It’s set in the idyllic English countryside but this is no fusty, pretentious British export. Full of life and wit, high drama and passionate entanglements of all stripes, Downton Abbey (conceived by Oscar-winning scribe Julian Fellowes) transports viewers into the sprawling Grantham estate (perfect lawns, pristine lakes and proper ladies) while exploring the fascinating upstairs-downstairs relationship between the stately Crawley family and their numerous servants. Dame Maggie Smith, who plays the Dowager Countess, is a consistent delight and at her imperious best, offering side-splitting lines like, “He must be a foreigner; No Englishman would ever dream of dying in someone else’s house.” Priceless.
Beloved by Toni Morrison:
Brutal and brilliant in all its power and terribleness, Beloved chronicles the story of Sethe, a proud former slavewoman desperately working to make a new life for herself with a willful young daughter and a golden-hearted man along for the bumpy ride. Above all else though, this searing masterpiece offers a forthright examination of the legacy of slavery and a poignant take on the mother-daughter bond. Among the canon of Morrison’s masterful novels (Sula, The Bluest Eye, Song of Solomon), Beloved remains her most celebrated, towering achievement.
What I’m watching this week: Beasts of the Southern Wild
Though it’s one of the most acclaimed independent films of 2012, it’s highly unlikely that BOTSW (an exuberant father-daughter tale) will make it to our local cinemas before awards season is in full swing. Fortunately, it’s been made available for online viewing.