I am an awesomeness aficionado– when I see, hear, or experience something I feel that goes above and beyond the ordinary I want to broadcast. So here’s what’s on my bandwidth this week:
TV Mini Series: Downton Abbey, First Season (7 Episodes)
Where did I find it? Netflix
Details: Created by Julian Fellowes, Starring (among others) Hugh Bonneville, Laura Carmichael, Jim Carter, Brendan Coyle, Michelle Dockery, Siobhan Finneran, Joanne Froggatt, Rob James-Collier, Phyllis Logan, Elizabeth McGovern, Sophie McShera, Lesley Nicol, Maggie Smith, Dan Stevens, Penelope Wilton, Jessica Brown Findlay
Awards: Best Mini-Series or Motion Picture Made for Television
You’ll probably like Downton Abbey if you geek out about: Jane Austen, Early 20th Century costumes, British television, Maggie Smith, great dialogue, subtle aristocratic drama
Why its awesome: I had this show recommended to me by four different people before I finally gave in and watched it. Good thing I waited until my busy season was over, because I wound up finishing the seven episodes of the first season in less than two days! The characters are engaging, the interactions between the aristocratic household and their servants are fascinating, and the costumes are gorgeous!
The story follows Lord Robert Crawley, Earl of Grantham, his family, and their servants through the years beginning with the sinking of the Titanic in April of 1912. The family’s nearest male cousin and heir were killed in the shipwreck and one of the main through lines is the search and cultivation of a new male heir that will maintain the estate and tend to the welfare of Lord Crawley’s three daughters.
If you’re one of those people who watches a TV show thinking, “Okay, this is cool, but when is something going to explode?!!” this might not be the show for you. The plot is slow, but the subtly is captivating and intensely funny. Julian Fellowes explores in depth the complicated relationship between aristocracy and servants in Britain at the turn of the century, deftly illustrating the cages that both classes were caught in at the time. Hilarity and social commentary at the same time! Thumbs up!
My Favorite moments happen between The Dowager Countess of Grantham, Lady Violet Crawley (Maggie Smith), and Isobel Crawley (Penelope Wilton) Lady Violet’s distant cousin and mother of the sole Grantham heir Matthew Crawley. Lady Violet is used to ruling Grantham with an iron claw and an icy tongue until equally stubborn battleaxe Cousin Isobel arrives to rain on the parade. You can tell that Maggie Smith is having a ball with each cleverly worded insult she hurls at Penelope Wilton–who promptly takes the elderly snipe fight to the next level.
Lady Violet Crawley, the Dowager Countess: You are quite wonderful, the way you see room for improvement wherever you look. I never knew such reforming zeal.
Isobel Crawley: I take that as a compliment.
Lady Violet Crawley, the Dowager Countess: I must have said it wrong.
Can’t wait to get my hands on Season Two!
Music: Barton Hollow by the Civil Wars
Where did I find it? YouTube via the Awesome Mel Stone
Details: Joy Williams and John Paul White, Album Barton Hollow released February 2011
Awards: Barton Hollow Grammy nominee for Best Folk Album
You’ll probably like this if you geek out about: Folk music, country music, bluegrass
Why its awesome: When I was getting married last year, I had a hard time picking out the music. I mean, what do you do for the happiest day of your life when your favorite songs include Renegade, Ol’ Red, and The Night the Lights Went Out in Georgia? Well, I’ve found another one to add to my favorites list.
This song is soulful and dripping with unforgivable, unknown deeds. The harmonies get stuck in your head and make you want to sing in the car, especially in traffic. I haven’t had a chance to preview their other music, but this song definitely wins the weekly awesome award.
Ain’t going back to Barton Hollow
Devil gonna follow me e’er I go
Won’t do me no good washing in the river
Can’t no preacher man save my soul…
Movie: The Girl with the Dragon Tatoo, Swedish Version (2009) (Rated R)
Where did I find it? Netflix
You’ll probably like this if you geek out about: Fight Club, Sin City, thrillers, nitty and gritty foreign films
Why its awesome: Let me start by saying this movie is graphic, definitely rated R, but well done. I’ve never delved into Swedish films before (never actually heard of one before, really) but with the new ‘Girl with the Dragon Tattoo’ movie coming out I thought I’d give the original a try.
Having never read the books, I took the movie at face value and I have to say I was impressed, especially by the directing and the characters of Lisbeth Salander and Mikael Blomkvist. Complicated, to say the least. Because its a murder mystery, I don’t want to give any plot away, but I have to say that Lisbeth Salander is one of the most interesting characters I’ve discovered recently. She is both a product of her environment and her environment is a product of her black and white personality. And Lisbeth, although I think you’re a nut, I’d have to agree with you–I would have let him burn too.
I think hearing the story in the original Swedish gave the movie the extra edge it needed to kick it into the awesome zone. I love to pick up on the differences between what they are saying in the film and the subtitles and the slight differences between Swedish and American culture. I personally love the time this film gives to silent interaction and during most scenes I felt I could have watched the film without the subtitles and picked up everything I really needed to know. I think that is a hallmark of a good film, whatever language its in.
If you’re squeamish about sex or violence, especially rape, this movie might not be for you. I normally am not one to highlight this stuff, but I have to say, tattooing– “I am a sadistic pig, a pervert, and a rapist” on your aggressor seems like a punishment that should happen more often. Fitting, eh?
My favorite is an extraordinarily well-directed ‘thought moment’ during which the identity of the serial killer and the consequences of that identity very slowly dawn on Mikael. Its the best and most understated ‘Oh Sh**’ moment I’ve seen in cinema. Awesome!