The Best Movie Ever: Ever After

BLOG Ever After

Ever After (1998)

Alison:

The year was 1998.

The radio airwaves were dominated by Sixpence None The Richer, Natalie Imbruglia, and The Goo Goo Dolls.

I was a crazy awkward eighth grader, and I’d just seen a movie that both caused my feminist awakening and inspired my first novel, Angelica’s Wings (which was feminist as hell, I’m proud to say!)

That movie, my friends, was Ever After.

I wish I could convey to you just how important this movie is to me. I know it off by heart–I have probably watched it once a year since 1998. You do the math, because I don’t want to, and I’m allergic to numbers.

Needless to say, I have more thoughts about this movie than Leonardo da Vinci has hilarious one-liners. More feelings than times Rodmilla de Ghent throws Danielle serious shade. Most of my T&Fs are nonverbal squealing and swooning, but I’ll do my best to articulate them like a rational human being. Fingers crossed.

I watched Ever After again recently because:

a)  I had the rare gift of a free afternoon (#IntrovertsDream), and Little Women somehow disappeared from Netflix, and it was blizzarding (#Snowvember), and

b)  I just saw the trailer for the live-action Cinderella movie and was like, “Meh. It looks okay, but it basically just looks like a live-action version of the Disney movie with no fresh perspective … Now, Ever After was a cool interpretation of the fairytale because 16th century France! And Leonardo da Vinci as the ‘fairy godmother!’ And feminism! And Drew Barrymore being her amazing self!”

So without further ado, I give you my favourite movie of all time.

Seventeen magazine from 1998. I actually remember this issue very vividly. I believe it came with Ever After post cards which you can be assured I had tacked to my bulletin board for years.

Seventeen magazine from 1998. I actually remember this issue very vividly. I believe it came with Ever After post cards which you can be assured I had tacked to my bulletin board for years.

1.  I wanted to live in 16th century France because of the clothes

Guys, this movie is a costume drama-lover’s heaven. I mean, just look at this:

Drew Barrymore in Ever After (1998)

Drew Barrymore in Ever After (1998)

The way the light makes the velvet sleeves shine in the sun, the gold pattern, the braid, the pearl-studded hairnet … me and my thirteen year-old self are majorly geeking out right now. I definitely started putting little braids in my hair after watching this movie because I wanted to be Danielle de Barbarac.

I wanted to wear dresses like this and tell off princes and rescue servants. I wanted to be able to say things like “If you suffer your people to be ill-educated, and their manners corrupted from infancy, and then punish them for those crimes to which their first education disposed them, what else is to be concluded, sire, but that you first make thieves and then punish them?”

(I may or may not have memorized that speech).

But most of all, this:

Drew Barrymore in Ever After (1998)

Drew Barrymore in Ever After (1998)

2. Haters gonna hate; readers gonna read

Let’s not skip over the fact that Danielle is a voracious reader (girl after my own heart). Remember how enraptured she is when Henry takes her to the monastery library? Mad props to Hollywood for making reading look sexy (it is, and don’t you forget it, future generations!)

Drew Barrymore in Ever After (1998). She falls asleep reading JUST LIKE ME

Drew Barrymore in Ever After (1998). She falls asleep reading JUST LIKE ME

When I was growing up, there was this girl who lived on my street temporarily who was everything I was not: pretty, popular, allowed to hang out with the boys who skateboarded on the road. One day, circa 1998-99, my awkward overalled self was walking home from the library, arms full of books. She was walking with her little brother and when our paths crossed, I heard her snicker and say, “Nerd!”

My cheeks flamed in humiliation, but then I remembered my favourite fairytale heroines, Belle and Danielle de Barbarac and felt affirmed in my love of reading.

Can you imagine if I had given up on reading for pleasure because of some mean girl from ’98? Then I wouldn’t have gone on to study literature at the university level, I wouldn’t have met my BFF Meg, and there would be no T&F.

#DarkestTimeline

It is admirable how Danielle doesn’t stop reading. Her father must have taught her to read and she never stopped, even though a servant in the 16th century probably wouldn’t have been literate. And reading at a high level, too, in a way that influences her ideals and informs her pre-socialist(?) views on the world.

“Some people read because they cannot think for themselves” – Rodmilla.

Pfffff.

3. Behind the Shade 

Anjelica Huston as Rodmilla de Ghent in Ever After (1998)

Anjelica Huston as Rodmilla de Ghent in Ever After (1998)

I love how this film gives us a tiny glimpse into why the villain is bad. She’s already a cold, snobbish, unlikeable person, but the reason she resents Danielle and treats her so poorly is because as her new husband is dying, he turns to his daughter and tells Danielle he loves her, not her. Kind of understandable, if you think about it. Danielle was her constant reminder that her husband didn’t love her as much as he loved his daughter which doesn’t excuse her behaviour, but would nonetheless sting.

She later tells Danielle that her mother was hard on her also, making her wash her face 20 times a day, convinced it wasn’t clean enough (OCD?), and that she barely knew Danielle’s father when she married him.

Anjelica Huston plays this role so perfectly, allowing just a flicker of softness and humanity to cross Rodmilla’s features when she tells Danielle how much she looks like her father, only to cover it up by returning to her cold demeanour and saying, “Yes, well, your features are so … masculine.”

4. Where have you gone, Dougray Scott?

Remember him? The prince who stole our hearts in 1998 and made us giggle over his tight pants?

Where has he been?

Dougray Scott as Prince Henry in Ever After (1998). He has not been seen since.

Dougray Scott as Prince Henry in Ever After (1998). He has not been seen since.

IMDb tells us that he’s been in nothing spectacular since 1998, other than playing Arthur Miller in My Week with Marilyn (2011). And maybe that’s okay, because he will always be Prince Henry in my heart.

