Television fans are a unique set. We're the type of people who devote hours upon hours a week to our fictional, televised friends. We laugh at their jokes and cry when they cry because our favorite shows are just so darn good. But the intensity of the laughter and the tears is all thanks to the fact that we regard these characters as something of a family. We know them. We understand them. We love them unconditionally. And actors deserve recognition for being able to elicit that level of a reaction from their fans. Naturally, when they're not given their due, we're forced to react, well, emotionally. How, exactly, will we react? That depends on the actor in question. Next up is the sassiest countess to ever grace the small screen, Downton Abbey star Maggie Smith.
I'm just going to cut to the chase here, people: Dame Maggie Smith is an icon. If she was American, she'd be a damn national treasure. They would make 1,000 gold-plated statues of her likeness and drop them throughout the American countryside for everyone to gaze upon in adulation and honor. These are just facts of science. She is 77 years old and has probably been playing that age for the last 40 years — talk about commitment! But it has arguably been on Masterpiece Theater's hit Downton Abbey that she's shined the most. And listen, if homegirl doesn't win the Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama this year for her masterstroke turn as Violet Crawley, the Dowager Countess of Grantham, things will go terribly wrong. Like, Thomas and O'Brien scheme-levels of terrible. I will make sure of it, with Bates as my witness!
First of all, she is a dame. A literal, actual dame — as in a title that was given to her by the bloody Queen of England, Elizabeth II. That's the female version of a knight, you guys! Pay your respects. But outside of being one of the most fabulous geriatric ladies there is, she's also an icon in the biz (yes, that's right — the biz!). Sure, she won the Emmy last year for her role (but back then, Downton was in the miniseries category), but credit must be given when credit is due. She's only ever won two Emmys in her lifetime, which is a colossal crime. Time to make up for lost time, I say.
The past year of Downton's reign has been a revelation for its American home, PBS/Masterpiece Theater. Remember when PBS was just sitting-at-your-grandparents-house viewing? Not anymore: Downton Abbey made PBS fun again, and gave us a weekly dose of Edwardian drama our lives were so greatly lacking. It's not just the period costumes that make Downton great (although the fancy hats are unparalleled), but the show's ability to give us soap opera melodrama without all the suds and a bit more intelligence. And while Downton Abbey without Maggie Smith would probably be a fine show, it would definitely not be the great show it is with her. The Dowager Countess is Lord Grantham's mother, and boy, oh boy is she ever a stuck-in-her-ways old-fashioned type. But that's what makes her great! Her reactions to modernity? Priceless. She isn't without a sense of humor, either (how could she be, with a title as dour-sounding as "Dowager"?). The Dowager brings a lightness to the calamitous nature of Downton: because daaaayum that is one kooky, up-in-arms home, y'all. They must live for the days where the most scandalous thing to happen is a lukewarm cup of tea. And while, yes, she sometimes plays a part in that, she's often the voice of the past — and therefore, a great juxtaposition to all the changes that took place in World War I-era England in which Season 2 was set.
Dame Maggie is a seasoned professional, and her dexterous control of the character's psychology is fascinating. The Dowager is largely cold and unapologetic in her opinions, but she's not without heart. Just look at how William the footman weaseled his way in after he was injured in battle. Her emotional attachment to the downstairs staff is straight-up warm-fuzzy status compared to some English nobility (we'd imagine) — and having it come across as sincere and believable? Well, that's all Maggie. Bringin' some fierce old English realness.
