Tag: Downton Abbey

2012 Favorites

Happy New Year!  My neighbors are lighting a million fireworks so I’m still up despite coughing my head off.  I thought it might be fun to give you some of my favorites of this year.  Here goes

Favorite 2012 Book

1.  Edenbrooke by Julianne Donaldson- Should be no big surprise to anyone as I’ve been pedaling this book to everyone I know (and everyone else has liked it to.)    It is a ‘regency romance’ in the style of Heyer or Austen.  It is a juicy story of Marianne Daventry as she tries to train herself in the ways of good society at large estate of Edenbrooke.  Along the way we get a highway robbery, kidnappings, miscommunications and tons of romantic dialogue.

edenbrooke

2. Other books I loved this year- I read 50 books this year and some of my favorite are Summer at Tiffany by Marjorie Hart, I’ve Got Your Number by Sophie Kinsella, Going Solo by Eric Klinenberg, Boomerang by Michael Lewis, The Joy of Hate by Greg Gutfield, and the somewhat trashy but enjoyable Chicago Stars series by Susan Elizabeth Phillips.

Favorite 2012 Music-

1. Chris Mann- Roads- The standout on season 2 of The Voice (much better than the winner who I can’t even remember his name!).  A great debut album.  If you like Josh Groban or Andrea Bocelli you will like Chris Mann.   He has a light opera voice  but isn’t afraid of a modern song like Viva La Vida

2.  Phillip Phillips- Home- Probably my favorite single of the year.  I must say I didn’t think his album was as good as the single but I still love this song. The winner of the last season of Idol made me wonder if I should watch the show again.  A folksy, earthy song that I could listen to again and again.

Favorite 2012 Movies-

1. Perks of Being a Wallflower- I’ve mentioned it a couple times on this blog but this movie really spoke to me.  It is set during my high school years (the setting could have been my high school) and I could relate to every character.  Dark, sad, tragic, funny, bizarre, disturbing, intriguing and everything else.  I liked all the performances and even little details like the music were perfect.

Written, and directed by Stephen Chbosky as adapted from his novel, it is one of the rare instances where I think the movie actually improves upon the book, which is written in the tired cliche of a letter-format.   I loved Emma Watson who does a convincing American accent and all of the teens felt like teens with authentic problems, parties, attitudes and romances- something so rarely seen in the teen movie genre.  I felt so inspired after seeing this movie for the first time that I went home and wrote a chapter of my book.  It made me want to write, express myself, and be creative.

I will say that this movie is not for everyone.  It is challenging but I found it exhilarating!

2. Les Miserables- The much hyped live performance version of the broadway musical adapted from the Victor Hugo novel (which I have never been able to get through btw).  I first saw Les Mis when I was 14 years old and went to NYC with my choir group.  I knew every song, every line of dialogue and for once my high expectations were completely met. I was blown away.

I then saw the show again in 2006 with my Aunt Kate when they did a revival and it moved me once again.  I love the story of the merciful Jean ValJean hunted by the ruthless Javert who seeks only justice.  I love the music and aside from a bit of over-the-top antics from the Thenardiers I thought the movie totally nailed it.  I loved the performances, cinematography, long fading shots, singing (with the exception of Javert), staging etc.  I loved it.  It brought me to tears and I wanted to see it again almost immediately.  I liked almost every single choice they made.  Definitely one of the best movies I’ve seen in years.

3.  Other movies I liked- Friends with Kids, The Hobbit, Bully, Pirates: Band of Misfits, ParaNorman, and Brave.

Favorite Television 2012-

Such a weak year for television.  All the reality shows are getting tired including once reliables like Dancing with the Stars, Pawn Stars and Project Runway.

1. Downton Abbey- I got on the Downton Abbey bus early in 2011 but really loved both seasons this year, although I’m still traumatized by the recent Christmas episode!  Still, Dame Maggie Smith’s scenes are worthy of note alone.  There are so many well developed characters and the dialogue is always sharp.  I’m a believer in soap so I don’t really mind those elements.

