Pemberley (Lyme Park, Cheshire)

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

Sunday, February 27, 2011

The Oscars and Period Drama 2011

Period Drama of the Year 2011, The King's Speech
I will be thrilled if The King's Speech sweeps the Oscars. It is nominated for an incredible 12 Oscars, so the chances are good.  As I am writing this, the pre-Oscar show is playing in the background and I just saw Colin Firth arrive, probably wearing Tom Ford.  Helena Bonham Carter is wearing her usual dark round shades and a really cool black dress with sliced up puffed sleeves and a bustle (I love her!).  Who else would dare wear a late Victorian inspired dress designed by a costume designer?  No one but Helena of course. Here is a photo with her unusual garter!
Helena Bonham Carter Oscar Dress 2011- Patriotic and wacky at the same time!
Geoffrey Rush has shaved his head for a new role and so looks quite different from Lionel Logue at the moment.
Geoffrey Rush bald at the Oscars 2011 (and wearing straight top bifocals!) No Hollywood vanity here. How refreshing!
Colin Firth's wife is wearing a "green" dress which is detailed on her blog at She describes it as being recycled, repurposed, upcycled.  "Eleven dresses in one, vintage/thrift/charity shop buys all from the era of The King's Speech",  and here it is:
Livia and Colin Firth getting ready for the red carpet at the Oscars
And for a few more of Livia getting ready with a bit of help from her adoring husband.  Also check out the amazing jewels, all fair trade!
Livia Firth getting laced into her corset with a little help from her adoring husband

Gorgeous fair trade aquamarine earring on Livia Firth

I'd love that aquamarine ring, but I'm afraid I couldn't pull that one off!

Couldn't resist this one last photo from the film. Sooooooo cute!

Adoring looks abound for Colin Firth

And now for something completely different...

The other Period Drama which has been really overlooked is True Grit.  Although nominated for 10 Oscars, I think it hasn't gotten nearly the attention that was anticipated when it was released.  I quite enjoyed this one, although it wasn't in the same league as The King's Speech.  I truly enjoyed the performance of the young star Hailee Steinfeld.  She reminded me somewhat of Megan Follows in Anne of Green Gables.  Quite a joy to watch.  Although Jeff Bridges has been mocked a little for his rather difficult to understand diction in this film as Rooster Cogburn, he was obviously having a lot of fun and so did I watching him!

Rooster Cogburn and Mattie Ross

It's been years since I watched a western and this one was definitely worth seeing.  Perhaps a rental as opposed to one you might want to own.  The King's Speech, however, will be in my library as soon as it's available.

Well, the awards are starting, so off I go for now.  I'll update with the wins later!  Bye!!!!!

#1 Congrats to David Seidler for Best Writing, Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen
#2 Congrats to Tom Hooper for Best Achievement in Directing (Listen to your mother!)
#3 Congrats to Colin Firth for Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role
#4 Congrats to Iain Canning, Emile Sherman, Gareth Unwin for Best Motion Picture of the Year

Night, night!

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Little Dorrit - Brilliant miniseries...occasionally hard to follow

Little Dorrit 14 part BBC miniseries

If you only read one sentence of this review, read this: Watch this wonderful miniseries and if you get a bit lost, come back here for help.
O.K. now that I got that out of the way, we can talk.  I knew nothing of this book before I saw this miniseries on television. The 2008 miniseries of Little Dorrit seemed wonderful, but because I hadn't read the book (apparently a bit of a tough read anyway) and because I was seeing half episodes here and there on PBS and I had missed the very beginning, I wasn't really gripped by this at first.
After I had it recommended to me by some other period drama fans as one of the best programs out there, I thought I had better give it a fair shake. Now I can say that on DVD, this is amazing!!!!

Little Dorrit - The Marshalsea Prison Crowd
This is one which you really need to watch without distractions, and preferably with someone who won't mind if you occasionally pause the DVD to either rewind a bit or ask "Did you just catch that?", or "Who is that character again?"

