DVD/Blu-ray review: “Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day

We’ve all had bad days, but most of us have not had ones as bad as portrayed in “Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day.” This movie is a great thing to have to prepare your kids to survive their own very bad days while providing them with interesting background details and potential inspiration for filmmaking.

The movie itself is fun and does have a happy ending. Fans of Jennifer Garner and Steve Carell will also enjoy this relatively lightweight though good-natured family-friendly comedy.

People who live in or have lived in Pasadena will recognize some of the sights and might get a giggle out of that.

The story is about how on one magical day, his birthday, Alexander (Ed Oxenbould) does get his wish–that everyone in his family for once to have a really bad day. On his birthday, his parents, Kelly and Ben (Garner and Carell) wake up late. His sister Emily (Kerris Dorsey) wakes up with a cold on the day she makes her debut as the star of a play. The battery of Kelly’s car is dead. Kelly bicycles to manage a celebrity book reading and is unable to stop before the celeb, Dick Van Dyke (as himself) reads the typo. His older brother Anthony (Dylan Minnette) has a misunderstanding with his snooty girlfriend and botches his driving test. Ben has problems in his interview for a new job. Alexander’s birthday party which seemed heading for disaster does, in the end, come off well enough that Alexander does have a happy birthday and his family all have a happy ending.

The book was originally published in 1972, written by Judith Viorst and illustrated by Ray Crus.

The DVD/Blu-ray bonus content includes:

  1. Alexander…In Real Life
  2. Snappy Crocs and Punchy Roos: The Australian Outback Yard Party
  3. Walkabout: A Video Diary
  4. And The Delightful, Magnificent, Very Good Bloopers
  5. “Hurricane” by the Vamps–Music video

Kids and adults will appreciate learning about how this story came about from the real Alexander, now a grown-up, and his mother Judith Viorst. As an adult, you can see how Viorst took something negative and made it a positive although at times Alexander had mixed feelings about it. Alexander is the youngest of Viorst’s three sons. In the Alexander book series, he has two brothers, Anthony and Nick, also named for his real brothers. In the book, Alexander is 5-years-old.

The Walkabout video diary might be tiresome for adults, but might serve as inspiration for budding filmmakers.  The bloopers are also a nice addition.


‘101 Dalmatians': The dog versus the cartoon

As a child, I enjoyed watching “101 Dalmatians,” a reaction not uncommon for dog lovers. In the 1960s, when the movie came out (1961), the thought of 50 let alone 101 dogs owned by one person or a couple seemed like something out a fantasy.

Yet collie lovers in the Southwest know that 100 is not such a fantastical number. Vickey Willard of Houston Collie Rescue write in an email, “Remembering ‘101 Dalmatians’ as a little girl was a wonderful thought of being surrounded by so many cute adorable puppies. Of course,  I never imagined that one day I’d face my a modern day Cruella de Vil, a Tomball, Texas breeder/hoarder.

In August of last year (2014), as a result of a bankruptcy hearing, Houston Collie Rescue gained custody of what was supposed to be about 30 dogs.

As Willard recalled, writing, “The federal courts awarded Houston Collie Rescue with 116 Collies, 6 of which went on to give us 30 puppies for a total of 146 collies. The experience was overwhelming to say the least and will never be forgotten.”

The actual hoarder was well known to the Houston collie community and Houston Collie Rescue had dealt with this particular hoarder before. Willard commented, “Having received 4 out of 13 collies turn over in 2006 and again 32 out of 51 collies in 2007, this seizure in 2014, in the end was a long-awaited sigh of relief to save these collies from the life they were living. Conditions no one would ever see in a Walt Disney Classic.”

The dogs weren’t all absorbed into the Houston area, Collie Rescue of Greater Illinois, Southwest Collie Rescue, Rocky Mountain Collie Rescue, NorCal Collie Rescuecolli and Southland Collie Rescue all took in some dogs.  Not all of the collies have been adopted out yet.

Margaret Maas of Dalmatian Rescue of Southern California commented in an email that “those movies (the 1961 animated feature and the 1996 live-action feature)  encourage people to go out and purchase Dalmatian puppies, encouraging breeding. Dals are beautiful dogs but definitely are not the dog for most people. ” According to Maas, that’s because Dalmatians are “highly energetic, needy, intelligent.” That means they aren’t dogs that you can just leave in your yard because they  “need lots of attention and exercise, usually do best with a companion.”

AKC Breeder of Merit, Toni Linstedt,  whose home includes several champions (MBISS GCH CH Centurion Coopers Brown JuJu,  BISS GCH CH Anticipation Heres Lucy!,  GCH CH Juju’s Bewitching Bailiwick and GCH Juju’s Busy Being Fabulous),  commented for the Dalmatian Club of America:

The Dalmatian is one of the most recognizable and strikingly beautiful of all purebred dogs.  Almost any child, from the time they can speak meaningfully, shouts out “Dalmatian” at the sight of one.  They are as cute and loving as the day is long.  But, anyone considering getting a Dalmatian, or any dog, must do their homework first to make sure the dog they are considering is right for their circumstances.  This includes not only understanding the breed and its typical characteristics but also carefully evaluating the breeder and his/her practices. 

The Dalmatian is an active and energetic breed.  They are loyal to their owners but may be protective of their people and their “turf”.  This is a part of their heritage as coaching dogs when their job was to protect the horse drawn carriages, their horses and the passengers. 

The original release of “101 Dalmatians” dramatically increased the demand for Dalmatians as every child who saw it wanted one.  This resulted in a lot of unknowledgeable and thus indiscriminate commercial breeding that produced poor temperaments.  Since that time, reputable breeders have put a lot of effort into producing dogs with good temperaments that make loving family pets. 

The Dalmatian Club of America website features a Breeder Referral page that offers individuals considering a Dalmatian a wealth of information about whether or not the breed is right for them and how to choose a reputable breeder.  If you are considering purchasing or adopting a rescue Dalmatian, we encourage you to please visit the page and carefully review all the information provided there. http://www.thedca.org/referral.php

The American Kennel Club also offers excellent information about Dalmatians (and all purebred dogs).  http://www.akc.org/dog-breeds/dalmatian/

Just like Lassie might have created unrealistic expectations about collies, “101 Dalmatians” doesn’t deal with the reality of having so many dogs. If you love the animated feature, don’t forget that real dogs require a lot of work and even healthy purebred dogs are not necessarily a good fit for your lifestyle.

DVD/Blu-ray review: ‘101 Dalmatians’

The Disney animated feature “101 Dalmatians” is Disney’s first modern feature-length animated feature and a break from the romantic Disney tradition. On 10 February 2015, Disney brought this animated treasure out of the vault and the “101 Dalmatians” Diamond Edition is the first time this movie has been made available in Digital HD and Blu-ray. The two-disc set is well worth having for dog fans, Disney fans, and animation fans.

The look of “101 Dalmatians” was stylized by production design and art director Ken Anderson (1909-1993) with blocks of color that would bolding exist outside of the lines.  The movie featured the villainess Cruella de Vil who was animated by Mark Davis.

Dodie Smith wrote the story which was published in 1956. She and Walt Disney had a friendly correspondence dating from 1957 about the book. The animated feature “One Hundred and One Dalmatians” debuted in 1961.

The story is about a Dalmatian named Pongo (Rod Taylor) who decides that his “pet” Roger Radcliffe is a songwriter who seems perfectly content with his bachelor lifestyle in his cluttered London flat. Pongo though is bored and from his windowsill perch considers his options (This celebrated sequence is used as the menu for the DVD/Blu-ray). Spying another Dalmatian, Perdita, and her owner ,Anita (Lisa Davis), Pongo springs into action and takes his “pet” on his daily walk.

Although things go a bit wrong, Roger and Anita do end up meeting, falling in love and marrying as do Pongo and Perdita. Perdita ends up having 15 puppies and despite a near tragedy of one pup almost dying, things are fine until an old acquaintance of Anita’s shows up: Cruella de Vil.

Cruella lives for furs and has always wanted a fur coat made from the soft coats of Dalmatian puppies. Although she offers to buy the whole litter, Roger refuses. Cruella decides to hire two men, Jasper and Horace, to dognap the puppies. Roger and Anita and, naturally, Pongo and Perdita, are devastated. When the humans can’t find the dogs, Pongo uses the Twilight Bark to contact other dogs in search of the pups.

