Downton Abbey Season Four is here, guys. Well, at least for those of us who live on this side of the pond and refuse to download PBS illegally. It’s here, and Masterpiece Classic has delivered that beautifully crafted stiffness that can only be described as “English” once again. Two episodes into the season and we’ve already had countless snide remarks and drama from both upstairs and downstairs, all while the ever-crumbling 20th century class system hangs over everyone’s heads. So, while I work on my interpretive dance to the opening score, here is your weekly analysis and recap.
The season premiere did not start out with the usual shot of Labrador butt; instead, a dark view of the abbey. Matthew’s death, comparably shocking to the beheading of a certain Game of Thrones character, left us all in pieces. Julian Fellows, the show’s creator – who is like the Hitchcock of period dramas – cruelly chose to skip ahead six months, robbing us of our chance to grieve with the Grantham family. What about the viewers, Julian? Am I the only one who spent the last year in darkly beaded clothing, mourning the death of beloved Matthew? I need closure, or at least a hug from Carson, the overly attached butler.
While Lady Mary is busy perfecting her dead-behind-the-eyes look and ignoring her son George, Edith is living in scandal with an (almost) divorced man. “Poor Edith” is constantly trying to prove herself and her love to her father, who is so god forsakenly set in his old ways. Meanwhile, Lord Grantham mutters little gems like, “Who’s the glamorous pirate?” and “What does one say to a singer?” while secretly gambling away all of his family’s money.
Rose, the blonde cousin from the Highlands, has been a rogue element since last season. From dressing up in a housemaid’s outfit to sneaking off to smoking houses and dance halls, she seems to represent everything new and threatening to upper-class English society. Maggie Smith, who plays the matriarch and Dowager Countess of Downton, is as snarky as ever: “If I were to search for logic, I should not look for it among the English upper-class”. Oh, Violet, how right you are.
And of course, with the ever-changing times comes the impeccable 1920s women’s fashion. Think neutral colors, beaded flapper outfits and perfectly pleated day dresses.
The lady’s maid we love to hate, Miss O’Brien, abruptly moved to India with some distant Scottish relatives, and there’s no telling when she’ll be back. But hold up, there’s a new bitch in the abbey: Edna Braithwaite. Last season, Braithwaite was fired from Downton because she was hitting on Tom Branson, the widower of the family’s youngest daughter. (RIP Sybil, you could have had a future in politics.) This season, Braithwaite’s weaseled her way into another job, and is taking full advantage of Tom’s vulnerability. (Seeing that his wife is dead and he doesn’t know how to mingle with high society.) And Thomas Barrow, the under-butler, stirs up trouble with quips like: “There’s no one so jealous as a lady’s maid,” because obviously everyone knows that. And the plot thickens.
Molesley seems to be developing a severe case of asthma to pair with his mid-life crisis while Mrs. Hughes intervenes in Carson’s personal life. Ms. Patmore continues to run around like a chicken with her head cut off trying to handle the stress of cooking for all of these stuck up rich people and eventually goes into full-blown panic mode.
Disappointingly, the end of this week’s episode leaves us with the unsettling rape scene of Anna, something that was both unexpected and horrifying to watch as a critic and lover of the show. I would advise viewers to watch with caution, as it may be potentially triggering for many. Let’s hope the rest of the season handles this delicate subject in a tasteful manner.
So, in the words of Isobel Crawley, “They say life must go on and of course it must.”
The Internet is a scary place, and anyone who’s browsed 4chan can attest to that. But this creepy technological web can connect strangers and answer questions, often with unexpected results. The latest example: Jenna Jameson exchanged an unverified story and super sad, semi-nude pics for information about her former agent who Jameson said turned out to be a con man and is sabotaging her online presence. She was given the man’s phone number, address, social security number, credit score an more private information within the hour. Cool?
David Lynch fans will likely recall the last episode of Twin Peaks, where Laura Palmer tells Agent Cooper she’ll see him in 25 years. Peaks took place in 1989, which means she was referring to this year — 2014. Hence, Lynch is filming new episodes of the cult series, as evidenced by a Twin Peaks casting call.