My thirteen year-old self was all like:

He’s so handsome and dreamy and a prince! OMG! And his hair is so flawy and his eyes are so broody and his jaw is chiseled! And my friends and I used to say to each other, “Why do you have to be so wonderful?” And that part when she says, “It is not fair, sire. You have found my weakness [BOOKS FTW!] but I have yet to find yours,” and his face when he replies, “But I should think it was quite obvious” because it’s HER! EEEEEEEEEK! SWOON! IT’S SO ROMANTIC I COULD DIEEEE!!!11!!1!

And my present-day self is all like:

Now this is a love story! Rather than simply falling in love with her because she’s pretty (which is sadly the premise of too many movies), he falls in love with her because of her passion and her convictions and because she challenges him to see beyond his “gilded cage” and empathize with the serfs and peasants (Shhhh she is one! #SECRET)!

And then there’s the millions and millions of love stories where the girl is pretty and headstrong and they hate each other at first because they’re from different walks of life or something, but they have great chemistry and all of a sudden they look at each other all scared and then start making out like crazy (and honestly, there are way too many of these love stories to name. I think Jane Austen was the original creator of that trope).

SIDEBAR: DOES THIS HAPPEN IN REAL LIFE? Do couples ever start out hating each other passionately and then one day they’re all like, OMG! All of my hatred was just passionate love all along! I love you and want to have your babies!??

Drew Barrymore and Dougray Scott in Ever After (1998)

Drew Barrymore and Dougray Scott in Ever After (1998)

But Ever After spins that trope on its head. There’s the lively banter at first (“Am I to understand that you find me … arrogant?”) but you can see he’s intrigued by her mind. Yup, that’s right. Her mind.

This ain’t one of those love stories where the girl has a makeover and that’s when the guy falls in love and realizes his true feelings (LAME). Even when she’s swimming in her servant’s garb (my friends and I used to recreate the scene where Leonardo da Vinci appears and says, “Looks like rain!”), climbing rocks in her underthings, and covered in sweat and dirt in the last scene, he loves her just as much as when she’s dressed up like an angel at the masque, because of her beautiful mind.

Now that, boys and girls, is real love. Write that on a post-it note and remind yourself of that every time you feel you need to look hot to make someone love you.

Which brings me to my next point:

5. Danielle de Barbarac, the heroine every girl needs

Drew Barrymore in Ever After (1998)

Drew Barrymore in Ever After (1998)

Why is Danielle de Barbarac such a great heroine? Let me count the ways:

She’s intelligent. She reads. She cares deeply about the servants who raised her. She’s passionate and stands by her convictions, even when confronted by freaking royalty! She’s kind and sweet, and doesn’t let her stepmother’s mistreatment make her bitter. She is scrappy and can hold her own against witchy stepsisters, charming princes, thieving gypsies, and creepy landowners . She’s sensitive and not afraid to show her emotions. She’ll speak her mind when necessary. She’ll risk everything to do the right thing. She not only saves Henry (from the gypsies whom she still respects, from his life as a privileged royal toff), but she also saves herself.

That’s what I love about the modern, postfeminist ending. Henry comes storming to Pierre le Pieu’s to “rescue her,” when she’s already saved herself! And she’s all dirty and sweaty and gross and he’s like, “I love you and want to marry you” and puts the glass slipper over her dirty sock and they whirl around and kiss and cry.

And yes, they do live “happily ever after” as the fairytale goes, but the point, gentleman, is that they lived.

BOOM.

*Drops mic*

My rating: *****

Me and Bridget Jones

Renee Zellweger in Bridget Jones's Diary (2001), looking like me on Friday nights

Renee Zellweger in Bridget Jones’s Diary (2001), looking like me on Friday nights, basically.

Alison:

T.S. Eliot was wrong.

November is the cruellest month, and let me tell you why:

  1. Daylight saving time ends. The sun setting at approx. 4:30 p.m. is not okay with me. It really effs with my head.
  2. Cold weather. Last week, the temperature changed from approx. 18 degrees (Celsius obvi) to minus something in approx. 48 hours, effing with my head even more.
  3. There are no fun holidays.

Therefore, November is when I start getting ready (emotionally, physically, spiritually) for Christmas. To all the Scrooges who say “Christmas doesn’t start until December!” I say, “Naysayers gonna naysay. Let me have this.’

And so November is when I start watching Christmassy movies in earnest (or movies that remind me of Christmas), such as Bridget Jones’s Diary.  Because I watch these movies every year (Little Women, The Family Stone, The Holiday–all blogs for another time, my friends), I have more thoughts and feelings about them than Bridget’s mom has tiny gherkins.

But first, a very important PSA.

I present to you Colin Firth looking smashing in a Christmas jumper:

BLOG Colin Firth

Colin Firth looking smashing in a Christmas jumper in Bridget Jones’s Diary (2001)

You’re welcome.

Onward:

1. Bridget Jones is NOT fat!

First thing’s first, let’s get this bit of unpleasantness out of the way:

Bridget Jones is not even remotely fat.

Remember back in 2001, when the world was all abuzz because Renee Zellweger gained 20-30 pounds to play the “plump” Bridget Jones?

That was silly, because she looks amazing to me.

Exhibit A:

Renee Zellwegger looking really darn good in Bridget Jones's Diary (2001)

Renee Zellwegger looking really freaking good at the Tarts and Vicars Party in Bridget Jones’s Diary (2001)

Her weight hovers around the 130-140 lbs. mark which is actually pretty average. Her preoccupation with her weight really annoys me, so let’s quickly move on before I start going on a rant.

#LoveYourBody.

