Posts Tagged film

In A Galaxy Not So Far Away: The Best of Science Fiction Film

by John Pecoraro, Assistant Director

Back in 1977, in a galaxy not so far away, “Star Wars” captured the imaginations and the dreams of billions. In the six additional films in the series, as in the many incarnations of “Star Trek”, and in the hundreds of motion pictures both good and bad in the years before and since, science fiction on film has continued to draw audiences.

Ask 100 people to name their favorite science fiction movies, and you’ll probably get 100 different answers. Search the Internet for the best films in the genre, and you’ll walk away with multiple opinions. To simplify matters, this column will highlight the top ten science fiction films as judged by the games and entertainment media company, IGN, from The Top 25 Sci-Fi Movies of All Time http://www.ign.com/articles/2010/09/14/top-25-sci-fi-movies-of-all-time.

earth

10) “Terminator 2: Judgment Day,” 1991. In this sequel to the 1984 movie, “The Terminator,” a liquid metal, shapeshifting terminator is sent back in time to kill John Connor and prevent him from becoming leader of the human resistance against the machines.

9) “The Road Warrior,” 1981. Also a sequel (“Mad Max” 1979), the film uses a western movie motif to tell the story of a community of settlers who defend themselves against a band of marauders in a post-apocalyptic world.

8) “The Day the Earth Stood Still,” 1951. A humanoid alien, Klaatu, comes to earth with an eight foot tall robot, Gort, to deliver an important message to Earth. Live peacefully, or else. Who can forget those immortal words, “Klaatu barada nikto?”

7) “The Matrix,” 1999. The first in a trilogy about a dystopian future in which “reality” as perceived by humans is actually a simulation called the Matrix, and the real world is ruled by thinking machines.

6) “The Planet of the Apes,” 1968. Based on the novel by French author, Pierre Boulle, astronauts travel to a strange planet ruled by apes, and humans are an inferior species. There were 4 sequels to the original film, as well as a 2001 remake.

5) “The Empire Strikes Back,” 1980. Also known as “Star Wars Episode V,” the title of this film says it all. After the triumph of Luke, Leia, and Han Solo in the original, the galactic empire and Darth Vader strike back at the rebel alliance.

4) “Alien,” 1979. The crew of a spacecraft on its return voyage to Earth lands on a small planet in response to a distress call. They discover an alien spacecraft and the remains of a giant alien. I think you know what happens from there. “Alien” spawned 3 sequels.

3) “Star Wars,” 1977. No, not number one according to IGN. Later retitled “Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope,” this is the film where we first meet Luke, Leia, Han Solo, Obi Wan, Chewbacca, R2-D2, C-3PO, and of course, Darth Vader. The rebel alliance seeks to destroy the Galactic Empire’s planet-destroying Death Star.

2) “2001: A Space Odyssey,” 1969. Based on the novel by Arthur C. Clarke, this film follows a voyage to Jupiter with the sentient computer Hal after the discovery of a mysterious black monolith affecting human evolution.

2001

And the number one best science fiction film of all time, “Blade Runner,” 1982, based on Philip K. Dick’s novel, “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?” Rick Dekard is a blade runner, a special police bounty hunter tasked with hunting and killing replicants (androids) from off world who have illegally escaped to Earth.

Most of the top ten films on this list are available at the library. If your favorite science fiction movies didn’t make the list, don’t worry, the library has hundreds of other films in the genre. You should also checkout the selections of science fiction films on Hoopla, the library’s streaming service. Thousands of films, television shows, audiobooks, music cds, ebooks, and comics are available for free streaming on your computer, or to download to your tablet or smartphone.

Remember that today is the final day of the Manhattan Library Association’s annual book sale. It’s bag day. Fill a bag or box with books and other materials for one low price. Now that’s a bargain you won’t have to travel to a far off galaxy to find.