It’s always exciting to see Cincinnati on the big screen — not just a mention, but actual shots of the city. It’s certainly not the most exotic locale, and many scenes of a Cincinnati-based movie could probably be replicated in a Hollywood studio. So movies that do make the trip Midwest tend to be very special to locals. Rain Man, Traffic and The Ides of March all brought a spotlight and stars to the Queen City. Next up: Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara make their way to Cincinnati this spring to film Carol. Based on the Patricia Highsmith book also known as The Price of Salt, the movie will be set in 1950s New York City, but shot exclusively in Cincinnati. Blanchett and Mara in vintage garb, traipsing around town? Celeb-stalking will be in full force, #ClooneyWatch style. Read more here.
In case you missed it, Shia LaBoeuf has lost his damn mind. Exhibit A. Exhibit B. Exhibit C. But, due to my undying love of Louis Stevens, I still anticipate seeing his wiener (again) in Nymphomaniac.
We’re a week into 2014 but, judging by the proliferation of “best of” articles and continued obligatory year-end reflection posts on Facebook, it appears most people are still in #RIP2013 mode — so we’re going to follow suit. Now that our marathon New Year’s hangover has passed (and since awards season doesn’t kick off until this week's People’s Choice Awards and Golden Globes), let’s look back at some of the highlights — and low points — of 2013.
The most photographed location on Instagram was a Bangkok mall; the most “popular” is this shot of Will Smith and the Biebs, with more than 1.5 million likes.
A sacrifice to the Xenu gods? No such luck.
Moving on to Twitter, the most re-tweeted post was a somber one — Lea Michele of Glee’s photo of herself with boyfriend Cory Monteith, who died of a drug and alcohol overdose in July.
A close second was the announcement of actor Paul Walker’s death in November. :(:(:(
OK, enough with the sads! The most illegally downloaded artist of the year was Bruno Mars. Not sure whether that means he’s even more popular than his record sales show, or if people are just really ashamed to buy a Burno Mars album. Either way, the guy who penned, the exquisite phrase, “You and me baby making love like gorillas,” will be performing at halftime during next month’s Super Bowl. Good luck topping last year’s!
During awards shows and in end-of-the-year roundups, we often take a moment to remember people that have passed away. Since just looking at that Cory Monteith photo makes me want to sob and hide in a room full of Pug puppies and body pillows, actual real humans are out of the question. So, as a variation of this trend, let’s look back on some of the important TV characters we lost this year. SPOILERS.
Game of Thrones
After the main protagonist of Game of Thrones, Ned Stark, was shockingly beheaded in the first season, audiences quickly learned any character on the series could find themself chopping block at any time. But who (besides, of course, those who’ve read A Storm of Swords) would expect Ned’s widow and oldest son to join him so quickly — and in such a terrifying fashion? The episode “The Rains of Castamere” brought the merciless death of Catelyn and Robb Stark plus Robb’s wife, Talisa, their unborn baby and direwolf Grey Wind, in addition to at least a dozen others at the "Red Wedding" alone. Earlier in the season, Ros — one of my favorite “working ladies” on television — fell victim to the insufferable Joffrey. While she played a much smaller role than the Starks, her death was heartbreaking and shocking. You’ll all be missed!
A Prohibition gangster drama is bound to rack up a serious body count. For some of the historically-based characters, like Al Capone, viewers have a pretty good idea about how long they will last. The fictional characters, however, can meet their maker at any point. While I’m still not over Jimmy and Angela’s demise, Boardwalk fully crushed my heart by having Richard Harrow go out in a completely un-badass style. Harrow was more than just a talented sniper with half a prosthetic face. He was a hero in the show. He killed — a lot — but usually only the true bad guys, and often to protect others. He was sensitive and strong, but slipped in his final scenes, accidentally killing Chalky’s daughter instead of his target, Narcisse. As soon as he missed the shot, I knew he was done for — Harrow, by definition, always hits his mark! Sure enough, after a dream sequence in which Harrow reunited with his family, we were jolted back to reality to find the wounded war vet dying peacefully under the boardwalk. The show will go on, but won’t have the same heart without him.
