Review Round Up – November 2017

A good month for movie watching for me. Quite a diverse range as well, covering 4 separate decades and a few countries as well.

I Don’t Feel at Home in This World Anymore (2017)

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A novel idea and some good points to be made about modern society, but overall it does end up feeling a little cheap and hastily put together. Melanie Lynskey is always great but the Elijah Wood character is a little too odd to fit in with the rest of the story.

Grade: C

Phoenix (2014)

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A bit of a dour slog for the majority of the run time, but scattered amongst it are moments of high impact that kept me going. Not as powerful overall as the sum of its part, but the ending will stick with me for a while.

Grade: B-

Body of Lies (2008)

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Body of Lies must’ve suffered from expectations of Ridley, DiCaprio and Crowe working together back in 2008, because it really is quite a good film. These three big names all do good work and the film is a fairly briskly paced and enjoyable look into American intelligence in the Middle East.

Grade: B

Wind River (2017)

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Following his writing of two of my favourite films of the last few years, Sicario and Hell or High Water, I had high expectations for Taylor Sheridan’s second feature film. Sheridan uses the cold, isolated setting of Wyoming to establish an unforgiving world that remains distant and unique from what we consider normal America. It also features Jeremy Renner’s best performance since The Hurt Locker.

Full review likely to follow.

Grade: A-

Edge of Tomorrow (2014)

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It is what it is, and what it is is pretty fun. Big, loud and action filled, but also cleverly written and knowingly played by stars Tom Cruise and Emily Blunt. I’ll probably forget I’ve ever seen it in a few years but there are worse ways to spend a couple of hours.

Grade: C+

The Palm Beach Story (1942)

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One of the many screwball comedies of the 40’s that has not aged well at all. Joel Macrae barely registers and Rudy Vallee feels out of place, but the women, Claudette Colbert and Mary Astor, have a great time and salvage something from the film. I’m now 5 or 6 films into Preston Sturges filmography and so far only Sullivan’s Travels has done much for me.

Grade: C

Stagecoach (1939)

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The film that thrust John Ford into Hollywood’s elite and launched John Wayne’s remarkable 40 year career, Stagecoach remains a really solid story really well told. Wayne is typically average, but there are some nice supporting turns, notably from Thomas Mitchell, and it is beautifully filmed. Some of the action scenes and stunt work are incredible for something made 80 years ago.

Grade: B-

Only Angels Have Wings (1939)

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Whilst I am a fan of both Howard Hawks and Cary Grant’s work, I haven’t had much to do with Jean Arthur, besides Shane at the tail end of her career. Known as a screwball comedy actress, this is a mostly quite serious and somber affair where she doesn’t get much chance to let loose. Grant doesn’t quite work for me as the surly head pilot of the mail carrying company, but I quite enjoyed this insight to a world I had never even considered. Thomas Mitchell is again excellent in a supporting role.

Grade: B-

Thor: Ragnarok (2017)

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Great fun, right up there with Guardians of the Galaxy as Marvel’s funniest and most enjoyable film. Taika Waititi takes the film in a different direction and the majority of it works perfectly.

Full review to come

Grade: B+

The Motorcycle Diaries (2004)

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One of those enlightening, left-wing films I am a sucker for, The Motorcycle Diaries is also a beautifully made film with excellent performances from the two stars. The Latin American forests and deserts make for a stunning backdrop for what is the beginning of one of the more incredible lives that was Che Guevera.

Grade: A-

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TV Review – The Crown Season 1 Episode 10

Episode 10 – Gloriana

The season finale opens with a flashback to King Edward and George immediately following Edward’s abdication. George asks his brother if he truly loves Wallis more than all else, to which Edward replies without hesitation “yes”. We then see the now King George making his daughters promise to himself and one another that they will never put anything above each other. It kind of goes against what he was just questioning his brother about, but it’s a nice moment so whatever.

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However, the sisters remain at odds due to Margaret’s persisting desire to marry Peter Townsend. Margaret is now 25, but Elizabeth is told there is yet another hurdle her sister must jump before she is allowed to marry Peter, though this time it is one made up for whatever reason. When reunited they share a passionate embrace and quite clearly remain firmly in love. Regardless, it is becoming increasingly obvious that Margaret will never be allowed to marry the “common and divorced” Peter Townsend.

