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Star Wars Episodes 1-3 “It wasn’t what I expected…”

Some people on another site were complaining about how horrible Episodes 1-3 are. How they “weren’t what I expected.”

Below is my response to them — and to everyone else who thinks they’re so horrible. No, I’ve not covered every point, but I’ve hit the highlights.

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A lot of people have Episodes 1 through 3 wrong, and nearly all of them for the same reason.

Expectation.

Nearly every person who says they didn’t like them, at some point in all their blithering about why they were SOOOOOOOOO BAAAAD states some form of “it wasn’t what I expected.”

They went to the theater expecting to see the story they WANTED to see rather than going as a blank slate and letting George tell them the story he had to tell. the story he’d been wanting to tell for thirty years.

Each movie, each character, did precisely what they needed to do. The first put the players onto the gaming board. We had to see Anakin as that small boy who was a good pilot. We had to see him as that innocent cherub — still innocent enough even though he’d known nothing but the life of a slave.

Some people have criticized Pernilla August for her stony portrayal of Shmi. Well, she had to be a stone, didn’t she? Here she is, a slave all her life, and a man falls out of the sky to tell her that he wants to take her son to be trained to be a member of the most respected (or hated, depending on which side of the lightsaber you’re on) orders in the galaxy. Is she going to be all weepy and make her son feel guilty for going? Hell no. She’s going to clench her jaw and say GO!, my most beloved son. Go and be free. Being a mother myself, I live that moment with Shmi and it brings me to tears every time, to see her hope for her son and her heartbreak in making him go.

Qui Gon — What did you think he was going to be? He had to be the dignified Jedi and teacher. He had a great deal of responsibility as it was. Now he’s got a mouthy young Queen in disguise dropped into his lap and a tag-along boy too. He’s got an entire war hanging over his head. He’s not going to be jolly old St. Nick. I loved Liam Neeson’s performance.

Ewan nailed Obi Wan. If there was one actor who had a lot to live up to, there it was. And, he never OWNED R2D2. Padme did. The droid was one of a team of droids on the ship they used to escape Naboo. And at the end of Episode 3, R2D2 was with C3PO going to serve that same Captain/Admiral/whateverthehellhewas from A New Hope. So he wasn’t being forgetful. He really never owned a droid.

Darth Maul was pretty freakin’ creepy. lol The martial arts and fighting in general were a HUGE improvement from the “running from laser fire” and bapping the lightsabers together of episodes 4-6. I sat one night and went move for move with the slow motion, showing my cousin the moves used in that fight between Obi Wan, Qui Gon and Darth Maul. Wheel barrel kicks in that Darth Maul costume, with a double ended lightsaber he had to be sure he didn’t accidentally slice through his own arm with (because WE would have noticed if the handle was incorrect and he would have sliced his own head off lol). It was fantastic to see good fighting for once.

And to see people riding the animals that had before only been models with action figures on them. lol That was terrific. The use of CGI was phenomenal. But STILL, they didn’t fix Darth Vader’s arm bouncing after he spoke in A New Hope. lol To see ships flying without the boxes around them. Have we become so jaded that we cannot be excited about these fantastic leaps in technology George was finally able to take advantage of? I was thrilled. and let us remember that this was EARLY in the CGI tech, all things considered. It’s come a long way since and we have to remember that the tech then was not the tech now. Are you going to tell Harryhausen that his clay models in Clash of the Titans are terrible compared to the claymation of Tim Burton? No. For the time, they were revolutionary. For its time, the effects in Episodes 1-3 were also revolutionary.

We’ve just become too complacent to notice because 300 was ALL CGI. And so are a shitload of other movies. (I recently saw an early screening of the Crouching Tiger sequel and one of the biggest fights at the end is ALL CGI.) You gotta let that shit go and be willing to be dazzled.

Jar Jar — I loved him. Get over it. I am using one of his lines in my Kingdom Key series when I get it going AND giving him credit. (hands up) “My give up!” Was he eye-rolling in some moments? Sure. But he also turned out to be a pivotal character (bringing the two sides together into a unified army comes to mind…that shit ain’t easy!) and one heck of a soldier once he got his act together. I wish we’d seen more of him in Episode 2 than a walk through.

Senator Palpatine. Of course we knew who he was going to become. This was our chance to see the man before the shit hit the fan. A much as we were watching how the galaxy was starting its spiral toward the Empire, we were also watching a man starting his own path to his final doom.

So the players are on the board, all of them where they needed to be for the next movie.

Episode 2

Some of the shit is going to hit the fan. We have our young hero Anakin well on his way to being a Jedi, frustrated that he’s being held back, at that one pivotal moment. And his mentor was called away to one assignment while he goes in the opposite direction with Padme.

Their developing love was charming. It was all the sweetness it needed to be in order to be all the more heart-wrenching when it came time for Anakin to do all those horrible things we knew he was going to do.

Finding his mother just before her death, his mentor on the other side of the galaxy, Anakin took that final step on the path toward the dark side. He let out his hate and his anger and became a mass murderer. He killed not just the male Tuskan Raiders. He killed the women and the children. He killed them all. Can you not feel the power of that moment? And there we were in the theater, helpless to stop him. Forced to watch as he took that one step that would forever dominate his destiny. If Obi Wan had been there, it would have been very different. Are we so cynical that the meaning of that moment escapes us? What, exactly, WERE you expecting? He’d wake up one day and be Darth Vader?

It was as it needed to be. And Padme was most certainly NOT equipped to council him. She wasn’t capable of helping him in the least. I think she didn’t quite comprehend the magnitude of what he’d done.

Samuel Jackson’s purple lightsaber. THANK YOU THANK YOU, SAM! People can make up all the reasons they want why some are purple. It’s purple because Samuel Jackson wanted to be able to see where he was in that vast fight sequence! And it was brilliant of him. Purple is my color, btw.

