Pemberley (Lyme Park, Cheshire)

Pemberley (Lyme Park, Cheshire)
Oh, to be in England...

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

The Women 1939

I don't usually review classic films, but I recorded The Women from TCM and finally got around to watching it and boy is it fabulous!

The cast is all women, I mean ALL women...right down to the animals on the set! It was written by a woman (adapted by 2 women from the play The Women by Clare Boothe Lucewhat a woman!) and has a cast of over 130 females in speaking parts.

Starring Norma Shearer as the "good girl" Mary Haines and Joan Crawford as the "other woman" Crystal Allen, but the one who steals the show is Rosalind Russell who plays the "bitchy friend" Sylvia Fowler so well that you can't hate her like you should. She is just sooooo funny!

Although it was directed by a man, George Cukor, his homosexuality may have given him an advantage in tackling the film as only a director who really understands women could have done such a fabulous job with the subject matter. And that he did.

Olga the manicurist: She's got those eyes that run up and down a man like a searchlight!

Exercise instructress: Arms flat. Crawl slowly up the wall...
Sylvia Fowler: The way you say that makes me feel like vermin.
Exercise instructress: That shouldn't be much effort. I mean crawling up the wall.

Countess DeLave: Get me a bromide. And put some gin in it!

Crystal Allen: There's a name for you, ladies, but it isn't used in high society...outside of a kennel.

Mary Haines: I've had two years to grow claws mother. Jungle red!

I think my enjoyment of The Women was only tempered by a bit of guilt at seeing some of myself and my friends reflected in the gossiping especially. I will think of this film often when tempted to pass judgement in the future.

I was amazed at how little things have changed in 75 years as well, including an early spin class at the spa. I kid you not! A very modern film in many respects (and women never change it seems). It was a little weird however to hear a line like "Living alone has it's compensations. Heaven knows it's marvelous to spread out in bed like a swastika"!!!!

Lastly, if you don't know anything about the author of the original play Clare Boothe Luce, you should take a minute and read her Wikipedia page.  She was a writer, Congresswoman, Ambassador to Italy and Brazil and even coined the phrase "No good deed goes unpunished". This awesome woman needs to be remembered, so please join me in awe.


P.S. Skip the 2008 version. The original is here:

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

The Monuments Men on Graham Norton

When  you take three actors from the recent film The Monuments Men,

and you add zany BBC chat show host Graham Norton,

what you get was described by Matt Damon as the best time he has ever had on a talk show. Well, the champagne may have had a bit to do with that! Here is the show on YouTube, and I apologize if you become rather addicted to the show. It (along with Doc Martin) has made the winter a bit more bearable for me.


Sunday, March 23, 2014

Call the Midwife Season 3 and Mr. Selfridge Season 2!

Chummy is back on Sunday March 30! I just previewed the first episode of Call The Midwife Season 3 and it was fabulous as usual. And lots of Chummy in this one so you know it will be good. And a (shhh) Royal Visit (shhhh).

Check local listings but in my area this one airs at 8pm as the lead in for Mr. Selfridge. Harrumph! Call the Midwife should be the main feature methinks.

Mr. Selfridge Season 2 starts next Sunday as well on PBS stations everywhere. I think 9 pm but check local listings!!!

I like this show (if I can remember back that far) but I haven't heard any buzz on the new season. I also haven't had a chance to preview the season opener yet so I can't give you any info yet.

I do love Frances O'Connor so high hopes!

Let me know what you think of these new seasons!

P.S. After watching the whole season opener of Mr. Selfridge on Sunday night, I am sort of on the fence about it. Absolutely gorgeous to look at, no doubt about that. And Frances O'Connor as Rose Selfridge is sticking up for herself and letting Jeremy Piven's big boss know where he can take his loving husband routine. Go Rose! But there is still something lacking in this series. I will continue to watch, ever hopeful that the plot will live up to the production values. I'd love to know what you think. Please comment below.

Still loving Chummy and The Midwives! xoxo


Tuesday, March 18, 2014

The Grand Budapest Hotel

The Grand Budapest Hotel, in model miniature

The Grand Budapest Hotel is a wonderful Wes Anderson film. If you are a fan of Wes Anderson then you likely already have this on your radar to see soon, if you haven't already. If you don't know Wes Anderson, well, how do I describe him to you?

Wes Anderson in his director's chair

A creative worldly dynamo from Texas, he loves to create entire worlds for his films, being the writer, director and producer for most of them, TGBH included. I think Moonrise Kingdom is still my fave film of his but this one is a very close second. Stylistic, funny and will not be bored during one of his films!