Posted in: For Adults, For Teens, Mercury Column, News

Leave a Comment (0) →

Fall Films Based on Books

by Judi Nechols, Adult Services Librarian

The question always asked about books made into movies is—which was better…book or film? And which should come first—read the book, then watch the film, or watch the film then delve into the written word? Personally, I enjoy reading a book prior to seeing the film adaptation—the film rarely portrays characters, in looks or in actions, in the way that I imagine them as I read. There are several films being released in the next few months that are based on popular books. If you haven’t read them yet, pick up a copy soon—when a film is released, the book usually is in demand at the library! The following films are due to be released this fall, and all are adaptations of books that have been very popular at the Manhattan Public Library.

Paper Towns” is based on a novel by John Green. Released July 24, the film tells the story of Quentin “Q” Jacobsen as he tries to find Margo—a girl he has loved from afar and who has vanished, leaving clues just for him.

“Dark Places” is based on the book by Gillian Flynn, who also wrote the blockbuster book and film “Gone Girl”. Libby Day was seven years old when her mother and sisters were murdered—and her brother convicted of the crimes. This film is reported to be filled with suspense, twists and turns—catch it in the theater on August 20.

“A Walk in the Woods” is based on author and humorist Bill Bryson’s story of his journey on the Appalachian Trail. He chronicles the travails of hiking the trail by two inept hikers—himself and his hiking partner–with humor and with details of the animal life, scenery and the various characters they encounter along the way. Robert Redford stars as Bryson in the film, due in theaters on September 2.

The Scorch Trials” is the second installment of the “Maze Runner” series, based on the book series by James Dashner. This dystopian thriller provides plenty of action as 16-year-old Thomas and the rest of the Gladers discover that their escape from the maze is just the beginning of their attempts to survive “the Scorch”. “The Maze Runner” has been a very popular teen series here at the library.

Into Thin Air” Author Jon Krakauer was on assignment to write a magazine article about expeditions on Everest a storm caused the deaths of nine climbers on a horrific day on the mountain in May of 1996. His first-hand account of the heart-wrenching stories of life and death, and of the difficult choices that had to be made by climbers and sherpas is gripping and haunting. The film is titled “Everest”–be prepared for an intense experience, either in watching the film or reading the book!

Brooklyn” is based on the novel by Colm Toibin. It tells the story of Ellis, a young Irish woman who leaves her family behind in order to find work in Brooklyn. She embraces her life in American but must return home when tragedy strikes. The film is said to be both heartbreaking and powerful.

Mockingjay” by Susan Collins is the final installment in the “Hunger Games” and is sure to be a blockbuster film, as the revolution led by Katniss, spreads.

“”The Martian” by Andy Weir tells the story of a NASA crew member’s struggle to survive on Mars after being stranded alone. Starring Matt Damon, this SciFi film is sure to be as popular as the book.

In the Heart of the Sea” by Nathan Philbrick is the terrifying, true account of the sinking of the whaling ship Essex in 1820 by a sperm whale, and the hardships encountered by the crew as they try to survive months at sea in small boats.

The Revenant” by Michael Punke is a novel based on a true incident in 1823, when mountain man Hugh Glass was attacked by a grizzly bear and was left for dead by his partners. His desire for revenge pushes him to survive a harrowing journey through the wilderness. Starring Leonardo DiCaprio, this film will be released July 25.This is a great selection of both books and films—read the books and watch the films and decide which you like best!