Yoda with the Padawans, when Obi Wan had lost a planet. That was charming. It was cute as hell. And we needed to be reminded that there were younglings in that temple. It wasn’t just a bunch of old men in robes congratulating themselves on their self-control and neutrality.

Finding the clones, bringing them to be the army of the republic — That had to happen. And in that scene at the end was the first crescendo of the Empire, foreshadowing that final turn that would happen in the third movie. How did you think the Empire was going to get an army? Why did you THINK it was called the Clone Wars?

I absolutely love all the little tidbits that get dropped along the way. A name here, a location there. All the shapes are there, ready to become the familiar iconic ships and buildings we knew from episodes 4-6.

Yoda FIGHTING!!! Bad-ass Yoda, jumping, flipping, generally laying waste to Count Dooku rather than a puppet sitting on a log. You weren’t thrilled to see that?

Then we get to the third movie.

Anakin conflicted as ever. He has a tremendous power within and the Jedi Council are trying to keep him from going rogue. They fail miserably, of course, because the Sith Lord they’ve not found yet is very good at blinding them. He’s good at nudging the young man. He knows which psychological buttons to hit.

That moment when Anakin got down on his knee to swear loyalty and he received the name Darth Vader…It’s not often a movie will give me chills. I felt the depths of that moment. I felt the meaning of it in my own soul.

Going to the Jedi Temple. “Your father hunted down and killed the Jedi.” And he started by marching into the Jedi Temple on Coruscant with soldiers of the “republic” and massacred his brethren. We were helpless to stop him, forced to sit there and watch him march those final steps to the dark side. Irrevocably. I was so in tears, my throat closed up and so tight it hurt. “No, Anakin. No. Please no.” Just as real a moment as any I’ve lived in my own life. A moment over two decades in the making.

One of the single most powerful cinematic moments in movie history. One of the moments we’d been waiting how long to see? But you have to get over your own expectations in order to see it for what it is.

Not to mention the other iconic moments. Yoda knew Chewbacca, dude! The moment 3PO and R2 first met was hilarious. That 3PO’s mind was erased but R2 still knew everything that had happened. And, I must say, R2 KICKED ASS! He can FLY, dude! Cursing a blue streak the entire way, of course. I’ll take that foul-mouthed little droid any day. lol

Hayden was given one of the most hyped-up roles ever. He didn’t give us the Anakin we wanted. He gave us HIS Anakin. Obi Wan had a tiger by the tail and he knew it. I thought Hayden played the character very well, from young Jedi becoming a man, dealing with all these external forces and manipulations he was powerless against. Palpatine was a master manipulator, from start to finish. Calculating. Patient. Knowing his own power and knowing when to let things happen.

Then the final fight between brothers. We knew they had to fight. We knew what had to happen to Anakin for him to become the heavy machine mouth breather we all knew from episodes 4-6. But seeing it with our own eyes…it was horrific. And in the end, Obi Wan could not bring himself to kill his brother.

The first time we heard that heavy breath at the end of the movie…again, chills. That was ominous — and we KNEW what Darth Vader was already. We knew how he died but still it was enough to make me go EEP.

The evil we already knew was at last born.

I love these movies. Every single one of them. Every single minute of each and every one of them. They were brilliant.

But in order to see it for yourself, you have to get past the “not what I expected” brain block.

See the story that’s there, the story George had to tell, rather than wishing you’d gotten the story you wanted.

Not one person who says it wasn’t what they expected has ever been able to tell me what they DID expect. Because they’re not qualified to write that story in the first place. Instead of harping on it anytime the topic comes up, how about keeping it to yourself JUST ONCE and letting those of us who actually enjoy the movie do some talking. The way some people carry on, it makes those of us who really do like the movies feel like we’re not allowed to enjoy them.

It’s why  I don’t get together a party to go see them when new ones come out. I can’t enjoy it with people complaining all the way through.

Between the release of Return of the Jedi and Phantom Menace, they did a terrible thing.

They grew up and lost that sense of wonder and awe that used to exist around these movies.

That?…is a crying shame.

Downton Abbey – How Far Women Have Come in the Last 100 Years

Downton Abbey – How Far Women Have Come in the Last 100 Years
(and other matters)

Last week I saw a rant about season four of Downton Abbey. The author was disappointed in the story arcs, finding them not very exciting or shocking. My first reaction was “Are you kidding? Do you not comprehend the meaning of what you’re seeing on the screen?” I filled the Comment box with my response, but it was far too limited in size so I decided to write a much more thorough retort.

Knowing that this season of Downton takes place from 1920 to 1923 (dated most easily by references to the Teapot Dome Scandal in case you don’t catch a year on the screen), we are close enough to 100 years later. Let us examine story line by story line and see how different things are in the year 2014, especially for women.

1. First episode we’re going to get right into it. Mary is dealing with her grief over the loss of Matthew. By the end of the episode, she finally grabs herself by the bootstraps and pulls herself up…and shows up. She attends the luncheon with the tenant farmers. The Earl of Grantham owns a very large estate that is broken up into rentals. Men pay him rent, farm the land for their income, share the income with the estate owner. And they’re all men. Watch the expressions on their faces when Mary enters the room. Surprise from some. Shock from others. And her brother-in-law Tom (the former chauffeur) relinquishes his seat in the center of the table opposite the Earl because she outranks him and this is her rightful seat.

A woman sits at table in the second power position and there are no other women at the table. This is nothing today. Women run huge corporations worth billions of dollars. They’re in the CEO offices, the President and VP offices and it’s a common thing. They had to fight hard to get there, but they ARE there. But back then, 100 years ago, this woman can’t vote in an election because she doesn’t own land and isn’t over thirty. (Reference Edith complaining she didn’t have the vote in season three.) Now she is guardian over the second owner of this estate, in partnership with her father. In essence, a woman living in 1920 to 1923 is Vice President of the estate because she is guardian of the second owner, her infant son.

