Cinematic Pioneers

Today marks the death, in 1948, of the aptly named Louis Lumière who, together with his brother Auguste, was one of the earliest filmmakers in history, and one of the first people to make moving pictures an entertainment medium for the masses. The Lumières’ father owned a photographic firm where both the brothers worked, and after he retired in 1892 they began to experiment with … Continue reading Cinematic Pioneers

Mary, Queen of Scots

Oh, Mary. Mary, Mary, Mary. As I said in a previous blog, she wasn’t a bad person, she was just woefully unsuited for her job. Poor woman. She probably would have made a fine royal consort (and she did, in fact, when she was married to the French king), but she just didn’t have the firm hand needed to rule a country like Scotland. Or any country, really. So, she crashed and burned and, over the years, got romanticized all over the place. There have been plenty of movies made about her, but only one has Vanessa Redgrave in it: Mary, Queen of Scots. There’s talk of a remake with Scarlett Johansson, which I really hope won’t happen, because I like this one the way it is. Joining Vanessa in an impressive cast are Ian Holm, Patrick McGoohan, Timothy Dalton, and, of course, Glenda Jackson as Elizabeth I. It didn’t get great reviews, but it got nominated for a lot of awards because, as we know, corsets = Oscars.

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Gosford Park: Murder, Mayhem, and Manors

It’s a new year, which means that Masterpiece Classic is kicking off a new season of costume porn. This year, they’re getting the ball rolling with Downton Abbey. A recap of the first part of DA will be up later this week, but until that goes live, you can fill the void with Gosford Park, a movie that has quite a lot in common with DA, including a) a screenwriter (Julian Fellowes), b) similar house-themed titles, c) upstairs/downstairs-style storylines, and d) a star (Maggie Smith, who appears to basically play the same character in both GP and DA). From the sound of it, DA even has a murder mystery subplot, which I’m guessing will end up being somewhat superfluous to the actual story, just as it was in GP, but I may be wrong about that.

Normally, I’d be annoyed by two stories that are so similar, but in this case I’m fine with it because I have a particular soft spot for GP. There’s something incredibly addictive about this movie, for me. Maybe it’s the fact that I notice something new every time I watch it, because there’s so much going on in the ensemble cast, so I never get tired of watching this. And speaking of that cast, it’s fun to watch GP because it’s a veritable parade of familiar faces and “hey, look who it is!” moments. Margaret Schroeder’s Professor McGonagall’s lady’s maid! And McGonagall’s Harry Potter’s mom’s aunt! Queen Elizabeth (I and II!) is the housekeeper! And this whole thing was written by the Duke of Richmond! It kind of proves my mother’s theory that there are only about 30 British actors out there who regularly get work, so you see them all the time. Because of this movie, Love Actually, and the Harry Potter films, you can connect pretty much every single one of those actors to any other in a crazy British version of “6 Degrees of Kevin Bacon”. And you’d probably only need two or three degrees to do it.

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Sherlock Holmes

A few years ago, word got out that the guy who directed Momento was turning his hand to the Batman franchise, an idea that perplexed some people, because we already had a couple of nice, atmospheric Batman movies (and a few Godawful crimes against nature, but we won’t talk about those.) And then, Batman Begins came out, and suddenly it became very popular to reboot classics that we hadn’t realized needed a reboot in the first place. We got another Batman movie, and Star Trek, and, of course, Sherlock Holmes.

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