Outside of London, in the countryside, an old English Sheepdog, the Colonel, and his troops, the gray horse he calls Captain and a scrawny cat called Sergeant Tibbs find the puppies in Cruella’s dilapidated family estate, Hell Hall. Hearing the news, Pongo and Perdita leave London traveling through a threatening wintry landscape.

As Pongo and Perdita travel to meet with the Colonel, Tibbs goes in and overhears that the pups are destined to be coats and helps the pups escape but ends up being trapped by the two thugs. Pongo and Perdita break in just in time to attack Jasper and Horace as Tibbs leads the puppies out.

Pongo and Perdita begin their journey, deciding to take their 15 and the additional 84 puppies with them. The group are pursued by Cruella in her luxury car and Jasper and Horace in their rickety jalopy. At one point, the dogs decide to disguise themselves as Labrador Retrievers by rolling in suit to blacken themselves. Cruella sees through their disguise and pursues the Dalmatians but crashes into Jasper and Horace, wrecking their vehicles and leaving all three in the deep snow down a ravine.

The dogs make it back to London just in time to celebrate Christmas and Roger’s first hit song: “Cruella de Vil.”

If you didn’t see this movie, or if you’ve only seen this movie on TV, then by all means get this DVD. If you’re interested in animation, the bonus features are well worth having.

For this Diamond Edition

Bonus features:

  • “The Further Adventures of Thunderbolt”
  • “Lucky Dogs”
  • “Dalmatian 101: Hosted by Cameron Boyce”
  • “Walt Disney Presents ‘The Best Doggoned Dog in the World” (1961 version)
  • Classic Bonus Features

You might be wondering a few things. Who is Thunderbolt? Who is Cameron Boyce. During the original feature, the pups are watching a Western TV series about a dog, most likely a German Shepherd, named Thunderbolt.  The bonus feature takes Thunderbolt and completes the episode so we can see the full story.

Cameron Boyce is featured in Disney Channel’s “The Descendants” and plays Cruella de Vil’s son.

Classic Bonus Features:

  • “Redefining the Line: The Making of “One Hundred and One Dalmatian”
  • “”Cruella de Vil: Drawn to Be Bad”
  • “Sincerely Yours, Walt Disney”
  • “Trailers & TV Spots”

“Redefining the Line:”

  • “Puppy Dog Tales”
  • “Howling at the Moon”
  • “New Tricks”
  • “Animation 101″
  • “Drawing All Cars”
  • “Seeing Spots”
  • “A Dog’s Eye View”

Is a great education for art students, Disney fans and animation lovers. The feature discusses how the animation.

Bill Peet (1915-2002), who wrote the script based on Dodie Smith’s book “101 Dalmatians,” was an American children’s book illustrator and a story writer for Disney. He joined Disney in 1937 and joined the team working on “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” and ended his association with Disney in 1964 after a quarrel with Walt. Peet went on to write picture books such as the 1959 “Hubert’s Hair-Raising Adventure.”

One of the innovations that made “101 Dalmatians” possible was closing down the inking department and photocopying the drawings. While the techniques used were modern and we still use photocopiers and the company Xerox still exists, you might get a kick out of seeing them use a Xerox machines that took up three rooms.

Voice Cast: 

  • Rod Taylor as Pongo
  • Ben Wright as Roger
  • Lisa Davis as Anita,
  •  J. Pat O’Malley as Jasper
  • Cate Bauer as Perdita,
  • Betty Lou Gerson as Cruella de Vil

MPAA Rating: G

Genre: Comedy, Animation, Family
Running Time: 1 hr 19 min
Video Release Date: February 10, 2015
Original Film Release Date: January 25, 1961
Language: English
Format: Blu-ray Combo Pack
Audio: Blu-ray: 7.1 DTS-HDMA / 1.0 Dolby Digital 
Video: Aspect Ratio 1.33:1
Subtitles: English SDH, French, Spanish
Number of Discs: 2 disc Blu-ray/DVD Combo Pack and Digital HD
Distributed by: Buena Vista Home Entertainment

‘Downton Abbey’ Series/Season 5, Episode 9: Who will have a merry Christmas?

No one dies and that will make some thankful enough for “Downton Abbey” fans. In what was the 2014 Christmas Special in the UK (Season 5 episode 9 in America), “A Moorland Holiday,” we have the possibility of love for both Mary (Michelle Dockery) and Edith (Laura Carmichael), two parties and a marriage proposal. This is an episode about arrivals and departures, beginnings and endings of love stories.

The episode begins with a car arriving.  A lady steps out. Where is she? That’s a question that resonates throughout the whole episode. Where are the women in their emotional lives and what doors will they open or close?

Dressed in a dark red coat, light grey hat and sensible shoes, Lady Mary and gone to visit Anna in prison. If you recall, Anna was arrested at the end of the last episode. In America, that would be a cliff hanger, left to trouble us until the next season started up, but that isn’t the British way.

Anna (Joanne Froggatt) asks Mary, “Did you give a false name?”

Mary replies, “Certainly not.”

Anna doesn’t trust the system so she replies, “But suppose it comes out in the papers you came to see me.”

Mary states, “It will show that the Crawleys do not believe you did it.”

Anna explains, “Yes, but who knows what they’ll come up with before they’re done?…I’ve been here before with Mr Bates. They weave their web with little lies and innuendo until they hold you fast.” Mary assure her that the whole family will be willing character witnesses. We hear a door slam and suddenly we’re back downstairs at Downton Abbey.

Mr. Carson (Jim Carter) is uneasy about Mary’s visit to the prison. He asks, “Suppose it gets into the papers. ‘Earl’s loyal daughter visits maid in prison.'”

Mrs. Hughes (Phyllis Logan) comments, “I should think the public would like her for it.”

Carson still isn’t reassured, “Whether they do or not, I hate to give them the chance to poke their grubby noses into our business.”

At Downton Abbey, things are stirring downstairs. The family has been invited by Rose’s in-laws, Lord Sinderby (James Faulkner), out to Brancaster Castle for grouse hunting. Lord Sinderby is only renting the “extremely grand” castle and instead of depending upon the staff there, he has brought his own butler. That’s not a wise move for it means his butler will be bossing around a staff he doesn’t know.

Thomas Barrow (Rob James-Collier) will go to be valet for Robert Crawley (Hugh Bonneville). Miss Baxter (Raquel Cassidy) will be assisting Lady Mary, Lady Edith and their mother Lady Cora (Elizabeth McGovern).

Mr. Molesley (Kevin Doyle) sympathizes with her saying, “It’s hard to cope with three ladies at once, what with tweeds, evening dresses and tea gowns and all.”

Yet times have changed. “Tea gowns? We’re not in the 1890s now, Mr. Molesely,” Mrs. Hughes declares.

“More the pity,”Carson replies.  I wish I had a maid to help me in and out of clothes and put my things away and endless closets.

Upstairs, there’s a discussion about Lady Mary visiting Anna.

Violet (Maggie Smith) asks, “Did she take a cake with a file in it?”

Robert tells his mother, “I don’t know why you’re making such a fuss. You’d visit Denker if she were locked up.”

Violet replies, “Only to check if the locks were sound.”

Violet is involved in some intrigue of her own. Shrimpie’s men have found Princess Kuragin (Jane Lapotaire).

“When she arrive in England, she’s coming straight to me.” The family is quite puzzled why Violet is going to so much trouble when she doesn’t like the Princess.

Violet puts off all those questions, by saying, “Oh, you know me. Never complain; never explain.”

Edith replies,  “You don’t usually have much trouble complaining.”

Downstairs there’s more packing and we understand why Mary went alone. “They allow one visitor at a time, unless there’s a special reason” and so Mr. Bates (Brendan Coyle) sacrificed his time to see Anna today so that Mary could go see her. He proclaims, “I’d cut my arm off it I thought it would do any good.”

Thomas (Rob James-Collier) lightens the tone of the conversation saying, “I don’t think that would be sensible. We can’t have you wobbly at both ends.”

With the family leaving, Carson and Mrs. Hughes finish off a bottle of Margaux and Carson discusses the houses he has selected for them to look at as an investment toward their future retirement.