Then we learn that Matthew had written down his intention to make her heir to his fortune. She becomes the partnered land owner herself. Being able to vote because of that was not addressed. I wish it would have been. Perhaps next season. It would be a great continuity.

2. If sitting at the table of power is not enough of a “wow” moment, let’s move on to Edith being pregnant out of wedlock. Yes, we know this really isn’t anything anymore. Girls as young as fifteen and sixteen are popping up pregnant and having two kids by two different boys by the time they’re eighteen and hardly anyone cares anymore.

One hundred years ago, however, it was one of the most shameful things a woman could do. Remember, this was when being a virgin on your wedding night was required and if you weren’t and he found out before the wedding, he’d drop you like a hot potato for being a loose and immoral woman. Or your father would have to pay through the nose to get him to keep you. Guys could be dogs and hump their way through the country but women had to remain pristine.

So for Edith to be pregnant by a man who’s vanished off the face of the planet put her in an extremely vulnerable and precarious position. She’s not the sort to sink her hooks into the first eligible bachelor she finds and fudge the dates. She’s going to deal with the situation as it is. She could have been turned out into the streets for all she knew. Disowned. Forced to make her way through life on her wits as a fallen woman. Maybe that doesn’t sound so bad to you, but this is in the age when a woman’s job prospects were extremely limited. Teacher, seamstress, factory worker, maid. In the new incarnation of Upstairs Downstairs, the new house maid reveals that she used to be lady of her own house and had her own lady’s maid. How she got there may have been different (being a Jewish woman in early Nazi Germany), but the result is no less personally shameful to her. As the wife of a nobleman or a wealthy merchant, they were expected to be kept women who dabbled in charity work.

As Mrs. Levinson says to Madeleine in the last episode of season four: “I read about you in the American papers. Just gossip. Nothing serious. But never give them a real story.” What would they have done with this? Edith would have been utterly ruined. As she admits, Sybil might have been able to pull it off, but not her.

And the child. We saw in another season of Downton (through Ethyl) how unwed mothers were treated. We saw how the bastard child was regarded by so many in that day and age. The grandfather made it abundantly clear what he thought, in the most coarse language allowed on PBS. Apply that to the noble circles at large, with the gossip mongering. One hundred years ago, being a bastard child of a fallen woman was the most shameful state of being for a child. It was one they could never get away from since talking about your family and where you came from was common and expected.

Today, with increasing numbers of young people having children without the wedding first and the wedding itself not nearly so much a goal in the first place, I supposed it’s easy to look on this story line and dismiss it as not interesting. You must keep in mind the times. When you see the lengths to which Edith is willing to go in order to keep it a secret, you get a sense of how much shame she feels.

She sets up an appointment for an abortion. What a privilege it is today, for abortion to be safe and legal and easy to obtain in sterile conditions. In the USA. The law that made abortion legal in the UK did not pass until 1967. Upwards of 43 years after Edith’s story. And even then, it allowed for only the standard “health” issues. Today, obtaining an abortion just because you don’t want the child isn’t allowable by the laws in the UK. It’s gotten around easily enough if you have two doctors working in the same practice and they readily agree with each others assessments of “mental health of the mother.” It is a right women have in the USA that they do not have in the UK.

I supposed it’s not that big a deal for an American woman to see a young woman going to obtain an illegal abortion nearly one hundred years ago. Roe v Wade wasn’t decided until 1973. Forty years ago. Long enough that twenty year old women today have no concept of the horrors of the back room abortion. I haven’t quite decided if that’s a good thing or a bad thing.

A BBC News article dated February 4, 2013 (http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-21297404) states how the laws are being abused. And states that abortion is flat out illegal in Ireland unless the mother’s life is at risk. Illegal abortion and being charged with murder are still very real on planet Earth, and we are on the verge of having Roe v Wade overturned, if our new President gets his way. He’s stated outright that he will appoint a Supreme Court Judge who will overturn it.

So the topic of a woman facing an abortion is still a relevant and prevalent concern for women in the UK, where the show is written and takes place. It’s still a very serious issue for them. It’s becoming a big deal to many of us in the USA again. We’ll see, in the coming four years, if we go backwards those 40 years, to a time when women did not have that right over their own bodies.

Moving on to the ultimate conclusion of Edith’s pregnancy, as this article isn’t about abortion per se, but a wide variety of issues of the 1920s.

Edith walks out of the apartment, choosing not to have the abortion. That means she’s going to have the baby. The Dowager Countess gets to the heart of the matter very quickly and with remarkably little shock and fuss. While she prefers her small world in stately houses in England, she is a woman of the world. A young woman finding herself in delicate condition happens. When one might expect she’d go off like a nuclear bomb, she instead gets to the practical conversations just as she did with Ethyl.

Edith wants to give the baby to a family in the village, to have it near enough that Edith can see and know the child. Granny points out the very real dangers of this. What if they talk? What if you talk? Edith does what a lot of women did even up through the 1960s and 70s. She went away. The next episode after the idea of going to Switzerland is proposed takes place eight months later. She gave the baby to a couple in Switzerland and returned home when she had her figure back. Hard as it is for her to deal with, she says nothing to anyone who didn’t already know. Granny makes the effort to be sympathetic, but ends with Granny’s typical attempt at humor and Edith’s typical scathing reply.