The moneyed crowd of Little Dorrit
You will absolutely fall in love with this one, but you have to treat it as a Victorian soap opera, which is how it was marketed to the British public, much in the same way that Bleak House was. Again, I have to say that this series lends itself to DVD, as it is packaged in lovely little half hour episodes, so you can take it in small chunks if you want, or if you really get into the story, you can watch a few hours at a time.  I have a hard time with delayed gratification, so often I watch until I am too exhausted to enjoy it anymore. Between the genius of Dickens' writing and Andrew Davies' adaptation, the episodes are satisfying and yet with the inevitable cliffhanger ending, always leave you yearning for more.

Here is the BBC's summary of the plot:

This timeless rags to riches story concerns the vacillating fortunes of the Dorrit family. The kind-hearted Amy (Claire Foy), the Little Dorrit of the title, looks after her proud father, William (Tom Courtenay - The Golden Compass) who is a long-term inmate of Marshalsea debtors' prison in London.
But their fate is transformed by the unexpected arrival from overseas of the benevolent Arthur Clennam (Matthew Macfadyen - Spooks), who is determined to solve the mystery of his father's dying words, "Put it right, Arthur." He is sure this phrase is in some way connected to the Dorrits' plight and sets about rectifying the situation - discovering they are sitting on a huge fortune, a fact which thrusts the family into the upper echelons of society.
As the Dorrits meet a variety of characters from rich to poor, a deep bond grows between Arthur and Amy, and a dark villain Rigaud (Andy Serkis) threatens to spill a long-held family secret.
Andrew Davies (Bleak House, Pride and Prejudice) was delighted to be given the chance to get his hands on this perhaps neglected Charles Dickens epic and turn it into a compelling 14-part serial for the BBC. "It's a beautifully constructed novel," Davies enthuses. "There is a huge reversal in the middle where the story is turned on its head in a really convincing way. It's about reversals of fortune and how characters cope with poverty and wealth."
Kate Harwood, Head of Series and Serials, said, "BBC Drama Production is thrilled to be bringing Little Dorrit, Dickens' great tale of imprisonment and yearning to the screen. We hope that Andrew Davies' superb serialisation will grip the nation fast with its story of mystery, betrayal and intrigue."

And now for a little help with the 29 main characters:

Amy-Little Dorrit
Amy, otherwise known as Little Dorrit, lives in the Marshalsea Prison with her father, William, who is the prison's longest serving inmate. Although born and bred in the prison, Amy is far from being downtrodden and has grown up to be a gentle and kind-hearted yet enterprising and spirited young woman.

Edward (Tip) Dorrit
Amy and Fanny's brother, Tip, is both rakish and dissolute. He has no sense of responsibility whatsoever and is always running up large gambling debts. He can be pompous and cruel but ultimately he's just a young man with a taste for the high life who wants to have fun. He's not clever like his sisters, and there's the sense that he will be very lucky indeed if he manages to land on his feet.

Fanny Dorrit
Fanny, Amy's older sister, is a dancer in a down at heel theatre. She is both worldly and extremely determined. She has Edmund Sparkler, heir to the largest fortune in England, eating out of the palm of her hand and his mother, Mrs Merdle, bending over backwards to give her what she wants in order to get rid of her. Fanny will stop at nothing to win the game of social snakes and ladders.

Frederick Dorrit
Frederick is William's brother. He plays the clarinet in the orchestra of a down at heel theatre. He is a gentle, well-meaning and unaffected fellow. William is always telling him off for his shameful, shabby appearance and general unworldliness. Frederick, understanding his brother's fragile sense of self-worth, is happy to endure William's bullying, only occasionally letting his feelings be known in small slips of the tongue.

William Dorrit
William Dorrit is the longest serving inmate of the Marshalsea Prison for Debt and is extremely proud of his title, 'Father of the Marshalsea', which is proof of how much respect he commands. In his deepest heart he knows that he's made an utter mess of his and his beloved children's lives, but he would never openly admit to this failure. For his sake, the family all keep up the pretence of respectability.

