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Movie Review: Godford Park

Story: At age 76, director Robert Altman, like fine wine, has improved with age. This is one of the best films I have seen all year. It has everything. It is visually delectable, always interesting (do not leave the theater to visit the restroom -- you will get confused) very funny, heart tugging, too often true, very witty, stylish ... it is an automatic classic.

It is 1932 - set in a manor house in the English countryside complete with Lords, Ladies, their accompanying servants, visiting Americans (from Hollywood) and the many societal class distinctions that Britain both loves and at the same time detests. There is infidelity, jealousy, gossip and a murder thrown in. It is a very stylish Who done it? Think Upstairs/Downstairs combined with a PBS 'Murder Mystery of the Week.' There are many characters (both upstairs and downstairs) and by the time we get to know them the film ends. For the first time in a very long time I did not want the film to be over... I wanted more (you never heard that from me before). I would pay to see this film again. I think it would even be more enjoyable the second time around.

Acting: The ensemble cast is fabulous but there are a few stand outs. The always wonderful Maggie Smith, as the Countess, has the best lines. She should be a national treasure. Bob Balaban (who gave Altman the idea for the film) is great as the Hollywood producer. Emily Watson, Helen Mirren, Alan Bates, Clive Owens, Eileen Atkins, Michael Gambon, Charles Dance and Kristin Scott Thomas were all terrific.

Critters: One sweet dog, Pip and some birds that did not fare well in the hunt.

Food: Some wonderful scenes at the upstairs luscious dinner table and in the downstairs kitchen and servants dining area.

Visual Art: Everywhere. This is a manor house with the requisite portraits.

Blatant Product Placement: None.

Soundtrack: Perfect.

Opening Titles: Just as elegant as the rest of the film.

Theater Audience: A good sized crowd with smiling faces.

Oscar Worthy: Absolutely.

Nit Picking: Not a thing.

Big Screen or Rental: Big screen a must. For rental suggestions how about an Altman festival with The Player, Short Cuts, Nashville, M*A*S*H' and my favorite Popeye.

Length: Two hours and fifteen minutes.

LOBO HOWLS: 9.25