2. I want to be friends with Bridget’s parents

Not gonna lie, I really want to attend that Turkey Curry Buffet Christmas party. It looks like my slice of heaven. There’s so much ugly Christmas “jumpers” and normcore going on in the first scene and funny middle-aged British people being inappropriate, and MINI GHERKINS (the height of sophistication, I’ll have you know) and SMOKING INDOORS (you know you’re watching an old movie when …) and if you don’t mind, I’d like to live inside this scene forever, patterned wallpaper and all.

Gemma Jones, Renee Zellweger, and Colin Firth in Bridget Jones's Diary (2001), at a party I would attend IRL

Gemma Jones, Renee Zellweger, and Colin Firth in Bridget Jones’s Diary (2001), at a party I would attend IRL

Also, Bridget’s parents kind of break my heart. Especially that scene when her mom’s talking about how she feels unappreciated and overlooked, and then the scene when her dad is wearing the sad paper Christmas hat and he’s all depressed.

I love them. I want them to invite me to their Turkey Curry Buffet and Tarts and Vicars Party.

3. Bridget knows how to rock a Friday night

You know that infamous scene, at the beginning, where Bridget is drinking wine by the fireplace and watching Frasier and getting really into singing “All by Myself?” I have three thoughts about that:

a) Bridget Jones is all of us.

b) That actually looks like a really decent evening, and because it’s snowing right now I want to recreate this scene tonight, adult PJs and all.

#IntrovertsDream.

c) There’s no way she could afford this spacious flat IRL. This is London, right? One of the most expensive places to live? And she’s what–an administrative assistant who “fannies around with press releases?” Why must people on TV and in movies have to have such unrealistic living arrangements?

I want a fireplace. And that couch. And pyjamas. And just everything in this scene.

Renee Zellwegger in Bridget Jones's Diary (2001), looking like she's having a quality evening all by herself

Renee Zellwegger in Bridget Jones’s Diary (2001), looking like she’s having a quality evening all by herself

4. This movie is essentially Pride and Prejudice

It’s no secret that Helen Fielding wrote the novel based on P&P. Colin Firth is Darcy, Hugh Grant is Wickham, and Bridget is some sort of goofy, relatable, buffoonish Elizabeth Bennet. She even says at one point “it is a truth universally acknowledged …”

Also, I’m watching The Mindy Project on Netflix right now and seeing parallels to Bridget Jones’s Diary. Over 30 female main character, single, relatable, struggling to find Mr. Right, a guy who is Mr. Wrong and sounds exactly like Hugh Grant …

5. Am I missing something?

I love Bridget, and Renee Zellweger did very well in the role (despite being American). But is it just me, or is it a little hard to believe that a hot shot London barrister and a publishing executive would be fighting for her affections?

It’s not that she’s ugly or frumpy (despite the film’s best efforts to make her appear so, she is not), it’s just that she’s not … um … remarkably clever. She didn’t even know what El Nino was! And you’d think that someone who works in publishing would know what to say to Salman Rushdie! Whenever they show her working at her job, she seems overwhelmingly incompetent.

Publishing is a really hard industry to get into! Does she have her university degree? Does she read anything weightier than cheesy self-help books? How did she get a job at a publishing company in London?

Also, why is the administrative assistant (if that is what she is) presenting at a launch party? Wouldn’t Daniel Cleaver do that?

I’ve never read the book–is she smarter in the book than she comes across in the film? She’s funny, and charming, and certainly loveable, but it seems to be that the Mark Darcys and Daniel Cleavers of the world would rather be with the Laras (“I thought you said she was thin!”) and Natashas (“It’s bizarre what some men find to be attractive”) of the world.

In many respects, this film is a bit of a fantasy.

But you know what?

I like it … just the way it is.

My rating: ****

She’s Not Looking Too Clever

Meg:

With cups of tea in hand, let’s forget about this whole tonsillitis nonsense and get blogging about Episode 7.

But first, let’s acknowledge how cute it is when Sybbie calls Robert “Donk.”

Lord Merton & Isobel

I’m going to start here because I have a humiliating confession to make. It wasn’t until this episode that I realized just who Lord Merton was. I mean, I knew he was a family friend with a position who wanted to marry Isobel but I had NO IDEA he was the guy with the rude son who drugged Tom in Series 3. I can’t comprehend how it’s taken me THIS LONG to realize it. I know, it’s reprehensible of me.

Speaking of reprehensible – looks like Larry Grey is still a repulsive asshole. I loved when Lord Merton told him off back in Series 3 (“Be silent this instant, sir!”) and I was just as proud when he told him off this episode. However, I think the damage has already been done. The entire dinner scene broke my heart because I was so happy for Isobel and you can see just how much Lord Merton loves her and then his pretentious a-hole sons have to come in and crap on everything.

All I can say is – I wish Matthew had been there. And I hope Isobel can find it in herself to rise above the ignorance of the Grey brothers. For both herself and Dickie.

Tom

Tom – don’t leave. That’s all.

Edith – aka. Mrs. Thing

Remember when Edith said she’d be “Mrs. Thing in Detroit or Chicago.”

She’s adorable and I’m so pleased she’s finally getting her own version of a happy ending.

And everyone knows how much I adore Anna … but I hope she’s not going to make trouble for Edith now that she’s suspecting the truth about Marigold. It’s completely out of character but her exchange with Mrs. Hughes did raise some questions …

And since we’re talking about Crawley offspring – how much does the little actor playing George look like Dan Stevens?! It breaks my heart every time I see him.

Bravo, Downton casting team, bravo.

Mary

It’s all coming together on the Mary front … Tony has finally agreed to let her go and he’s (presumably) going to marry Mabel … Charles has disappeared to Poland for a million years (weird) and it seems like his relationship with Mary has entered the “friend zone” anyway … which only leaves one valid plot point for the writers to explore – MARY AS BERTHA MASON.

Now that all her suitors have dried up, Mary is finally going to go back to grieving Matthew full time (as she should have been doing all along) and spend her days insanely wandering the dark passages of the Abbey. Yay!