Carson tells her,  “You don’t go far wrong with Margaux…These four are real contenders.
Three good-size bedrooms, bathroom already installed ~ and a room off the kitchen for a maid.”

Susan and Shrimpie won’t be there and Susan has been informed because as Cora puts it, “I didn’t want her to hear it from someone else.”

The children are outside, ready to see their parents off. Edith almost says, “Come to mummy” to Marigold and while Mary doesn’t notice, Robert, Edith’s father does. Robert asks Cora if he should reveal his knowledge to Edith, but Cora assures him, “It’s not our secret.” Of course, we’re all waiting to see when Mary will figure all this out.

Violet is there to see them all off. Carson reminds Thomas, “Check every piece of luggage when they’re transferred in York.”

Thomas assures him, “I have changed trains before, Mr. Carson.”

When Robert comments, “I’m impressed you  should come to say goodbye, mama,” Violet replies “Why do you always talk of me as if I were a salmon who laid my eggs in the gravel and swam back to the sea?”

Mary replies,  “You’re very maternal  aren’t you granny when it suits you.”

Isobel is there, too and they both will be around when Princess Kuragin turns up the next day.

After, Cora, Edith, Mary, Robert and Tom are in the train and off, Violet comments, “Lord Sinderby, Branson and Barrow–not what I’d call a recipe for a peaceful week’s shooting.”

“Makes you wonder what they’ll be shooting at by the end of it,” Isobel (Penelope Wilton) comments and they both laugh. It’s nice to see these two ladies getting chummy.

Of course, everyone is well aware of the situation with Lord Sinderby.

Cora declares, “For Rose’s sake, we must all be on our best behaviour.”

Robert adds,  “I agree. Sinderby always looks as if he’s spoiling for a fight, whether he is or not.
We must be careful not to give him grounds for one.”

Tom says,  “I wonder if I was right to come. I don’t want to sound like Larry Grey, but I’m not Lord Sinderby’s idea of a perfect son-in-law.”

Mary quickly puts that to rest,  “Stuff and nonsense! We Crawleys stick together.”

Edith is supportive, adding,  “For once I agree with Mary.”

Edith has her own concerns which should have made Mary suspicious. Edith reveals, “I suggested to Nanny she take the children to Lake Gormire for a picnic. Do you think it too dangerous? Shall I telephone to cancel it?”

Mary quickly gives Edith a hint about motherhood,  “Why don’t you shut them up in a box in the attic, let them out when they’re 21?”

Cora, who exchanges a knowing look, “Don’t be unkind!”

Mary is too self-involved to notice what’s passed and says, “Honestly, I’m the mother round here and I’m not panicking.”

At the Brancaster Castle, the Crawleys are met by Rose and Atticus. They’ve returned from a honeymoon in Venice, but they are not the hosts.

Lady Sinderby explains why they’ve rented the castle, saying, “We know some locals, which is one of the reasons we took it.” The castle belongs to Lord Hexham who is seldom there.

Yet the usage of the house also comes with a few strings attached. Atticus explains,  “And Lord Hexham has asked us to be kind to his late father’s pals.”

Robert comments, “That seems steep given what Lord Sinderby must be in for.”

While the introductions upstairs don’t need to be made, downstairs is a different story. Thomas was briefly introduced to Stowell, but the man is, like Lord Sinderby, cold and rude.

Thomas makes a second attempt at introducing himself, “May I introduce myself? I am Mr Barrow, valet to the Earl of Grantham.”

Stowell (Alun Armstrong) abruptly puts him in his place, replying,  “I believe you are TEMPORARY valet to Lord Grantham. The sad story of Mrs Bates has reached our ears.”

Faced with an unsympathetic Stowell, Thomas can only reply, “News travels fast.”

Stowell then asserts his position, “I’m Lord Sinderby’s butler, Stowell.”

Thomas attempts to find some common ground, by commenting,  “Oh, so you’re a novice here, too.”

Stowell sternly admonishing, “I am not a novice anywhere.”

Quickly, Stowell asserts his prejudices when Thomas indicates some possessions belong to Tom, “Those are for Mr Branson. He’s up here without a valet.”

Stowell spits out,  “Few chauffeurs travel with a valet.”

Thomas remains ever so polite, replying,  “Heavens, you are up-to-date with your detail, Mr Stowell.”

Stowell then offers the tiniest leaf of an olive branch,  “How can you bear to wait on him?”

Thomas offers an actual branch, saying,  “We do what we have to do, don’t we?”

Stowell sets that branch on fire by commenting,  “On which subject, you will help out as a footman while you’re here.”

Thomas protests,  “Excuse, I am an under-butler and…”

Stowell cuts him off, by explaining curtly,  “Lord Hexham is seldom at home, and so they do not maintain a full staff. You will serve as a footman.”

Stowell isn’t much kinder for Miss Baxter who is being a ladies maid to three ladies. We are made to understand that the rooms aren’t very close, making Miss Baxter’s job harder.

Upstairs, things are a bit frosty as the guests socialize over tea. Robert ventures to suggest to Lord Sinderby,  “You should invite Shrimpie; he’s a marvelous shot.” Robert and Cora exchange looks when Lord Sinderby makes no reply. “I gather you’ve asked a few of Lord Hexham’s friends. Very good of you.” There is an art to polite conversation.

Lord Sinderby comments,  “I suspect some of them have had to overcome their principles ~ to accept my hospitality.”

Keeping things light, Robert replies,  “The English have strong principles except when it comes to the chance of good shooting or eating well.”

Lord Sinderby is briefly agreeable, commenting, “How true!” before he rudely demands Thomas’ attention. “You. Milk (to Thomas).” This is not the way the Crawley family would address their servants.

During this function, Stowell won’t give Tom sugar. This doesn’t go unnoticed.

As they begin their grouse hunting which consists of men flushing out the birds while pairs of people chum up behind small shooting sites.

Rachel (Lady Sinderby) partners up with Tom while  Mary is with Lord Sinderby.

This gives the family an opportunity to get to know each other. Lord Sinderby isn’t totally clueless, telling Mary,  “I’m afraid your father’s rather disappointed that I’m not inclined to welcome your cousin Shrimpie under my roof.”

Mary coolly replies,  “Papa only said he was a good shot, and he is. Lord Sinderby, now that we’re family, wouldn’t it be better just to accept the situation of Rose’s parents? Wouldn’t it make it pleasanter for everyone?”

Lord Sinderby isn’t about being pleasant and replies, “I can’t pretend to approve of divorce. Even for you.”

Mary asks,  “And you can’t learn to live with it, even for Rose’s sake?”

Rachel asks Tom about coming into the family.

If the grouse hunt is awkward, then so is Anna’s discussion about her past, something she fears has just been discovered and she must tell her husband, John, about a past that includes a stepfather who wanted more affection than was descent.

Anna’s mother was left widowed when her husband died in an accident. Her mother’s remarriage saved them from being destitute.
Anna tells John, “It wasn’t much at first. Slight touches. Brushing past me. I still remember the smell of the beer on his breath.”

John asks,  “Couldn’t you tell your mother?”

Anna explains, “She didn’t want to believe it. What would she have done if he’d left? Then, one night, he kept looking at me and I knew what was coming. So I fetched a knife from the scullery and I waited in the dark.”

Do you think perhaps this is a bit too much? Or is this whole tragic black cloud that engulfs this couple already too much? Was it murder?

John asks,  ” Are you saying you killed him?”

Anna responds timidly,  “No. No, of course not. I threatened him. And when he wouldn’t stop, I struck him with the blade, but I only cut him.”

John asks the important question,  “You mean, nothing happened?”

Anna responds,  “Well, he screamed blue murder, so the Watch came, but my mother persuaded him to say he slipped and fell, that it was an accident. After that, I took a job further up north as a tweeny.
But it must have been in the records and now they’ve found it.”

As we watch the love of Anna and John Bates reaffirmed, we also watch Violet’s love interest reunited with his wife. If one thought Violet was stiff and self-righteous, then her one-time rival is stiffer than a corpse in full rigor mortis. The lady is a downer and it’s hardly a wonder the Prince wanted to escape from his marriage with her.