Oh, Debra. I never much cared for Dexter’s little sis — the phony fowl mouth act just rubbed me the wrong way. But she definitely played an important role in the series, especially once she found out about her brother’s “dark passenger.” Dexter seriously declined after its fourth season, and this final one was a doozy. But it still didn’t prepare us for Deb’s death. After surviving a shot to the stomach, Deb appears to be recovering at a hospital. While Dexter was busy chasing down his sister’s shooter, Deb’s health turned for the worse, leaving her brain-dead. As a hurricane hits Miami, sending the hospital staff into a frenzy, Dex is able to pull the plug on his sister — sure she would not want to continue on in a vegetative state at a hospital for the rest of her days — and takes her body on his boat, to be whipped into the stormy sea. It seems like Deb and Dex died together in the water, until we meet up with a bearded, lumberjack Dexter in some mysterious woodsy locale, living in solitude. The fuh?
The Walking Dead
The Walking Dead killed off a number of significant characters between the end of Season Three and first half of Season Four this year. Andrea, who once shared a bed with the Governor, ended up dead because of him. The Gov. hunted and captured Andrea after she attempted to run away to her group at the prison. Trapped in a torture chamber with the ticking time-zomb™ that was Milton, Andrea was unable to protect herself from a deadly bite. Michonne made it to her BFF Andrea’s side, only in time to put her down before she turned. And, after making an anticipated return to the show, Merle also fell victim to the Governor. His brother, Daryl, was tasked with killing zombie-Merle in a super-sad scene.
The Governor’s path of terror finally came to an end at the prison, but not before he was able to take out Hershel (the closest thing the group had to a doctor, not to mention Maggie and Beth’s father and the sweetest one-legged man to make it in the apocalypse). The villain was finally taken down in a big shoot-out between his group and Rick’s, which left all the survivors in disarray. Also, baby Judith is MIA, probably in a zombie’s belly. :(
I made up my mind early on that Walter White needed to die at the end of Breaking Bad in order for the story to retain its authenticity. Walt got into the meth business in order to pay for his medical costs and provide ample support for his family if and when he succumbed to cancer. We all know he stuck with the game for so long because, as he finally admitted in the finale, he liked it. He was good at it. “I did it for me,” he tells Skyler in their final scene. Most fans probably expected Walt to die, and he did so in a truly epic fashion, while protecting Jesse. His brother-in-law Hank also went out like a champ, after a brutal desert showdown. The saddest death of all was the end of the show itself, but Breaking Bad will surely stand the test of time as one of the greatest American dramas.
Talk about a surprise ending! After breaking free from countless near-death experiences, Nicholas Brody was captured and killed. Viewers got a taste of a Brody-less Homeland this season, as the character was on the lam and not present in much of this season. But the show was so much better with Brody in it — somehow, he balanced Carrie’s cray, despite the fact that he was a damaged man who flipped every chance he got. This death gives the show an opportunity to take a completely new route. Hopefully we’ll still check in on his family (am I the only one who still cares about them?) but we’re definitely going to have a little bit of Brody in the form of his child with Carrie. How a fetus could survive the stress, cigs and booze she put it through proves that this is definitely a Marine baby.
In the motion picture sector, 12
Years a Slave and American Hustle
lead the pack with seven nominations each. The America’s Sweethearts Showdown
will finally play out as Jennifer Lawrence (American Hustle) is pitted against Julie Roberts (August: Osage
Best Supporting Actress in a Motion Picture (along with Sally Hawkins – Blue Jasmine, Lupita Nyong'o – 12 Years a Slave and June Squibb – Nebraska). Yes, I'm really trying to make the J. Law/JuRo(?) rivalry happen.
Jared Leto and Matthew McConaughey were rewarded for the physical deterioration they underwent to star in Dallas Buyers Club — they’re up for Best Supporting Actor in a Motion Picture and Best Actor in a Motion Picture, Drama, respectively.