Isis

I’m going to leave Isis to Alison’s portion of this blog except to say … tears for days and days …

Finally …

I hate Spratt.

I still love Mr. Mason.

 

Alison:

Before I begin, a moment of silence for the true heroine of Downton Abbey:

Ode to a Legend

Ode to a Legend–Isis (the dog)

 

1. RIP Isis (the dog)

I don’t even want to write anything this week.

I guess stuff is finally happening and that’s good, but I will never forgive Julian Fellowes.

I get that dogs get old and everything, but no … just …

Hugh Bonneville as Sir Robert Crawley, Robert James-Collier as Thomas Barrow, and a dog as the late Isis (the dog) in Downton Abbey (2014)

Hugh Bonneville as Sir Robert Crawley, Robert James-Collier as Thomas Barrow, and a dog as the late Isis (the dog) in Downton Abbey (2014)

I will say nothing more on the subject, other than I watched this cuddling my dog really close to me, and then I was bawling my eyes out (just as I cried when Sybil died) and then my dog got really concerned.

Dogs are just wonderful.

What is His Lordship going to do now? Is he going to get a new puppy?

He’s just such a dog lover and it will be really hard to see him without faithful Isis (the dog) trotting faithfully by his side. Are they going to remove the part in the opening credits with Isis’ bum welcoming you to Downton?

These are things the writers need to be thinking about, rather than Ticketgate 1924. No one cares. I don’t care. I can’t even remember the specifics of Ticketgate other than it’s still a thing, and Anna and Mrs. Hughes are still really concerned about it. But not me.

Nope, all I care about is a loving tribute to Isis (the dog).

(But see how Thomas is holding Isis [the dog] in the above picture? I think this is his way of saying sorry to Isis for sticking her a shack that one time just so he could prove to Lord Gratham he’s hot shit).

2. Performance of the week = Dame Maggie Smith (duh)

The indomitable Dame Maggie Smith as Violet, the Dowager Countess

The indomitable Dame Maggie Smith as Violet, the Dowager Countess

I mean, it’s no contest. She’s by far the best actor on the show and can deliver a zinger like nobody’s business (“He’s a man. Men don’t have rights”) but her acting this week … legendary.

First of all, someone finally put Mary in her place for being such a B to Edith.

“My dear, a lack of compassion can be as vulgar as an excess of tears.”

Not only does Mary appear to take it to heart (I hope, because her Granny is someone she respects and admires), but it is soooooo true. I wish I had that phrase tattooed to my body. I wish I had the gravitas to say that the next time someone teases me for being sensitive and quick to tears. Not that tears are vulgar. I wish I had the regal bearing and dignity of the Dowager Countess. I wish I was Dame Maggie Smith …

But anyway, that scene when Mary misreads her granny’s discomfort with Isobel’s upcoming nuptials as an issue of rank, and the depth and pain on her face when she says something like: “I had gotten rather used to having a companion …”

So many tears (my dear, a lack of compassion can be as vulgar as an excess of tears).

One is reminded of the scene where Violet arrived at Downton after hearing news of Sybil’s death, and she’s hobbling on her cane in the hallway, and she stops and all you see is her turned back. The sheer force of her acting, the grief she conveyed by just her body language blew me out of the water.

3. Cora is kicking some serious butt this season!

Elizabeth McGovern as Lady Cora Crawley in Downton Abbey (2014)

Elizabeth McGovern as Lady Cora Crawley in Downton Abbey (2014)

Cora’s not taking anyone’s crap this season, and I love it.

A few weeks ago, when she said something to Robert along the lines of, “If you’ve never had a flirtation with someone and acted upon it, then don’t come to bed?” I clapped.

And then, upon hearing about the existence of her third grandchild, she asks Edith what she wants and makes it happen in her sweet, conscientious way. Her Ladyship is so much more doting and affectionate than the rest of the toffs and that’s what I love about her.

“Don’t mind Mama; she’s American.”

4. Mary and Tom?

Is it just me, or were they hinting at some Mary/Tom happenings in the next episode?

I would be happy with that. The only other storyline for Mary that I can accept (other than her Bertha Mason conversion) is if she got together with Tom.

That would be so weird.

But also so Downton.

5. Couple I’m still shipping = Baxter and Molseley

Raquel Cassidy as Baxter and Kevin Doyle as Molesley in Downton Abbey (2014)

Raquel Cassidy as Baxter and Kevin Doyle as Molesley in Downton Abbey (2014)

Secret smiles! Holding hands (kinda)! Thomas telling Baxter she deserves to go out to the Mason’s farm and have some fun!

I see the writers of Downton are finally taking my advice by (hopefully) making Baxter and Molesley happen, as well as Thomas (hopefully) turning his life around and showing courtesy and gratitude to dear, sweet Baxter.

Now all that needs to happen is for Baxter’s ex-bf (played by Paul Bettany) to make his appearance, cause some trouble, and then Thomas can stick up for her and Baxter and Molsley will get together and Mrs. Hughes and Mr. Carson will get together and everyone will live happily ever after.

Amen.

PS: And Isis (the dog) will come back to life. It will be a Christmas miracle!

I Just Can’t Quit You, Downton

The best character Isis (the dog)'s bum

The best character Isis (the dog)’s bum

The following contains spoilers. You’ve been warned!

Also, Meg is slowly emerging from a tonsillitis-induced fever coma and will be ready to talk about Downton soon, starting with the episode that aired last Sunday! Send healing thoughts and prayers her way!

Alison:

Season 5! What happened, Downton Abbey? Actually, Seasons 3-4 happened.

Season 1 = mystical and magical.

Season 2 = so much WAR but also so much Matthew-Mary tension.