Lord Merton and Isobel were there because as Violet puts it, “The presence of strangers is our only guarantee of good behaviour.” For a night, the Prince Kuragin and Princess Kuragin can enjoy the luxury of their old life. Prince Kuragin has borrowed a tux from the Theatre Royale. He had not seen her for five years. Violet has given the princess a dress, but that hardly makes her happy.

Isobel attempts to start a conversation, saying, “I would so like to go to Russia. I’m afraid I never have.”

The Princess Kuragin, Irina, is hardly ready for polite company, replying only, “Then you’ve missed it.”
Violet asks, “Do you have everything you need?”

Irina gives a frosty reply, “I wear the clothes you had put out.”

Violet says,  “I didn’t know if you’d have your luggage with you.”

Irina replies, “I have no luggage. I have no possessions to put in my luggage.”

Prince Kuragin chides his wife, “Come, my dear. Nothing is more tedious than other people’s misfortunes. Let us just be grateful to Lady Grantham.”

Irina doesn’t defrost and only states, “Last time we met, the circumstances were rather different.”

Violet politely claims, “I don’t remember.”

Irina replies, “I think you do.” Igor and Irina will be going to live in Paris but it won’t be a pleasant existence.

If that meal ended badly, another meal was just slightly less uncomfortable, at least for Tom. At the castle, Lord Sinderby’s butler makes it clear he doesn’t wish to serve Tom.

Tom is passed over when the bread is being offered and has to politely ask, “Might I have some bread? Thank you, Stowell. You’re very kind.”

Atticus does whisper, “I do apologise.”

Rose confides, “Poor Atticus.”

As explanation, Mary says,  “How can he reprimand his father’s butler? Lord Sinderby wouldn’t take kindly to that.”

Rose then comments,  “The silly thing is, I don’t think Stowell likes my father-in-law.”

Mary replies,  “He seems obsequious enough.”

Rose reveals,  “Oh, he’s all bows and deference to his face, but my maid tells me it’s a different story behind his back.” One assumes that Rose’s maid loves her mistress. How could one not like the good-hearted and generous Rose?

Mary says,  “That’s a frightening thought, when you remember what a butler knows about the family he serves.”

Rose asserts,  “They know far more about us than we do about them.”

Later, after the dinner, Mary speaks to Miss Baxter, “I hate the way Stowell treats Mr Branson.”

Miss Baxter admits, “He isn’t polite downstairs.”

Mary wonders outloud, “What right has he to approve or disapprove? Anyway, Lady Rose says he doesn’t even like Lord Sinderby.”

Miss Baxter comments, “I’m not sure His Lordship’s very easy to like.”

Yet there is an idea forming in Lady Mary’s mind and she says, “True enough, but is there any way to get Stowell a black mark? Can’t Barrow come up with something?”

Yes, that’s right. Mary can’t do her own scheming, but she’ll let Thomas do it for her. Miss Baxter admits, “You’re right, Mr Barrow usually has a card or two up his sleeve.”

Mary then declares, “Well, tell him to get one out of his sleeve and play it. Pronto.”

Downstairs, when Miss Baxter relays Lady Mary’s message, Thomas says, “I don’t mind taking him down a peg or two.”

Miss Baxter wonders, “But how?”

Thomas does think of a way and Miss Baxter is, this time, a willing accomplice. While Miss Baxter and Thomas succeed, they perhaps succeed too well. Lord Sinderby hasn’t considered that even a lion can be helped by a mouse. He yells at his butler at dinner and calls Thomas a fool. Although Mary enjoys the show, Thomas does not and takes his plan a little further, using a bit of wine and the bitter taste of ungrateful servitude to get some intelligence.

Stowell complains that “restraint is Hobson’s choice” even when Lord Merton’s title is “not 10 minutes old.” A Hobson’s choice comes from a man who lived between 1544 and 1631, Thomas Hobson. Hobson was a livery stable owner in Cambridge, England who used to offer his customers a choice: Take the horse in the stall nearest to the door or take nothing.

I won’t spoil this little intrigue, but it does manage to make Lord Sinderby grateful for Rose and her kind heart and while his butler Stowell becomes indebted to the Crawleys and humbly begins to extend service to Tom.

This isn’t the only intrigue going on at Brancaster Castle. Edith meets the agent of the castle, Bertie Pelham (Harry Haden-Paton) and dances with him. Mary meets Henry Talbot (Matthew Goode). Talbot is completely aware of the rescue operation enacted by the Crawleys and asks Mary pointed questions that she cannot answer.

And yet secrets are revealed. Spratt finally almost gets the upper hand with Denker but by the December Christmas party, Violet has had enough and insists on peace at home (“There’s a point, Spratt, where malice ceases to be amusing.”). Robert, worried about his health, has a heart-to-heart talk with Edith. Tom has guessed Edith’s secret.

Tom is bound for Boston and Atticus and Rose will be in New York. Is there hopes of an American version of Downton Abbey? Will Tom and his daughter vanish from our Downton Abbey world even though he says, “I’ll be back one day I need to see how the village turned out”?

Perhaps Tom will also come back to see how Thomas Barrow turns out. In this episode, Thomas Barrow has crossed over to the light side and teamed with Lady Mary can be formidable. This episode is also a reminder that one should be kind and polite to those who serve us; no one needs enemies.

While neither Violet and Isobel will have a happy ending to the romances that have been central stories for this season (Violet mourns, saying, “I will never again receive an immoral proposition from a man.”), there is one sweet proposal at the end (“Of course I’ll marry you, you old booby.”) and expect a reunion between Anna and John thanks to the efforts of Mr. Moseley and Miss Baxter. Expect tidings of comfort and joy, a happy Christmas and a call to “let us adore Him Christ the Lord.”

“Downton Abbey” Series/Season 5, Episode 9 was originally a 2014 Christmas special and since it aired Sunday night, can be viewed VoD on PBS.




‘Gett’ not married in Israel Jewish women

With this latest installment, “Gett: The Trial of Viviane Ansalem,” the trilogy that tells the story of Viviane Ansalem clearly asked the questions: What is a woman worth in Israel? And, do they really have equal rights?

You’d think with a country that had a female prime minister, Golda Meir (1898-1978), who was the fourth prime minister of Israel (1969-1974).

Israel grants Jews the right to return to their “homeland,” and citizenship by both residence and descent as well as naturalization and marriage. Living under Jewish law in a nation state that was created for Jews might seem like an ideal situation for those who experience anti-Semitism elsewhere , but “Gett: The Trial of Viviane Ansalem” reveals a society that favors men and frightens women. The movie makes one question the value of Israel’s existence if it can’t treat half its Jewish population well.

Israel was created after the British Mandate expired in 14 May 1948.  The nation survived the 1948 Arab-Israeli War against Egypt, Syria, Transjordan and Iraq in the British Mandatory Palestine, even after Yemen, Saudi Arabia, Morocco and Sudan joined the war.  There have been wars and military actions since then, but that is not what “Gett” is about.

“Gett” is about domestic warfare, the bruises are emotional and some of them inflicted by the divorce court.

Israel has a three-tier court system. Marriage and divorce are under religious courts. According to an article on the NPR website, a civil/family court or the rabbinical courts can decide “matters that are ancillary to the issue of divorce” and “the court that receives the suit first gets to decides on issues like custody and property.” Women race to family court while men run to the rabbinic court where they have a tactical advantage. Yet for the divorce, the rabbinical court has the final say.

During the divorce proceedings, the husband must of his free will give his wife a gett (or get). For Jewish women in Israel and American Orthodox Jews Gett (or get) this means the get must be written for a specific man and woman.The get text is short: “You are hereby permitted to all men,” meaning that the wife is no longer a married woman and thus may remarry without the stigma of committing adultery. It must be delivered to the wife who must physically accept it.  

“Gett” is the third movie about Viviane by Moroccan Jewish brother and sister team Shlomi and Ronit Elkabetz. The first was the 2004 “To Take a Wife.” Viviane is already unhappy, but the men in her family tell her to stay because she is no longer beautiful and an“abandoned wife is no better than a childless wife.”

Men in the rabbinical courts may also have problems divorcing, but if there wife refuses to receive the get, a man can get a Heter Meah Rabbanim, or permission by one hundred rabbis. This legal recourse is not open to women.