Posted in: Adult Services, For Adults, Mercury Column, News

Leave a Comment (0) →

Books and Movies to Help Us Along Our Journey Toward the End of Life

Mary Newkirk, Adult Services Librarian

Manhattan Public Library offers a wealth of life-long learning opportunities, and Manhattan is replete with life-long learners.    I have had the pleasure of becoming friends with many special life-long learners through the library’s Outreach Services.
As an Adult Services librarian, I have met wonderful people who have enjoyed reading into their nineties and up until their imminent death.   Adult Services librarians deliver books to many of their residences when they find that they can no longer safely drive to the library.  Many have moved into retirement or assisted living facilities where we continue to offer either homebound delivery right to their doors or a rotating collection of large print books that is located in their centers’ libraries.
Recently, I have experienced the passing of three wonderful homebound patrons.  I miss my regular visits with them.  In December I also lost my mother who spent the last two weeks of her life in the gracious care of our local Good Shepherd Hospice House staff.   Freshly reminded that we are all touched by this end-of-life subject, I have compiled a short list of books and movies available at Manhattan Public Library which can help us deal with this sensitive issue.
final gifts 2Final gifts: Understanding the Special Awareness, Needs, and Communications of the Dying by Maggie  Callanan.   This book was available in each room at Manhattan’s Hospice House and was highly recommended.  My sister and I appreciated the way the authors, both hospice nurses with many years of experience,  walked the reader through the experiences of hospice patients and showed how we can help them live full lives till the very end.
The Last Pilgrimage: My Mother’s Life and Our Journey to Saying Goodbye by Linda Daly is a very new book first available this May.  This is a story of a high-profile mother/daughter relationship as the mother is diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and seeks a cure.  Living a charmed life, the mother Nancy was married to a Warner Brothers’ executive and, after a divorce, married the mayor of Los Angeles.  The author, daughter Linda Day (a former teacher) is very involved in philanthropic work.  The two traveled around the country seeking treatment and after a last chance try with a visiting Brazilian healer, headed home in a rented rv and faced the end of life together.
Making Rounds with Oscar by David Dosa has been out for a couple of years, so if you missed it earlier,  try this heartwarming story of a sweet nursing home cat that has the ability to seek out and comfort  those who are very close to death.
Now a novel that stretches a bit to fit this topic but happens to be my newest personal favorite novel –Calling Me Home  by Julie Kibler.  I could not put this tragic loveCapture story down without continuing to dwell on the power of love and the tragedy of racial discrimination. In the South during the 1930′s, a wealthy white doctor’s daughter, Isabelle, falls in love with the handsome black son of their family maid. This story combines two time periods,  as years later now eighty-nine year old Isabelle, asks her young black hairdresser, Dorrie, to drive her to a funeral  1000 miles from their homes. The two women share their troubled family stories with Isabelle’s secrets unfolding at the same time Dorrie’s teenage son calls with his own life-changing problems. Calling Me Home kept me mesmerized till the very end. I hope for more by this debut author.
Tapestry of Fortunes by Elizabeth Berg is another new fiction book that touches on this same topic of death.  This time it is the loss of a best friend that sends a middle-aged motivational speaker seeking monumental  changes in her own life.  She puts her career aside, sells her home and furnishings and finds a group of women to share a home and a road trip.  She spends time as a hospice volunteer and we sit through a training session on how to be a good listener to those who are terminally ill.  This beautifully written novel is a sensitive and hopeful story of women supporting each other through life’s trials.
bestEntertaining movies with aging issues : How to Live Forever- Results May Vary, The Trip to Bountiful, On Golden Pond, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, Autumn Spring, Cocoon and Lovely, Still.
In honor of their memory,  I dedicate this column to Dr. George Wilcoxon, Jean Hansen and Norma Morrison and all the other wonderful patrons of the Homebound Program at Manhattan Public Library.

Posted in: For Adults, Mercury Column

Leave a Comment (0) →

A Glimpse of New Documentaries at MPL

Marcia Allen
Technical Services & Collections Manager

Judging by the circulation of films from Manhattan Public Library, most library customers are well aware of our holdings.  We’ve got multiple copies of “Lincoln,” Life of Pi,” “Les Miserables,” and “Wreck-it Ralph,” to name but a few of the many available films. Most folks who hear that the library owns some 8,600+ films are reluctant to believe it, as the shelving would not seem to have that capacity, but so many titles are always checked out at any one time.
In addition to features films, the library has an extensive collection of documentaries.  Those do not circulate as much as some of the other offerings, but there are treasures to be found among them.  Just recently added are the following which have received excellent reviews:

