Tag Archives: Oscar

TV Review – Downton Abbey

I am not sure from where to start because writing a mere formal review of a period costume-drama like Downton Abbey is unjustly and undeservingly shorter to write. I have a staunch interest in classic period dramas and that is why shows like Cranford and Poldark hit my list of the shows that I like the most under this classic genre. Downton Abbey is something else.

Created and written by Oscar and Emmy-winning writer and novelist Julian Fellowes, Downton Abbey is about the Crawley family who exists in the early 20th century when the world is shaping towards a difficult period in the European regions. In between 1912 and 1926, the Crawleys led by the patriarch Robert Crawley, the Earl of Grantham, and his wife Cora, the American heiress, struggles to tackle many domestic conflicts running in the family and the business affairs that occur in the different phases.

The plotting of the show is divided into two different classes. One is the rich Crawleys and the other is their working staff. Their stories and characters play on parallel notes and are given equal importance that successfully shows that Downton Abbey is not only about the sophisticated luxury but the human value where the rich and the working class coordinate in harmony and build strong mutual respect. Internal conflicts and characterizations are dealt with with meticulous care. I liked how the three Crawley sisters were distinguished in characterization and their sisterhood was tested with time.

The presentation of their aristocracy and costume designing is the zenith of the show that never disappoints. Screenwriting and dialogues are powerful, less pragmatic but also less dramatic. There is a tremendous balance of dramatizing humor to the seriousness of the subject. When it comes to dialogues, the unanimous winner amongst all the characters is matriarch Violet Crawley played by the legendary Maggie Smith. Your ears won’t fall deaf when Violet begins to speak.

Speaking of pragmatism, I was a bit skeptical about the respect the writer builds between the Crawleys and their staff; because I felt the writer was being too humble to let the Crawleys go soft on their staff that doesn’t look realistic. But see, I am a history digger but I need to be convinced with the detailing. Does the history really make the viewers believe that the daughters of the estate would show fondness in driving the tractor or work her kitchen in the maid’s quarter or allow one of the staff to leave unpunished when the voice is to be raised? Lord Grantham letting his daughter marry a man, not from their ranks is also debatable. Being so merciful, generous, and treating so well to their servants is pretty doubtful. There was a scene where the ball was organized where each of the Crawleys dance with each of the servants. In another scene, Lord Grantham himself serves with a tray for a drink when working staff member Anna gives birth. Really don’t know if such things actually existed in the past and with such a level of delicacy.

Yes, Mr. Fellowes didn’t exaggerate glamorizing the royalness of the Crawleys but rather focused on the changing times where the family took time to accept change and this is where characterizing in the plot plays a major part. One impressive aspect that the show enlightened was the ladies of the estate supporting liberalism. All the three sisters Mary, Edith, and Sybil believed and advocated for the education and employment of women.

The most shocking moment of the show was the sudden death of Matthew Crawley, out of nowhere. Good to know that the character was deliberately killed because actor Dan Stevens decided to leave. Otherwise, there was no reason to kill the character that soon. My favorite character was definitely Violet Crawley, her presence was the minty alfresco. The other characters I very much liked were Mr. Carson, Mr. Molesley, and Lord Grantham. The best character development definitely was Thomas Barrow, he was someone to whom the viewers hated and loved equally.

Downton Abbey is a cult phenomenon and one of the masterpieces works on British television. One significant point about the show’s remarkable legacy is that the show comes into existence in the newest times as most of the classical masterpieces in British television history are from the previous century. After my Sons Of Anarchy addiction, if there is another show that hooked me and bought my time, it is Downton Abbey.

Film Review: The Irishman (2019)

The Irishman is about the rise of hitman Frank Sheeran who first joined the infamous Pennsylvania crime family of the Bufalinos and then worked for a powerful union activist, Jimmy Hoffa.

I am mesmerized to the directional greatness of Martin Scorsese whose crime drama detailing lost not an inch of fascination. The Irishman is remarkably constructed in the very same crime tone as Scorsese’s previous unforgettable crime works like Mean Streets, Goodfellas, Casino, etc. I am impressed by how can any director maintain the same aura of directional artistry for more than 5 decades. The Irishman is a ridiculously superior crime saga of around 3 hours and 29 minutes.


It is not the hype of this hugely awaited film for which I am excited, it is the brilliance of the filmmaking, narration, production designing blended with rich performances by the stellar casting and spectacular action sequences which have impressed me.

Another aspect worth mentioning is Scorsese’s careful use of onscreen chemistries. I am talking about two of the most talking pairs of the film; Robert de Niro with Joe Pesci and with Al Pacino. Sad to see Joe Pesci gone slow and less angry due to old age but each of his screentime was worth and displayed a memorable performance.