Every season after that has been fraught with melodrama and soapiness galore (sometimes literal soap). Sensationalism, story lines that keep repeating themselves, nonsensical timelines, and poor writing abound.

But, in the words of my Downton-loving/fellow English major co-worker Justine: I just can’t quit Downton!

Downton Abbey still brings me so much joy and pleasure and is the treat awaiting me in the linkosphere on Monday evenings. And naturally, my thoughts and feelings are many.

Hugh Bonneville as Sir Robert Crawley and a dog as Isis (the dog) in Downton Abbey (2014)

Hugh Bonneville as Sir Robert Crawley and a dog as Isis (the dog) in Downton Abbey (2014)

1. First of all, and the most important point of all, NOTHING MUST HAPPEN TO ISIS (THE DOG)

There is a horrible, vicious rumour going around that they’re going to kill off Isis (the dog) because of her unfortunate name which is associated with the terrorist group.

As soon as I saw that Isis (the dog) wasn’t feeling well, I yelled at my computer NO NO NO NO NO (a la Shia LeBeouf) UNCLE JULIAN, DO NOT DO ANYTHING TO ISIS (THE DOG)!

KILL OFF ANY OTHER CHARACTER YOU WANT (BECAUSE LORD KNOWS YOU HAVE TOYED WITH OUR EMOTIONS BEFORE), BUT PLEASE SPARE ISIS (THE DOG).

In the words of the aforementioned Justine: Isis (the dog) is the most root-able character right now–they can’t kill her off!

I don’t think I could ever forgive Uncle Julian if he kills off Isis (the dog).

What would we DO with ourselves in the future? Whenever we watch the theme song and Isis’ bum wiggles us into Downton Abbey?

Like, I just couldn’t.

2. Ch-ch-ch-changes!

– Quoth Master of the Labyrinths AKA David Bowie.

– Actually, quoth everyone on Downton.

There has not been a single episode this season where someone hasn’t made either an explicit reference, or an illusion to the fact that the world as they know it is changing.

Subtle, Downton is not.

Geez, how would we know that this season takes place in 1924 if a character didn’t bring it up, every episode?

But now I’m getting sidetracked by imagining an alternate Downton world where David Bowie roams the abbey’s labyrinths and it is both surreal and AWESOME.

3. Poor Edith, forever

Edith’s family is THE WORST DOT COM. When the love of Mary’s life died, everyone made such great allowances for her grief. When Edith’s love was discovered to be dead, they treated her like her pet goldfish had died. Oh, poor Edith. She’s so unhappy … Let’s go race horses or whatever that posh thing was! Let’s gawk at Mary’s SHOCKING new hairdo [cue a witty remark from the Dowager Countess and the jaunty music that lets the audience know that the next scene is lighthearted in nature].

Even though I’m usually #TeamCora, when it comes to Edith, she’s kind of clueless. Remember last episode, when she walked in on Edith talking to Rosamund and Violet? Didn’t she suspect something was up? Did she really believe Edith went away to Switzerland (is that where she went? I can’t remember. SO MANY STORYLINES, GUYS!) to learn French? How do you not know your daughter’s pregnant … or at the very least that something’s up?

4. Mary is a B.

To Edith (ESPECIALLY to Edith), to Mabel Lane Fox, to basically everyone who is not herself.

I have never disliked Mary as much as I dislike her this season. She’s been through so much grief herself, so to say, “you ruin everything” when her sister is grieving?

“You wouldn’t be so heartless,” says Anna (in a different context).

Oh, but she would. And I really blame the writers for that one, because Mary has experienced growth as a character throughout the seasons, only to have all of that dashed away in this season.

Which brings me to my last point:

5. I should write for Downton Abbey!

Because then it would be a million times better. For example:

  • Edith would get to have a wonderful bohemian, intellectual writer existence, running Michael’s publishing company and writing scores on women’s rights and the changing society. She’d be a critical voice in a tumultuous time, having been on the inside of the crumbling noble class. She’d rub shoulders with Virginia Woolf and others, and raise her child Marigold on her own with feminist and modernist ideals. She’d be acknowledged and appreciated by her new society. Maybe Tom would join her, and they could raise Marigold and Sybbie together in the exciting new world they’ve created, far from the constraints of Downton. Perhaps they’d even fall in love? I love Tom.
  • Mary would remain in mourning for Matthew forever, roaming the attics of Downton like Bertha in Jane Eyre and scaring away all of George’s girlfriends.
  • Bates and Anna would have a child and it would be the most-loved child of all time.
  • Violet and Isobel would be inseparable BFFs and would move in together and just be heterosexual lifemates who want nothing but each other’s company and sip tea and play cards all day. Who cares about Lord Merton or that Russian dude? Violet + Isobel would be the best love story ever told.
  • Speaking of, after literal decades of being into each other, Hughes and Carson would finally hook up, and it would be just like that Nora Ephron movie about old people hooking up starring Diane Keaton and Jack Nicholson.
  •  Baxter and Molsely would fall in love and have a child. And that bad ex-bf from Baxter’s past (played by Paul Bettany) would come back and try coercing her into his nefarious lifestyle again, but Thomas would realize that she’s been a saint to him and he’s been a dick to her, so maybe the ex-bf will try to kill Baxter but Thomas will save her. Maybe he’ll die saving her so he doesn’t have to be miserable about his sexuality forever or have to fight in WW2 or something. He’d die doing a good deed, and even Bates would have to acknowledge that. Maybe in his dying breath he’d say, sorry everyone for being a dick. Especially you, Bates. And Bates would say, Thomas, I forgive you. You’re a good man. I love you. And they’d both cry and Thomas would die in Bates’ loving embrace a happy man. And Baxter’s ex-bf would get sent to jail and then somehow Baxter/Molsely + Anna/Bates would come into a little bit of money left behind by the bad ex-bf which they’d put towards their respective child’s educations. And Baxter and Molsely’s child would become very educated and maybe make it into parliament someday. And they’d be so proud.
  • Cora would become a distinguished art critic, or run an art gallery out of Downton after Robert’s death (Justine’s suggestion).
  •  Isis would live forever.

