Well, at least my appetite for fried food is easily sated.
Today, I watched the third of the nominees from the 2001 Best Picture contest...
Eileen Atkins, Bob Balaban, Alan Bates, Charles Dance, Stephen Fry, Michael Gambon, Richard E. Grant, Derek Jacobi, Kelly MacDonald, Helen Mirren, Jeremy Northam, Clive Owen, Ryan Phillipe, Maggie Smith, Kristin Scott Thomas, Emily Watson
1 win, for Best Original Screenplay
An interesting twist on the classic English manor murder mystery, Gosford Park begins as an intricately woven tale of several characters who converge on the country house of Sir William McCordle for a weekend of fine dining, respectable music and good old-fashioned bird murder ... I mean, pheasant-hunting. Upstairs, the wealthy folk enjoy these spoils whilst downstairs, the servants potter about after them. Then, the unthinkable happens when Sir William is discovered dead in his study, apparently murdered twice. A police investigation ensues and everybody's secrets are revealed.
I don't remember thinking very much of this film the first time I saw it, but perhaps I've matured because it really tickled my fancy this time around. It's a positively fascinating exploration of the differences and similarities between the two classes represented. All sorts of relationships are going on both upstairs and downstairs, and sometimes between the two, and there are struggles, doubts and fears on both sides of the coin. It seems it's not easy being a servant, but it's not easy being a part of respectable society, either, with all that etiquette one must follow.
Being a Robert Altman film, there are, of course, myriad characters, which is a little complicated at first, but once you've figured out who's who, there are plenty of secrets to be discovered behind closed doors. In fact, it just gets more and more complex as the film proceeds, with people's lives intertwining in all sorts of surprising ways, that you do need to keep on top of it all.
If Gosford Park were just about the class system of 1930s Britain - which is, in fact, just how the film initially presents itself - it would be fascinating enough, but what is particularly satisfying is that the first half of the film turns out to be an elaborate and clever set-up for what is to come. Not only do we witness the class struggle, but also littered throughout are subtle hints and whispers of motives and means. And most cleverly, the whodunit style of the second half still retains the exploration of the societal themes.
The large cast are extremely talented at underplaying all the subtleties and it would be hard to single out any of them ... but I will, anyway. The Academy deservedly gave Helen Mirren and Maggie Smith nominations for Best Supporting Actress. I particularly enjoyed Stephen Fry's bumbling inspector, as well as Clive Owen's suave servant. And imagine Michael Gambon's Sir William with a long grey beard and you have Professor Dumbledore #2.