In Israel, where there is neither civil marriages nor civil divorces for Jews. Only rabbis can grant divorces. “Gett: The Trial of Viviane Ansalem” takes place the small cramped office where Viviane (Ronit Elkabetz) waits with her lawyer to be heard by a panel of three rabbis (Rami Danon, Sasson Gabai and Eli Gornstein). Her husband, Elisha Amsalem (Simon Abkarian) may or may not show up.

For those unfamiliar with Israeli films, this is the third movie about Viviane by the sister and brother writing and directing team of  Shlomi and Ronit Elkabetz. The 2004 “To Take a Wife,” introduced us to the couple, Viviane and Elisha, and who with their four children and his widowed mother live in a small apartment where Viviane also runs a beauty salon. “To Take a Wife” we aren’t convinced that the husband is so bad.

The 2008 “7 Days,” brings Viviane’s family together during the 1991 Gulf War for a funeral of a brother. Viviane has separated from her husband but he still hopes for a reconciliation.

“Gett: The Trial of Viviane Ansalem” is about the interviews and appointments Viviane has with the rabbinical court. Her husband might come. He might agree to come and not show up. He might even agree to give her the get and then change his mind. He is imprisoned and yet as the trial drags on for years, Viviane does not give up, but the rabbis do. They actually refuse to see them any more. Viviane must beg.

What dignity can there be for a woman who has to beg the judges to hear her case? We also see witnesses, women who are afraid to contradict their husbands and men who will defend Elisha up to an extent.

Five years fighting for freedom brings a horrible anguish on to Viviane’s pale face and the savagery of Elisha’s passive-aggressive nature is revealed.

The movie has inspired a movement in Israel and even though the movie which failed to make the Oscar Best Foreign film final list, “Gett” sheds light on a current case in New York where rabbi Mendel Epstein stands accused of kidnapping husbands to coerce them through beatings and torture to provide a get to their wives. According to the New York Daily News, Epstein was indicted in May of last year along with his son and three other Orthodox rabbis. The 69-year-old New Jersey rabbi’s trial started on Feb. 18 and Epstein could face a maximum of 20 years to life in prison according to ABC News.

In the end, after seeing “Gett: The Trial of Viviane Ansalem” one doesn’t want to be a Jewish woman in Israel unless one believes in happily-ever-after marriages and other Disney fairy tales.

“Gett: The Trial of Viviane Amsalem” debuted at the Cannes Film Festival in May of last year and opened in Israel in September. The movie opens at the Laemmle Playhouse 7 on February 27. In French and Hebrew with English subtitles.


‘To Take a Wife’ exposes attitudes toward women in Israel

“To Take a Wife” is the first of a trilogy that brings into focus what it means to be a wife in Israel. The wife, Viviane, from the beginning is the focus of male attention. We see her face, hard and grim, not yet angry, but listening and not being heard.

Before we hear her speak, we hear the voices of men. They are her relatives and her husband. They tell her, “You must learn how to give up” and tell her that without marriage she has no worth, no future. “Just go and look at yourself in the mirror. You used to be beautiful now you are in the dumps.”

What is a woman worth in Israel. This is the question that seems to be asked in the trilogy that begins with “To Take a Wife.” The movie premiered in 26 January 2005 (“Ve’Lakhta Lehe Isha”) in France and is the first effort by directors Ronit Elkabetz, and her brother Shlomi Elkabetz. The two also co-wrote and Ronit stars.

Set in 1979, “To Take a Wife” takes place the home of Moroccan Jewish immigrants in Israel.

“You must learn how to give up,” Viviane is told.

“Just go and look at yourself in the mirror. You used to be beautiful, now you are in the dumps.”

“An abandoned wife is no better than a childless wife,” Viviane is told early in the movie. Viviane has four children. The youngest is a baby. The oldest is a teenage boy. The older girl and boy are different stages of passive-aggressive—sullen to silently reluctant. They are witnesses to the lack of love in their household, the claustrophobia that breeds hate and eventually anger.

“If only you knew how other people live, you’d kneel down every day and kiss his hands and feet,” because he doesn’t gamble, drink or fool around. Twenty years of marriage and four children.

It is easy to look away from Viviane because she is often ugly with anger. She is the one who screams and who yells. Yet there are hints that her husband has a brittle hardness that makes life with him difficult. He won’t learn to drive. He won’t speak with a co-worker who eats pork. He resists going on vacation with their friends, her friends and not his.

Viviane works at home. She lives with her mother-in-law. She longs to get out, to a cafe to a cinema—with her husband.  She asks him, when, when was the last time.

And we see the softness in Viviane when she meets with her former lover. In the past, she was beautiful with hope. Yet he betrays her as well.

This is the start of Viviane’s journey, one that reveals the universals of a problematic marriage.

You might not find this movie comforting, but I did. I’ve been there, the raging and the anger in the face of passive-aggressive assertion of power. How easy it is for others to judge him reasonable and her, being the emotional one, unreasonable. Yet by the last movie in this trilogy, Viviane’s husband will be revealed as the kind of man he truly is. In “To Take a Wife,” his character is more ambivalent and one can only be sure that Viviane is unhappy and that her husband is still satisfied with the status quo. To take a wife for him, is a lifetime commitment and to take is not necessarily to give.

“To Take a Wife” won a FIPRESCI Prize at the Ankara Flying Broom International Women’s Film Festival and Ronit was nominated for Best Actress by the Israeli Film Academy. The movie also won a Critics Award Special Mention at the Hamburg Film Festival. In Venice the movie won the Audience Award.

The movie can be viewed VoD on the Israeli Film Center for $6. In French, Arabic and Hebrew with English subtitles.

Dancing with the Stars Season 20 cast revealed

Tom Bergeron and Erin Andrews announced 11 of the 12 celebrities who will be competing for the mirrorball trophy beginning on March 16 on ABC. The youngest ever participant is the 14-year-old Willow Shields (with Mark Ballas),  who was in “The Hunger Games” movie series. Patti LaBelle, Redfoo and Riker Lynch are the musicians on the cast.

Fan favorite Derek Hough will be coming back. He’ll be paired with Olympic gymnast Nastia Liukin so expect some surprising gymnastics and acrobatics.

The football player is free-agent Michael Sam. For sex appeal there’s oldster Suzanne Somers and recent star of the Super Bowl Carl’s Jr. commercial Charlotte McKinney.

At 70, LaBelle is the oldest participant, but Suzanne Somers is 68.

Redfoo is the only Los Angeles-born celeb so far since we don’t know who the surprise person is. Rumer Willis did, however, graduate from a Los Angeles high school.

Last season’s winner, Alfonso Ribeiro announced, that this season , in honor of the 10th year of the show, the mirrorball trophy will be gold and not silver.

The cast and pairings are:’

  1.     Noah Galloway with Sharna Burgess
  2.     Robert Herjavec with Kym Johnson
  3.     Patti LaBelle with Artem Chigvintsev
  4.     Nastia Liukin with Derek Hough
  5.     Riker Lynch with Allison Holker
  6.     Charlotte McKinney with Keo Motsepe
  7.     RedFoo with Emma Slater
  8.     Michael Sam with Peta Murgatroyd
  9.     Willow Shields with Mark Ballas
  10.     Suzanne Somers with Tony Dovolani
  11.     Rumer Willis with Valentin Chmerkovskiy
  12.     Surprise celebrity with Witney Carson.

Noah Galloway, 33, is a former combat soldier and motivational speaker.  He lost his left arm above the elbow and his left leg above the knee during his second tour of duty in Iraq in 2005. His motto is: “Train like a Machine.” He’s from and still lives in Alabama.

Robert Herjavec, 52,  is a businessman and “Shark Tank” star.  Born in the former Yugoslavia (now Croatia), he and his father and mother escaped to Canada.  He’s the CEO of Herjavec Group, an IT security provider.

Patti LaBelle, 70, was part of Patti LaBelle and the Bluebelles who beame the Labelle and released “Lady Marmalade.” They were the first African American group to play at the Metropolitan Opera House and the first African Amerian vocal gropu t obe on the cover of “Rolling Stone” magazine. LaBelle went solo in 1977. LaBelle earned her first Grammy in 1991 for her 10th album, “Burnin'” and her second Grammy for the 1998 “Live! One Night Only.”

