Thursday, January 7, 2016

Thursday Movie Picks: Downstairs People


A New Year is upon us! This also means a new year of Thursday Movie Picks. I'm stoked, and I am resolved to post every week. Here's hoping...

This week's theme...Downstairs People (in relation to Downton Abbey/movies about live-in domestic workers)...was a challenge for me. I know the familiar titles but few have I seen. I ultimately went with three that I feel are about as close as I can get. So, without further ado...


Here are my picks: 

Gosford Park
Dir. Robert Altman, 2001


Lovely, intriguing, purely Altman with a touches of class struggle, family secrets, and Agatha Christie-esque murder mystery. A great ensemble cast highlights it, with talents ranging from Dame Maggie Smith and Michael Gambon on down to the likes of Bob Balaban and even Ryan Phillippe. Altman was made for this sort of film, and it stands as one of the favorites of 2001.

Spanglish
Dir. James L. Brooks, 2004


Funny, heartfelt, purely James L. Brooks, Spanglish is the story of a culture clash between a wealthy family of white Americans and a struggling Mexican maid and her daughter. Adam Sandler (in one of his best roles) stars as Top Chef John Clasky alongside Téa Leoni as his manic wife. In walks Paz Vega as Flor and her daughter, Cristina, throwing the Clasky family into a tailspin when they all head to Malibu together for the summer.

Cinderella
Dir. Kenneth Branagh, 2015


Gorgeous, faithful yet fresh, I was blown away by director Kenneth Branagh's take on the classic fairy tale. The lovely Lily James is a wonder as the title character, forced into servitude by her evil stepmother (an icy Cate Blanchett) and ditzy, demanding stepsisters. This movie worked so well, for me, in that it made these characters so much more human than the Disney animated film, especially in that of the Prince character, a guy named Kit (Richard Madden), who only wants true love. Every frame of this film is a work of art, in and of itself.

An ongoing series by Wandering through the Shelves

20 comments:

  1. I also picked Cinderella, but the cartoon version. Spanglish is a really sweet movie, Adam Sandler should try to do more things like that. I always think of John kissing Flor in the kitchen.

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    1. Nice. Oh, that scene at the end of Spanglish is just so perfect. Underrated movie.

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  2. Cinderella strikes again! Love this version even more than the animated one!

    Spanglish is a great choice. One of Sandler's better films. My wife LOVES it.

    Gosford is probably the most obvious and appropriate pick for this week.

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    1. Oh, me too. This version blew me away.

      Spanglish really is good. Your wife has good taste. I love me some Jim Brooks flicks...for the most part.

      Gosford was easily the first to pop into mind.

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  3. Nice choices. LOVE Gosford Park so much, it is very much an Altman film where everything came together perfectly. Impossible to pick a favorite performance, I can't think of a weak one...even Phillippe is better than usual.

    I don't love Spanglish but I did like it. I would have enjoyed it more with a different actress than Tea Leoni in one of the lead roles, she annoys me no end. I did love Cloris Leachman as the mother/mother-in-law though. Sandler needs to do more stuff like this rather than the really awful stuff he's been turning out lately.

    Cinderella never occurred to me, I don't usually think of it from that perspective. The new version is a definite treat for the eye and while I do like Cate Blanchett's work she doesn't come close to Anjelica Huston's inimitable work in Ever After.

    Gosford Park was the first that came to my mind too but I figured it would be the title of the week so I went pecking around for others, here's what I came up with.

    The Maids (1975)-Sisters Solange and Claire (Glenda Jackson & Susannah York) work as maids for a woman they detest, known only as Madame. Whenever she’s out they take turns dressing in her clothes and demeaning each other as Madame does to them. An adaptation of a Jean Genet play that was itself based on a famous pair of murders committed by the Papin sisters in 30’s France. Produced as part of the American Film Theatre but released theatrically this is very much a filmed play that features two award caliber performances from its lead actresses.

    The Servant (1963)-Tony, a wealthy young man moves to London and hires the seemingly docile Barrett to be his all-around servant. Barrett at first seems quite competent and yielding but Tony’s girlfriend Susan is made uneasy by him and advises Tony to send him away. Once Barrett brings his sister Vera to work there too the situation spirals downward and ultimately the question is who the servant is and who’s the master?

    The Fallen Idol (1948)-A young British boy, Phillippe, worships his father’s butler, Baines (Ralph Richardson) and Baines spins stories of his great adventures to amuse the boy. However Baines is stuck in a loveless marriage and when an accident occurs which Phillippe misconstrues his attempts to protect his hero only lead to bigger troubles for Baines. Directed by Carol Reed and winner of a slew of awards this is a great film.


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    1. I have to agree on Tea Leoni. She really does turn me off as well, but she pulled off the hyper-manic angle Brooks was going for there. Leachman was fantastic. I love her. Sandler just doesn't want to have to work hard. He just lazily makes those bullshit movies with his buddies and gets his $20 million. I love some of the earliest ones (Happy Gilmore, Big Daddy, even The Wedding Singer and 50 First Dates), but the last decade or so has been a real bummer, save Funny People (he's terrific in that film).

      Glenda Jackson is a fascinating actress, so The Maids sounds like something to watch, especially. Thanks for sharing here Joel. Happy New Year!

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  4. Gosford Park is one of my all-time favorites. That cast is just delicious. I thought of picking Spanglish but I don't remember it so well. I do remember liking it, though. I thought of using Cinderella but I haven't seen this version yet, and just couldn't go with the animated version (although I did enjoy it as a kid).

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    1. I really need to re-watch Gosford Park. It's been years. I just remember loving it. My Mom really loves that one too. She's a Downton Abbey junky as well. Definitely see the new Cinderella. It's lovely.

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  5. Great picks. Spanglish is one of Sandler's better films. He should do more things like that one. I haven't seen this version of Cinderella yet, but I'm sure Kenneth Branagh did a great job.

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    1. Agree on Sandler. He's gotten lazier as the years have passed. Branagh indeed did a great job. Thanks.

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  6. Oh wow-I have not seen any of these but want to-Cinderella looks enchanting

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  7. Completely agree that Cinderella was a gorgeous film. I'm expecting to see Gosford Park in these lists a lot. Not surprised as it was the first one I thought of.

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    1. Gosford Park is the flagship film in this category, I'd say.

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  8. Spanglish is one of Adam Sandler's movies that I like. Paz Vega was really good there. I didn't expect to like Cinderella, but it was a great adaptation. I'm one of those people who hasn't seen Gosford Park but the cast list seems impressive.

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    1. Love Paz Vega. She is just gorgeous and so natural. Gosford Park is a great one. Highly recommend.

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  9. I'm glad you included Spanglish. I think it's such an underrated film.

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  10. The recent Cinderella is a nice little update. I especially like how she first met the Kit. The only thing I didn't like was the costuming and set. Just a little cartoony theme park-ish costumes and sets which was a little too much like Once.

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    1. I dug the whole production. Just lovely.

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