index (30) “Joffrey”:  A favorite of the San Francisco Film Festival as well as the Dance on Camera Film Festival, this lovely piece of work follows the historical dance company’s founding in 1956 by creators Robert Joffrey and Gerald Arpino.  Dogged by financial woes, the dance company managed to re-create itself several times to become one of the premier organizations of the world.  Of special note is the wealth of historical footage of glorious performances.  Testimonials by some of the dancers, choreographers, and the founders themselves allow viewers to trace the growth and tradition-breaking techniques of this highly esteemed company.

 “Deadliest Tornadoes”:  Though we don’t want to think about it, our region is already immersed in one of our most dangerous seasons of the year.  This NOVA PBS presentation recounts the incredibly high occurrences of tornadoes that took place in April of 2011.   Extended footage of Joplin’s horrific storm is a quick reminder of the potency of such winds.  Interviews with scientists and with weather forecasters demonstrate how wind rotation begins, and victim testimonials highlight an informative program.deadliest tornadoes

 “How to Survive a Plague”:  This historical documentary follows the path of AIDS activists in the early 1990s who demonstrated in the streets and who demanded that the Food and Drug Administration take immediate action to approve AIDS-fighting drugs.  They worked to help identify new treatments and move them through safety trials in record time.  Their determination reduced the numbers of AIDS-related deaths and offered new hope to sufferers.  This drama earned both the New York Film Critics Circle Award and the Gotham Award and was nominated for an Academy Award as well.

 planet ocean   “Planet Ocean”:  This beautiful film has a two-fold purpose.    Stunning footage of ocean currents taken from well above the Earth and shots of the feeding mouths of a coral reef are particularly striking.  But this film is also a plea for the protection of the ocean’s vast resources.  Researchers cite the drifting of crucial fish populations toward more temperate waters to the north as an alarming trend.  They also describe populations, like that of the Bluefin tuna, which are nearing extinction because of over-fishing.  This environmental gem was the 2012 Official Cinematography Winner at the Blue Ocean Film Festival.

“You’re Looking at Me Like I Live Here and I Don’t”:  This film has not yet arrived at MPL, but will be available shortly.  A documentary by Scott Kirschenbaum, this touching film recounts the life Of Lee Gorewitz  in the Traditions Alzheimer’s & Other Dementia Care Unit in Danville, California. This in-depth character study reveals that many of our perceptions of Alzheimer’s disease are misguided. The film premiered on PBS and has received much praise from physicians and university instructors for its content.

“Secrets of Highclere Castle”:  For the many fans of “Downton Abbey,” this PBS special is a rare treat.  Highclere Castle is the opulent location for the filming of the Masterpiece classic.  Interested viewers can learn about the current owners, Lord and Lady Carnavon, they can listen to the actual butler’s philosophy of service, and they can explore the beautiful rooms and grounds of one of England’s more famous estates.  They can also learn about Lady Almina’s huge investment in upkeep and restoration during the 19th century.  A visual delight.

   “The Abolitionists”:  This PBS drama follows the interactions of abolitionists like Frederick Douglass, William Garrison, Harriet Beecher Stowe and Angelina Grimke.  At a time when the country was fast approaching the Civil War, those individuals struggled to expose the horrors of slavery.  Their selflessness laid the groundwork for civil rights at a time when violence was a given.  This historic piece generates a lasting respect for those courageous few.

For these titles and a wide selection of others, take a look at the many fine documentaries your library has to offer.