Nastia Liukin, 25,  was the four-time all-around National Champion for the U.S., winning twice as a junior and twice as a senior. She was born in Moscow, but her family emigrated to the U.S. when she was two and a half and settled in Texas. Her parents are former Soviet champion gymnasts: 1988 Summer Olympis gold medalist Valeri Liukin and 1987 World Clubs Champion in rhythmic gymnastics Anna Kotchneva. Nastia was the 1008 Olympic individual all-around champion and the 2005 and 2007 World champion on the Balance Beam and the 2005 World Champion on uneven bars. She did not make the 2012 Olympic team and retired that year.

Suzanne Somers, 68, was famous for her TV roles in the TV shows “Three’s Company” and “Step by Step.” She is also the author of self-help books and has released two autobiographies. She has posed for Playboy so that gives us the Playboy angle as well as the former TV star celeb.

Riker (Anthony) Lynch, 23, is a Colorado-born singer and actor. He plays Jeff, a member of the Dalton Academy Warblers singing group on the TV show “Glee.” He is also a member of the group R5  (bassist and lead vocal) with his brothers Ross and Rocky and Sister Rydel and friend Ellington Ratliff.

Redfoo, or Stefan Kendal Gordy, is an American singer, dancer, rapper, DJ and record producer who is part of the musical duo LMFAO. At 39, the Los Angeles-born Redfoo is also the youngest son of Motown Records company founder Berry Gordy Jr with writer producer Nancy Leiviska. He graduated from Palisades Charter High School in 1995.

Charlotte McKinney is the blonde model for Carl’s Jr. Super Bowl ad.  She has 43.9K followers on Twitter, but will that translate into DWTS votes?

Michael Sam, 25, is a Texas-born defensive end American football player who was drafted by the St. Louis Rams in 2014 (NFL seventh round) but was released in August and then went  on the practice squad of the Dallas Cowboys (September) after playing at the University of Missouri. He is, however, currently a free agent. He’s not technically a star, but football players have been popular on DWTS, but usually they have been retired NFL players.

Willow Shields, 14, is the youngest celebrity. The Albuquerque-born actress played Primrose Everdeen in “The Hunger Games” movies.

Rumer Willis, 26, is the daughter of Bruce Willis and Demi Moore. She was born in Paducah, Kentucky and is named after British author Rumer Godden. She appeared in the 1995 movie “Now and Then” and in the 1996 “Striptease.” She did attend the Wildwood Secondary School in Los Angeles, enrolling as a sophomore.

Not returning to the professional dancer cast are Cheryl Burke and Karina Smirnoff. Tom Bergeron and Erin Andrews will return as hosts. This season will again have four judges: Len Goodman, Carrie Ann Inaba, Bruno Tonioli and Julianne Hough.

Dancing with the Stars” Season 20 premieres 16 March 2015 on ABC at 8 p.m. ET/PT.

‘Downton Abbey’ Season/Series 5, Episode 8: Rose’s Wedding

Downton Abbey” Season/Series 6, Episode 8 brings us a wedding for episode 8. Rose and Atticus will make a lovely couple, but their trip to the registry office is not without obstacles and the episode which airs tonight on PBS at 9/8C (check local listings) is all about trust. Who can one trust?

The episode begins with the least trustworthy person, Thomas. Thomas is checking things and tells one of the unnamed servants “Take them straight to the wagonette.” Then he gives the inventory list to Mr. Carson and then to Mrs. Hughes.

Mrs. Hughes looks in on Miss Patmore and Daisy as they are making roses for a wedding cake. Daisy wonders, “How can we get it up to London.”

“Don’t worry. We’ll have plenty of time to make repairs.”

“I must say,” Mrs. Hughes “You’re a real artist.”

“Well,” Miss Patmore comments, “It’s as much Daisy’s work as mine.”

“Now, how much should we take and what can we buy when we get there?” Miss Patmore worries.

“”I’m happy to tell you that most things you can buy in Ripon are also available in London,” Mrs. Hughes says.

“But you don’t trust them quite the same,” Miss Patmore comments.

“Well, you don’t,” Mrs. Hughes says.

Any good cook or baker knows that flours and eggs, butters and milk can make a difference.

Mr. Carson and Mrs. Hughes have other concerns. Mrs. Hughes is going to London because the Crawleys won’t be replacing Mrs. Bute. “There will be no permanent housekeeper at Grantham House in the future. Another clang in the march of time,” Miss Patmore says.

Upstairs Rose is showing off her dress to Mary, Anna, Isobel and Violet. “You don’t think it’s a bit mumsy?” Rose asks. Mumsy is a cute word for mummy–meaning the kind that you remember on Mother’s Day and not the kind that comes walking and unraveling in a horror flick.

Rose’s parents haven’t been back yet because “the government changed the date of the handover.”

Mary declares that something like that wouldn’t have stopped her. “I’d have come back it it were my daughter’s wedding.”

Violet replies, “I do not suggest a career in the Diplomatic.”

This, of course, sets up a confrontation between Rose’s parents, Shrimpie and Susan, and Atticuss’ parents, Daniel and Rachel. It also means we skip over all the planning and that Rose didn’t have to contend with her mother.

The wedding will be in London because it makes for sense for Susan and Shrimpie and Rose adds, “And I want a blessing in a synagogue. Would you find a synagogue in Ripon?” The London marriage and the synagogue will make it easier for Lord Sinderby.

Isobel says, “I’m not sure Lord Sinderby deserved your concern.”

“Atticus loves him and I love Atticus,” Rose explains.

“Love may not conquer all, but it can conquer quite a lot,” Violet adds.

Downstairs, we learn that “the traitor” Miss O’Brien, who used to be the scheming cohort of Thomas, has left Susan’s employ and gotten herself work under the new governor’s wife.

Mr. Carson says, “I’ve been told they’ve neither maid nor valet. which seems odd for a Marquess and Marchioness.”

Mrs. Hughes replies, “To be honest, I don’t think they have two pennies to rub together. It’s all gone.” They worry about Lady Flintshire because she is “not the most liberal being on the planet” and wont’ want her daughter marrying a Jewish lad and that Lord Sinderby isn’t too keen on his son marrying a non-Jew. “Hurrah for intolerance on both sides.”

There are, of course, more practical worries. Carson says, “I’m worried about running it with only messrs. Barrow and Moselely.”

“You think we’ll look a bit dingy?” Mrs. Hughes asks. “Could we borrow a spare footman.”

“Borrowing footmen sounds like something out of the last century,” Mr. Carson says, “Even to me.”

So its decided that a lad will be hired for a week. With some regret Carson sums it up. “That’s to be it for the Big Parade?”

“The Big Parade’s passed by, Mr. Carson,” Mrs. Hughes says. “We’re just trying to keep up as best we can.”

There’s more news. An inspector is coming to see Mr. and Mrs. Bates. Just when you thought the shadow of the ever-so hissable Mr. Alex Green had cleared away, it returns.

Besides the wedding, the Crawleys are concerned with a letter that Tom has received from his cousin in America. Tom plans to go to America and join him in a business venture. Robert and Carson are finishing up last minute preparations for the memorial to the dead soldiers of World War II which will be unveiled on the 25th–after the wedding. Then there’s the matter of making a stone for Isis.

Robert wants Carson to make sure that William Mason’s father has a good place and representatives from the regiments involved will attend. Carson has already notified the staff and only Miss Patmore will attend.

If you recall, in the last episode while Violet told Prince Kuragin that his wife had been found, Kuragin wants to live the rest of his life with Violet. He arrives at Violet’s home. Denker announces his arrival.

Violet says “I don’t think I’ll wear what I chose last night.”

“I suspected that might be the case so I put out the lavender day dress,” Denker replies. “Goes well with your ladyship’s coloring.”

“The prince is an old friend, Denker, nothing more.”

“Oh, I’m sure, m’lady, but it never hurts to look your best, does it?” Denker asks.

The prince want to spend his final years with Violet, as a friend as a lover. “I don’t seek scandal, only love.” But he doesn’t seem to be proposing divorce.

The police visit the Bates. They’ve “formed a picture of his behavior.” He’s carried out a series of attacks on women, who were too nervous to come forward before. “His victims were generally small, slight women, who’d given little or no encouragement.” Anna still denies anything happened. The police want Anna to come to London and that will coincide with the wedding. What a coincidence and Anna and John Bates had been looking forward to checking out their house and see what condition the tenant had left it in.