In the end, Edith cannot live with her decision and makes arrangements with Mr. Drewe for her to pay him to raise the girl with his wife. Mr. Drewe is a smart man. He sees the truth all too quickly. He recognizes the urgency of keeping it secret and promises to keep her secret. I look forward to seeing how this is going to play out next season. The family is going to find out and I’m sure that Cora is going to be all kinds of annoyed that Edith denied her the opportunity to have another little grand baby in the house.

3. Skin color and interracial relationships — There’s a black man in Downton Abbey season four! And he OF ALL THE HORRORS! kisses a white woman in public and sits to tea with her in a public tea house. There weren’t many things a girl of the day could do that would be more shocking to decent society. This is more than forty years before the civil rights movement in the USA came to a head.

How far has race come and how long did it take? Lord Taylor of Warwick received the offer of a life peerage (as Baron) from then Prime Minister John Major. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lord_Taylor_of_Warwick) Life Peerage means it ends when he dies. His children cannot inherit his title. The first black peer was established in 1996. The USA elected its first black president in 2008. We have not come so far with regards to racial matters as we might think we have.

We like to think that we have progressed, but people are still hassled, harassed and persecuted in the USA for interracial relationships. Lady Mary points it out loud and clear by asking if he’s prepared for “what they will do to you.” A phantom “they” that could mean the aristocracy or the lowest lowlife who doesn’t like a black man being with a white girl. There’s a lot of room in “they” to let our imaginations go straight to someone we’ve personally known during our lifetime. As a white chick who was once married to a Mexican in Northwest Ohio, I get it. Completely. My own paternal grandmother said to me in 1991 “At least he’s not a dark Mexican.”

Mary draws a picture of character for us when she says that the Earl of Grantham would take greater issue with his being a musician than his skin color. And if they lived in a better world she wouldn’t mind his pursuing young Rose.

Granny, of course, would have had an apoplectic fit followed by a stroke. Slavery having been abolished in 1833 within the British Empire, and she having attended Victoria’s Golden Jubilee in 1887 (mentioned in season three during the visit to Scotland in the last episode), she’s old enough that slavery of the Africans wasn’t all that long before her lifetime. Perhaps thirty to thirty five years. It’s entirely likely that her grandfathers owned slaves, if we take the story line backwards through the family.

If Rose wanted to shock her mother’s socks off, she’d certainly have done it if Lady Flintshire had known. Mary’s not one to throw stones (remember Mr. Pamuk in season 1), of course, but she deals with the entire matter with the deftness of experience and a practical grasp of reality.

4. The author of the rant I read also complained that Cora’s mother returns for no reason or purpose and brings Cora’s brother with her. I see several reasons for her return.

First, let’s remember that Harold has been painted in previous seasons as a buffoon who likes his boats. But here we see he is quite the savvy man of the world, quick to spot the money-grabbing schemes of noble families facing ruin. Of course he knows about them. His own sister married a treasure hunter. We see through him how daughters were put up to the game and used by fathers who didn’t know how to make money, pawns to obtain more money to maintain themselves. They quite literally prostituted their daughters to save their own skins from ruin.

“I’m accustomed to fathers wanting me to dance with their daughters,” he says, in such a casual American tone that we the viewers can easily see it’s become rather tiresome for him. He’s not just accustomed to it. He can see it coming at him from a mile away, from all directions and the game of it both bores and annoys him. Why wouldn’t he want a good-time girl he just has to give a bauble to in order for her to go away?

Martha Levinson comes to England with the intention of seeing “the season” one more time before she dies. This woman got on a boat and traveled across the ocean just to participate in the London Season. What’s so bleepin’ important about the London Season that someone would do this?, you might ask.

Well, let’s look at the life of a girl in this era of England’s history. As a nobleman’s daughter, she’s not supposed to have a job. Remember the Dowager’s comments when Edith took the job as journalist for a newspaper “and when will she have her debut on the stage?” The nobles weren’t supposed to have “jobs” as we know them. Not as a teacher, not as a hat maker. Even Matthew’s career as a lawyer was frowned upon by Lord Grantham and his mother early in the first season. “What’s a weekend?” is one of my favorite clueless lines delivered so sincerely by Maggie Smith. The concept of a work week and a weekend is anathema to their class.

“Our life is a series of waiting rooms,” Mary said in the first season. Indeed. First the nursery, then teen room (as it were) or too young to be coddled and not old enough to be your own person, then the debutante rooms. “After five seasons, one is more a survivor than a debutante,” Rosalind says to Mary in Season One. Then finally they marry and have a purpose – having children to perpetuate the husband’s name and give him an heir to pass on his title and his property to.

“Coming out” into society was that pivotal moment in a girl’s life when she finally became woman enough that she could be courted and marry. We skipped it, Sybil’s season having just ended in an episode of season one. She was a great success, but we saw nothing of that success. So it’s easy to downplay the importance of the series of events linked with one’s debut into society.

To be presented before the King and have him know you and know your name, perhaps speak a line of conversation. I can easily imagine how thrilling that would be. Not only were they being seen by the King and Queen, likely for the first time and possibly for the only time, but they were also being shown off to the Lords of the realm and their heirs. In this place, at this moment, was nearly the entire bachelor pool of Lords and Lords in Waiting, and a great many of them were in need of a wife. I suddenly had a flash to one of Matthew McConaughey’s lines in Dazed and Confused. “So, how’s this year’s crop of freshman girls looking?”

Queen Elizabeth II stopped the practice after 1958. I take a moment as I type this line to imagine how those girls who would have had their moment in 1959 and 1960, probably up to 1970, must have felt at being suddenly denied this rite of passage their mothers, aunts cousins and sisters all had.

Forward to 2014 and there are still some “coming out” balls for some of the young ladies of England. Cotillion is still a thing here in the US. But I’m from the North and cotillion is mostly a southern thing. We have a “sweet sixteen” party and that’s about it. In Hispanic cultures, it’s the 15th birthday (quinceanera) that is celebrated, with the father putting a pair of heeled shoes on his daughter and, thus, introducing her to the guests as a woman.