Maggy is one of the Marshalsea regulars - her late mother was a nurse there, and Maggy continues to live round the corner from the prison. Maggy fell gravely ill when she was ten years old and suffered brain-damage as a result. Now twenty-eight, she still has the mental age of a ten year old. Maggy has adopted Amy as her 'Little Mother', but she supports herself entirely by running errands.

Arthur Clennam
Kind, generous Arthur possesses a strong sense of loyalty and filial duty and has devoted his life so far to working for his parents' business in China. However, he now wants to find his own happiness and to start his life anew back in England. He also intends to uncover the truth about the Clennam family's past and to make reparations for any wrongdoing, despite facing fierce opposition from his domineering mother, Mrs Clennam.

Mrs. Clennam

Cold, stern and formidable Mrs Clennam has been paralysed and confined to her room for a dozen years. She has an extreme and fearsome religiosity, and is determined to spend her life in suffering and atonement for previous sins. She is unbending even towards her only child, Arthur. However, she displays an uncharacteristic generosity and warmth towards her young seamstress, Amy Dorrit, thus arousing Arthur's suspicions.

Jeremiah Flintwinch
Flintwinch is the sole male servant in the House of Clennam. He's worked there for years and knows all the family secrets. He therefore has much more sway over affairs than Mrs Clennam would like him to. He's the only person who dares to stand up to her, and theirs is a tempestuous relationship. He takes out his frustration and aggression on his poor, timid wife, Affery.

Affery Flintwinch
Affery is the only female servant in the House of Clennam and has worked there for many years. She is married to Jeremiah Flintwinch, who frequently beats her. Privately, Affery refers to Mrs Clennam and Flintwinch as 'the clever ones', as they're always scheming together. She is terrified of both of them. The only friend and ally she has is Arthur, and she is very fond of him and likes to spoil him.

Mr. Meagles
Meagles is a jovial, convivial man who puts his family above all else. A self-made businessman, he likes to think of himself as practical. However, in reality he gets worked up about things and this clouds his judgement, making him not very practical at all. Meagles is particularly discomforted by the idea of Pet marrying Henry Gowan and also by the idea of the stranger, Miss Wade, holding influence over his vulnerable servant girl, Tattycoram.

Mrs. Meagles
Mrs Meagles is a simple, good-hearted soul who enjoys being a doting wife and mother. Like her husband and daughter, she is well-meaning but not always as sensitive as she might be - in particular, not always stopping to consider how it might feel for the family's young servant girl, Tattycoram, to be bossed around quite as much as she is. However, she considers Tatty to be one of the family and would be devastated if anything happened to her.

Pet Meagles
Pet is the ridiculously pretty and thoroughly spoilt daughter of self-made Mr Meagles. Not deliberately cruel, she can nevertheless be thoughtless in the way that only spoilt people can be - particularly in the way she treats her young servant, Tattycoram. Pet is giddy with the excitement of having two suitors, Henry Gowan and Arthur Clennam but, in choosing between them, she is faced with the first life-changing decision of her life.

Tattycoram is a young servant girl who's been brought up as a companion to the beautiful and well-meaning but utterly spoilt Pet Meagles. Tattycoram is understandably resentful of her servile status and often struggles to control her anger. Whenever she flies into a rage, her employer, Mr Meagles, tries telling her to count to five and twenty, but it doesn't work. Young and impressionable, Tatty attracts the attention of the mysterious loner, Miss Wade.

Daniel Doyce
Doyce is an engineer and an inventor. He is a man contented with life - his work and his loyal friends (namely the Meagleses) offer him all that he needs. He may be a bachelor but he's sensitive to affairs of the heart - he is a support to Arthur over the conundrum with Pet. He is a wise, kind and solid man and a good judge of character.

Mr. Merdle
Mr Merdle is the Man of the Age, the richest man in London. However, far from enjoying his hard-earned status, he seems to find it a terrible burden. He shuffles around with his head held low, preoccupied with work-related worries and intimidated by all the pomp and splendour that surrounds him. He also complains of feeling unwell, but his doctor is unable to put his finger on what is wrong with him.
Bernie Maddoff is his modern day equivalent.