As Violet gets ready to head on to London, Spratt attempts to play a mean joke on Denker but that backfires when Violet realizes one of her cases is missing. But in London, Denker plays a trick on the new footman, Andy.

At Grantham House in London, the staff gets settled.

Andy was a hall boy, but he tells the staff, “Mr. Carson rang my old butler…I don’t want to go back as a hall boy. I want to be a footman now and this is the first step.”

Miss Baxter tells him, “I think that’s brave.”

Denker asks, “Do you know London well?”

“Not here, ” Andy admits. “I grew up in the East End. I’ve only ever worked in Bayswater.”

Denker tells Andy, “I’ve come home. I spent many a year in St. James’s Square.”

Upstairs, Susan and Shrimpie have arrived. Susan lodges her first complaint, “The train from Southampton was almost as bad as the voyage from Bombay.”

Then before heading up to the room to freshen up, she asks, “We’re not in one room? Together? I’m not sharing a room. I’ll go to a hotel.”

Mrs. Hughes assures her that something will be done and it’s decided that Lady Edith and Rose will share a room. First crisis averted.

Robert tells Cora, “I knew she’d be trouble.” Yet none of them could have guessed just how much.

At dinner, Susan is little better. “Do you have any English blood,” she asks the Sinderbys.

“We only date from the 1850s, but Lady Sinderby’s family arrived in the reign of King Richard III,” Daniel informs Susan.

“Really, I think of you as nomads, drifting around the world,” Susan replies before Violet re-directs the conversation to Rose and Atticus’ honeymoon.

Their relatives have them “crammed to the gunwales” and Atticus is at the Halnaby Hotel. That is where the stag party will be.

Lord Sinderby won’t be attending the stag party. “Stag parties are night on father’s disapproved list.”

That list includes card sharps, undercooked fish and divorce. So sashimi and sushi are out.

For Daniel Sinderby, divorce “signifies weakness” and “degradation, scandal and failure.”

As you can imagine, the Crawleys are sending looks around the table. If you listen, you’ll hear Susan plotting her next move.

Downstairs, there’s another scheming woman. Denker offers to take Andy on a walk and show him the sights. Miss Patmore is sure she has “a plan to her own advantage.”

Something happens at the stag party. Compromising photos are taken of Atticus, leaving Rose in despair. Yet once Rose realizes that Atticus is innocent, then who set him up?

Daisy has joined Molesley and Miss Baxter at the Wallace Collection to view the art, but Daisy isn’t happy. “I feel as if I’ve been down a coal hole and someone’s opened the lid and brought me into the sunlight…I feel so resentful, so discontented. It’s as if my old life were a prison and I have to go back to.”  Daisy decides to hand in her notice.

One wishes that Denker would hand in her notice. She arrives back very drunk. Carson saves her job by telling Violet that Denker is ill instead of drunk. Andy also returns. Mr. Carson says, “We thought you’d run away to sea.”

“I’m very sorry, Mr. Carson, but Miss Denker was taken ill,” he says, but Carson replies, “Never mind ‘taken ill,’ I wish she’d been taken away by the men in white coats.”

Thomas asks Andy what happened. Andy tells him, “She took em to this horrible club somewhere off Shaftesbury Avenue.”

“And I supposed you gambled,” Thomas replies.

“I lost the lot,” Andy admits. “I paid for it on the note, but it’ll take all my savings.” Now Denker didn’t gamble at all. “She just sat and rank. They gave her whatever she wanted.”

“Next time, I’m coming with you,” Thomas says.

“Does there have to be a next time?” Andy asks.

“Just one more,” Thomas says, adding, “I’m fairly sure you’re going to enjoy it.”

At the wedding, there is more drama, provided by Susan, but Lady Flintshire saves the day, putting both her husband and Susan in their place.

At the reception, Mary and Tom see Tony Foyle and Mabel Lane Fox–they’ve set a date. December for a London wedding because “country weddings in the winter can be such muddy affairs.”

Mary confides in Carson that she’s happy for Tony and Mabel. “He wasn’t good enough for you, m’lady, not by half,” Carson says. “I watched you realize it as time went on.”

To wrap things up Thomas proves that someone can trust him, at least for now, that is Andy. Because of an issue of trust, Robert will be selling the painting that Mr. Bricker so admired when he wasn’t admiring Cora. Robert also shows a sensitive solution to a problem downstairs, proving Miss Bunting very wrong. Miss Patmore is reduced to tears. Rose and Atticus aren’t sure who played the awful trick on them, but Rose is already a bit alienated from her mother Susan.

The war memorial ceremony goes well with Carson intoning: “They fell with their faces to the fold. They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old. Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn. At the going down of the sun and in the morning. We will remember them.”

Robert has paid for a special memorial, saying, “He wasn’t local to Downton and so his name does not appear on the memorial, but his memory is cherished by some here, and so it seems right to us to mark his passing.”

On the way back to Downton Abbey, thoughts wander. Mrs. Bates has been arrested and Mr. Bates was eliminated as a suspect. We wonder what will happen when Tom leaves. And Robert realizes a secret, musing, “I must admit it’s an unusual sensation to learn there’s a secret in this house I’m actually privy to.”

We can trust Robert, but are we right to trust the British legal system? Can we trust the culprit behind Atticus’ photos to be good or will there be poisonous acts? What about Larry and Tim Grey?

“Downton Abbey” Season/Series 5, airs Sunday, 22 February 2015 at 9/8C. After the initial airing, check for this episode VoD on the PBS website.


‘Grantchester’ Series/Season 1, Episode 6: Keep the long view and hold a steady course

When this episode begins, Sidney is reading a letter, recalls meeting Amanda again in an art museum. She remembers him. He doesn’t remember her. They had last met before the war. She was an old friend his sister. His sister was the scholarship girl. The others all rich. The season finale “Grantchester” is on Sunday February 22 at 10/9c on Masterpiece on PBS.

We met them all. And one of them was murdered and two of them should be in prison although being rich or aristocratic might mean they won’t really do hard time.

Sidney met Amanda at the National Gallery. Amanda is working in restoration. They look at one particular painting and Amanda announces, “She’s down in the jumps.”

“I think he forgot to put his teeth in this morning,” Sidney comments.

“I think she knows where they are and she has no intention of telling him,” Amanda replies. But Sidney also remembers Amanda telling him, “I’m never going to get married. I’m going to become wild and eccentric and full of opinion. I like my work. I like my life.”

“I’m sure you have an endless supply of suitors,” he tells her.

“Dad’s always got someone lined up. I like my work,” she tells him. Then she adds, “You’re a man of God. How about, if you disapprove of any of them, you have the power of veto?”

That was the past. Now we see that the letter is a wedding invitation. We saw Amanda addressing it in the last episode.

Sidney goes to see the arch deacon and look at chickens.

“I wonder if I’m more suited to teaching?” Sidney asks, but he also says, “Sometimes I worry about the kind of man I’m becoming.”

Yes, the arch deacon has heard about the criminal investigations, women. It’s that Mr. Brant because “it’s always Mr. Brant.”

The arch deacon tells Sidney, “hold your nerve,” because “all these investigations force you to think about life in a manner that’s contrary to who you are.”

Sidney has tea at the orchard with Hildegard and we know that he’s thinking both of Amanda and his dalliance in London.

There’s a murder. There’s always a murder. Sidney is visiting Geordie when they learn that an officer has been shot. Sidney gives him last rites.

“I didn’t see nothing,” Annie tells the police.

“You must have been terrified,” Sidney says.

“I’ll only talk to him,” Annie says, referring to Sidney.

From Annie, they get the name: Merlin. Don’t worry, we won’t be visiting King Arthur or Camelot.

According to Annie, the dead man had been speaking with his shooter who said the name.

Geordie realizes, “That’s not his mate, that’s where he works.”

Geordie and Sidney go to what appears to be a factory. They separate. I know you’re screaming: Why, why, why in your head. Sidney hears shots and runs back asking Geordie if he heard them as well. He did. Really up close. Geordie falls. Instead of one body, there are two. But Geordie isn’t dead and he’s hurried to the hospital. All Geordie can manage to say is “heart.”