On to television selections, Netflix series House of Cards raked in four nominations, the most of any series. The HBO film Behind the Candelabra also garnered four nods, but in three categories — stars Matt Damon and Michael Douglas are up against one another for Best Actor in a Mini-Series or TV Movie. Rob Lowe’s amazing work as Liberace’s plastic surgeon/pill pusher in Candelabra gets lauded with a nomination for the broad Best Supporting Actor in a Series, Mini-Series or TV Movie category, but that statue will likely go to Aaron Paul for his performance in the final season of Breaking Bad.
New-to-2013 shows Masters of Sex, Brooklyn Nine-Nine and Ray Donovan each received two nominations. I was totally in love with the inaugural season of Masters this year, so I’m happy to see it up against some solid series for Best TV Series, Drama, even if it probably won’t win. I can’t bring myself to watch Brooklyn (despite my love for Andy Samberg!) because it looks decidedly unfunny, but I keep hearing I need to check it out, so judgment reserved. Ray was a decent new drama. Jon Voight killed it as the fresh-out-of-prison father to the titular character, a Hollywood “fixer” played by Liev Schreiber (also nominated). Voight’s Mickey brought the laughs in an otherwise dark story, from his penchant for big-booty video girls to the advice he gives to his nauseated grandson: “Maybe you need to faht!”
Noticeably absent are Homeland, Boardwalk Empire and Mad Men, and I am OUTRAGED! OK, I’m starting to sound like everyone who’s ever listened to a local band after the CEA nominations are announced. #sitthehelldown
But seriously, Damien Lewis’ performance as Homeland’s Brody, while limited on screen this season, was incredible. He truly has played so many sides and shades of the character. That detox scene? Haunting. He nailed the deterioration of Brody completely.
I also thought this was one of the best seasons of Boardwalk. Completely biased opinion: John Huston’s Richard Harrow
has been my favorite
character of the series (besides Lucy, played by the incomparable queen of mot messes Paz de
la Huerta, OBVS).
With so many other amazing characters, it’s totally understandable that he
wouldn’t leave with an award, but…Richard! "Hold me."
As for Mad Men, neither the show nor its actors have won a Globe since 2009, when it was awarded for Best TV Series, Drama. The show is not suffering — in fact, watching Don (Jon Hamm) finally crack and start to act like a real human was incredible this season. Oh, well. There’s always next year’s Emmys, I guess?
Read all the nominations here.
It’s almost Christmas, so what better time for another Apple ad to make you unexpectedly shrivel up and bawl?
Beyoncé blew the top off the Internet late last week, surprise-releasing 14 new songs plus 17 music videos in a full, mega, meta “visual experience” of an album, leaving most of us with nothing left on our holiday wish lists. Titled simply Beyoncé, the package features collaborations with Jay Z, Frank Ocean, Drake and Blue MFing Ivy, sexy-ass songs with some straight up raunch, audio/video from Star Search and home movies and several shots of Bey’s thonged butt. It’s perfection. And because no one can ever get enough Yoncé (That’s right, it’s Yoncé, Mrs. Carter if you’re nasty), she’s also releasing a mini-documentary about the album in various parts, day by day. Buy the package, watch the videos and get swept up in the Carter life here.
John Mayer and Katy Perry are totes an item and, in case you needed any reminders of what a supreme douche J. May is, well, here’s their first couples interview (gag) — skip to 2:50 for John’s really touching words about Katy’s craft/to hear him drop an F bomb (edited out, thanks ABC!) while doing so.
Buzzfeed dubbed Newport Aquarium’s Scuba Santa one of eight “Most Badass Santas in the World,” not to be confused with “One of Most Extreme Santas in World,” as reported by basically every other local media outlet (buncha babies).
If there’s just one viral family Christmas video-card (ugh) making its rounds that particularly makes me want to gouge my eyes out, it’s the Holderness family’s. Set to the tune of the very current “Welcome to Miami,” this family of four teaches us what the holidays are truly about: bragging about the year’s accomplishments. Namely, running triathlons, appearing in blockbuster films and learning Chinese — in their "Christmas jammies." Fucking white people.