The lack of such rites of passage and traditions can make them seem pointless when looking in from the outside. I think that’s rather a sad commentary on the current state of things.

5. The rape of Anna. This happens early in the season and was probably the most horrible thing they could have done to one of the most beloved characters. Of course, it had to be Anna. No one would have cared as much if it had been O’Brien or one of the maids we’ve not gotten to know.

Joanne Froggatt plays it wonderfully, the shame and shock, keeping it from her husband for as long as possible. Yup, she knows her husband all too well. He’d kill the man bare handed if he got the chance.

But think of rape today. Now, Anna could go to the hospital, have a rape kit done, a dna match could be made, photographs would be taken of any marks or bruises on her body. The culprit would be apprehended easily because she knew his name, where he worked and who for. I’m not saying the trial would be easy. That’s never easy. But photographs of her facial wounds would have been entered into evidence and Green would have been convicted and sent to jail. He was very sloppy about it all. He was violent and left marks on her. He left all sorts of evidence the CSI people would collect. Condoms existed but we know he didn’t use one.

6. Not a women’s issue, but a story arc to titillate the brain: Bates. Did he do it or didn’t he?

I love Brendan Coyle’s performance. I have since the first season. He’s just sinister enough that we the viewers know not to mess with him. We know he’s a very dangerous man when provoked. We don’t doubt it for one second.

He has a way of dealing with things by NOT dealing with them — not responding in a knee jerk if at all possible, and he pulls himself back when he does slip (grabbing Vera’s wrist, for example) — but waiting things out until the moment of appropriate action. He’s got a temper. We see that with his first wife Vera. But we hate her, so it’s fine. He takes his moment to confront his cellmate who says “I forgot I was sharing a cell with a murderer.” And Bates replies not to forget it again. So did he commit some other murder we don’t know about? Or was he very smartly playing up his reputation and the charge he’d wrongfully (…?…are we so sure???) been convicted of in order to keep control against enemies in prison?

Things that make you go Hmmmm.

So when Bates tells Mrs. Hughes “it’s not done and it’s not over,” with that particular look in his eye, we know what’s going to happen. It’s just a matter of time. When he inquires where Green’s employer lives, we know where it’s going to happen. It’s just a question of when. The expression in his eyes across the table from Green when Green says he came downstairs for some quiet during the concert. Yup, he sealed his own fate with that glib remark. Mrs. Hughes did warn him that he should keep his mouth shut and keep to the shadows. Her confrontation with him in the boot room was epic. One of my favorite moments of the entire season. Go Mrs. Hughes! You tell him!

So when Bates asks for time to go into York, we know Green’s hours are numbered. We know Bates is going to take care of business. And we love him for it. I wish we could have seen it. I’d have so been cheering him on as he spotted his mark and followed to pick his moment, and that trip and shove in the crowds with those crowds all shrieking in horror around the dead man in the street while Bates walks off calmly and goes back to the train station and his wife.

Damn that must have been so satisfying!

7. How to solve a murder.

This past summer, I saw a Hitchcock movie. Frenzy. Dude perpetrating these horrible (and oh so kinky!) crimes. Yeah, okay, I guess the necktie thing and stuff was sorta kinda kinky and shocking when it was made. Now it’s …eh, see worse on CSI. And speaking of CSI! There’s no way that dude would get away with all that stuff now. He was leaving his epithelials all over the damn place. Where’s Grissom and his team?

So here we are with Bates in 1923. There were no cameras. A person could get away with this kind of crime far more easily. But now? I live in NYC and just assume I’m on camera anytime I leave my apartment. There are five cameras in and around the building I live in. Every security camera I pass. Person of Interest and the various CSI shows all make a point of showing us how much we live our lives on camera. Bates would have been so totally busted. There might have been footage of him in the middle of the actual push. Did he speak to Green at some point? Were they seen together at a pub? Did Bates confront Green first to get a confession of sorts? I’m dying to know this kind of stuff. Or was it someone else entirely? A prior victim of Greene’s who happened to be in the right place at the right time and took advantage of that?

We see twice this season that Bates is also an accomplished forger. What he did for Molesly (is it just me or does everyone think it’s Mosely?) earlier in the season was humorous and sweet. Making it possible for Molesly to accept a gift of money from him and Anna by publicly “repaying” an IOU that had never existed. Of course it was foreshadowing for the job to come.

In the last episode, we see just how serious his abilities as forger can be. I wonder how that is going to manifest itself next season. Or what other interesting talents Mr. Bates possesses.

The family members who know about the situation they need a forgery for were assuring him that it wasn’t for nefarious intent. I found the irony of that quite chuckle-worthy. Oh no, it couldn’t possibly have been Bates himself who was the forger. No no no.

8. Trust and Loyalty between servant and Master.

Mrs. Hughes told Lady Mary about the rape, Anna being Mary’s long-time maid and Mary being in the best position to convince her father to take someone else to America for his sudden trip.

Mary sincerely wants to help Anna. If ever there was a moment in which we see friendship between Mary and Anna, it’s in these scenes. Anna just can’t talk about it and Mary cannot do anything more. When she learns who the culprit is, she’s as horrified as Anna to realize he’s coming with his employer. You can see the revulsion churning in Mary’s mind and on her face (Michelle Dockery is wonderfully expressive, more so with her face than with her voice) when she realizes her infatuation with him and his infatuation with her are putting Anna into this impossible position of coming face to face with the beast who raped her. Mary insisting Lord Gilles fire the valet, without knowing why, shows both a protection of Anna’s privacy and of her person. This is a kind of loyalty that seems to be lacking today, especially in the USA where it seems employees and employers are enemies rather than teammates.

