Tag Archives: Maggie Smith

Dumbing down?

What kind of a start, I mean, ‘Christmas’ episode, of Doctor Who was that? Apart from the possibly meaningful release of lots of new Daleks, it was mostly mush.

I’m all for feelings, but then I want to feel those feelings; not having them spoken about as though we need stuff explaining to us. It was all touchy feely, with few resolutions.

Captain Jack eyed up several of the Doctor’s fellow travellers. Why? And what was he doing there? His brief stint a year ago was OK. A bit fun. But this felt pointless, and I say this as a fan of the good Captain.

So we’re losing two companions. I’m not impressed by the advertised replacement, but as Daughter said, we’ve generally liked them once they get started. Let’s live in hope.

But it felt vague and bland. The bright spot, surprisingly enough, was Chris Noth. I almost felt as if I was meeting a much missed old friend. Let’s have him back. He was camper than Captain Jack.

And what’s with this season’s Christmas University Challenge? Those were no celebrities or famous people. Mostly. They were people doing jobs after having been to university. Mostly. Despite the questions feeling somewhat dumbed down, I was intrigued by what these people don’t know.

Geography is one subject they didn’t pay attention in. But let’s go for Svalbard at all times. Has to be right at least once. And and, I’m so old! I must be. There are things one knows through having lived through a period when those things happened. The man who graduated in 1967 turned out to be valuable. As did anyone with a useful hobby. Like an interest in football.

I did find I could cheer the Courtauld Institute team, though, and we loved Kate Fox from Loughborough. Hers was not just a funny face, but there was knowledge behind it.

And I have to say we did not dumb down at all, having our nut turkey and brussels sprouts accompanied by the Downton Abbey film. Good food and good trustworthy entertainment with the right amount of tears, even on a second viewing. And the dowager duchess will lick the stamps herself!

The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel

What can I say? Well, not the title of this film, obviously. I stumbled over the words for the first one, and add a second film and I’ll have to call it Marigold 2. But to get back to the saying; Marigold 2 is as fun and entertaining as Marigold 1 was. I worried in case the usual thing about a sequel not having the surprise element to offer, would mean it suffered.

But I reckon that a film that makes someone like me laugh out loud in the cinema, can’t be bad. (I’ve been informed that Daughter’s peers are not Marigold fans. They didn’t see No. 1 and don’t plan to see No. 2. That’s their loss.) Us oldies deserve more films featuring old people, even if we are delusional when we believe we are Richard Gere or Lillete Dubey.

The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel

Maggie Smith still gets most of the good lines, whether she’s in India or at Downton. Here we have two women aged 79, who start new jobs and enjoy them. One of them finds new love, and so do quite a few others, even when it takes them a while to realise where true love is to be found.

And inevitably there is sadness, although it is dealt with off screen. It’s as with nudity and sex; more powerful when not seen. Sooner or later we all have to check out, and far better we didn’t waste time dunking a teabag into lukewarm water before we do.

Sonny might be an impossible optimist, and he might get a lot of things wrong, but he also gets things right. After all, whose idea was any of this Marigold stuff?

And I’ll have a beautifully lit up courtyard like this, please.

The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel

Downton Who?

Another November, another end to another season of Doctor Who. And to Downton Abbey. When they started in August and September it felt like we did nothing but watch television all weekend. It was great to get all of the Doctor in one fell swoop, though, instead of half a season here and half a season there.

As for Downton Abbey I was under the – obviously erroneous – impression it was doing its last rounds. Not only is there one for Christmas, but more is coming next autumn. Oh well. It is a soap, after all. They never stop.

Although it feels as if they are getting ready to chop quite a few of their characters, while having carefully enlisted some replacements. Have the actors had enough? Probably. I’d be sad to see Tom go, but he’s able to. Maybe Edith could too. But Mary will be held hostage forever.

I worry for the dowager, but hopefully Maggie Smith has many more years of acting in her still. And you could just see that poor Anna was in for it, almost from the word go. They concentrated too much on that train ticket.

The Doctor. Well. Peter Capaldi was OK. Ish. It’s tricky going from a jolly young man to a troubled and downright weird older one, but it can be done, and it was. I believe it’s Clara we mostly have a problem with. While I’m not 100% sold on the actress, I don’t mind the role so much.

I suppose we feel that anyone ought to be grateful to be the Doctor’s assistant and not moan so much or doubt that they are doing the right thing, but why not? She does need to think of her life and where it is going. And for a while there with the Cybermen I felt she was almost convincing as the Doctor. Maybe it’s really been her all the time?

There’s enough to look forward to. And a couple of the episodes of Doctor Who were among the best I’ve seen.

In Downton I quite enjoyed the divorce and Jewishness issues. The cousin will be interesting to watch (I take it she is here to stay). And so will her counterpart, the angry father-in-law.

Meanwhile I’ll make the most of not having a series to watch evey single day.