And let us not forget the best part of all: zingy one-liners! I swear, creator Julian Fellowes must have a staff of 10 writers that do nothing else but come up with the hilariously brusque things she quips. And she carries them off with the perfect gravitas every time. "All this unbridled joy has given me quite an appetite," was certainly a highlight of Season 2. If you need a refresher, this video should do the trick (and bonus points if you replay it any less than five times. It might be impossible). Have you ever been so happy to gaze upon the imperious stare of a delightfully snobby countess before? We think not. It remains to be seen if Shirley MacLaine will give her a run for her money, but either way, the joy will be exponential with the two women on screen. Every thug needs a lady and every old English aristocrat needs a brash new-monied American to lock horns with, sometimes. Her competition this year is fierce, with castmate Joanne Froggatt (Anna) also up for the award against heavy-hitters like Christina Hendricks, Anna Gunn, Archie Panjabi and Christine Baranski, but we know deep down everyone is rooting for Maggie. We just know it, you guys!
So sure, she might not know what weekends are, but that's just the sort of swag a Dowager's got to have: Her life is not defined by the days of the week, y'all. It's all play, all day when you're a Countess of Grantham. And if Maggie Smith doesn't nab that award, I'll make sure none of you ever have a weekend to spend watching reruns and new episodes of Downton Abbey ever again. I will remove every weekend from every gCal, iCal, regular calendar, and sundial. I will petition whoever in the universe is in charge of the days of the week! Say goodbye to your beloved Saturdays and Sundays. Do you hear me, Emmy voters?! Do the right thing. Must every day involve a fight with the Americans? It doesn't have to, if you're smart with this decision.
[Photo Credit: Masterpiece Theater]
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Emmys Idle Threats: Give Louis C.K. an Emmy or I'll Make You Babysit Never
Emmys Idle Threats: Give Julia Louis-Dreyfus an Emmy or I'll Camp on the White House Lawn
Emmys Idle Threats: Give Amy Poehler an Emmy or the Waffles Are Gonna Get It
Meet Roger (Jon Heder) a beleaguered New York City meter maid who can’t even get a kid to like him in the Big Brother program he’s that much of a loser. In a desperate attempt to change Roger joins a top-secret confidence-building class taught by the suavely underhanded Dr. P. (Billy Bob Thornton). The doc guarantees that if you employ his unorthodox and often dangerous techniques you WILL unleash your inner lion. The class turns out to be just the incentive Roger needs and he takes to it like a duck to water. He even finally gets up the courage to ask out his pretty neighbor Amanda (Jacinda Barrett). But here’s the catch: Because Roger is such a star student it catapults Dr. P. into ultra-competitive mode and he makes it his mission to infiltrate and destroy Roger's life including going after Amanda. Well that’s not very fair. Can Roger use his newfound king of the jungle-ness to beat the master at his own game? Hmmm. It’s mostly because of the two leads that Scoundrels feels like you’ve been there and done that. First of all Heder best known as THE Napoleon Dynamite is playing a nerd...again. And although he’s far more lovable this time around—with the full lips and shaggy hair—and you instantly cheer him on the actor doesn’t really evolve by movie’s end. With his limited comic abilities he may not be the right choice to carry an entire film. Thornton who has been known to carry a film is just doing his same Bad Santa shtick he’s done in about the last four films he’s made. Wonder if he’ll ever go out on a limb again like he did with Sling Blade. As for the other band of misfit classmates—Walsh (Old School’s Matt Walsh) who's dying to move out of mother's basement; Diego (SNL’s Horatio Sanz) a punching bag for his hen-pecker of a wife; and Eli (Jerry Maguire’s Todd Louiso) a shy guy just looking for female companionship—they are hilarious. Barrett (The Last Kiss) too works fine as the ingénue. And there is a well-placed cameo by Ben Stiller as a former student of Dr. P who also got in his way. Based on the 1960 British film of the same title Scoundrels reunites director/writer Todd Phillips with his writing partner Scot Armstrong—the guys who brought us Old School Starsky and Hutch and Road Trip. It’s obvious these guys know comedy and they turn an uppity British laffer into a cross between Anger Management and Rushmore. Not a bad combination actually. They set up the big comedic payoffs such as the class’ painful attempt at engaging in a paint ball fight in the woods or the one-upmanship competition between Roger and Dr. P and let the chortles roll in. But overall Scoundrels seems almost too paint by the numbers and tad superficial. It could have definitely benefited from either a little more star power (as with Anger Management’s Adam Sandler and Jack Nicholson) or more off-beat humor (as between Rushmore’s Jason Schwartzman and Bill Murray). Oh well better luck next time.
