The British Invasion of Santa Monica that began before World War 2, is having a revival this week with the premiering of the feature film Downton Abbey at the Laemmle Monica Film Center. Downton Abbey is a worldwide phenomenon and I believe that its attraction has as much to do with the quality of the writing as the desire for us to live in a more genteel time with closer connections.

In celebration of the film’s arrival, my favorite hostess at Ye Olde Kings Head, Christine, is having a special edition of the Afternoon Tea that they are known for. This Friday and Saturday she’s hosting a party where the community is invited to come in period dress if they like, and partake of the British daily ritual called Tea.

I’ve been having afternoon tea served by Christine for almost two decades. I met her years ago at the long ago closed, and still grieved, Tudor House. I loved that place. The calming pastel walls with various prints of life in a simpler time evoked the graciousness and gentility of a nicer world. A world where people dressed, were polite, sent Thank You notes, and remembered that it was more important to be with the person you were with, than to take a picture of your lunch.

Being in that back room of Ye Olde Kings Head is a treat, the ruby red walls are hung with portraits of great English kings and the fine china tinkles with teaspoons as polite conversation is held over tea sandwiches, scones and eclairs. Truly this is a step back in time and geography that I hope everyone will have the opportunity to enjoy at some point in their residency here.

The movie Downton Abbey is screening at the Laemmle Monica Film Center starting on Friday. As a movie chain I have to say they are my favorite for quality cinematic programming. I’ve had my fill of Hollywood big budget, no new story, pablum. It seems to me that all the films from the big studios are boring remakes of classics. I much prefer the independent films and documentaries that are screened through the Laemmle.

In the world of documentary films there is so much variety, from the films made by guerrilla filmmakers who shot with their phones and borrowed cameras, to the under $5,000,000 movies that are glorious examples of cinematography. It’s truly the arena of artistry and creativity that stands for what movies could be. I know that it is heresy to say, in a town where the idea of computer graphics and a rehashed storyline justify a $200,000,000 budget, but the sole distinguishing factor these days is really – the story they tell.

This past weekend I was at a conference on Parental Alienation – hardly a fun subject, but there was a community screening of a documentary by Ginger Gentile, Erasing Family and it’s about the impact of the loss of a parent. One parent through a campaign of manipulation of a child turns the child’s love into hate and rejection of their other parent. It was not a big budget, flashy movie, but man was it powerful.

A good story is what makes people cry, stand up and shout, or just feel. That’s why the quality of programming at Laemmle is so valuable, and why I’m looking forward to seeing Downton Abbey, after I go for tea of course.