My Downton Abbey Christmas wish list

Julian Fellowes, when once pressed on the political sympathies of his wildly successful period drama, Downton Abbey, protested that it was “just not a left wing show”. Indeed it isn’t, but let’s credit Fellowes, who previously moonlighted as a speechwriter for hapless former Tory leader Iain Duncan Smith, with enticing people of all persuasions to actively revel in the programme despite themselves. Fellowes has big house form, having won an Academy Award for his screenplay for the immeasurably superior Gosford Park, which shouldn’t really be viewed as some kind of precursor to Downton Abbey. With Downton, he is firing at a lower target, and if success is our measure, he has succeeded handsomely.Read More »


The gold standard for movie violence

The passing of the fine American actor Robert Loggia gives this blog an excuse to write about the 1983 Brian de Palma film Scarface, which provided one of Loggia’s most famous roles, that of the Miami drug lord supplanted by the Cuban immigrant played by Al Pacino. Or, should I say, it’s an excuse to write about one particular aspect of the movie. Scarface is a stylised film that appeals on multiple levels –sun-kissed locations, flashy suits, Giorgio Moroder’s electronic score. It might also be argued that it outlines one of the more dubious paths to achieving the American Dream. Decadent surface appeal apart, Scarface is also noted – and condemned in some quarters – for prodigious levels of violence.Read More »

America and the gun

This brief post had been planned for a while, and notes were taken in the wake of the recent Planned Parenthood attack. But as I write, yet another mass shooting is being reported in San Bernardino in California. One cannot yet comment on the details of this latest case, but it suffices to note the regularity with which these incidents occur. Or better again, to point to a graphic that tracks the numerous shootings that have occurred in the relatively short time since the especially shocking Sandy Hook mass murder rampage in 2012, when 20 children and 6 adults were murdered in Connecticut by a gunman who then took his own life.Read More »