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To her credit, Elizabeth does he damnedest to convince Parliament to allow they to marry. But when even her uncle David, one of history’s greatest examples of the power of love, tells her she must choose the crown over her sister, Elizabeth really has little choice but to concede. The news understandably further divides the sisters, Margaret reminding Elizabeth of the promise they made to their father. As Peter also gives in and heads back to Brussells, Margaret tells him she will never forgive her sister and never marry another man.

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The Queen Mother complains to Elizabeth that Philip is mistreating Charles, who is depicted as a weak child, and suggest he needs some time away. Elizabeth requests Philip takes her place on another Commonwealth tour, this one culminating in the opening of the Olympic Games in Melbourne. Philip knows what’s going on and gets quite worked up, saying they all hope his boat sinks on the way there. Later, he informs his wife that his trip has been extended to 5 months, the bitterness seeping out of him. Elizabeth grits her teeth for a portrait but the weight of her rapidly faltering personal relationships is clearly taking its toll.

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Summary

A good season closer, but the Margaret and Peter storyline does tend to tread the melodrama line a little too closely. Philip leaving for 5 months clearly sets the scene for a make or break time in the royal couple’s relationship in season 2. Churchill is going to be missed and the show probably needs another strong presence in his ilk to keep things fresh. Overall, this is one of the best first seasons of any show I’ve seen. Incredible production value and acting and the writing, while as mentioned can stray into melodrama, is generally brilliant. The interplay between many of these characters is so entertaining to watch and even the quieter episodes hold plenty of hidden pleasures. John Lithgow is probably the highlight of the show; once you warm to his scenery chewing it becomes a well rounded performance that is a joy to watch. Foy is an excellent Elizabeth, her face regularly painting a picture of conflict and struggle. The supporting cast are uniformly excellent but Eileen Atkins and Jared Harris deserve special mention for their amazing work in the early episodes that really set the scene for characters and plot alike.

Grade: B-

TV Review – The Crown Season 1 Episode 9

Episode 9 – Assassins

The penultimate episode of Season 1, oddly, shifts the focus away from the crown and onto Winston Churchill. We do start with a little bit of background on the Elizabeth/Philip relationship, with Lord “Porchy” Porchester entering the fray. He asks his girlfriend to marry him, but she suspects he stills holds a torch for Elizabeth. He doesn’t really bother to deny it, simply saying that Elizabeth only ever wanted Philip. When Philip comes home drunk, Elizabeth pretends to sleep and ignores him. The next day she gives Porchy a call and they discuss their shared great love of thoroughbreds. When they meet in person, Philip is jealous of Porchy whilst Margaret snaps up the opportunity to rile her sister up a little.

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But this episode is well and truly about the Prime Minister and specifically, the portrait being painted of him by Graham Sutherland (Stephen Dillane). Churchill is himself a talented amateur painter and characteristically makes Sutherland’s job as difficult as possible. Over the course of the work, Churchill does his best to annoy Sutherland at every turn, but he is a true profession and never takes the bait. Eventually, the two men do bond a little over a shared loss of a child and the effect it has had on their artwork.

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However, when the portrait is completed and unveiled, Churchill despises it. Outwardly, he criticizes it for being too modern, but he is fact hurt but the frail old man it depicts. Sutherland confronts Churchill over his reaction to the portrait, basically telling him he is in denial and that the painting is an accurate depiction of him. Churchill remains angry at Sutherland but he has clearly taken the point on board as he decides that night that he shall step aside as Prime Minister.

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When he informs the Queen of his decision, she asks how she will cope without him. Churchill tells her she is ready to go it alone and his job with her is done. In a sweet moment between the two, who clearly share a strong mutual respect and regard for one another, Churchill gives the Queen a farewell kiss on the forehead. Churchill continues being a good bloke when Anthony Eden arrives at Buckingham Palace to replace him. Churchill stops his car and gets out to give Eden a handshake.

The episode then returns back to the Elizabeth/Philip/Porchy triangle. Whilst for some reason they all watch horses mating, Philip quips “Rather like us darling, when we were courting”. It goes down like a lead balloon with his wife. Afterwards, Philip questions why Porchy has a direct line to Elizabeth, sparking a massive fight between the pair that ends with Elizabeth saying she has only ever loved Philip but he cannot say the same. Later that night, during a speech where Elizabeth showers Churchill with praise, we see flashbacks of the royal couple fighting as they left the stables. The episode ends with Philip mouthing a meek apology to Elizabeth across the table.