 

 

 

 

 

Two Canadian Girls Obsessed with Downton Abbey

Hugh Bonneville as Sir Robert Crawley, Earl of Grantham, and Elizabeth McGovern as Cora Crawley, Countess of Grantham in Downton Abbey (2014)

Hugh Bonneville as Sir Robert Crawley, Earl of Grantham, and Elizabeth McGovern as Cora Crawley, Countess of Grantham in Downton Abbey (2014)

The following post contains spoilers. You’ve been warned!

Alison:

To say Meg and I are obsessed with Downton Abbey is something of an understatement. Both of us have watched the entire series (thus far) multiple times. It’s my comfort show, especially in the winter when it’s cold and depressing and all I want to do is snuggle under blankets with tea and lose myself in the charming, glamorous, mostly family-friendly world of Downton.

In fact, everyone in our lives is mildly concerned with our Downton obsession–our constant watching of it, our Pinterest boards dedicated to it, the way we talk about the characters like they’re real people … but to that I have one word to say in response: SPORTS.

Some people have their multiple fantasy sports leagues (ahem MY HUSBAND ahem). We have Downton.

Anyway, season 5 of Downton has aired officially in England and illegally in North America, and naturally, Meg and I have our thoughts and feelings about it. I’ll try to keep my T&Fs to 5 points, but it will be hard! SO MANY storylines, you guys!

BLOG DOWNTON Lady Mary

Michelle Dockery as Lady Mary Crawley in a coat I would love to have in my possession, please.

1. First of all: FASHION.

You can’t talk about Downton without talking about the amazing 1920s fashion!

I love fur (not the real kind. #PETA). Fur accessories and fur-lined coats seem to be making a comeback for Fall/Winter 2014-2015 (from what little I know about fashion) thanks to the sumptuous costumes of period dramas such as Downton and Outlander. See Exhibit A above and Exhibit B below:

Caitriona Balfe as Claire in Outlander (2014)

Caitriona Balfe as Claire in Outlander (2014) in a fur scarf I would also like to have in my possession, please.

I’m also digging all of the royal and peacock blues.

Lily James as Lady Rose MacClare

Lily James as Lady Rose MacClare in a dress I would totally wear

2. Mary, Mary Quite Contrary

I’m really not liking Lady Mary this season. In fact, I haven’t liked her since the Mary-Matthew days. I get that she’s kind of the heroine, and we’re all supposed to be rooting for her and be super-interested in her love life, but frankly, I’m bored of her, and I find her very cold and nasty. Yes, she’s shockingly beautiful and has the title and her son is heir to that great estate and her eyebrows are highly enviable, but sometimes she’s just terrible.

“The cold and calculating Lady Mary” – Sir Richard Whatshisname

Honestly, I don’t know why those two dudes have fallen all over her when she’s been nothing but frosty and standoffish.

I miss Mary from Seasons 1-3 and how Matthew melted the ice around her heart and made her a softer, almost likeable person. Also, how many years have passed since Season 4 and Season 5? Three? Four? And those two extremely eligible young bachelors are still panting after her? Still? 

PS: SO MUCH SCANDAL this season I can’t take it. Mysterious contraceptive devices! Secret romantic getaways! Affairs with Russians?

3. Poor Edith.

Will Edith ever be happy? It seems she’s always pining for things she can’t have, and any hope of happiness is snatched away from her.

Remember Edith circa her wild and carefree London days and THE DRESS?

Laura Carmichael as Lady Edith Crawley in DAT DRESS!!!

Laura Carmichael as Lady Edith Crawley in DAT DRESS!!!

I had such high hopes for Edith last season. I kind of wish she had stolen Marigold (cutest name ever, by the way!) and ran away to start a new life in London as a bohemian writer, rubbing shoulders with the likes of Virigina Woolf and the rest of the Bloomsbury Group, exploring feminism and pacifism in a cheap but charming flat, free from her stifling family and title.

But alas, I’m not a writer for Downton. But I wish I was.

Dear writers of Downton: please give Edith a better storyline, please! She deserves it!

4. Cora has an admirer! #TeamCora

And can you blame him? I’m surprised more men haven’t thrown themselves at the extremely likeable and endearingly sweet Countess of Grantham. She is my favourite character, everyone, with good old Mrs. Hughes as a close second. I really don’t think she’s going to have an affair with this Bricker fellow; she’s way too good. But I love this idea of her as an amateur art critic though, and I hope that storyline is developed, what with her talking about wanting to leave behind a legacy. She seems to want to do more than compose letters in the library and arrange the menu for luncheon.

You go, girl.

Also, I loved hearing about her first years in London as a pretty, rich, and awkward young American girl. You’ve come a long way, baby.

“Tell your friend Bricker to stop flirting with Isis. There is nothing more ill-bred than trying to steal the affections of someone else’s dog” – Sir Robert Grumpy.

5. Couple I’m shipping this season: Baxter and Molsely.

I’ve always had a soft spot in my heart for Molsely, and I really like Baxter. She’s soft-spoken and sweet and Molsely won’t let her take ANY OF THOMAS’ crap. Even though she’s not dark and devious like O’Brien of the Bangs, she’s still interesting and has a complicated backstory and was a convicted felon, yo! And dear, bumbling buffoon Molsely deserves a little happiness too and a storyline beyond getting accidentally drunk and dancing at parties.

6. Character that needs to go: Miss Sarah Bunting (I had to add a sixth point; so great is my disdain for Sarah Bunting)

NO ONE LIKES HER. WHY IS SHE STILL AROUND? SHE IS THE WORST POSSIBLE CHARACTER EVER, and that’s saying a lot! She has NO redeemable qualities. Even Branson seems to be constantly embarrassed by her.