Shia LaBeouf was a child actor, so I guess he never went to school to learn that copying off your neighbor's work is pretty much universally looked down upon. That's the only explanation I can come up with to justify his plagiarizing of Daniel Clowes' comic Justin M. Damiano for his new short film, HowardCantour.com. Read all about the fiasco here, and see the similarities for yourself. LaBeouf said sorry via Twitter, which should be enough, but he apparently lifted his apology off Yahoo Answers. So help us all.
A new channel has found a coveted spot on my television’s favorites list. The Esquire Network replaced Style in late September, but it took me a few months to discover the new channel’s diverse entertaining offerings. The network’s original series feature everything from cooking to travel to style — lots of culture-y (pop and otherwise) bits. Esquire also airs reruns of popular shows like Party Down,Top Chef and Parks and Recreation. Find the channel here.
Searching for a new computer game without Facebook notifications, digital farming or “Crush” in the title? Look no further than Kanye Zone. The object of the game? Like the song says, don’t let him into his zone.
Speaking of Kanye’s zone, you know it’s officially the holiday season when the Kadrashians emerge their krypts to kreate their annual Kristmas kard.
Not really sure why they’d spring for a photographer like David LaChapelle, because every square inch of this piece is so heavily ‘shopped. I bet they even inserted Kourt’s baby into her empty arms in post-production. And it goes without saying that this image of Bruce (sealed in glass on the far right) will haunt all of our nightmares until the end of time.
Move over, Macaulay — "Pug Puppy Home Alone" is even better than the original.
The entertainment gods blessed us with not one but two Major Television Events recently: The Sound of Music Live! And the Bonnie & Clyde miniseries presented by A&E, History and Lifetime. People everywhere have been crying, “Blasphemy!” over these two reboots of classic stories but, because we’re a masochistic society, everyone and their mama tuned into both. B&C was deemed historically inaccurate (Gasp! A Lifetime movie?! Surely not.), and SoM was decidedly awkward as hell, but damn if they didn’t both attract huge audiences.
NBC’s live production of The Sound
of Music was a hot ass mess. I’m no musical theater connoisseur, so I
totally forgot all the Nazi shit in there, along with the fact that Vampire
Bill was starring in this show alongside Carrie Underwood. I mean, Carrie can sing for sure, but
the 21.3 million viewers
were pretty much all tuning in the same way
they’d watch a train wreck, which is why Carrie says she's praying for all of us haterz. Keep the prayers comin’, Carrie, because apparently we’re in for another live musical here
Here’s probably every movie you meant to see this year but didn’t:
“I Love It” and “Ho Hey” were noticeably absent, despite being in EVERY PREVIEW EVER this year. Thankfully (said no one), they didn’t skimp on the dub-step.
In other end-of-the-year news, it’s time again for Pantone to announce the official color of 2014. Get your eyeballs ready for lots of “Radiant Orchid” next year, whatever the hell that means. If you’ll recall (as if this important selection hasn’t been ingrained in your brain), 2013’s color was emerald.
Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark, the book series of spooky tales and illustrations every ‘80s and ‘90s kid shared around campfires, on the bus and at sleepovers, is becoming a movie. CBS Films is working with two Saw writers on the adaptation. For those in the dark (muahahaha), the Scary Stories themselves weren’t all that terrifying — it was all about the eerie, detailed, seriously dark images that accompanied the tales. There’s no word yet on how or if these illustrations (by Stephen Gammell, who I can only assume is Satan’s nephew) will be incorporated in the film, and that will truly be a make-or-break decision. If Hollywood decides to ruin SSTTITD like everything else and go with a live-action take, I guess they could just call up Bruce Jenner.
There’s no other way to say it: Bitches lose their shit over Benedict Cumberbatch. The star of Sherlock, who portrayed Kahn in Star Trek: Into Darkness and is voicing the titular dragon in the upcoming Hobbit film, has a loyal legion of fans — ahem, “Cumberbitches.” Here’s what happened when we read some lyrics off R. Kelly’s new album (which is freaking titled Black Panties, btw).
As captivating and alienesque as Benny may be, like a male Tilda Swinton, the ladies truly give him the One Direction treatment. And I love me some Cumberbatch, but can we throw some love/panties Martin Freeman’s way, too?