Jimmy Hoffa (Al Pacino) and Frank Sheeran (Robert De Niro) debate Hoffa’s next move. © 2019 Netlfix US, LLC. All rights reserved.

But with de Niro’s splendid performance in years, I will say it was Al Pacino’s magnificent supporting role equating with de Niro’s leading character. Al Pacino as Jimmy Hoffa was a talking point in the entire middle part of the film. Scorsese fixed them together in the most suitable screen minutes and heavy dramatic moments of the final hour. Every sensible viewer will enjoy their chemistry, especially in the final hour.


Harvey Keitel and Bobby Cannavale were decent in pretty short roles, Ray Romano as Bill Bufalino and Stephen Graham as Tony Pro played very good supporting roles.

Hoffa’s political adversity highlighted some political tensions between Kennedy and Nixon eras. Some of the most notorious crime families were also depicted like Genovese, Philly, Gambino, and Colombo.

The Irishman is a phenomenal film. The final 30 minutes will drop you, break you and wreck you. There is no aspect that doesn’t impress you. In my opinion, the film deserves the Oscar nominations for the best picture, director, actor (de Niro), supporting actor (Pacino), editing, production design, and cinematography at least. Maybe also for the adapted screenplay which I have read to be very precise, for a few I have doubts which I don’t like to ponder here.

Overall, The Irishman is one of Martin Scorsese’s finest works, easily one of the greatest crime films, one of de Niro and Pacino’s most memorable roles of their careers.

Mandatory Credit: Photo by Evan Agostini/Invision/AP/Shutterstock (10428524co)
Joe Pesci, Al Pacino, Martin Scorsese, Robert De Niro, Harvey Keitel. Actor Joe Pesci, left, actor Al Pacino, director Martin Scorsese, actor Robert De Niro and actor Harvey Keitel pose together at the world premiere of “The Irishman” at Alice Tully Hall during the opening night of the 57th New York Film Festival, in New York
2019 NYFF – “The Irishman” World Premiere, New York, USA – 27 Sep 2019 

Ratings: 9.3/10

Film Review: Fences (2016)

Fences was a play written by August Wilson back in 1983 which, years later, won Pulitzer Prize for Drama. In 2010, Kenny Leon directed the broadway based on the book with Denzel Washington and Viola Davis as the leading cast. The book became a source of cinematic adaptation with the very same actors repeating their roles.
 
The film is set in Pittsburgh of the 1950s. It is about a man who wanted to become a baseball player when he was young but couldn’t due to his color. So now he discourages his son to follow the same path.
Fences will be remembered amongst one of the most brilliant films with the most ordinary story. There is simply nothing special or new in the story to watch. What makes this film look great and worth watching is due to almost all the technical aspects besides the story. A gritty drama directed by Denzel Washington and magnificent performances by himself as Troy and Viola Davis as his wife, Rose. I fail to understand why wasn’t Viola nominated in the Oscar for this film in the leading role rather than supporting role. But wherever is she nominated, she is the showstopper.
 
This is my first experience to watch Viola in a well-defined role as her role was pretty short as Amanda Waller in Suicide Squad, plus I have never watched her in How To Get Away With Murder. What is top-notch about her role in the film is her ‘Hurt’ aspect as Troy’s wife. Soon when Denzel reveals some news to her shock, she is different than you have been watching her in the first half of the film. She then drops your jaws and till she has expressed her severe melancholy to her husband, your eyes are about to get wet. She makes you feel what hurts and disappoints her as a loyal wife and a mother. In short, a stupendous accomplishment.

 
Denzel/Viola onscreen chemistry as the old couples is phenomenal. They share few outstanding scenes, an even father-son rigid relation is a stunning sketch which grows your nerves. Besides them, all the actors involved maintains a rich display of supporting characters which make you sit and watch. Like Troy’s brother, Gabriel (Mykelti Williamson) is at a corner but a very attention-seeking character who is mentally unfit and often gets in trouble in the neighborhood. Then both the sons of the Troy are entirely different individuals who have a few verbal exchange and disturbed relation with father due to choosing different careers which father Troy never wished. Troy’s friend Bono (Stephen Henderson) has a different command, a loyal friend who understands Troy’s stance towards his wife and kids, and ideology to life. Denzel as the director is supreme in character detailing. The placement of all the characters is perfect.
 
Fences without violence is a brutal violence in silence. Your ears will listen to the whispers, the cries behind a failed state of an honest individual who roared only when his color became an unbegged penny. A sublime sad film.
Ratings: 8/10
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