Why? Just why?

What does Branson see in her other than her radical political opinions? YOU CAN DO SO MUCH BETTER, TOM! I mean, look at your dead wife, who was the kindest and most beautiful human being who rocked trouser frocks and was passionate about her views without being an asshole, and look at this B. No. NO.

Rant over.

Meg:

Like, how can you even follow up a blog post like that? All I wanted to write for my section was *DROPS MIC AND WALKS OFF STAGE.

Oh, dearest Downton, where do I begin in describing the utterly profound love I have for you? I collect teapots and tea cups/saucers because of you, I buy things that remind me of you, I have all the books written about you (including a cookbook), I’ve watched all your seasons at least 10 times each …

Ya … I’m obsessed.

As Alison mentioned, season 5 has officially begun in England and I have (obviously) been illegally streaming it here. In fact … it’s 7:22 PM here, which means it’s 12:22 AM in England, which means the new episode has officially aired, which means I’m going to be watching it with a cuppa the second I’m finished this blog post. YES! #SCORE

For argument’s sake, let’s follow Alison’s 5 point (even though she cheated at the end) system.

1. Dear Mary … Really?!

I have (unlike most) always been a major fan of Lady Mary. I would even go so far as to say she’s been one of my favourite characters. I don’t know why, guys, just deal with it. I think it’s her amazing eyebrows. I’ve always been on Mary’s side and I’ve always rooted for her but now I completely agree with Alison. I’m over it. I want Matthew’s Mary back and I’m never going to get Matthew’s Mary back because Dan Stevens ruined my WHOLE LIFE and wanted to leave the show. Sorry, I needed to get that off my chest.

I’m completely bored by Mary’s storyline so far this season. I don’t give a crap about Tony Gillingham and I don’t give a crap about Charles Blake and I don’t give a crap about her secret rendezvous with her weird mystery contraceptive. To be honest, I’d rather Mary just be a Bertha Mason-esque character and insanely roam the halls of Downton because she can’t deal with the fact that Matthew is dead. I know that sounds very selfish of me, but it’s true.

Furthermore, I really resent that Mary made Anna go and buy the weird mystery contraceptive and then hide it in her cottage. Y’all know Mr. Bates is going to find it and think Anna doesn’t want to have children with him and that just has bad news written all over it.

2. Edith, please steal Marigold.

I really don’t know how much more I can handle of the world dumping on Edith. Let’s go through the Edith Misery List (EML): Edith was in love with Patrick, he died on the Titanic after being engaged to Lady Mary. Edith tried for Matthew and failed. Edith was in love with Sir Anthony and then Mary blew her chances with him at the garden party. Edith thought Patrick was back and then he ran away. Edith was engaged to Sir Anthony and then got left at the alter. Edith fell in love with Michael Gregson and then he disappeared (still don’t entirely understand this storyline) and then she found out she was pregnant with his baby. Edith had the baby (Marigold) and had to give her away. Edith became a “godmother” to Marigold and then got super annoying and clingy and was told to stay away from her. Side note: Marigold’s adoptive mother is kindaaaaaaaa mean but, like, I sort of get where she’s coming from.

HOW CAN ANYTHING ELSE HAPPEN? I feel so bad for her. I completely agree with Alison that she needs to kidnap Marigold and peace to London where she can be a bohemian journalist. I need a happy ending for her.

3. I HATE SARAH BUNTING !!!!

There are no words in the human language to accurately describe my disdain for this character. I hate her face, I hate her beaver teeth, I hate her loud mouth opinions and I hate her rudeness. I don’t care that she’s “political” – all I care about is that she was AWFUL to Robert and mean to the Russian guy. Also, why is she making Mrs. Pattmore pay for Daisy’s tutoring? Can’t she do that out of the goodness of her heart? Oh wait, there is no goodness in her heart. Why is this character still around? I loathed her at the end of Season 4 and my hatred grows by the second. If the writers want Tom to go back to his political roots, isn’t there a less irritating way to do it than introduce this vile creature? As Alison mentioned, how do you follow up Lady Sybil (#goddess) with this revolting woman!? Sarah Bunting needs to go and she needs to go now.

4. Mrs. Hughes & Carson 4 Eva.

I can’t handle Mrs. Hughes and Carson. They are the cutest non-couple in the entire universe. I’m super happy that Alison dedicated a point to Baxter and Molsely so I’m going to reciprocate by dedicating a point to the lord and lady of below stairs.

I’m not rooting for Mrs. Hughes and Carson to “get together” because I feel like that would belittle the love they have for one another. It’s so much deeper than all that. They have worked side by side for a billion years, they respect each other, and they love each other in a way that none of us really understands. Remember when Mrs. Hughes didn’t have breast cancer and she caught Carson singing to himself? Remember when they held hands at the beach? And remember when, in this season, Carson tells Mrs. Hughes that he can’t stand when they’re not on the same team and when Mrs. Pattmore says Mrs. Hughes has him “wrapped around her finger.” Be still my heart.

5. Hey, rest of the downstairs crew, wuzzup with you?

Thomas – what shenanigans are you getting up to now with your weird phone calls in Carson’s office? Are you planning on leaving Downton? We all know how well that went for you before (think plaster dust as flour circa post-WWI).

Mr. Bates – we all know you pushed Mr. Green into oncoming traffic and Mrs. Hughes and Mary burned the evidence but I have a knot in my stomach knowing the police are onto you. Everyone seems super chill about it (aside from Anna, obviously) but if you end up in jail a second time … this girl just can’t take it.

