Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Downton Withdrawal

There's plenty of winter left and no more Downton Abbey. Here are some viewing recommendations for surviving the coming months.

A Room With a View (1985)
For your Maggie Smith fix. She plays Charlotte Bartlett, chaperon to the young, and inappropriately-in-love Helena Bonham Carter. She begins as a purely comic creation that ends up being slightly tragic. Judi Dench is also excellent as a know-it-all novelist, and Daniel Day Lewis has an early role as a silly fop.

Rebecca (1940)
Mrs. Danvers, of course, has to be the prototype of O'Brien. This is upstairs/downstairs drama as a horror story, and one of the greatest Hitchcock films.

Monarch of the Glen (2000 - 2005)
This BBC series is not quite at the level of Downton Abbey, but it's a cute look at a modern day heir trying to keep his estate viable in Scotland. Downton creator Julian Fellowes has an acting role in this, and recently deceased Richard Briers (in picture) is worth seeing in anything.

My Man Godfrey (1936)
The Brits aren't the only ones with butlers. In this timeless screwball comedy, Carole Lombard plays an American aristocrat, and William Powell is the hobo (or is he?) that she turns into her butler.

The Rules of the Game (1939)
The original upstairs/downstairs creation. This French film, that takes place at a country-house weekend, is about everything: love, death, sex, and rabbit hunting.

Brideshead Revisited (1981)
Don't bother with the recent movie-version. This miniseries is arguably the greatest miniseries in television history. It shares many themes of Downton, as Charles Rider (Jeremy Irons) becomes embroiled with a troubled aristocratic family, and their beautiful country home.

Gosford Park (2001)
This Robert Altman film was penned by Julian Fellowes. In some ways it is remarkably like Downton (Maggie Smith as a very similar character) but in some ways it's an opposite, darker version, one that explores the more sordid side of the upstairs/downstairs relationship. This film grows on me every year--a late Altman masterpiece.

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