, so she’s always on Pinterest, and so we’ll talk about that. And then Troian is just brilliant. She’s very intelligent. She’s the friend that I’ll go to, to talk to about deeper stuff, I guess. So it’s fun to have a lot of different types of friends. It’s a good group of people.
Do you test your music out on all of them?
LUCY HALE: Not yet, because we start recording next week. But I’ll get little texts, and they’re all very excited about it. So it’s nice to have their support.
How did that come about for you, and what are you hoping to achieve?
LUCY HALE: The music? Well, I actually started out in music. I grew up performing and singing. And acting, the idea of it just sort of fell into my lap. And I was a little hesitant at first, but I was like, okay, I’ll try it. And so I did and I got some luck in it, which is cool. That’s why I’m here. But I’m going back to why I got into it in the first place. And I think that, you know, just me talking about it that’s my passion. That’s what I want to do. I know I have a lot to prove just because it’s like here’s an actress who’s making an album. We’ve heard that story a million times before. But I think that once you hear the music, you hear how genuine it is, because I am writing it. And it’s been a fun experience. It’s been a year, and I’m just so excited. I’m doing country. I think people that know me and knew me before the show knew that I started in music. And being from Tennessee definitely helps. But it’s been great. I’m really excited for people to hear it.
Tiffany Vogt blogs at The TV Addict.
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While some networks are still on winter hiatus, ABC is not among them and tonight they kick off the second half of the season with a new episode of Once Upon A Time .
When last we left Storybrooke, things were looking up. Snow (Ginnifer Goodwin) and Emma (Jennifer Morrison) had found their way back home and true love’s kiss awakened Charming (Josh Dallas) from his enchanted slumber. But two other characters have also managed to slip into town under the radar, and if tonight’s any indication, this party’s just getting started.
The first thing to celebrate, however, is that last year’s practice of jumping back and forth between only two realms – the present in Storybrooke and the past in the Enchanted Forest – is reinstated, hopefully for the remainder of the year. Not only did the first half of the season require an encyclopedic memory to keep all three timelines safe, it also took away some of the charm of the original premise and made certain episodes choppy and disjointed. And did anyone miss Aurora (Sarah Bolger) or Mulan (Jaimie Chung)? No, didn’t think so.
Fortunately, taking the third timeline out of the equation does nothing to minimize the number of plot twists shoved up the writers’ sleeves. As revealed in the winter finale, Cora (Barbara Hershey) and Hook (Colin O’Donoghue) sailed into town, though their presence is now more felt than seen – especially Cora’s. She’s got an axe to grind with her daughter for banishing her to Wonderland so many years ago and she’s choosing to employ the old “divide and conquer” method to exact her revenge.
Despite all of the enemies Regina (Lana Parilla) has made along the way, coming into this episode she still had Henry’s (Jared S. Gilmore) affections and a wafer-thin layer of trust between she and Emma after the work she did to bring Snow and Emma home to Storybrooke. It also feels like she is genuinely trying to change for the sake of her son, though that doesn’t preclude the occasional temper tantrum. Cora must be a quick study, because it doesn’t take her long to decide on the perfect plan to crush Regina once and for all – by framing her for the murder of the beloved shrink, Doc Hopper (Ralph Sbarge).
In a flashback, more history is revealed depicting how evil Regina once was as queen. After Regina overthrew the king, Charming and Snow set a trap for her which temporarily strips her of her powers and allows them to imprison her. Charming and Snow go back and forth about what to do with her and finally settle on a test. The twist, of course, is that the test comes from Rumple (Robert Carlyle), and by now even naive Snow should realize that there’s always a catch when it comes to Rumple.
The catch is that by granting Snow and Charming protection from Regina in their own realm, Rumple has lulled them into a false sense of security and given him the window of opportunity to suggest to the now-banished Regina that there are realms beyond their own that they could travel to. This ultimately gets him one step closer to his own goal: Reuniting with his son.