Posted in: For Adults, Mercury Column

Leave a Comment (0) →

Classic Western Films

John Pecoraro
Assistant Director
Manhattan Public Library

What are the ten best Western films of all time? Well, that depends on who you ask. You can find many lists of top Western films on the Web, but Classic Western Films no two lists will include the same films. Gayot.com, Reelz.com, Amctv.com, IGN.com, the American Film Institute, the Internet Movie Database, Rotten Tomatoes, and many other websites have their own opinions on which are the best Westerns. Since there doesn’t seem to be any consensus among the experts, I’ve come up with my own list of favorite Westerns. My own top ten, in no particular order, are:

“The Magnificent Seven,” 1960, directed by John Sturges. In this western remake of Akira Kurosawa’s “Seven Samurai,” seven American gunmen take on the job of defending a Mexican village against marauding bandits. Elmer Bernstein composed the film’s iconic theme music, later used in commercials for Marlboro cigarettes. The film stars Steve McQueen, Yul Brynner, Charles Bronson, James Coburn, and Eli Wallach to name a few.

“The Searchers,” 1956, directed by John Ford. Based on the novel by Alan Le May, the film stars John Wayne as a middle-aged Civil War veteran who spends years looking for his niece (Natalie Wood), who has been abducted by Comanches. Major themes running through the film are the issues of racism and genocide towards Native Americans.

“Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid,” 1969, directed by George Roy Hill. Loosely based on actual events, the film tells the story of outlaws Robert Leroy Parker, aka Butch Cassidy (Paul Newman), and the Henry Longabaugh, the Sundance Kid (Robert Redford).

“The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly,” 1966, directed by Sergio Leone. One of the “Spaghetti Westerns,” filmed in Italy and Spain, the plot revolves around three gunslingers competing to find a fortune in buried Confederate gold: Blondie, The Good (Clint Eastwood); Angel Eyes, The Bad (Lee Van Cleef); and Tuco, The Ugly (Eli Wallach). Ennio Morricone composed the recognizable and haunting film score.

“The Oxbow Incident,” 1943, directed by William Wellman, and starring Henry Fonda. Based on the novel of the same name by Walter Van Tilburg Clark, the film explores the theme of mob justice and vigilante law as two drifters are drawn into a lynch mob to find and hang three men presumed to be rustlers and the killers of a local man.

“Shane,” 1953, directed by George Stevens. Based on the novel by Jack Shaefer, with a screenplay by Western author A.B. Guthrie, the film tells the story of Shane, a drifter and reluctant gunslinger. Shane (Alan Ladd) stumbles into an isolated valley in Wyoming and becomes embroiled in a land conflict between a homesteader and a ruthless cattle boss.

“True Grit,” 2010, directed by Joel and Ethan Coen. A remake of another classic Western from 1969, “True Grit” directed by Henry Hathaway, and based on the novel by Charles Portis. Fourteen-year-old Mattie Ross hires Deputy U.S. Marshal Rooster Cogburn (John Wayne in the original; Jeff Bridges in the remake) to bring her father’s murderer to justice.

“Unforgiven,”1992, directed by and starring Clint Eastwood. A dark Western that deals frankly with the uglier aspects of violence and the myth of the Old West. The film tells the story of William Munny, an aging outlaw and killer who takes on one more job years after he had hung up his guns and turned to farming.

“Little Big Man,” 1970, directed by Arthur Penn, and based on the novel by Thomas Berger. At age 121, Jack Crabb (played by Dustin Hoffman) recounts the story of his life, including capture by the Cheyennes and participation in the Little Bighorn fight against George Armstrong Custer.

index (9)And last but not least, “Blazing Saddles,” 1974, directed by Mel Brooks, because it’s always fun to spoof the things you love. The campfire scene alone qualifies this film as “classic.” This film satirizes the racism obscured by myth-making Hollywood accounts of the American West, with the hero being a black sheriff in an all-white town.

All of my top ten appear on one or more lists of best Westerns. Most of these titles are available in DVD format at Manhattan Public Library.