Down to Downton again

Downton Abbey 4, Lady Mary and Branson and children

Ah well, not much to say about the new Downton Abbey season (it must be the fourth…). It was ‘fun’ enough, if fun is everybody being miserable. Mary does determinedly depressed better than anyone.

It has sort of set the scene, though. And I never thought I’d say Thomas did a good thing. But there you are.

I still want to be Maggie Smith. She gets to be quite normal (in comparison, I mean), as well as outrageous. Here’s to grandmothers!

The Christmas episodes

Not surprisingly, some were better than others. Although we found ourselves making comparisons between fresh new writing as was the case for older new Doctor Who seasons, as well as for the earlier season of NCIS. Downton Abbey was OK-ish. Apart – obviously – for you-know-what. NCIS: Los Angeles felt more Christmassy than its big brother did.

Although, it was very noticeable that they had decided to throw in a little from many early NCIS seasons and stir well. Except maybe the stirring wasn’t done terribly thoroughly, after all.

Doctor Who

I don’t care for the Doctor’s new assistant. She’s spunky, but the chemistry between us is all wrong. And I trust there is now a country full of children who will scream at the mere idea of a snowman.

How could they end Downton Abbey like that? They did, though, didn’t they? Someone here was disappointed it wasn’t a wintry episode, but when you’ve seen one snow scene, you’ve seen them all. And all that Scottish deer-stalking will suit the Americans just fine. Long live Mrs Patmore and her patés!

So, L A was an early NCIS medley with a Christmas twist. But at least once they’d sorted out the drugs on the ship (I just couldn’t get over the L A gang being on a boat in the first place) they went a little Christmassy. To my mind Nell didn’t need fake elf ears. Besides, didn’t she go from very sad to surprisingly chirpy very quickly?

But NCIS, oh, NCIS… What shall we do about you? This was an over sugary episode with too many cute scenes. I almost didn’t mind DiNozzo Sr being back. Again. He was almost more rational than Jr. And the sight of Junior’s bed is now forever etched on my mind. His flat was gorgeous, but was it him?

As for the goldfish… Or the snickerdoodles. Well.

Perhaps get Steven Moffat to write the next episode?

Quartet

We need a couple of feelgood films every year, and it is clear that Quartet is intended to be one of them. It has all you need except perhaps for Judi Dench. And maybe actors who are believable singers.

Quartet

Had this film been about almost any former career than opera singing, I’d have bought it straightaway. Billy Connolly plays himself, more or less. Maggie Smith does too. Herself, not Mr Connolly. Pauline Collins is lovely and scatterbrained and Tom Courtenay charmingly restrained and gentlemanlike. But I don’t see retired opera singers in any of them.

The music is lovely and the singing – done by others – is fine. The setting is suitably English countryside and stately home for American viewers. The actors are a treat to watch and listen to. Michael Gambon looks wonderful in a dressing gown. The concept of a retirement home for ancient musicians is a fantastic one, albeit also rather unlikely.

But as in many films, these elderly dears are not so very elderly. Would they really be in a home? Wilf has a stick (walking kind) but moves in such a sprightly fashion I don’t reckon Billy Connolly knows what it means to really need a stick. As for Maggie Smith’s character needing a new hip…

Quartet

The film would have been spot on had this been about truly old and normal inmates in a home. But that would have been less glamorous.

To me the great unknown here is the film’s director, Dustin Hoffman. I’m not sure he was able to squeeze enough out of the grand cast he assembled. They could all do so much more than simply walk – nimbly – around, being themselves. Although that is of course a lot of fun.

(I suspected the supporting actors were the real deal, and the credits told us who every single one of them used to be.)

There will be a Bafta preview of Quartet at Cornerhouse on Wednesday 12th December at 18.10, followed by Q & A with Tom Courtenay and Billy Connolly.

Spoiling at Downton

Can I take it that everyone who intends to watch, has seen Sunday’s episode of Downton Abbey now? Yesterday Facebook was teeming with people who caught spoilers before catching Downton.

Are the makers of the series really wanting to give away what happens every week, or are they hinting so coarsely in order to make us feel proud that we ‘got it’ long before ‘it’ happened? This week it was simply a toss-up between Sybil, her baby or both of them.

Downton Abbey

It’s strange it’s taken them so long to start killing off The Family. We’ve been together eight years now, and there ought to have been more deaths.

The Earl is an idiot. I see that now. I was confused for so long because the actor seems quite a nice man. But had they put someone less sympathetic in the role, I’d have cottoned on to the idiocy long before now. Good for the American heiress that she has finally found her teeth, become a good mother (if a bit late) and is going against what hubby says.

The other week I did expect Sir Anthony Strallan to drop dead in the aisle of the church (on the way in, obviously) but other than that little miscalculation it’s been easy to see where we are heading, week after week.

Not so sure about the accuracy of medical advances back then, but it is hard to know what people didn’t know. And what happened to the disfigured Canadian cousin heir? Whether genuine or not, we need to know. Maybe Matthew will turn out to have wasted Lavinia’s dad’s money after all.

