The English gentry and irrational people, or did I just repeat myself? TV and movies (#SFWApro)

The second season of BLANDINGS is in much the same vein as the first: Timothy Spall’s Clarence and Jennifer Saunder’s Connie cope with Clarence’s nitwit son, the schemes of neighbor Gregory Parsloe  and the obnoxious house guests who insist on visiting Blandings, all delivered with typical P.G. Wodehouse humor (“Will you excuse me? I have to … not talk to you.”). The addition of Clarence’s brother Galahad, always my favorite member of the clan in the books, only adds to the fun. Worth viewing if you like Wodehouse. “What you want and what you get are too er, mutually extruding elephants!”

For a less light-hearted look at the upper class we have the second season of UPSTAIRS, DOWNSTAIRS. As with the first, this watches the ongoing dramas of the Bellamy family, plus the lives and loves of the Downstairs folks. Has rebellious Sara finally found a man to match her? Has Elizabeth attained true love? What happens when Rose gets unfairly locked up as a suffragette? The death of King Edward marks the end of S2, with hints of WW I in the offing (much as some of the characters scoff at the possibility). I loved this as a teen, and still do now. “This is just another example of the decline in morals that’s creeping all over the world.”

THE BEST OF TIMES (1986) feels oddly familiar to me after all my work on Now and Then We Time Travel — Robin Williams obsession with re-enacting the Big Game he lost in high school could easily have led to him jumping back in time for a do-over. As this isn’t a time-travel movie, however, he’s forced into elaborate shenanigans to get both teams to repeat the game, even though quarterback Kurt Russell is terrified this will undo his own legend (“Everyone remembers me throwing six.”). With D.W. Moffat as Williams overbearing in-law, M. Emmett Walsh as a sports booster, and Kirk Cameron and Robyn Lively among the kids herein. This doesn’t work for everyone, but it definitely clicks with me.  All rights to image remain with current holder. “I was always amazed at the way you could make so much noise without doing anything.”

Woody Allen’s IRRATIONAL MAN (2015) definitely doesn’t click, though it’s still more watchable than a lot of his 21st century films. Joaquin Phoenix is a drunken, depressed professor who regains his zest for life when he decides to murder a judge on the grounds He Needs Killing (one critic speculates that like Blue Jasmine this is Allen settling an old score from past court battles), only to realize his lover, pretty student Emma Stone, Knows Too Much. With some tinkering this would have made a passable 1970s TV-movie mystery, but instead we’re stuck with pointless voice-overs (either the narration says what we already know or it mouths platitude) and the baffling question why Stone falls into Phoenix’ arms (it’s even less convincing than Magic in the Moonlight). One thing I did like was the idea that Phoenix’ genius is more sizzle than steak, but Allen doesn’t do anything with it. Parker Posey plays a cheating faculty wife; Ethan Phillips plays Stone’s dad. “This is a better existential lesson than anything in the textbook.”

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