Tag Archives: Maggie Smith

A Big Boy Night: Downton Abbey

7 Jan

DowntonAbbeyAs most TSM followers know, my husband and I are somewhat nerdy and don’t watch the television much, save for the Modern Family and Chopped.  Honestly, we are usually in bed by no later than 9:00 pm, but are up by 4:00 am.  I usually like to roll my hair in my tomato cans by 8:00 and be ready for bed by 9:00 after my dental hygiene routine, which is part of the Gay Agenda. With that being said, we have become addicted to the PBS soap opera that is Downton Abbey.  So you can imagine what a “Big Boy” night it was when we had to stay up past 9:00 to watch the premiere of Downton Abbey Season III.

We actually used the machine on the tv to tape Downton Abbey, but we already watched the special feature with our Angela Lansbury, who looks absolutely stunning at 87!  While it is our Dame Maggie Smith, the Dowager Countess, who is a primary reason we are avid fans of the show, albeit I actually know a real life Dowager Countess, we are addicted to the story line.

Our biggest disappointment in Downton Abbey is the unacceptable homophobia of writer Julian Fellowes!  In his screenplay for Gosford Park, Fellowes depicts the gay characters played by Bob Balaban and Ryan Phillippe as hedonistic self-serving loathsome people.  Sadly, he has now done his worst in portraying the only gay character in Downton Abbey, Thomas, as a sociopath.  What is that about?  Has our Fellowes not ever met any good gay folk?  Is our Fellowes struggling with some demons of his own?  I’m afraid at this point, there are no redeemable traits in our Thomas, so we are left to further vilify gay folk and bear witness to the inexcusable homophobia of Fellowes.

Both Fellowes and Rob James-Collier (who plays Thomas) have promised a more complex and sympathetic portrait of the valet in Season III. We shall see. In the meantime, the season began on a high note, with the welcome addition of Shirley MacLaine.  The multiple storylines and rich characters continue to weave a tapestry of intrigue that showcases class and privilege in rapidly changing times. It’s also — as good television ought to be — great fun wrapped in touching humanity. We can’t wait to see what the rest of the season has in store!

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Best Exotic Marigold Hotel

21 Oct

While I usually leave movie reviews to my friend and fellow blogger, Feminéma, I felt very compelled to review Best Exotic Marigold Hotel.  This movie fits perfectly into the issues addressed by TSM — issues of race, gender, sexual orientation, and social justice.

The tremendously talented ensemble cast make this movie an extraordinary treat, as they tackle aging, racism, marginalization, homophobia, and end of life issues. Tom Wilkinson is exceedingly convincing as a gay retired man returning to India to reconnect with the love of his life.  Wilkinson’s real life wife, Diana Hardcastle, plays the delightful easygoing Carol, who is eager to embrace her life. Former Absolutely Fabulous star, Celia Imrie, does an amazing job of a woman also wanting to reinvent herself, but also scared of what that might look like.

Another quite lovely and somewhat complicated story line is that of Penelope Wilton’s character, Jean and the demise of her marriage to Douglas, played by Bill Nighy (who was also brilliant in Love Actually). The story of Jean and Douglas is bittersweet and at times difficult to watch as they both wrestle with what they want their respective lives to look like during the autumn of their lives.  Penelope Wilton does a marvelous job of showing how many women of her age live fear based lives that can be paralyzing.  Juxtaposed with Jean, we have the recently widowed Evelyn, played by Judi Dench.  Evelyn is a picture of the complexities of a woman experiencing grief and at the same time living with great intentionality and pushing herself to forge a new life on her own terms. Rounding out the cast is the always marvelous Maggie Smith, whose racist character shows hidden depths as the bitterness of her first scene is explained and we get to watch her grow in ways that surprise even her.

In total, I found the movie to be inspirational and offers great hope.  There are times when it is nice to just watch a movie and leave feeling fueled.  I felt very nourished after watching this film, and extend an invitation to TSM readers to rent Best Exotic Marigold Hotel.  

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