The Sand Pebbles (1966 USA)

(There are many silly hat moments in The Sand Pebbles)

In 1911 China overthrew the Manchu dynasty, which in its weakened state, over the last century had sold off parcels of real estate outright controlled by European powers and later by Japan as well. The United States controlled no territory outright as other powers did, but the Americans did insist on extraterritoriality involving their citizens doing business there. What that meant was that US citizens were not subject to Chinese laws, civil or criminal. Matters involving them went to American courts. Other powers had those same treaties. That was resented. Westerners were resented. Japanese were resented most of all because they were fellow Asians doing it to the Chinese but this tale is only concerned with Americans. [Read more…]

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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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