Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Highbrow soap opera, pure and simple

Downton Abbey phenom: I never got particularly into the series, airing on PBS, which launched its final season Sunday night, though I watched most of last year’s episodes and have wondered, from time to time, why this Edwardian-era soap is so popular. The New Yorker magazine this week has an interview with Jim Carter (Mr. Carson) and Phyllis Logan (Mrs. Hughes) (photo left), downstairs head servants and late blooming paramours. Carter muses that DA was designed in large part to show the passage of history and the fall of the aristocratic class structure. But the audience got so caught up in the personal stories of the ensemble cast that the producers had to prolong the downfall. “… we realized the success was due to the relationships rather than the social milieu, so we slowed down the march of history and concentrated more on the relationships.” That’s the experience with the people I know – the drama is all about who’s marrying, why did so and so die, dastardly personal conduct and redemption, and can this character make a new start? Pure soap opera, in other words, and the elegant costumes and filigree of a century ago doesn’t hurt either.

I returned to cheap night at Cineplex cinemas last night and took in David O. Russell’s Joy starring Jennifer Lawrence. I walked out on Russell’s Silver Linings Playbook (2012) (I know, I’m the only one who hated it) and found the same faults with this. The film’s first third is basically a symphony of the gestalt of the dysfunctional lower middle class family, same as in Silver Linings. You’re almost half way into the film before Russell gets to the guts – the trials and tribulations of Long Island housewife Joy (Lawrence) inventing a miracle mop and getting it on the market, based on the true story of Joy Mangano. And you know what? In close-ups Lawrence looks like a thinner RenĂ©e Zellweger.

The Windsor International Film Festival (WIFF) has no plans to restart its monthly film series at the downtown Capitol Theatre. “It is not something we have planned for 2016, though we might revisit it in the future,” director Vincent Georgie said. The increasingly and widely popular festival had been organizing monthly screenings to keep the film fest flame alive throughout the year and also as a prop for downtown redevelopment but ended them about a year or so ago.

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