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Summary

An interesting way to lead into the final episode of the season, with most of the focus on Churchill having his portrait done. But the scenes between John Lithgow’s Churchill and Dillane’s Sutherland are terrific, Dillane’s calmness a perfect match for Lithgow’s spluttering fire, and the process does end with Churchill realising time has passed him by. The Elizabeth/Philip fighting really hits boiling point in this episode, and it is becoming increasingly difficult to believe the two actually make it as a couple.

Grade: A

 

 

TV Review – The Crown Season 1 Episode 8

Episode 8 – Pride & Joy

Once again, Princess Margaret’s love life is at the forefront of an episode. Still quite peeved by Peter’s banishment, Margaret and Elizabeth’s relationship is struggling. Elizabeth, with an extensive Commonwealth trip beckoning and the Queen Mother taking a break in Scotland, gives her sister some royal duties to attend to. In a great scene, Margaret practices her knighting technique while berating her sister for a supposed lack of charisma and character. Elizabeth rises above her sister’s taunts and lets her have a little bit of the power for once.

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Of course, Elizabeth’s star keeps shining brightly from across the oceans as she handles her diplomatic duties with aplomb. Margaret decides enough is enough and puts on a real show at a gala, delivering a speech full of jokes and innuendo that is snapped up by all those present and the media. Reading about her sister only fuels Elizabeth, but Philip has had enough of the two sister’s vying for their father’s attention, even from beyond his grave. But the Queen isn’t in the mood for Philip and she fires up, throwing a vase at him and chasing him out of the house, all in front of the ever-present cameras. In a moment that rings a little false, Elizabeth asks the journalists not to use the pictures and they take the reel of film out and give it to her in an act of mercy.

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Back in the United Kingdom, The Queen Mother is taking a break in Scotland. These scenes are quite effective in developing her character. We first see her break down in front of her friends, the first real moment of vulnerability we have seen despite her clearly grieving her husband. She then goes to an old castle that is for sale and the current owner provides us with some comedic relief when he can’t quite place her face. It is evident she is enjoying being away from the spotlight for a while as years of being the Queen and the foreseeable future as the Queen Mother comes with plenty of drawbacks.

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Unfortunately, Churchill is appalled at Margaret’s behaviour, comparing her to her uncle, and requests the Queen Mother return to England at once. Elizabeth and Philip then return from what is being triumphed as a hugely successful tour and Margaret’s day gets just that little bit worse. The sisters have it out again, both letting their guards down a little. Margaret is jealous of the attention Elizabeth gets, while the Queen is jealous of Margaret’s freedom. Margaret reminds Elizabeth that their father always referred to her as his joy, and Margaret as his pride. It depends on our own values to assess which of these is better, but one thing is certain; both have certainly ended up where their father would have imagined.

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Summary

This episode featured good development all round. The previously under-utilized Queen Mother was given good screen time and fleshed out well. The episode did end with her back in Scotland though, so it may just be a one-off. The Elizabeth/Philip and Elizabeth/Margaret relationships are still getting heavy focus, and whilst the latter ended with some sort of agreement, the former is still well and truly at boiling point. The dynamics at play between all these characters, titles and roles is wonderful to watch, and made all the more entertaining by top-class acting and production.

Grade: B+

TV Review – The Crown Season 1 Episode 7

Episode 7 – Scientia Potentia Est

The seventh episode puts the focus on knowledge, or in Elizabeth’s case, a lack thereof. In a flashback we see her as a child receiving private lessons on the government and the monarchy. Modern day Elizabeth is finding these listens have done her a fat lot of good when dealing with the highly educated men she regularly meets and treats with. She shows this lack of knowledge when meeting with Churchill then angrily accuses her mother or bringing her up poorly due to her lack of proper education.

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The adult Queen Elizabeth enlists a tutor, Professor Tonk to bring her up to speed. He seems a good, discrete type, but he does struggle with where to begin because as Elizabeth herself admits, she “can’t keep up”. Tonk does however give her some excellent advice, telling her to give the politicians a proper scolding because being “English, male and upper class” that is what they respond to.

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While all this is happening, slimy Tommy Lascelles’ impending retirement causes another, albeit relatively minor, clash of personal life versus the crown. Elizabeth wants her old secretary to replace him but this is not protocol and Tommy won’t have it. As much as Elizabeth does stand up to Tommy and try and change how things are done, Martin is forced to stand aside as the crown chalks up another little victory.