Gustave H and lobby boy Zero

Ralph Fiennes lives it up as a very hammy concierge (Gustave H.) of a fictional hotel between the wars in a fictional Eastern European country with his sidekick Zero Moustafa (played by brilliant newcomer Tony Revolori).

Told as a story within a story, we hear the tale through a dinner conversation between the now grown lobby boy (F.Murray Abraham as the adult Zero) and a guest at the now run down hotel (Jude Law as "Young Writer").

It would seem Anderson has no problem enticing big name stars who love offbeat films. Saoirse Ronan as Zero's love interest and Tilda Swinton as one of Gustave H's elderly female guests are just a few of the names you may recognize. Bill Murray, Adrien Brody, Edward Norton, Jeff Goldblum, Willem Dafoe...the list goes on and on!

So I will end with the official trailer and let you decide if it is something you want to see. Personally, I am still smiling! The Squire just looked over my shoulder as I played the trailer and said "That film was entertaining but different." I will leave it at that. :)

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Doc Martin: A trip to Cornwall

As an antidote to this long cold Canadian winter we have been having, I have developed a new way of coping. Whenever I get cold or down, I go on Netflix and watch a Doc Martin episode. I have now ripped through the first 3 seasons and I look forward to season 6 starting on TV soon (some PBS stations tonight-check local listings- and VisionTV on Wed March 19).

Martin Clunes plays Dr. Martin Ellingham, the curmudgeonly doctor first espied as a minor character in the film Saving Grace with Brenda Blethyn and Craig Ferguson. Clunes and his wife (producer Phillipa Braithwaite) apparently liked the character and the village of Port Isaac so much that they convinced ITV to make a TV series out of it. Good move! They film in the summers on the north coast of Cornwall and every time I put it on, I feel like I have spent an hour in a lovely Cornish village (closing eyes and smiling and sighing right now).

Caroline Catz is the good doctor's love interest Louisa. She apparently looks past his rude demeanor to see something that we only get to see when he had a very rare glass of wine. Imbibing some liquid courage seems the only way that tenderness will trump frankness in this hilariously brusque fellow.

The medical content is pretty far fetched but totally hilarious most of the time. It is more of a comedic medical mystery show than a medical show. Absolutely unbelievable and will have you belly laughing and smirking if you share my sense of humour.

Ian McNeice and Joe Absolom play father/son team Bert and Al Large, first plumbers and then restaurateurs. The look on Bert's face in the photo above says it all!

Stephanie Cole plays Martin's Aunty Joan, who he apparently spent summers with as a young lad and we find out is much more of a mother to him than his own mater who shipped him off to boarding school. Small wonder the Doc has no bedside manner as Aunty Joan is almost as matter of fact as he is, although with a much more tender soul.

And then the rest of the cast is rounded out by equally wacky characters such as Doc Martin's receptionist (I think he is now on his third) and a single police constable for the entire village who provides more comic relief. Selina Cadell as Mrs. Tishell the chemist (pharmacist) has a little crush on the doctor, and you have to see one particular episode to have the cervical collar explained.

So if you like me have passed this series by up until now, I can heartily endorse it. Especially if you need a little dose of a Cornish summer right about now.

I think I'll re-watch Saving Grace tonight to see the genesis of Doc Martin. It's a pretty good flick too if I recall!


P.S. Watch the way Doc Martin runs down the streets of the fictitious Port Wenn in his ever present suit. Makes me laugh every time someone has an emergency, which is about as often as a murder in the town of Midsomer.

P.P.S. There is an extensive list of guest appearances by stars such as Chris O'Dowd, Sophie Thompson, Celia Imrie, David Bamber, Lucy Robinson, Benjamin Whitrow, Phyllida Law, Sylvestra la Touzel etc etc. Fun!

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

The Invisible Woman

The Invisible Woman has been on my TBW list for a while now, and I finally got to see it in a tiny art house theatre on a frigid Canadian Saturday night. I was in just the right mood for this meandering stylish film. I have to preface this by saying that I am an appreciative reader of Dickens and I had just finished Claire Tomalin's book the night before, on which the screenplay was based. In case you have never heard of said invisible woman, Ellen (Nelly) Ternan was the young actress with whom Charles Dickens had a long affair over the last decade or so of his life.

So we find that Mr. Dickens has feet of clay after all. This is a story as old as humanity. A powerful middle aged male finds himself attracted to a girl less than half his age and ends up separating from his wife and acting on his urges. Except in this case Dickens was a national treasure in England, and a champion of Victorian family values.

