Downton Abbey ( Britain 2010–who cares?)

Downton Abbey has been a predictably enormous ratings success, taking the viewer-friendly melodrama of the soap operas and adding a bodice-ripper gloss by adding a period setting. Twenty or thirty years ago this series would have been a chippy pseudo-Marxist drama but in the post-modern world we get the Edwardians re-invented by a modern snob (Lord Julian Fellowes is quite a mouthful! ) as perky progressive aristocrats who love their servants as much as their servants love them. Each story is carefully compartmentalized (the only person to ever talk to the chauffeur is the young lady who is in love with him but won’t admit it) and un-named characters essentially don’t exist (during the numerous hospital scenes nobody, bar the protagonists, ever speaks or moves unless interacting with a named character).
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84 Charing Cross Road (1987 US–UK)

charingcrossroad20“84 Charing Cross Road” is the best film I know about unbridled passion for books, for words, and the kind of intimacy that can take place when one person who loves words makes contact with another who shares, or at least appreciates, that passion. If you are the kind of observant, sensitive soul who can see someone sitting on a park bench and intuit their biography from the way they wear their scarf, hold their bodies and read their newspaper, you will *hear* all that this motion picture is saying, and it will move you to tears. [Read more…]

Jamaica Inn (Daphne Du Maurier)

du-maurier-bookAn atmospheric sinister tale. The main character, Mary, must confront the evil doings of her Uncle-in-Law Joss and find a way to bring him to justice while also sparing her downtrodden, nervous Aunt Patience. The story builds slowly as more and more is revealed of Jamaica Inn and Joss’s activities. When you think it can’t get worse, things definitely get worse. [Read more…]

Iris (2001 United Kingdom)

IrisIris is a film which straddles a fine line, warming your heart but also breaking your heart. It’s an undeniably heartfelt, touching story. But it’s a story which you know from the beginning can only end in tears. All involved in the making of this film are to be commended for managing to bring this rather difficult story to life. The writers, the director, and the fine cast of actors have done excellent and, most certainly, very challenging work here. [Read more…]

Angela’s Ashes (Frank McCourt)

Angela's Ashes bookA boy growing up in the slums of Limerick, Ireland, starving, freezing and surrounded by the people real families are made of. In a time when memoirs became the finest expressions of high literary art, “Angela’s Ashes” ascended with alacrity to become the most exalted of them. The author paints a watercolour of bleak, smog filled, rainy streets so vivid that I sense the mist rising off the River Shannon and hitting me in the face. [Read more…]

Nineteen Eighty Four (George Orwell)

1984-14This is the definitive novel of the 20th century. The impact of this book has been immense. Think of all the Orwellian catchphrases that are now embedded into the English language: Thought Police, Double Think, News Speak, Thought Crime, Room 101, Big Brother Is Watching You. Unperson. Two Minute Hate. Not many books can boast this. No wonder the author has been turned into a secular saint. [Read more…]

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