Monthly Archives: January 2013

Downton Abbey: Week 4 in Review

SONIA BRAND-FISHER: In the still relatively new season of “Downton Abbey,” we get an episode so full of sorrow, confusion, and woe that it feels, like tragedy, so out of the blue. Sybil was my favorite of the Crawley sisters, and her relationship with Branson was in turn one of my favorite love stories. Her death felt like one of a dear but distant friend, whom you have always loved and admired and who always gave so much with every decision and every action she made. The glee with which she displayed her turquoise harem pants to her shocked family in Season 1 will never be forgotten, and will always be my favorite moment at Downton. A woman “at the height of her happiness”departs from this world and leaves behind all that she has been so important in anchoring.

NAVA BRAHE: I could not possibly add anything to Sonia’s description of the events leading up to, and following Sybil’s death. What I would like to tackle, however, is what this portrayal of a young woman’s demise in childbirth means outside the bubble of popular culture.

HOWARD MEGDAL: I, too, wouldn’t have done well with corsets, Nava. You are not alone. Continue reading

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Modern Family: Season 4, Episode 13 – “Fulgencio”

KIP MOONEY: I’ll just come right out and say it: the last five minutes of this week’s episode are the funniest since the pilot’s introduction of Lily. That Godfather parody is so spot-on, so hilarious, that I just want to…

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Downton Abbey: Week 3 in Review

NAVA BRAHE: Lady Mary is becoming as annoying to me as someone flushing the toilet while I am taking a shower. Now that Matthew has “invested” in Downton, she seems to have become more uptight, rather than relieved by the fact that her ancestral home and lavish lifestyle are no longer in limbo. The scene in the newly commandeered sitting room was telling, when her dismissive attitude reared its ugly head at the thought of becoming pregnant. Now that Matthew has cemented his position as both heir and savior of Downton, of course he wants offspring of his own. Is Mary afraid there won’t be enough funds to hire the army of nannies she would require to rear her children?

SONIA BRAND-FISHER: One of the major criticisms that this show has received is its supposed glorification of the upper classes with a seemingly complacent attitude from the servants. Though I can see where these critics are coming from, I have always defended “Downton Abbey” saying that the commentary on the British class system is subtle and not overbearing, but ever present. Episode Three, however, seemed to address these issues of class head on. As Nava stated, the Branson/Sybil plotline meshing with the Ethel tragedy provided the loudest roar I have ever heard from “downstairs.” I sincerely hope episodes with intricacies like these continue this season, because I am growing very tired of Mary’s icy demeanor and incessant snobbishness.

HOWARD MEGDAL: Agree with both Nava and Sonia that this is a dramatic improvement on last week; Julian Fellowes, at last, takes some time from racing through plot and allows the complicated characters in Downton time to breathe. Remembering Season 1, when luxuriating in their presence was the overriding pleasure of the show, would do Fellowes good as he plans future episodes. Continue reading

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Modern Family: Season 4, Episode 12 — “Party Crasher”

KIP MOONEY: I would have expected a show like Modern Family to really draw out a big moment like the birth of another baby. Or to hold it until February sweeps. But this episode was full of surprises. From Manny’s…

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Downton Abbey: Week 2 in Review

NAVA BRAHE: I have to admit that Edith has become a much more sympathetic character in Season 3, not just because she was left at the altar by Strallan; she seems to have gained so much poise and confidence after helping nurse the King’s soldiers during the war, as opposed to trying to sabotage Lady Mary in Season 1. Her previous role was that of a typical middle sister, especially when one’s older sibling happens to be another girl.

SONIA BRAND-FISHER: Spinsters do get out of bed for breakfast, and Edith has exhibited so much strength these past few seasons, even if she doesn’t see it herself. The opening shot of the episode with the house a-bustle for wedding preparations and Edith, for the first time, with a Lady of the House glow of pride on her face gave me such joy. I don’t think I have seen her smile so much in one episode, yet what killed me the most was that her face became so much more open, her eyes so much more willing to take in the beauty around her. There wasn’t a single fear of heartbreak present at the beginning of the episode for Edith, which I find surprising in retrospect. I am predicting that this hardship will boost her as a character, as each of her hardships have done in the past. She sure as hell, as Nava points out, appears more sympathetic than Lady Mary at this point in the season.

HOWARD MEGDAL: Put my money on O’Brien too, Sonia. But at the risk of sounding negative about a show I enjoy, there were two particular points within this episode that I thought stretched the writing beyond its breaking point.
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Silver Linings Playbook

SONIA BRAND-FISHER: How to put this gently… “Silver Linings Playbook” is a film that, for me, had enormous potential. With an A-list cast, a colloquial script, and a hand-held camera used to capture the intimate neuroses of a middle-class family in Philadelphia, there were moments of genuine enthusiasm and struggle. The film followed the family’s process of accepting one of their sons, Pat (Bradley Cooper), home from a psychiatric institution. The beauty of this film lies in the dynamics and layered dialogue of the central family, who prepare for each Eagles games with a series of good-luck rituals to keep up the juju while noshing on “crab snacks and homemades.” You seriously felt like you were in this family’s house, sharing their joy and anguish over everything from Hemingway to heartbreak. Yet, what seriously tarnished what otherwise was a current and down-to-earth film was the distorted and gut-wrenching representation of its women. Continue reading

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Free Online Content, and Its Discontents

MOLLY SCHOEMANN: Does anyone else worry that the proliferation of free online content has increasingly devalued the sorts of artistic media (writing, videos, pictures, music etc.) that can be freely and easily distributed online to the extent that it is going to ultimately discourage creative people from going into those fields (i.e. getting liberal arts/journalism degrees and other education in those fields) since they can’t really profit from doing those things– which is going to degrade the quality of that content overall until it’s really not even worth paying for anyway?

AKIE BERMISS: Free online content. While many have moved on the practical solutions to this new state of things this is a question of — still! — grave importance to me.  iIs been over a decade since the mp3 was introduced to the world and still the music industry is reeling from the blows of that technological leap. Continue reading

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Modern Family: Season 4, Episode 11 — “New Year’s Eve”

KIP MOONEY: I love when Modern Family gets some edge. There are the occasional bawdy jokes that were bound to fly right over the heads of most of the show’s younger viewers. By leaving the kids at home, this week’s…

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Downton Abbey: Week 1 In Review

SONIA BRAND-FISHER: We’ve got a wedding, a new footman, “jolly” new hair styles, a “blushing” Mary, unlikely camaraderies, financial difficulties, a cancer scare, Irish rants, and Shirley Maclaine. Season Three of “Downton Abbey” has made it across the pond into our eager minds and hearts. Sunday night’s two-hour premiere can be summed up best by Lord Grantham at the beginning of the episode: “Nothing’s the matter. What should be the matter?” Nothing should be the matter. Matthew and Mary are about to be wed, Sybil and Branson are happy(ish) on their own in Dublin, Anna and Bates are making the best of a bad situation, the money troubles can easily be fixed by the immensely wealthy Martha Levinson (should she choose to contribute), and things are managing so-so downstairs given that they are currently understaffed. Nothing “should” be the matter. But, in true Downton fashion, many things are likely to be.

HOWARD MEGDAL: The return of Downton Abbey Sunday night provided precisely the well-acted, somewhat conveniently-plotted, aesthetically-pleasing television viewing we’d come to expect from Julian Fellowes and company over the first two seasons. Continue reading

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