The casting of Ralph Fiennes as Dickens turns out to be quite brilliant. A randy old ham playing a randy old ham. Perfect! And Felicity Jones is an amazing talent and gives us a peek into Nelly Ternan, conflicted and flattered and desperately in need of a protector.

All of the supporting cast are wonderful, from Kristin Scott Thomas as Nelly's similarly conflicted mother, to Tom Hollander as a heavily bearded Wilkie Collins, to Joanna Scanlan baring body and soul as Catherine Dickens.

Kudos to Ralph Fiennes as director for not painting anyone in this story as the "bad guy". This story is a tragedy but without a villain.

So if this sounds good to you then go ahead and enjoy it. But don't drag anyone who wouldn't appreciate the slow pace or anyone without even a remote interest in Dickens. Here is the trailer if you haven't seen it:


Sunday, February 23, 2014

Downton Abbey Season 4 Finale (Christmas Episode)

SPOILER ALERT! This post is intended for those who have already seen Season 4 Finale (Christmas Episode)

Downton Abbey relocates to Grantham House in London for Lady Rose's presentation to the sovereign at court, the start of the British social season. I enjoyed the episode, even though some of the story lines were a bit daft.

We get to follow Julian Fellowes's obsession with the London season and the debutante ball where every year a new crop of young ladies "come out" to London high society and were then able to participate in other events such as Royal Ascot and the Henley Royal Regatta and other various balls and events.

The court dress is usually a white (or ivory or light pink), short sleeved dress with white gloves, a veil attached with 3 white ostrich feathers and a train. I would say Lady Rose nailed the 1920s version above! That girl never gets nervous does she?

House of Worth Court Presentation Dress, late Victorian

Started in the Georgian era, the court presentations were officially abolished by Queen Elizabeth II in 1958, although if you would like an account of the lives of London debs in the 1960s, Julian Fellowes has written an entertaining book called Past Imperfect (he also has another very entertaining novel along the same lines called Snobs).

But as usual, I digress!

Delightfully, we have the return of Cora's mother Martha Levinson (the always welcome Shirley MacLaine) and newcomer Paul Giamatti playing Cora's naughty American brother Harold Levinson, fresh from being rescued from scandal by Robert.

Martha gets wooed by an English nobleman in desperate need of a cash infusion. Thankfully she sends him on his way, but promises to send a few American dames his way. Harold similarly tries to avoid getting snared but seems a little more smitten...with Daisy's cooking at least!

There was some craziness in this episode, not least of all the saga of the Prince of Wales's love letter (eye roll). And Lady Mary's attitude towards Bates and the train ticket seemed like quite a departure from when she was trying to help Anna spring him from prison a few seasons ago! Sigh.

Poor Edith's story was sort of glossed over, but I sure am glad she has parked her progeny with the handsome farmer next door. I wondered whether the pigs were the only reason he was still around!

Now who else was thrilled to see Daisy courted by her American admirer? Ohhhh, I loved this part! And we got rid of the insipid Ivy all at the same time. Perfect!

But the best was saved for last as Carson and Mrs. Hughes get all friendly like and hold hands in the waves. Swoon!!!

Best lines:

Mrs. Hughes: We're all tired. But not as tired as we're going to be.

Daisy: What difference does it make if you peel potatoes in London or peel them in Yorkshire?

Lady Mary: I'd rather sleep on the roof than share with Edith.

Lady Mary: Your niece is a flapper. Accept it.

Violet (to Isobel): Can't you even offer help without sounding like a trumpet on the peak of the moral high ground?

Mrs. Patmore: Mr. Carson, all women need someone to show a bit of interest now and then. Preferably in a manner that's not entirely proper.

Uncle Harold: I like my food good. I don't need it original.

Violet: The British peerage is a fountain of variety.

Uncle Harold: I would find it very hard to respect any woman who wished to marry me.

Mrs. Patmore (to Lady Rose): If the family is like sardines my Lady, the staff are like maggots!

Martha Levinson: Well the gang's all here I see.
Countess Violet: Is that American for hello?

Violet: The combination of open air picnics and after dinner poker makes me feel as though I've fallen though a looking glass and into the Dejeuner sur l'Herbe.

Martha Levinson: I don't really want to spend the rest of my life among people who think me loud and opinionated and common. Why don't you come and visit Newport and I will rustle up rich widows who want titles much more than I do?

Martha Levinson: I have no wish to be a great lady.
Countess Violet: A decision that must be reinforced every time you look in the glass.

Baxter: You've made me strong Mr. Molesley. Your strength has made me strong.



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