2. Drop Dead Diva-  My favorite show this year. Drop Dead Diva had a great season with a huge ending that has me dying to know what is going to happen.  They got slightly less ridiculous in the cases presented and the romance between Jane and Owen felt believable.  With the return of Fred in a slightly altered form next season proves to be great.  A campy, silly show but done so well I love it!

3.  BYU TV- I’ve been enjoying BYU TV lately especially their shows American Ride and The Story Trek.  American Ride is a bikers version of American history.  Interesting and entertaining.  The Story Trek is great.  They literally go door to door and try to get interviews, hearing everyone’s story.  It is great what they come up with.  I like that I can turn on BYU TV and always find something enriching and clean.  It is not overly Mormon, just squeaky clean and fun shows.

4.  Other standouts- Go On about a widowed radio sports jock who goes to a grieving group, Up All Night about a couple struggling to raise their little girl in yuppie LA, Portlandia making fun of all things hipster, The Mindy Project basically the tv form of Mindy’s book, Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me?, which is another favorite book of the year and I thoroughly related to. I also enjoy Bunheads written by the writer of Gilmore Girls and has the same crackling dialogue.  Plus, it has Sutton Foster in it who is divine.

So there’s some of my favorites of 2012.  What are some of your favorite books, movies, music, TV?

Howards End

Howards End

Feeling some Downton Abbey withdrawals?  Here is a recommendation to see you through until the next BBC adaptation of Great Expectations comes in April!

Howards End by E.M. Forster

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I love both the movie and now the book. In fact, the movie is pretty much a perfect staging of the book, so if you like the movie you will probably like this.

It might sound odd but one of the things I love about this story is its reassurance that there is a potential for good in all of us- the rich, the poor, the educated etc. There are no villains or heroes in this story. Everyone wants to be good and lead a good life. If society, philosophy, business, or family pressures push them away from their good intentions- isn’t it still comforting to know that those intentions exist? I love Helen’s insistence that Mr. Bast not give up his “I am” for in giving this up he would be giving up his existence. She could not let humanity whittle him down. I also admire Margaret for finding the humanity in Mr. Wilcox. This is I am sure the same essential part of him that Mrs. Wilcox found and it probably allowed her to love such an imperfect man.

I love that I love every character in this story and yet I hate them all at the same time. Isn’t that the way real human beings are? Don’t we all have noble and evil in us? I believe that by ending the novel the way Forster does he concludes that a peaceful medium is obtained by most of us in life (this is symbolized by Howards End- which seems to be thrown about just like the characters- in between London and Oberton for most of the book). He is saying that the greatest peace comes from reconciling our place in the world, our right to be, and the rights of those around us to be happy with what God has given them.

The characters are particularly impressive in Howards End because so many are dynamic and interesting.  When you have a supporting character like Mr. Bast getting an entire story arc you know good writing is taking place.  In fact, it is hard to think of an accessory character in the whole story.  Everyone is studied and pondered upon.

The novel also deals with the concept of saving. Mrs. Wilcox tries to save Margaret by giving her Howards End, Margaret tries to save Henry through love, Margaret and Helen both try and save each other and certainly Helen tries to save the Basts. In the end, goodness, hope and loyalty save all and provide all with wisdom, self awareness and comfort.

My only fault with the book is I wish there had been one religious character. As comforting as philosophy and literature can be I find they fall short in satisfying eternal meanings in life. A religious character would have at least demonstrated a contrast.  I admit this desire is partly egotistical. There is something validating about reading characters that see the world like you do (a sensation I so rarely have)  and it is comforting to hear your voice coming out of any text.  On the other hand, we can learn more about ourselves through opposing points of view.  Still, in a book claiming to touch on every sphere in society it would seem that religion might factor more or less into one of those spheres.
I love A Room with a View but I like Howards End even more. RWV tells us that finding our inner-self comes from looking out of our sphere of influence- from embracing adventure and romance with all the lusts and philosophies that accompany such passions. It tells us that finding our match brings perfect completeness; whereas, Howards Ends says that finding the humanity in all people including ourselves makes us fully human. I LOVE this book!