Meanwhile in Storybrooke’s present, Cora is at work sowing her own seeds of doubt concerning Regina. Even though Emma is quick to point out that the murder has all the tell-tale signs of a set-up, the one thing they all put far too much trust in is magic. Yes, it’s hard to deny the testimony Emma and Gold retrieve from Pongo the dog, but the story still seems a bit too contrived to be true. This does culminate in a good, loud shouting match between Henry’s two moms in which they both make excellent stabs at the emotional jugular. And in the end, you can’t blame Regina for apparating out of Dodge once the tables start to turn on her.
In the end, however, it’s Cora and Hook who come out on top. Cora declares that her daughter’s spirit is now sufficiently crushed for her to launch her main assault. And she has given Hook a gift in the form of an imprisoned Doc Hopper, which she assures him will bring him one step closer to enacting his own revenge on Rumple. Of course, if Jiminy/Doc Hopper is alive and well, it means some other poor Storybrooke soul has bitten the dust. Fortunately, there are plenty more episodes where this one came from.
Heather Donmoyer blogs at Screen Rant.
Did you remember that “Downton Abbey” is now taking place in the 1920s? Because if not, the characters saw fit to mention it at least half a dozen times. It’s the 1920s and women’s hairstyles have changed (middle Crawley sister Edith fixed her hair a different way to try to catch the attention of neighbor Sir Anthony Strallan), etiquette is loosened (Mary’s fiancé – now husband – Matthew pointed out that it didn’t matter as much as it did before the war if he didn’t go down to dinner in the right shirt), and morals are looser (one American maid used the new decade as an excuse to kiss the valet she had a crush on).
“Downton Abbey” returned for a third season with a super-sized two-hour episode, which opened with will-they-or-won’t-they couple Matthew and Mary, who became engaged in the season two finale, standing in a church. Don’t get too excited yet – this was just a rehearsal. It was the spring after the Christmas celebration at which we’d left the “Downton” masters and servants, and the wedding was coming soon, but Mary was disappointed because her sister Sybil, living in Ireland and married to their former chauffeur Tom, had written to say she couldn’t afford to come for the wedding. Mary and Sybil’s father Robert, the Earl of Grantham, was still getting used to the idea of a chauffeur as a son-in-law and didn’t seem to entirely mind that the newly married couple would have to stay away for the festivities.
Matthew’s mother Isobel felt that the entire thing was silly and seemed to be on the verge of sending Sybil the money herself. “I suppose you agree with Robert,” she commented to Robert’s mother Violet. “Then not for the first time, you suppose wrongly,” Violet snapped. Yay for Maggie Smith being back as the sharp-tongued Dowager Countess!
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But soon, pregnant Sybil and her husband Tom arrived. "Please tell me you sent the money," Sybil says to her father, Robert, but he was nonplussed; he’d done no such thing. (In a truly touching later development, it was revealed that Violet had sent the money to enable them to make the trip.)
But not everyone was happy Tom was there, and during one dinner, a snobby neighbor named Larry Grey slipped something into Tom’s drink that made the Irishman act drunk and start loudly spouting his politics. When caught, Larry couldn’t see what the fuss was all about. “He’s only a grubby little chauffeur,” he remarked. Robert, Larry’s father, Lord Merton, and Matthew all stood simultaneously, ready to defend Tom, but it was Matthew who went over to Tom and announced that his future brother-in-law would be his best man as well.
And even more drama was brewing before the actual wedding between Matthew and Mary could take place. Robert went up to London to look into financial matters and discovered that railway investments he’d made before the war had gone badly and wiped out most of his wife Cora’s fortune. If something didn’t happen to save them, the Crawley family would have to give up Downton Abbey.
Mary was aghast to hear the news, but thought she saw a solution when Matthew received a letter informing him that he was in line to receive an large inheritance from the father of his former fiancé, Lavinia, who died of the Spanish influenza. When it was discovered that the first two heirs were dead, it seemed all but certain Matthew would receive the money, and Mary told him it would solve all the family’s financial problems. Matthew, however, was stubborn – he said that because he had been named as the heir for his relationship with Lavinia, he couldn’t use the money to save his new fiancé’s home. (This seemed a little convoluted and over-dramatic, much like Matthew’s certainty last season that he and Mary could never be together because their love had caused Lavinia to die of grief, but I recognize the show needs some problem to keep tension between the couple.)
Mary told Matthew that his unwillingness to save her home made it clear he wasn’t on their family's side and fled the room, an act witnessed by sister Edith.