Mrs. Merdle
Mrs Merdle is a striking and magnificent woman, married to the great Mr Merdle (who is her second husband). She is much admired as Society's best dressed and most glamorous hostess. She is a terrible snob, and cares greatly for what Society thinks. She is a strong woman and is most definitely the one wearing the trousers in her marriage.

Edmund Sparkler
Sparkler is Mrs Merdle's son from her first marriage and heir to the enormous Merdle fortune. He is a thoroughly well-meaning young man, but he's not got much between the ears. He is more or less happy to be told what to do by his interfering mother. He's got an eye for the ladies but, to his mother's horror, he particularly adores the entirely unsuitable young dancer, Fanny Dorrit.

Mr. Chivery
Mr Chivery has been Head Turnkey at the Marshalsea Prison for many years. He and his son, John, are an extremely tight family unit and are everything to each other. Mr Chivery is understandably protective of his son, doing everything he can to ensure John's happiness and wary of anyone who might threaten that happiness. Despite his occasional grumpiness, Chivery is a kind, soft-hearted soul who's unable to bear a grudge for very long.

John Chivery
John is Assistant Turnkey of the Marshalsea Prison, where his father, Mr Chivery, has been Head Turnkey for many years. John takes everything extremely seriously, but especially his passionate and undying love for his childhood friend, Amy Dorrit. His moods change wildly from day to day depending on whether he's had an encouraging or discouraging sign from Amy. However, despite being somewhat angst-ridden, he's a truly kind and magnanimous soul who always looks out for others.

Mr. Plornish (and family)
Mr Plornish is a resident of Bleeding Heart Yard, which is home to some of the poorest people in London. He is a plasterer by trade but, like many, he struggles to find employment. Despite this, he is a cup-half-full, jovial kind of man. He and his wife have a large brood of children and he enjoys family life. Plornish met and befriended the Dorrits during a short stretch in the Marshalsea Prison.

Mrs. Plornish
Mrs Plornish lives in Bleeding Heart Yard with her husband, Mr Plornish, and their large brood of children. In spite of living in poverty and hardship, she is a cheerful and generous character. For example, she takes Cavalletto under her wing when he first arrives in London, and is extremely proud of her innate ability to talk to him in fluent Italian.

Mrs. General
Mrs General is a triumph of genteel respectability. A widow, she has set herself up as a 'companion to ladies'. She hates to be thought of as a working woman and when Mr Dorrit employs her to 'finish' his daughters, she adopts the pretence that she is a friend of the family, rather than a governess. She is extremely strict about decorum, putting Amy and Fanny through a gruelling training regime.

Self-confessed cold-blooded murderer, Rigaud, is the villain of our story. He is by turns extremely charming and darkly menacing, whichever the situation demands. He is an opportunist who roams about Europe looking for innocent and unsuspecting victims to sink his teeth into - whether to rob, blackmail or cheat. He is completely undiscriminating in his choice of who to prey on.

 Cavalletto is a cheerful and chirpy Italian - the kind of person everyone takes a shine to. He is a petty crook but not a dedicated criminal - given half the chance, he would much rather earn his money honestly. At the start of the story, he finds himself the unfortunate cellmate of the terrifying Rigaud and, upon his release from prison, he continues to live in fear of ever encountering Rigaud again.

Henry Gowan
Henry Gowan will do whatever he can to ensure himself an easy life. He's distantly related to the distinguished, aristocratic Barnacle family, but he's a poor relation and therefore, much to his irritation, he has to earn his own living. He calls himself an Artist but shows little dedication to the profession. He set his sights on the pretty Pet Meagles but finds a rival for her affections in Arthur Clennam.

Miss Wade
Miss Wade is an aloof and mysterious woman of independent means. Although a loner, she nevertheless takes a great interest in the young servant girl, Tattycoram, setting out to prise her away from her employers, the Meagleses, so that she can come and live with her. Although she professes to be concerned for Tattycoram's welfare, her steely determination to woo the servant girl also betrays a self-interested and ruthless nature.