Posted in: For Adults, Mercury Column

Leave a Comment (0) →

A Century of Memories: The RMS Titanic

By Marcia Allen
Technical Services & Collections Manager

She was the pride of the White Star Line.  Built over the course of two years in the shipyards of Belfast, the RMS Titanic was not only the largest ship afloat at the time, but she was also labeled “unsinkable,” due partly to her watertight compartments. On her maiden voyage she carried a wide mix of passengers: steerage quarters were filled with new immigrants, and upper levels hosted the wealthy and famous.  She sailed on April 10, 1912 and ran into disaster in the North Atlantic in the late hours of April 15, 1912.  While her initial collision with an iceberg was not considered lethal, the fact that some five of her 16 airtight compartments were compromised proved fatal.   In a little over two hours, the ship foundered and sank, leaving some 1500 people of over 2200 passengers to perish in the icy sea.
This month marks the 100th anniversary of that terrible tragedy.  For those who curious to learn more, there are countless resources available designed to inform about the ship’s specifications, the passenger lists, and the even the resulting courtroom investigations. We can read of survivor testimonials and burial sites for the unfortunate, as well as efforts to salvage the wreckage.
Of course, Walter Lord’s 1955 fascinating book, entitled A Night to Remember, remains a classic.  Lord’s account follows the passengers and the crew as each faced the disaster in his or her own fashion. Destined to become a film of the same name, this story remains among the more famous of the retellings.
Dr. Robert Ballard is considered a scientific authority on the event, given his expertise in locating and exploring the wreckage.  With the aid of a small robotic submarine, Ballard was able to locate the debris field that others had been unable to pinpoint for so long.  Titanic Revealed, a haunting dvd documentary, recalls Ballard’s original discovery.  Ballard also assembled an excellent picture book of photographs taken during his exploration.  Called Titanic: The Last Great Images, the book offers us eerie glimpses of the crusted bow and the battered remains of children’s shoes found on the ocean floor.  The book also offers period photos taken both during the ship’s construction and as she departed.
Another beautifully arranged book of photographs, Titanic: An Illustrated History, involves the work of author Don Lynch.  Among other highlights, Lynch presents a foldout of the ship’s layout and interior shots of the first class staircase, the second-class public rooms and the third-class dining room.  The book also supplies a valuable overview of the tragedy as it unfolded.  Readers can even see the position of various lifeboats over the course of the sinking.
For those who seek a more personal look at the tragedy, Titanic Voices: Memories from the Fateful Voyage seems the perfect book.  Donald Hyslop, Alastair Forsyth and Shelia Jemima assembled this fine collection of letters, photos and testimonials.  Of particular interest are the personal recollections supplied by the many survivors and the heartbreaking photographs of various memorials, such as the White Star Company’s church service in Southampton.
For those who wish to do more reading on the event, Stephanie Barczewski’s Titanic: A Night Remembered includes detailed biographies of some of the dead.  Among them are the ship’s captain, Edward Smith, and band member Wallace Hartley, who played music to the end.
And Brad Matsen, author of Titanic’s Last Secrets, adds more to what we know by retelling the explorations of John Chatterton and Richie Kohler, who not only investigated the wreckage of the Titanic, but also the remains of the Britannic.
Interested in one of this year’s titles?  Shadow of the Titanic by Andrew Wilson is one of the finer offerings.  Wilson’s take is unique, however, in that he conveys the dismal lives of the survivors after the collision. So many suffered from what we now recognize as survivors’ guilt.   For example, Madeleine Astor, widow of John Jacob Astor, went on to marry several more times and eventually lost her portion of the Astor fortune.  Duff Gordon, one of the many wealthy, never overcame rumors that he had paid lifeboat rowers to ignore those struggling in the icy waters.
Reflection on the fate of the Titanic leads to thoughts on the nature of heroism, vulnerability, and randomness of chance.  The library has an excellent collection of titles that can offer you more about that fateful trip aboard the pride of the White Star Line.