When Mary later burst into tears and had to leave the dinner table, Edith decided it was okay to reveal her sister’s business to everyone and told the family what she’d heard. Sybil’s husband Tom decided to talk to Matthew as his best man.
After talking things over with Matthew, it was Tom who brought Matthew to the house to speak with Mary – outside the door, of course, so there’d be no seeing the bride the night before the wedding. The two worked things out, and the wedding seemed to be back on.
Meanwhile, Cora’s free-spirited American mother, Martha, arrived for the wedding and sparred a bit with proper Violet. Middle sister Edith, meanwhile, invited older neighbor Sir Anthony Strallan to the wedding, hoping to rekindle a romance. He replied with one of the most awkward segues of all time, “Weddings can be a reminder of one’s loneliness, can’t they?,” but he agreed to go.
The wedding went off without a hitch, with the entire village turned out to cheer Mary’s arrival. In an adorable moment, both Mary’s father and her second father-figure, the butler Charles Carson, were waiting at the bottom of the stairs when she descended in her dress. "Will I do, Carson?" Mary asked him. “I think you’ll do quite nicely, milady,” Carson told her.
More change was afoot when Matthew and Mary returned from their honeymoon: they were riding in a car, not a carriage! What is the world coming to? The new couple seemed blissfully happy, but the topic of the Swire inheritance still rankled Mary.
In the servants’ world, a new face arrived on the scene when the Crawleys hired Alfred, maid O’Brien’s nephew, as a footman. It was apparently a scandal that he was over six feet tall, since it was mentioned at least three times over the course of the episode. Because of the financial problems, Robert was loath to hire more staff, despite the fact that the servants were shorthanded, and Matthew sided with him in his desire to “live more simply.” Writer Julian Fellowes showed both sides of the debate with Matthew and Violet’s viewpoints: Matthew said he didn't need someone to wait on him, while Violet pointed out that it was an aristocrats’ responsibility to employ servants, providing work for the village.
O’Brien wanted her nephew to work his way up in the world and supported him when he became valet to Matthew. But Thomas, a former footman and currently Robert’s valet, was incensed that Alfred has risen so far so quickly. After promising Alfred he would help him get a stain out of one of Matthew’s jackets, he purposely gave him the wrong stain remover so Matthew's jacket would be ruined. In revenge, O’Brien, who is usually Thomas’s favorite partner-in-crime, stole Robert’s dinner shirts and hid them so Thomas would get in trouble. Martha’s American maid Reed later told Alfred where O’Brien hid them, and Alfred restored the dinner shirts to Robert’s room.
Long-suffering Bates, the former Downton valet who was arrested and sentenced to life imprisonment for the supposed murder of his wife, was still in jail, visited regularly by his new wife, Downton maid Anna. Anna, who was determined to prove his innocence, gave him papers belonging to his former wife that contained names of her acquaintances. Anna thought that if she were to track those people down, one of them may have a clue that would help them.
Anna told her husband that she declined to join Mary on her honeymoon, but Bates urged her to go, telling her that she was living life for both of them now. There was also trouble between Bates and his new cellmate, who provoked Bates into hitting him. “I forgot I was sharing a cell with a murderer,” his cellmate told him afterward. “And don’t you forget it,” Bates replies.
Meanwhile, Mrs. Hughes, the housekeeper, discovered she had a lump on her breast and went to see the doctor. (Cook Mrs. Patmore accompanied her and provided welcome comic relief, exclaiming, “Oh my God!” every time the doctor said something new. "Mrs. Patmore, will you please leave the hysteria to me?" Mrs. Hughes asked.) The test the doctor performed proved inconclusive, and Mrs. Hughes would have to wait two months to find out whether it was cancer.
Also, in the least interesting subplot of all time, kitchen maid Daisy was angry that she was promised someone else to help her in the kitchen and decided to go on strike. Then she decided not to be on strike anymore.
Mary and Violet decided that the surest way to get the money to save Downton would be to ask Martha, resolving they must show her how important Downton is to the community. The best way to do so? Throw a grand dinner and invite all the neighbors. One person who wouldn't be coming, at least at first, was Sir Anthony Strallan, who Robert had previously asked to stay away from his daughter. Edith was incredibly upset and asked her father to invite him back. Robert finally broke down and gave in to her request.