Going Down(ton)

My heart sank after watching the first new episode of Downton Abbey. Not enough to make me give up, but I did have my doubts. Chatting to Daughter on the phone 15 minutes before the second episode began last night, she said she didn’t think she’d bother. At least not last night. Maybe watch online later. Maybe. And she’s someone who doesn’t give up easily.

Shirley MacLaine in Downton Abbey

Reading an interview with Shirley MacLaine in the Guardian a few weeks ago, I felt so certain we were going to get great stuff. The first week there wasn’t a single spark between her and Maggie Smith. No spark anywhere. Mary and Matthew behaved like silly children. We’d worried the wedding would be off again, forgetting that you can so easily have turmoil (or childish quarrels) within a marriage.

I might have to inform Daughter she should watch again. It was a lot better last night. We laughed a few times. There are still things people wouldn’t have said or even known about back then. But if you can’t put 21st century concerns into a period drama, what can you do?

Having sort of known Mary was an idiot, it wasn’t until she talked with her American granny that I fully realised it. And Alfred looks very much like poor William, don’t you think? As for His Lordship suddenly cottoning on to his valet’s lack of popularity…

The Best Exotic Marigold film ever

Better late than never. We were afraid we’d be too late (although not in the meaning of being dead) for The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, but I suppose it’s a sign of its popularity that it’s still hanging on in cinemas, and even ones near us.

The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel

I often find films amusing, but according to Daughter I’ve not laughed this much for a very long time. So thank you to Dev Patel for his inept hotel manager, and to Maggie Smith and Co for being such marvellous old people, and airing their prejudices and overcoming a few. (The thing is I am beginning to feel very close to needing an Exotic Marigold myself.)

In the early days someone described this film in not terribly flattering words, but conceded it would probably be popular with old people. I’m thinking it must have been along the lines of those (men) who reckoned Mamma Mia! the movie was a bit of a loser. Marigold (as I’ve been calling it for some time) is a tremendously wonderful film!

The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel

Almost found myself wanting a hip replacement if I could have Maggie Smith’s lovely doctor. Not sure you’d be in a wheelchair for that amount of time afterwards, however. Being able to tell a call centre where they are going wrong strikes me as irresistible.

Wrinkly oldies are attractive. Almost dropping dead, or actually dying isn’t so nice, but better this way than through needless violence. Going abroad for your old age is not necessarily a good idea, but then staying put in the UK didn’t appear to be much better.

The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel

As others have said before me, this is a film that is near perfect.

The Doctor, Downton, a Dover bound Poirot and Dolly. Some Cash.

Along with too much food comes too much television. I wouldn’t mind having it spread out more. At least the entertainment. The food might be healthier to get over and done with, and we can go back to porridge and salad. But since I’m in a minority, I’m guessing my careful consumption of television over Christmas will not be noticed at all. Or missed.

Although, since we’re on one of those things that keeps track of who watches what and when, I have to own up to being so technically incompetent that I had the Grandmother watch Dolly Parton last night. She didn’t, but there was no way I could delete her after she went to bed.

Dolly Parton at the O2

So, it was just me and Dolly and most of the O2 arena. Nice blue dress, although having heard that she looks totally different without make-up and wig, I kept wondering what she looks like. Really. Concert was good, but I’d go mad if I had to have those bodyguards escort me everywhere.

I did actually watch a little Johnny Cash afterwards, but found it so painfully embarrassing I had to turn it off. As Roger Whittaker would say, he didn’t have Dolly’s two advantages.

Geoffrey Palmer and David Suchet in The Clocks

Before the country greats we sat down to Poirot. Couldn’t remember much about The Clocks except for the clocks. Could have sworn that I saw bits of Brighton, and I wonder where the crescent-shaped street can be found? Possibly in Dover. Doesn’t matter. It always looks good, and this time the plot wasn’t too outrageous, either. Watched parts of it twice to allow the Grandmother to catch up with the bits she slept through.

The Doctor and Lily

Cyril

After Christmas dinner and two lots of dishwasher on Sunday, I was more than ready to sit down with the Doctor. Despite its Narnia theme I liked it. How like a childless man to take children through a snowy landscape wearing only their dressing gowns and slippers. The only thing that grated somewhat was Matt Smith smirking ‘I know’ each time the children discovered something they liked.

Madge

A good cry was had by all at the end. Nice tree. Nice trees, in fact.

Maggie Smith

In my next life I will come back as the good Dowager at Downton. Those one-liners are a dream. (In my life as a witch I’m much too kind to utter anything like that. Naturally.)

Didn’t expect Matthew and Mary to get their act together quite so soon. And I still want to know what happened to Patrick from Canada. My hopes for Edith and her beau with the trembling smile have grown a little. Might be a case for the ouija board. Shame about Nigel Havers. He’d have been a good addition to this upperclass zoo.

I’m one of those who didn’t mind all that much about the slipping standards of season two, but it was certainly noticeable how much better the Christmas episode was. We’ll have more of the same for next year, please.

Downton Christmas