Posted in: For Adults, Mercury Column

Leave a Comment (0) →

The Cure for the Downton Abbey Blues

by Susan Withee
Adult Services Manager

If you’re one of the millions of viewers of the PBS Masterpiece series Downton Abbey, no doubt you’re feeling the first pangs of loss on the brink of tonight’s second-season finale.  Downton Abbey is an award-winning, lavishly-detailed period production and costume drama which has a stellar cast and a legion of fans.  The series’ first season opens in Edwardian England in 1912 at Downton Abbey, a stately English country house, and follow the lives of the wealthy Crawley family and their servants as the clouds of World War I loom and break.   Season two takes the story through the upheaval and tragedy of the war back to peacetime, but to a world where personal relationships, social structures, and politics have all been irrevocably altered.  Although season three is in production, scheduled to air first in Britain in autumn 2012 and later in the U.S, the coming months will be a long, long wait for diehard fans.  But it’s my happy task to tell you that Manhattan Public Library has plenty of diversions to help get you through the coming Downton-Abbey-less months.
Firstly, if you’ve missed out on the series so far, you have plenty of time to catch up, starting with Downton Abbey’s first season on DVD and moving on to season two, both now at Manhattan Public Library.  There is also a companion book to the series, The World of Downton Abbey by Jessica Fellowes, filled with photographs and illustrations, production sketches and research.   Downton Abbey was filmed at Highclere Castle, the real-life ancestral home of the Earls of Carnarvon, and screenwriter Julian Fellowes drew inspiration from the history of the great home and the life of Almina, the Countess of Carnarvon during the same time period.  Read more about the Almina’s life and times and the history of the castle, including its use as a wartime hospital, in Lady Almina and the Real Downton Abbey: the Lost Legacy of Highclere Castle by Fiona, current Countess Carnarvon.  Downton Abbey fans can also check out Below Stairs: the Classic Kitchen Maid’s Memoir that Inspired Upstairs, Downstairs and Downton Abbey by Margaret Powell, a book which rocketed to best-seller status in the UK following the airing of Downton Abbey.
While you’re waiting for DA season three, why not revisit that other classic PBS series focusing on the intertwined lives of the upper class and the servant class, Upstairs, Downstairs?  The library has all five seasons of the series, which originally aired in the 1970s and enjoyed an audience of nearly one billion viewers in over 40 countries.  Also set during the Edwardian Age, Upstairs, Downstairs takes place in a large London townhouse, home to the wealthy Bellamy family.  In its entirety, the combined seasons of this series offer an intimate view of the lives of both masters and servants from 1903 to 1930, as well as a panoramic overview of the social and technological changes taking place during those years.

For a different and highly-entertaining twist on life in a great English country house, check out the 2001 Robert Altman film, mystery-drama-comedy Gosford Park.  This time landed gentry, their upstairs guests, and the downstairs servants gather for a “shooting party” in 1932 and are joined by members of the local village police constabulary as mayhem, drama, and high-jinks ensue.  In addition to the interdependence of privileged and servant classes, the film subtly explores changing sexual mores of the time and the impact of the First World War.  With a script by Downton Abbey writer Julian Fellowes, the film features a large ensemble cast that includes the indomitable Maggie Smith as well as Helen Mirren, Jeremy Northam, Kristin Scott Thomas, Michael Gambon, Stephen Fry, Derek Jacobi, Clive Owen, Alan Bates, and others.
Or look for Flambards, another great series on DVD at the library, which was based on the novels of  K. M. Peyton and originally aired on PBS in 1980.  Orphaned heiress Christina Parsons is sent to live with her tyrannical, bitter Uncle Russel and his two sons at their neglected and decaying country estate, Flambards. Speculation is that Russell plans to marry her to brutal, fox-hunting-obsessed son Mark and then use her inheritance to restore Flambards and the family’s finances.   Christina, however, befriends second son, William, who is involved with early experiments in flight, hoping to become an aviator.
And finally, treat yourself to John Galsworthy’s absorbing, monumental work (in print or on DVD), The Forsyte Saga, which chronicles the lives and trials of generations of the upper-middle-class Forsyte family from 1906 into the 1920s.

Posted in: For Adults, Mercury Column

Leave a Comment (0) →