Things got off to a rough start when Matthew’s coat, damaged by Alfred and sent up to London for repairs, didn't arrive in time. Matthew had to (gasp) go down to dinner in a more casual jacket. Robert’s dinner shirts were still missing, so he was forced to wear a less formal shirt as well, leading to one of the night’s best moments when Violet absentmindedly asked him for a drink. “Oh, I’m sorry,” she told him when she realized her mistake. “I thought you were a waiter.” (Violet’s judgment on “these new cocktails” earlier in the episode: “They look too exciting for so early in the evening.”)
Improper shirts were as nothing when, despite repeated warnings from Daisy, the stove was discovered to be broken. The Crawleys were stuck without any dinner to serve their guests. Martha suggested rounding up all the food available and serving it picnic-style in the parlor. It actually seemed to go well, but Mary and Violet’s hopes were dashed when they asked Martha for the much-needed money and Martha told them that her money was tied up and could not be used to save Downton.
However, one person was happy – Edith and Sir Anthony appeared to have become engaged by the end of the party.
Will Edith, who’s gotten depressing plot line after depressing plot line, actually find happiness? Only time will tell.
RECOMMENDED: 'Downton Abbey': Where we left the characters
jOBS star Ashton Kutcher bears an uncanny resemblance to Apple co-founder and computer/social technology innovator Steve Jobs when he was a young man, but does the cinematic biopic have anything else to recommend itself? Well, its backers seem to believe so, as jOBS is premiering as the closing night entry at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival this month.
Open Road Films is partnering with Five Star Feature Films on jOBS, with plans to release the movie theatrically this April. That will allow the historical flick to not be overlooked during the competitive summer season. Moreover, it’s joining fellow inspirational real-figure biopic 42 – chronicling the experience of baseball legend Jackie Robinson – as an alternative to that month’s big releases (Oblivion, Evil Dead, Pain & Gain, etc.).
Kutcher’s vehicle was titled Jobs: Get Inspired at one point and runs the gamut when it comes to Steve Jobs’ accomplishments; by comparison, Aaron Sorkin’s Jobs project - which is currently in the scripting stage – examines his identity and historical significance through (literally) three separate scenes-as-narrative acts, taking place at pivotal moments in his career (for more, check out this LA Times report). That subversion of traditional biopic expectations goes even further than Steven Spielberg’s Golden Globe-nominated Lincoln.
However, that’s not true for jOBS, as can be gleaned from the synopsis below:
jOBS details the major moments and defining characters that influenced Steve Jobs on a daily basis from 1971 through 2000. jOBS plunges into the depths of his character, creating an intense dialogue-driven story that is as much a sweeping epic as it is an immensely personal portrait of Steve Jobs’ life. The filmmakers were granted unprecedented access during shooting to the historic garage in Palo Alto, that served as the birthplace to Apple Inc.
The jOBS supporting cast includes character actors Dermot Mulroney (The Grey), James Woods (Straw Dogs), Matthew Modine (The Dark Knight Rises), Lukas Haas (Lincoln), J.K. Simmons (The Closer) and Lesley Ann Warren (In Plain Sight), with Joshua Michael Stern (Swing Vote) directing a screenplay written by Matt Whiteley. Based on those credentials, top-notch acting and serviceable storytelling seem in order.
Whether or not the project offers more insight into Jobs’ character and motivation beyond what you could learn from his Wikipedia page – without resorting to little more than hero worship - is another matter. If nothing else, Kutcher’s interesting meta-casting, given his own involvement in the digital technology sector (serving as the Nikon camera spokesman, launching his own Twitter client called A.plus, investing in things like Skype, etc.).
Sandy Schaefer blogs at Screen Rant.
If you have seen or are familiar with Baz Luhrmann’s previous work, then you also know he has an interesting penchant for scoring his period-piece films with popular modern tunes. His 2001 musical Moulin Rouge, set in the early 1900s, featured the classic Madonna tracks “Material Girl” and “Like a Virgin”, and his 1996 film Romeo + Juliet boasted the Radiohead song “Talk Show Host” and Everclear’s “Local God” (among plenty of other rock songs) – so it comes as no surprise that he’s gone modern with the music again on The Great Gatsby.