A biker and skateboarder challenge each other at the beginning of the film leaping off the roof of a house down a slide and into an unfinished pool. The biker who ends up crashing through a big bay window turns out to be a girl Haley Graham (Missy Peregrym) who walked out of the World Champion Gymnastics competition a few years back for some mysterious reason. When she's arrested for the vandalism a kind judge (Polly Holliday) sends her to a tough gymnastics camp run by Burt Vickerman (Jeff Bridges). There she faces competition by a former foe Joanne (Vanessa Lengies) and befriends gymnasts Wei-Wei (Nikki SooHoo) and Mina (Maddy Curley). As they start winning competitions as a team Haley discovers that the judging isn't always equitable and she works out a scheme to shine a light on the arbitrary unfairness by essentially telling them to "stick it." The girls in the cast you've probably seen on TV shows if you have anyone in your house who's a pre-teen. Lengies was on Popular Mechanics for Kids; others have been on Nickelodeon shows and some real-life Olympic medalists such as Carly Patterson Nastia Liukin Elfi Schlegel and Bart Conner (Nadia Comaneci's husband) all play themselves in Stick It. Haley's two best friends are guys Frank (Kellan Lutz) and Poot (John Patrick Amedori) who play some pretty goofy sidekicks--and they've got a completely platonic relationship with Haley. Peregrym in the lead role is a surprising stand-out actress who comes across as a more pouty taller Hilary Swank. Her scenes with Bridges as her coach are reminiscent of the tender but sometimes creepy moments between Swank and Clint Eastwood in Million Dollar Baby. Director/writer Jessica Bendinger shows a subtle finesse in her first feature. From the impressively colorful graffiti-style credits to the moments of fast-motion speed-ups and overlapped synchronized events she is able to keep the pace going in what is potentially a bore to anyone who isn't into watching gymnastics. Previously Bendinger scripted the surprising cheerleader hit Bring it On and the recent charming mermaid romance Aquamarine. But Stick It is also quite predictable. It doesn't have the delightful unpredictable twists of Bring it On or the warm fuzzy teen girl feel of Aquamarine. Yet she's able to tell a good inspirational story for a young audience even if it is burdened with bad puns and lines like "I have a Constitutional right to 'bare' arms" and "Who died and made you Nadia?" And of course with the guys there are a few fart jokes too.
For a few years in the '60s and '70s producer Gerry Anderson made "supermarionation" all the rage in the world of British children's television. His stop-motion puppets starred in a number of sci-fi adventure series most memorably Thunderbirds which followed the exploits of International Rescue -- a team comprised of ex-astronaut Jeff Tracy and his sons. Based out of their secret fortress on Treasure Island the Tracys (aided by lovely secret agent Lady Penelope) used their amazing rocket-powered vehicles to prevent disasters and save lives around the world. Now 40 years after Thunderbirds' TV debut Star Trek vet Jonathan Frakes has brought Anderson's characters to life on the big screen. Front and center is youngest son Alan Tracy (Brady Corbet) who dreams of the day he too can pilot one of his family's fab ships and lead missions. But first he has to prove himself to his father Jeff (Bill Paxton). That opportunity comes sooner than either expects when mysterious villain The Hood (Ben Kingsley) strands Jeff and the older Tracy boys in space and attacks Treasure Island. With only his friends Tintin (Vanessa Anne Hudgens) and Fermat (Soren Fulton) to help him Alan has to grow up quickly if he wants to save his family ... and the world!