At first Sidney comforts Geordie’s wife and she asks, “Will you pray for him?” But Geordie’s wife isn’t happy to know that Sidney was there. “Playing cops and robbers were you? All just a silly jape, eh?” she tells him and walks away.

Chief Inspector Benson (David Troughton) doesn’t approve of Sidney. While Benson feels someone is killing police officers, Sidney knows that it wasn’t Geordie the shooter was after. “Piss off, back to church Mr. Chambers.” Sidney is sure there’s a connection between Jonesy (the dead cop) and the caretaker at the factory.

Back at home, Mrs. Maguire says, “I won’t hear any nonsense about this being your fault.”

“If we’d have never gone there…” Sidney begins.

“If you’d never met him in the first place,” Mrs. Maguire replies. “If, if, if. You can’t live your life like that.”

Leonard adds, “You once said the wisest thing to me. It’s life we deal in: the good, the bad. It’s how we face it that matters.”

“The police are wrong. They’ll be looking in the wrong places,” Sidney comments.

“Sidney, my boy, tell us how we can help you,” Mrs. Maguire says.

Soon enough Mrs. Maguire has become involved in sleuthing. Trooping into the precinct she declares, “I’ve been robbed…snatched my handbag right off my arm. I had two bob in there.”

Leonard pretends to be her son although he slips and calls her Mrs. Maguire once. Sidney slips by the police as they help Mrs. Maguire who has fainted. Sidney almost gets caught but he has enough time to look around.

Outside, as the three confer and Sidney has his hands one some papers he took, Atkins, follows them and says, “Mr. Chambers? Do whatever it is you have to do.”

Sidney has learned that someone is footing Jonesy’s funeral. Jonesy’s former commanding officer, James Heath (Adam James). He and his men were in Italy and Germany. “We were some of the first to liberate Belsen.” Besides Jonesie, the caretaker Thomas Langshaw as under his command. We don’t like James because he isn’t good to his wife, Grace (Natasha O’Keefe).

When James won’t reveal a list of his men,even though Sidney tells him, “If the police had a list, names of yur men, perhaps they could do something.”

Grace gives the list to Sidney.

Sidney feels guilty about Geordie and remembers him saying, “I don’t want to die.” That reminds him of another man, who once said, “I want to go home” but never made it home.

Sidney makes it over to Amanda’s home to confront her.

“Let’s go on the river, let’s have a picnic,” Sidney pleads.

“Another time,” replies Amanda, coolly. “I’ll come down to Grantchester” when we know she will not–not if Guy Hopkins has his way.

“One of your little jaunts? What happened to that growing wild and, and eccentric and full of opinion?” Sidney asks. Amanda tells him he’s drunk, but he continues, “I exert my power of veto. Love is a minimum requirement, don’t you think? There has to be some in a marriage, or..what hope do you stand?”

“This is not the time,” Amanda tells him.

“It was never the time,” Sidney replies.

“Yes, it was,” she assures him. “It was.”

If she had only waited for him, for that day when he asked her to run away from all of it, but she was already engaged.

After a bit of a scene, Sidney leaves. Coming back to Grantchester, he meets Mr. Brant and Hildegard deftly defuses the situation but she also says something has changed. “Why do I feel that one man went to London and another man came home.”

Sidney confronts Bensen: “Mr. Heath is withholding information.”

“He’s a respected business man with an alibi for both murders,” Bensen says, but we know there’s something wrong with his wife.

“She’s petrified of him. Of course, she gave an alibi. I’m pretty sure he beats her,” Sidney replies.

“You want the truth?” Bensen asks. “Here it is, Mr. Chambers. You are not a police officer….Get yourself a hobby. I don’t know…take up stamp collecting.” With Sidney that would also likely lead to murder (Remember the movie “Charade”?).

One of Heath’s men, Robert Miller tells Sidney that something happened in Berlin, in Spreenhagen. “Heath said they were trying to escape…German soldiers…They’d surrendered to us…Heath, the others, they never liked me. Said that I lacked moral Fiber, that I was a coward, and this was my chance to prove them wrong…He’s killing us so we can’t expose him. We can’t ruin his perfect life.”

But is that true?

We finally get a clearer view of Sidney’s nightmare. “I killed one of my own men,” he reveals, but we also wonder that after the war “how did anyone expect them to be normal again.”

“We live in the shadow of it, all of us,” Sidney says. “But we have a choice, don’t we?…You can say in the shadow or you can live.”

Do you really want to know if Amanda gets married?

Sidney tells us: We have a choice, don’t we? We can live in the past; we can look forward or we can live now because we can’t change what happened. We can’t predict the future (We see Amanda in her wedding dress). None of us knows what’s around the corner. That’s the truth of it. Keep the long view and hold a steady course.”

Sidney admits, “She was out of my league, that’s the truth of it.”

“Don’t worry, we’ll find you a wife,” Geordie assures him.

Sidney worries that with Geordie, it’ll mean “she’ll be a fan of light opera” or like Beckett or Bechet.

The season finale “Grantchester” is on Sunday February 22 at 10/9c on Masterpiece on PBS. After the initial broadcast it will be available VoD on the PBS website.

‘Cineastas’ is theater for filmmakers and multi-taskers

Are you one of those people who watches two TV programs at once or spend your time watching YouTube while watching VoD movies? Argentina’s Mariano Pensotti has just the kind of theater you’ll enjoy, “Cineastas” at the REDCAT. This 105-minute exploration of film and filmmakers ends this weekend and is well-worth the journey downtown. Although if you’re hoping for the merest whisper of Argentine tango, you’ll be disappointed.

If you like to focus on one story, one main plot or if you’re clourophobic, you might want to give this gently humorous look a filmmaking a pass.

Using a two-tiered set (by Mariana Tirantte), Pensotti reveals the struggles and thoughts of four different filmmakers in Buenos Aires, ranging from the successful director with a tragic secret, the angry minimum-wage workers looking for revenge, an artistic experimental documentarian and a woman being overwhelmed by attention.

Although the play is in Argentine Spanish, English subtitles are projected on to the cross-section of the floor that divides the two level sets. The five-person ensemble cast take turns being narrator and moving in and out of the four stories.

The actions are explained in a manner that reminds me of the telanovelas that have made it to American television: “Ugly Betty” and “Jane the Virgin”. Even the central tragedy has a twist of humor in it.

The commercially successful Gabriel (Javier Lorenzo) is happily married with a young daughter. His latest project is a comedy starring a famous Mexican actor. Diagnoses with terminal cancer, Gabriel begins to change the plot of the movie in hopes of leaving a lasting testimony for his daughter, but this worries the Hollywood producers, particularly when Gabriel begins filming studies of his possessions. Yet the movie produces a side effect, perhaps lining up the person who will take his role as father and husband.

Mariela (Vanesa Maja) makes experimental documentaries and is obsessed with discovering and embracing her Russian ancestry. Her current project is a documentary on Communist musicals with segments played out with campy low-production precision.

Lucas (Marcelo Subiotto) is a coulrophobic’s nightmare, caught in the nightmare existence of working as a  McDonald’s. Angry at the dreariness of his work, he works on a vindictive film about a man dresses up as Ronald McDonald, but changes his mind briefly when he finds opportunity served up.

Nadia (Juliana Muras) is a beginning director who had a highly successful first feature and now falters with a studio assigned story about a father and son reunion.

There are specific things we learn about the city of Buenos Aires. Recoleta substitutes for Paris. Avenida Santa Fe can be New York.  And yet the universal is that art reflects the artist.

The lighting (by Alejandro le Roux) and the smooth transitions help delineate the four separate stories as well as the stories on film and yet they still might become muddled with time and the right amount of sleep deprivation.

Without notes, I’m left with the vague impression of people working out their problems, their worries and their concerns through the medium  of movies, living different and separate lives in this world and in their imaginations.     They seek some sort of stability and permanence in a world that is temporal. Cineasta can mean a director or producer or someone who works in the film industry. It can also refer to someone who loves films.

‘Cineastas’ ends its run on Saturday at REDCAT, 631 W. 2nd St., L.A. at 8:30 p.m.  $20-$30.  (213) 237-2800, http://www.redcat.org





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