Mary has a moment of faint-heartedness, of course. Mrs. Hughes finds the train ticket stub and they know Bates was in London. (You’d think he’d be smart enough to leave the stub on the train or throw it in the trash at the station where no one would care.) Mary struggles with right and wrong sometimes, usually at the most inopportune moments. She stops and takes two seconds to think about something and has a brief freak out before calming down and thinking with the right organ. In this case, her heart. She erred on the side of loyalty to a servant who had been nothing but loyal to her father and the family since his arrival. Bates did, after all, go back to his first wife in order to prevent Lady Mary’s own scandal from going to the papers. She’s not likely to forget that. Her father isn’t going to forget that Bates “fell on his own sword” to protect the family.

What Bates did to Green (if he was indeed the one who did it) was in vindication of his own wife, the woman who had helped Lady Mary carry a dead body the length of the house in Mary’s own moment of crisis. No one would blame him and even the “enemy within” Charles Blake said he’d probably say nothing. This kind of conspiracy and cover up so rarely works in this day and age.

In Conclusion:

The author of the review I read is quite young. She lives in a society in which all of these things are blasé, unimportant, not interesting because it’s all she’s ever known.

But I grew up in the 1970s and 80s, when a lot of these issues were still prevalent. Roe v Wade was new and violence at abortion clinics, bombing them and killing doctors and nurses, was on the nightly news. It was frightening.

My mother, divorcing in 1971, was part of the last generation of women who were supposed to honor and obey their husband and stay with him even if he beat her or cheated with the secretary. I grew up as the only child (or one of two kids) in class whose parents were divorced. Now, it’s much the opposite and parents who have never been married is the normal state of things. I’m not saying that’s a good thing or a bad thing. It is what it is. Better one loving parent than two who are always at each others throats.

Two viewers.
Different generations.
Vastly differing perspectives.

I saw the historical significance of events in this season of Downton Abbey. I saw the personal interactions and reactions. I was riveted and delighted. I think she and I were watching different shows.

In the end, I have only one thing to say to her: Go back to watching the superficiality of Two Broke Girls, honey. The grownups are watching Downton.

http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-21297404

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lord_Taylor_of_Warwick

A Muppet Disaster

Let me preface this by saying I absolutely love the original Muppets movie. I remember going to the theater to see it with my Grandmother – one of the *very few* the miserly old woman ever paid to go see. The Muppet Christmas Carol, released in 1992 is tied with Patrick Stewart’s for my favorite version of A Christmas Carol. I watch it numerous times every year from November to February, and sometimes outside of the Winter season as well. I’ve been known to put it in in the middle of Summer. lol I loved the Muppet Show, to the point of watching reruns of it on cable when I was about 20 years old. I learned to like Muppets Tonight, with the catfish doing Kermit’s job backstage.

I have, on the other hand, completely disliked the Muppet Treasure Island and Wizard of Oz and Muppets In Space.

What follows is not a yearning for what used to be. It comes from a heart saddened to see what has become of such a beloved institution.

Do not read any further if you don’t like spoilers, because I’m going to spill it.

Little kids will not have known a Muppets before Disney got a-hold of them. I supposed that’s a good thing. They won’t know the difference and will love the new Muppet movie.

EW and I got to see a free advanced screening today (November 19, 2011)…and I’m glad it was free. We weren’t allowed to have our phones on, and since that is the only clock I wear I have to guesstimate how long things took.

As I said to the guy taking opinions, after hearing gush after gush from others…And now time for a dose of reality!

Dame Tyler.
———–

I don’t know about you, but I don’t go to a Muppet movie to watch humans sing and dance. It’s supposed to be about the Muppets.

There’s at least fifteen minutes (seemed like longer) of starter story about a human boy and his muppet brother. All about how different the muppet boy is from other children and how difficult his little life was. Then he saw the Muppet Show on television and his whole world changes. Everything is Kermit and Muppets and he’s found meaning to his life. Yay him. The brother grows up but Walter stays short and never changes. Boo hoo.

Insert sappy song here. Not even a catchy tune and here I experienced groan and heavy sigh number one.

Grown up brother Gary (the very bland Jason Segel) is going to Los Angeles with his girlfriend Mary (over-perky and entirely unnecessary Amy Adams) and pops up with an extra ticket for muppet Walter. Wow, what a surprise!

More about humans as we see Mary for the first time. And she has to sing too. (Why oh why???) We’ve had at least two boring songs by this point, seen neither hide nor hair of a Muppet except on a television set being watched by the kid and his brother-muppet, and they’ve already lost my interest.

Insert group dance number of humans that goes on forever and ever and ever and they FINALLY get on the frickin’ bus. (Seems to me the grown man should have a car for driving, but I guess that wouldn’t be convenient later when the girl goes home all mad.)

They could have started the movie with the bus pulling up outside the dilapidated Muppet Studios and the audience would have been perfectly caught up within a minute or two. This also would have freed up fifteen to twenty minutes to provide better content later on.

Insert obligatory tour of the dilapidated studios. The old images are a nice walk down memory lane. Of course our muppet Walter gets separated and of course the bad guys come in to reveal their dastardly plan.

The Muppets have X amount of days to come up with ten million dollars or bad guy human gets ownership of the property. Gee, where have we heard this retread plot before? Oh yeah! The Very Merry Christmas television special from 2002 starring Joan Cusak as the human bad guy. I guess the people at Disney think we’re not supposed to remember that even though it’s on dvd at Best Buy and Target right now.

By this time, I have my glasses off, my yarn out and am crocheting in the dark. And am delighted we only paid subway fare in this $13.50 a ticket theater that charges $4.25 for a fucking 35¢ bottle of water and $6 for twenty cents worth of popcorn. I’m happy I know about this totally predictable debacle before I spend the FIVE BUCKS for a matinee at my local inky dinky theater.