Daisy – I totally get wanting a better station in life and I loved when Mrs. Hughes told you to “Go as far in life as God and luck allow” – but I really don’t want you to leave Downton because Mrs. Pattmore will be devastated and I’ll miss you. Can’t you just run Mr. Mason’s farm AND work in Downton’s kitchen forever?

Mrs. Pattmore – you’re a doll for paying for Daisy’s tutoring even though Sarah Bunting is a you-know-what. I hope your nephew gets his name on the memorial because I hate seeing you cry.

And that’s all, folks!

#WeLoveDownton

#DowntonForever

Outlander Series, Ye Ken?

Caitriona Balfe as Claire Randall and Sam Heughan as Jamie Fraser in Outlander (2014)

Caitriona Balfe as Claire Randall and Sam Heughan as Jamie Fraser in Outlander (2014)

Meg:

Alright, I’m going to be completely honest, I’ve only read the first two books in the Outlander series so it’s not like I have a PhD in everything Outlander.
After obsessively reading the first book (and when I say ‘obsessively,’ I mean staying up until after midnight reading it when I usually go to bed at 9:30 like someone’s grandma) I went on a Chapters spree and bought ALL THE BOOKS in the entire series. They’re stacked (in the correct order) on my desk at home just waiting for me to devour them.
I JUST finished Dragonfly in Amber last night so I will inevitably be picking up Voyager ASAP.

With that precursor out of the way, let’s talk about the new Starz series. They have only aired the first four episodes but let’s discuss our Thoughts & Feelings thus far:

1. Scotland. Can you, though? I mean, the first book made me FALL IN LOVE with Scotland and everything about it. My Poppa was born and raised in Scotland and I’ve recently been playing that up because I have an obsessive personality and need to completely engulf my entire existence in things I like. I read an article about how the series really wanted Scotland to be a character in the show and I think they’ve accomplished that. It’s gorgeous and just speaks to you. It makes me want to lay in a bed of heather and eat bannock.

2. Sam Heughan as Jamie. He’s the most beautiful man I’ve ever seen. Enough said.

3. Claire’s clothes. In both centuries. Her navy blue trench coat circa 1946 and her plaid skirts, knitted shawls, knitted hand warmers, etc. circa 1743. In love. Do you think it would be weird if I started dressing like an 18th century Scottish woman?

4. Tobias Menzies playing both Frank Randall and Black Jack Randall. Verra cool (do you like how I threw Scottish slang in there?). I don’t know how they’re going to handle the Black Jack/Jamie “situation” which occurs later in the book but I’m curious to see how it all plays out.

5. Colum’s legs. THEY LOOK SO REAL! Like, is it done through CGI or did Gary Lewis actually cripple himself for the part? Just kidding, I know he didn’t do that, but c’mon!

6. The fact that the actors/actresses are actually speaking Gaelic makes me happy! I’m glad they didn’t cop out here.

7. Does anyone else want to drink copious amounts of Rhenish?

8. I love that the sets are so realistic. Like, Leoch isn’t made to look like Downton Abbey or something (nothing against Downton Abbey because it’s also an obsession of mine…) It’s actually covered in mud and horse poo (I’m assuming) and the hallways are dirty and stone and only lit by torchlight.

Needless to say (am I gushing enough for you?) I’m hopelessly in love with the series so far and I can’t wait to continue watching.

My rating (based on the first four episodes) = *****

Over to you, Alison! …

Sam Heughan as Jamie Fraser (2014)

Sam Heughan as Jamie Fraser in Outlander (2014)

Alison:

I read the first book of the series years ago shortly after I returned from a trip to Scotland and was yearning for all things Scottish. I loved it, but never got around to reading the rest of the series. My interest was reinvigorated with the new Starz TV series and because I read an article in Maclean’s about how good it was.  

My husband and I have watched the two episodes together and we’re both into it (hooray! A show we can share together, unlike my other obsessions with Downton Abbey and Call the Midwife!)

Here are my T&Fs thus far on my Outlander journey:

1. Good casting. I’m always annoyed when they cast household names as the main characters of adaptations that are long awaited-for, such as this. Can you imagine if … I don’t know … Keira Knightley was cast as Claire and Robert Pattinson was cast as Jamie? No. That would be terrible. 

2. I don’t know why Claire doesn’t just keep her mouth shut sometimes. If I was in that situation, I wouldn’t tell anyone anything, or I’d pretend I was a mute. And I’d downplay how much I knew about modern medicine and maybe not be so sassy all the time. I get that she’s a great feminist character because she speaks her mind and is strong and willful and I appreciate that, but sometimes it’s scary enough speaking up about something in 2014, let alone 1743! So maybe chill a little bit with the backtalk, Claire. Don’t give them any more reasons to be suspicious of you (see point 4). 

3. “Is there ever a good reason for rape?” Go, Claire! #YesAllWomen

4. But then, give Dougal and Colum a frickin’ break maybe. I mean, obviously they’re going to be suspicious of you! You’re this random English woman who was found alone in a nightgown in Scotland, and the English and Scottish aren’t exactly BFFs (not like Meg and I). And you have these crazy healing powers and say really weird words like “infection.” Can you actually really blame them for thinking you’re suspicious?

5. There are many scenes that make me cover my eyes. Good on them for being gritty and realistic about the time period, but I’m a sensitive flower. I can’t handle the whipping and the medical stuff.

6. I’m happy Jamie is actually Scottish IRL. I’d be really sad if he wasn’t. Sad like casting Anne Hathaway as Jane Austen sad.

7. Sometimes I wish this series was subtitled. Not for the Gaelic, because I get that we’re supposed to be getting Claire’s viewpoint and she wouldn’t have understood what they were saying. But for the thick Scottish brogue. It’s a lovely accent, but sometimes I can’t understand what they’re saying. At all. 

8. Meg did 8, so I will too. And my last point is this:

I miss you, Scotland. 

My rating thus far: ****