The Jay Z and Kanye West track “No Church in the Wild” is featured in both the first theatrical trailer and the second for Luhrmann’s film adaptation of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s classic American novel, creating a surprisingly suitable audio backdrop for the film’s stunningly gorgeous and grand visuals. The period drama set to modern hip-hop certainly stood out, becoming one of the most memorable parts of the trailer, and now we are learning that media mogul and hip-hop artist/producer Jay Z will actually be scoring the entire film.
The news comes courtesy of The Bullitts’ Twitter page, where musician and filmmaker Jeymes Samuel made the official announcement, tweeting the following on Saturday:
Jay-Z and myself have been working tirelessly on the score for the upcoming #CLASSIC The Great Gatsby! It is too DOPE for words!
Jay Z is not just a superstar in the world of hip-hop music – he’s a bonafide icon. At this point his godfather status in the genre actually transcends the music due to his success with several self-made business ventures. That’s good news for moviegoers and for the filmmakers working on Gatsby, as the laser-focus he applies to everything he does should serve the film well.
The other good news is that Samuel is known for incorporating a cinematic element to his work. He has released several self-directed short films to accompany his music, so he may be able to guide Jay Z along during the process of scoring the film.
Now we just have to hope the music vibes with the narrative and the tone of the film. It certainly accentuates the visual spectacle of the trailer, but for the film to succeed as a whole, the score has to appropriately service the mood and the tale of hedonism, deceit and obsession, which should take center stage.
Daniel Johnson blogs at Screen Rant.
For months, musical fans have been praising the casting decisions (Hugh Jackman! Anne Hathaway! Oh, fine, Russell Crowe), devouring trailers, and nodding with approval over the awards praise showered upon the film version of “Les Misérables” by the Screen Actors Guild and the Hollywood Foreign Press.
So there’s no fear that the big-screen adaptation of “Les Mis” will appeal to them, those super-fans who can tell you that Colm Wilkinson was the original Jean Valjean in London and can recite every separate part of ensemble number “One Day More.” They’ll be turning out to the theater in droves to see their beloved story of a French revolution and the people who are affected by it and will hum along to the songs under their breath as they soak in the vocal performances.
But you know who else should give the movie a chance? People who hate musicals.
There is a (fairly large) group of people to whom simply the word “musical” is enough to conjure up shuddering. Singing, like people do on “Glee”? And over-emoting and wearing over-the-top costumes? Count them out. They’ll be watching TV (not “Glee”).
But I know of several people who view going to see a musical as on par with a tooth extraction who, through accident or being forced to go, saw the stage version of “Les Mis.” I, the eager fan, asked them how they liked it, and got positive responses from all of them. “It was… good” was the main reaction, almost all with a surprised tone.
And the reason that “Les Misérables” can win over musical-allergic theatergoers is that it’s not glitzy. It’s not glamorous. There are no kick lines, no spangly outfits, no drawn-out dance numbers. It is the story of various people struggling to survive in nineteenth century France that happens to have some musical numbers attached.
The story is powerful enough that the book by Victor Hugo was a classic long before the musical came along – some may complain that revolutionary student Marius and protagonist Jean Valjean’s adoptive daughter Cosette aren’t especially deep characters, and they’re right. But everyone remembers Jean Valjean himself, the escaped convict, and his moral struggles and the ruthless Inspector Javert who pursues him, certain that no criminal can be a good man and vice versa.
And the music’s just gorgeous – if you simply like music that sounds beautiful, it will win you over, whether or not you’re a musical fan. (It will also get stuck in your head, especially the anthemic “Do You Hear the People Sing?,” so beware.)
Anyone who’s read the novel will know this beforehand, but it’s pretty darn good at subverting the happy ending most people associate with musicals, also. Let’s just say the show has a pretty high body count.
It’s a serious story about people struggling with almost insurmountable problems – things like getting food and finding a job and when it’s right to stand up to your government. One character, Fantine, is forced to become a prostitute because she has no other options. Not exactly musical fun time, is it?
So yes, they sing. But give it a chance beyond that. There are no sequins – I promise.