Walter overhears the over-used retread plot – I mean terrible plan–and runs to find Kermit (no, really?!) to tell him all about it. Seems there’s oil under the Muppet studios…in the middle of Los Angeles. I guess we’re not supposed to wonder if it’s accessible from some other place in the city.

Insert montage of driving to get the rest of the Muppets together because, of course, the only way to get ten million bucks is to perform a show. Never mind the house Kermit owns that could have a mortgage taken out against it or a loan that could be obtained from a bank or outside investors found on frickin’ Facebook.

A show is the ONLY way to save the studio.

I went to the bathroom during the character-collection montage…and the most fun part of the movie occurred upon my return. The stadium seating at the Regal on 42nd Street is so fucking narrow that it was easier for me to lift my leg up and completely straddle my husband’s lap in order to get by him.

Glancing up to the screen, I see I’ve not missed anything. They’re just arriving in Paris to get Miss Piggy. She refuses, of course…but you just KNOW she’s going to show up at the right time. How do we know this?

Because the Muppets have been bought by Disney, that’s how! And this movie follows the Disney formula to the letter.

Animal is at an anger management class with Jack Black as his sponsor. Of course, there are many celebrity appearances. It’s a Muppet Movie and that is expected. I recognized most of them and one in particular gave me the ONLY sincere laugh of the entire movie. Jim Parsons (Sheldon from Big Bang Theory) plays the part of Walter if Walter was human during another of the stupid songs.

Okay, so we’re cleaning up the theater. It’s a mess, of course. Insert montage of cleaning with skit-snippets of various characters.

By this time, I’m on my second crochet square and have lost count of the deep, heavy sighs. I worked very hard not to MST3K the entire movie. Most kids movies I go to, I’m able to let go of the tedium and be entertained. But this was such a predictable retread that I enjoyed almost nothing.

Oh, Gary has forgotten it’s his 10th anniversary with his girlfriend Mary. She’s all mad. Insert more ridiculous singing about her guy being out with his friend. Seriously…why is she here?

OH YEAH! They need her “expertise” with electricity at the end when the bad guy cuts the power to the studio during the telethon. Her initial scene, she was fixing the starter in a car in her class of fourth graders.

About those fifteen to twenty minutes they could have cut from the front end…we could use them here. The telethon is rather like the Muppet Show. They performed the original opening – I clapped for it. I was surprised so few others did. The chickens perform. But the Swedish Chef doesn’t have a bit. He really should have. He was one of the best parts of the original Muppet Show. Sorely missed was the uber-classic Pigs In Space. Of all things to leave out!

Insert the Rainbow Connection which seems, in my view, to have been tossed in to save a sinking ship. For me, it didn’t help. I was onto my third crochet square.

Animal did get on a set of drums finally. And even that was a disappointment. As much as he’d held back all through the thing, they could have used some of those minutes cut out from the beginning and given him such a drum solo that he would have brought down the entire set around him. lol He certainly deserved it!

Except for the bad guys, you could take the two humans Gary and Mary out of this movie and not notice. It would have been far better without the boy who hasn’t grown up finally asking his girl to marry him sub-story.

Closing montage…Mahna Mahna with celebrities. [Original from You Tube]( http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8N_tupPBtWQ)

Put me in the balcony with Statler & Waldorf. I applauded when it was over…
Because it *WAS OVER!*
——

The Muppets used to have something of an edge. It was subtle but tangible.

They used to be clever and relevant.

The effects of making Kermit ride a bike were phenomenal in its day. With CGI, nothing is spectacular anymore because anyone can do anything in any movie.

Now they’ve been Disnified and there’s nothing special about the Muppets anymore. For that I am very sad.

I had a much better time walking with EW through the shops at Bryant Park and having lunch with him at the Pax before going our separate ways for the rest of the day.

<sings> Movin’ right along –chugachug chugachug—footloose and faaaaaaaaaaaaancy freeeeee…Getting there is half the fun come share it with me!

Sleeping Beauty meets Twilight. Hilarity Ensues

I have never seen Tchaikovsky’s Sleeping Beauty. In fact, the show I saw today was the first ballet I’ve ever attended.

As a reward for her hard work this first quarter at school and for being such a big, growed up girl about EW having to work such long hours and not being around, I took Duchess to see Matthew Bourne’s Sleeping Beauty. We made a day of it, eating lunch at a cafe called Fluffy’s (on 7th Avenue between 54th and 55th), browsing a crafter store and a candy shop, taking pictures by fountains.

I knew nothing of what this version of Sleeping Beauty was going to entail. But I knew it wasn’t going to be your Disney. Sitting reading the interview in the playbill was when I first saw the word vampire. One of the fairies was a vampire.

Oh joy.

Overall, we had pretty good seats. Far enough in from the end that we could see 85% of the stage (lighting rig on the left blocked part of it and we couldn’t see the recessed left side of the stage. And they were far enough back that our seats cost only $30 each. So I wasn’t complaining.

But why?

WHY WHY WHY WHY WHY WHY WHY?

Dearest Goddess of the Fates, WHY must the tallest dude in the entire fucking theater sit IN FRONT OF ME??? And why can he NEVER sink into his seat, hunkering down to enjoy the show? Why does he always have to be bouncing around left and right, tilting his head this way and that, making sure to obstruct my view as often and for as long as possible? Yes, you love your girlfriend. YAY YOU. Now get your mouth out of her ear so I can see, dammit!

We open with Aurora found in a basket. There’s some fuss back and forth between what looks like the butler and the nanny. This is set in 1890, so we’re in period Victorian clothing. I’m sure there was some sort of dancing going on, but it just looked like a lot of walking back and forth across the stage to me.