It would be easy to mock several of the performances in Thunderbirds-- to chide Paxton for his earnest seriousness as Tracy patriarch Jeff to dismiss Corbet's angst-tinged eagerness as Alan to roll your eyes at Kingsley's over-the-top mystical fierceness as The Hood and to wince at Fulton and Anthony Edwards' nerdy stuttering as science whizzes Fermat and his dad Brains. But actors are only as good as their script and the one Frakes has given his cast (courtesy of screenwriters William Osborne and Michael McCullers) is weak and clichéd at best filled with after-school-special-worthy lessons for Alan to learn. "You can't save everyone " Jeff tells his son somberly and even Tintin has a moral for her crush when he's feeling selfish and indulging in self-pity: "This is hard on all of us Alan." Talk about insight! What makes it even more frustrating is knowing that the actors are capable of much more even the kids: Both Corbet and Hudgens did well with supporting roles in Thirteen. Thunderbirds' only real bright spot is Sophia Myles as Lady Penelope. A cross between Reese Witherspoon's Elle in Legally Blonde and Jennifer Garner's Sydney on Alias Myles' Lady P doesn't let her pink couture wardrobe prevent her from coolly kicking ass when the situation demands it. Attended by her droll driver/man-of-all-trades Parker (Ron Cook) Lady Penelope is a fresh feisty heroine with all of the film's best lines -- and the coolest car to boot.
Frakes cut his directorial teeth on episodes of Star Trek: The Next Generation and his first feature film was Star Trek: First Contact so he would seem like a natural choice to bring a cult sci-fi TV show to the big screen. Unfortunately while he does an admirable job re-creating (and improving on) the original Thunderbirds' mod sets cool ships and special effects (which are fine if a bit more TV-sized than summer blockbustery) Frakes can't seem to decide who his audience is. If he was aiming at grown-ups who remember the show fondly from their own childhood he should have embraced the source material's campiness (à la Starsky and Hutch) rather than restricting it to the Tracys' plastic Barbie-like furniture and Lady P's bouffant hairdo. If on the other hand Frakes was hoping to entertain today's kids he should have really reinvented the show for a 21st-century world (à la Stephen Hopkins'1998 Lost in Space) rather than clinging to the '60s references As it is he's stuck somewhere in the middle leaving adults bored during the kids-on-an-adventure bits and children mystified by the handful of jokes aimed at their parents.
Some of Hollywood's most celebrated actors will take center stage for a once-in-a-lifetime live performance for charity--and you could be there to see it.
Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward have recruited an all-star cast--including Tom Hanks, Julia Roberts, Jack Nicholson, Matt Damon, Goldie Hawn, Warren Beatty, Annette Bening, Kevin Kline, Danny DeVito, Morgan Freeman, Brian Dennehy, Edward James Olmos and more--to join them in a staged reading of Ernest Hemingway's The World of Nick Adams on Monday, November 4, 2002, at the Kodak Theatre in Hollywood.
The story is based on Hemingway's Nick Adams character and adapted by novelist A.E. Hotchner, Hemingway's friend and biographer. Hotchner adapted another Nick Adams tale, The Battler, for NBC in 1956--a production that starred a then-unknown Paul Newman. Newman will re-create his Nick Adams role in the Nov. 4 performance.
Funds from the show will help launch The Painted Turtle Camp, a multi-disease support center, in Lake Elizabeth, California, in 2003. The camp intends to provide support for 3,500 chronically and terminally ill children and their families each year at no cost. The Painted Turtle Camp is part of the Association of Hole in the Wall Gang Camps, a coalition of children's camps founded by Newman and Hotchner in 1986
Individual tickets for The World of Nick Adams reading, sponsored by Allstate Insurance, range from $40-$500 and are available through Ticketmaster by calling 213-480-3232 or by logging on to www.ticketmaster.com. For premium seats starting at $1,000 and multi-ticket sponsorship packages, please contact Harvin Rogas at 310-559-9334, ext 162.