Mr. Pancks
On the surface, rent-collector Pancks seems like a pretty heartless individual - indifferent to the plight of the poverty-stricken residents of Bleeding Heart Yard. Behind the scenes however, he is being driven by his rapacious employer, Mr Casby, to squeeze the residents for all they are worth. In his private time, Pancks is also a private detective of sorts. He is brilliant at moling out information and piecing together evidence.

Flora Finching
Unlike her rapacious father, Mr Casby, Flora is a kind and generous, if occasionally overbearing, soul. She and Arthur Clennam were once childhood sweethearts but, due to circumstances beyond her control, she ended up marrying and is now the widow of a Mr Finching. Flora is still in love with Arthur and spends her time concocting ways to win him back, seemingly in denial about the fact that he no longer has feelings for her.

My favourite character is Pancks with his snorting and his funny walk. Mrs. Plornish's attempts at Italian are pretty funny too.  In fact all the actors are absolutely without equal in this.  I fear they will never be able to do another Little Dorrit to compare with this one.  I will post a link (with spoiler alert) later this week to explain what happens at the end as I fear that it is not just my husband and I who got to the end and went "Huh? What just happened????"  I'll make sure that it isn't on this page so as not to spoil it for those who haven't seen this gem yet.

Don't be turned off by the number of characters. Just come back here to look them up if you need a little help. That's what the pause button on the DVD player is for!

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Any Human Heart Episode 2 on PBS/Masterpiece

Any Human Heart- The Duke and Duchess of Windsor (Gillian Anderson and Tom Hollander)
I didn't want to miss the second installment of the fascinating series Any Human Heart. I've seen a lot of Matthew Macfadyen lately, as I have just finished the lovely Little Dorrit (review coming soon) and my guys have been watching him (and his love Keeley Hawes) on Spooks/MI5. We're on Macfadyen overload but it's all good. I'm getting to know every scar on his face in HD!

Matthew Macfadyen as Logan Mountstuart

This is a very entertaining series. Logan certainly has a good sex life, even though PBS apparently cut a good 40 minutes or so of skin etc. for the more conservative North American audience.  His encounters with the rich and famous are rather amusing, especially with Tom Hollander and Gillian Anderson as the Duke and Duchess of Windsor.  I rather enjoyed the Duke and Duchess's comeuppance tonight especially as I am now quite partial to King George VI and his bride Elizabeth, due in part to my affection for the film The King's Speech.

Kim Cattrall as Gloria Scabius (causes a few scabs!)
I have truly enjoyed this series, although I don't think it is one that I really wish to purchase and watch again soon.  At times heartbreaking, (no spoilers here) and at other times uplifting, I have to say interesting is probably the best adjective I can pull out to describe this one.  I do have one small beef however.

This is a personal thing which others may disagree with.  I watch most of these shows with my husband.  He is acutely aware of the presence of suicides in movies and television as he had a close member of his family commit suicide.  There is oftentimes a suicide in the films I watch with him, even though I try to avoid downer type films.  It seems to be an all too common way to move a plot these days.  In this episode of Any Human Heart there were no less than 4 (we counted them...4!) suicides or attempted suicides shown.  I think there must be some defect with the story telling ability of this author if he requires 4 instances in one episode, although admittedly one of them was historical and not fictional.  Although I realize that this subject should not be avoided if it is necessary to tell the story, it is too often, I am afraid, shorthand for "this person is unhappy" and I think that is what has happened in this series.

Next week we get more of Jim Broadbent as Logan Mountstuart Senior!

OK, rant over but I just had to have my say on this topic.  Feel free to leave a comment if you agree or if you disagree. I'd love to know what others think.

But don't let this turn you off of this wonderful series.  I am truly looking forward to next week when Jim Broadbent takes over as Logan.  I adore Jim Broadbent who will forever hold a special place in my heart as Bridget Jones's dad.  See you next week!



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