View all my reviews

The movie is just amazing.  With such nuanced performances from Emma Thompson, Helena Bonham Carter and Anthony Hopkins.  Plus, its gorgeously shot by the Merchant/Ivory production.  If you are having a Downton Abbey withdrawal rent this wonderful film.

Gosford Park is another winner, written by Juliian Fellows who also writes Downton Abbey

Downton Abbey

So everyone who follows me on facebook knows of my obsession with Downton Abbey.  I know it is totally trendy but what can I say, I love it!  Its actually been a great release for me with recent stresses.  What better escape is there than to an Edwardian estate?

For you 3 people who don’t watch it, it is a BBC television series set in a British manor house called Downton Abbey from 1912 onward (the first episode starts with the sinking of the titanic).  According to the website there are 33 developed characters within the series because we get to know the Lord and Ladies upstairs and the hard working servants downstairs.

What is so refreshing about this show is that wealth and status does not define goodness with the various character profiles.  There are the villainous and noble of both classes. In fact, it is amazing how well rounded every character is. In these economic times I find it is an easy out to make the rich guy the villain.  For instance, in the much touted Social Network Mark Zuckerburg is immediately under suspicion because he is rich.

It is also historically accurate including such nuances as having Lady Grantham be an American heiress, which at the time was very common.  With land prices reducing in value pre wwI British nobility relied on American women to save their fortunes and estates.  There is also a great sense of waiting in the gentry vs work and business in the servants quarters.All the details in sets and costumes are superb.

So, two seasons have come and gone (stupid BBC and their short seasons! Now we have to wait a year.  What’s a girl to do!).  To read an update on the various characters go to http://enchantedserenityperiodfilms.blogspot.com/2010/09/meet-characters-of-downton-abbey.html.  They are all wonderfully acted especially the Dowager Countess played by the amazing Maggie Smith.

I think what makes the series work so well is the tension and humor on so many levels.  The house in many ways is a kind of min-world experiencing all the problems and victories of class struggle, relationship drama, sibling rivalry, health issues, forbidden love, spite etc.

You also have the fascinating role the outside world plays on the mini-world of Downton.  With the waning importance of the upper class and the greater options to working class families for education and employment reliance on the Grand House was not the same as it once was.  With the advent of World War 1 (Did you know that 30,000 people died in one battle of that war.  Wow!) and the death of so many young men ‘service’ as a profession was even diminished further.

Also, the war brought the mixing of classes with servant and Lord battling together for the same cause. In fact, in one scene in Downton the servant William saves Matthew Crawley in the worst battle of the war.  Still performing his duty to the end.

You have characters like Carson, the buttler, who resists change almost as much as Lord Grantham and others like Lady Sybil who yearns for it.  Then you have other great stories like Anna and Bates the servants romance that ends on quite the cliffhanger for season 2.

The Dowager is my favorite character.  She is actually quite modern and has all the great lines in the show.  Here are some good one’s.

Here’s some other funny one’s http://video.pbs.org/video/2196625085/

I was talking with my friend the other day about the chaos in Syria.  We both agreed sometimes it feels like there are too many challenges and sadness in the world.  It can feel like there is nothing you can do to help in the world.  Its kind of comforting to escape to a world that feels in control.

Downton Abbey also satisfies all emotions.  It is romantic, sad, funny and everything else.  The only bad thing about it is I have to wait a year to see it again.  Thank goodness I have season 2 on amazon video on demand (season 1 is available via netflix season 1).  It has been such a gift to me this month.  Seriously I needed an escape to Edwardian England.  Thank you BBC and Julian Fellows and all the actors and everybody involved.

I can’t recommend it highly enough.  Also, it has been hilarious to watch Downton while reading the tweets of the comic Patton Oswalt @pattonoswalt  .  They were so funny and more so because he’s a die hard fan.  I have found that television is much more enjoyable if you can follow a twitter handle while you watch (I love watching the debates while looking at twitter).  Even the music in Downton is great!

Enjoy and now we just have to look forward to Great Expectations coming soon!