Fast forward however long and Aurora was a terrific puppet crawling across the back of the stage. Her operators were in black, working her limbs and head with sticks. Young Aurora is quite the little something, as she climbs up the curtain in one of the funniest moments of the entire play. Whatever else I may have to say, the puppet and those working her did a terrific job. When she was in her crib, the operator was hidden behind the drapes around the back end of the crib and it was cleverly done. The dancers had to cover her this way and that way to use the portable, swaddled doll several times.

There’s a prolonged sequence of the various fairies dancing for her. The use of conveyor belts, one going left and the other going right, was interesting and gave a different visual to the movements of the dancers

Then we see the bad witch who puts the curse on Aurora, and we see Aurora grown up for the first time. She’s wearing a zentai mask, as is her champion/love. There’s much prancing about back and forth. Remember, we’re in Victorian dress. It’s not exactly suited for ballet dancing. Although I bet corset fitting day was fun.

But he’s not a prince. Oh no. He’s the gardener. <looks at you funny>
Someone’s been watching too much Downton Abbey.

We flash forward to the year 1911. Remember, we started in 1890, so now Aurora is 21 years old. We’re skipping over the part about pricking her finger at the stroke of midnight on her 16th birthday. We’re making her legally able to drink.

The infant imp is still seen as Aurora doesn’t want to get dressed for her party. There’s a bit with taking off stockings and putting on shoes…and the gardener sneaking in to give her flowers. Various people keep coming in, of course, so there’s much of him hiding behind the bed, behind the curtains, etc.

A long sequence of Aurora’s birthday party. Several dances, including waltzes, as fitted Edwardian times, and we meet our new antagonist. Seems the evil witch had a son and he’s not forgotten the grievous wrong done to his mother (garsh, the King and Queen just didn’t say THANK YOU for that baby she brought them…the CADS!) *Note to self, if ever a witch brings me a baby in a basket, be sure to thank her and slip her a twenty so she won’t put any evil hexes on the brat.

Oh, it rains. Everyone dashes away, clearing the stage in quite the efficient scatter. And when it’s over, Aurora comes back out to dance in the garden. And finds her gardener. There’s much rolling around on the floor, on and around a bench. Yes, they’re in love.

And the moment we know is coming. Yup, she pricks her finger on the black flower given her by the witch’s son. There’s much flopping about this way and that until she falls asleep. Then she wakes up. Then she falls asleep. There’s much ado lifting and moving her and the dancer playing Aurora has to do quite a lot of pretending to move when others move her type of stuff.
The fairies lock up the castle and the gardener is in despair.

AND IT’S A VAMPIRE TO THE RESCUE!!!

How is the gardener possibly going to live 100 years to end the curse? A vam-pixie-pire makes a great show of baring his neck and biting him and there’s more flopping about.

Intermission

The lights come up and Duchess and I look at each other and pretty much say…
Weird.

Granted, she was enthralled by the dancing. Her eyes were glued to the stage through her little binoculars almost the entire time. The dancing is wonderful, I’m sure.

If there were no plot that I knew of and this was being shown to me with zero knowledge of what was supposed to happen, I wouldn’t know any better.

But this is Sleeping Beauty.
And there are no vampires in Sleeping Beauty.

WHY WHY WHY WHY WHY must there be vampires in every fucking thing??? Did no one stop for five minutes and tell this dude “seriously, that’s where you want to go with one of the most beloved and benign tales of young love?” I can see the dancers now, thinking “I’m a vam-pixie-pire…how much are you paying me again?” I’m sure the name Matthew Bourne was quite enough to make all the dancers not give a rat’s ass about how much he changed anything. They’re in a Matthew Bourne production! So what if he’s ripping the heart out of one of the most romantic fairy stories ever written.
<sighs>

I absolutely hate the entire concept of Twilight. I have never read a single line of a single book and never will. I have never watched a single moment of any of the movies except the 30 second commercials…and that is quite enough to tell me I don’t ever want to see any of it!
I have said many times and I’ll say it again. If I EVER say I’m going to do a vampire story, someone come and throttle me until I’m dead.

Okay, Intermission is over.

We return and it’s the year 2011. Tourists taking pictures outside the gates of the castle. Our hero comes out of a pup tent. He’s got wings now. None of the characters have really big wings. These are little baby wings they’re wearing, probably about eight inches or so tall and set very close together. They seem to fit between the shoulder blades.

There’s much dancing back and forth in misty woods while blindfolded. Yeah, okay, whatever. We finally get to the big moment. The kiss. YAY! And the gardener turned vampire is shoved back and the first person Aurora sees is the evil dude. Okay, so it WAS sleeping beauty. Then it became Twilight. Now we’re veering into Shrek II with the “hero substitution” rule. Seriously, does Mathew Bourne ever have any of his OWN ideas?

Okay, now we’re in a starkly red club of some sort and we’re doing what looks remarkably like the Paso Doble. We’ve jumped into Dancing With the Stars but there are no stars and where’s Tom Bergeron?

And there’s a very dramatic sequence in which our hero stabs the evil bad man several times with a winged stake.

And I found myself thinking…Hm. Wonder if those people up there with the five, six and seven year old children knew about this part? Somehow I think they were expecting something more Disney-esque than Grimm.

Of course our couple finds each other. Of course there’s much joyful dancing. And in the last scene, they come out with the baby puppet between them.

They lived happily ever after. The end.

Literally EVER after, because now apparently Sleeping Beauty is also a vampire. She’s wearing wings. And so is the baby. She’s wearing wings and does some flying over her parents. She’s inherited her mother’s impishness.

So…I went to see Sleeping Beauty and ended up in a vampire movie.
How the fuck did that happen???