Country Strong, Downton Abbey, and More Culture Picks
Each week, The Daily Beast sifts through the cultural landscape to choose three top picks. This week, Gwyneth Paltrow is the latest to co-opt country music as her own. Plus, a period drama that’s actually must-see-TV and Blue Valentine’s Michelle Williams talks her NC-17 sex scene and Heath Ledger.
Lately, Gwyneth Paltrow has been behaving like a country-music star. It began in November when Paltrow slipped into a tiny dress and delivered a warbling performance at the CMA Awards. The next chapter comes today, in the movie Country Strong, in which Paltrow sings in front of a video screen filled with wild horses, swills booze at a roadhouse, and approvingly quotes Waylon Jennings. But she’s only the most recent star to switch genres: Darius Rucker, Kid Rock, and Jewel have all found there’s a heckuva lot of money and success to be found in honky tonk. The Daily Beast’s Bryan Curtis on why country’s become a refuge from other types of music.
The venerable British costume drama—embodied in such classics as Upstairs, Downstairs, Brideshead Revisited, and Pride and Prejudice—gets an intelligent, cheeky reinvention with the addictive Downton Abbey, the brainchild of Julian Fellowes, who won a best original screenplay Oscar for 2001’s similarly themed Gosford Park. Downton Abbey, airing over the next four weeks in 90-minute episodes, launches this Sunday evening as part of PBS’ Masterpiece Classic’s landmark 40th season. The Daily Beast’s Jace Lacob reviews the period drama that’s brilliantly reinvented for a new generation.
Blue Valentine took 12 years for director Derek Cianfrance to make, but he still managed to pull out Michelle Williams’ best performance to date. Starring with Ryan Gosling as a couple whose relationship crumbles and finally dissolves, Williams is a revelation. The Golden Globe-nominated star talks to Kevin Sessums about her NC-17 sex scene, playing Marilyn Monroe, and the other interview that made her wary of discussing Heath Ledger’s death.