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Meanwhile, both Churchill and his 2IC Anthony Eden are in poor health. Churchill keeps having strokes and Eden has to travel to America for gall bladder surgery. At the encouragement of Lord Salisbury, Churchill lies to the Queen, telling her he simply has the flu. This all culminates in Elizabeth taking Tonk’s advice and giving Salisbury a right old dressing down, truly owning her title for the first time. Churchill however, is let off a little easier. The Queen shows him compassion and asks for his respect and honesty. Churchill can see that Elizabeth is ready to do her job without him and tells her he will step down.

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Summary

Whilst this episode does feature a little of the other storylines, notably Philip once again drawing the short straw (though it does end in him getting some loving) but this episode is all about Elizabeth stamping herself as the Queen. The scenes with Professor Tonk and Elizabeth’s general uncertainty about her intellect are excellent in how they make her more well-rounded. She is not the little miss perfect her sister thinks she is, but she is highly capable and all it took was a little push from someone on the outside, and a political crisis for her to truly blossom.

Grade: B+

TV Review – The Crown Season 1 Episode 6

Episode 6 – Gelignite

The eponymous explosive substance isn’t the first thing that comes to mind when the dull Peter Townsend is brought up, but when the divorcee is attempting to marry a royal princess, the title becomes a little more appropriate. Margaret invites her sister and Philip over for dinner with herself and Peter, where she informs Elizabeth that they plan to marry. The Queen delights her sister by informing her she will never stand in her way.

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The reliably repugnant Tommy Lascelles dobs on Margaret to her mother and the happy times grind to a screeching halt. To her credit, Elizabeth continues to support her sister and even informs her of the potential to marry in Scotland, away from the Church of England, who have the Royal family at their mercy. But the Queen Mother insists the only way it can happen is if Margaret and Peter wait until she is 25, and spend the required 2 years in separate countries.

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Peter ends up being posted in Brussels, where he is quite popular with the local girls. Margaret is understandably not too happy with all this, and Elizabeth cops the brunt of her distaste for making her think the Scotland option was ever in play. She accuses Elizabeth of thwarting her love affair because she can’t handle anyone else getting the attention, and signals a warning that the Queen will “reap what she sows”.

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Meanwhile, Elizabeth’s own marriage continues to show signs of crumbling. Philip keeps running off to secret men’s business, leaving Elizabeth and the viewers to wonder where they sit.

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Summary

A weaker episode no doubt, but another that helps to develop the characterizations, especially of Elizabeth. She is accused of doing and being everything horrible under the sun by her sister but while most is just the utterances of a frustrated and hurt sibling, some does ring true. I feel she does want the best for Margaret and truly did try and find a way to make the marriage with Peter work, but she definitely allows, perhaps even uses Tommy to get Peter out of the limelight. She is never portrayed as selfish or attention-seeking, so this move can only be seen as her once again putting the crown ahead of her family’s happiness.

Grade: B-

TV Review – The Crown Season 1 Episode 5

Episode 5 – Smoke and Mirrors

The halfway point of season 1 arrives and with it comes Queen Elizabeth’s coronation and subsequently, our first glimpse of the eponymous crown. It all begins with a flashback back to a young Elizabeth helping her father get ready for his own coronation. It’s great to see Jared Harris’ King George again, and he nails the scene’s mix of sweetness and gravitas. Back in the “modern” day, Elizabeth has decided to give Philip something to do by making him the chair of her coronation committee. Philip has free reign to do what he likes, something the stiff-lipped coronation committee are not at all keen on.

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Following Queen Mary finally succumbing to her illness, Philip notes her funeral is exactly the same as King George’s. As the progressive type he is, Philip is adamant Elizabeth’s coronation will not be like all the others and will instead showcase two of her key features- youth and femininity. But the greatest shock to all the old fuddy-duddies is Philip’s desire to have the whole ceremony filmed. Despite the committee and Churchill’s protestations, Elizabeth doesn’t really have a problem with this. She does however, take exception with Philip’s refusal to bow to her once she is crowned. As has been the theme of the series so far, Philip’s pride cannot take having to bow to his own wife.

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However, when the time comes, Philip once again swallows his pride and bows to his the Queen. The coronation, being televised on TV, is shown to us back and forth from the actual event, and from David and Wallis watching it on TV as they host a coronation party. Leading into the event, David has had quite the bad time of it. Called to London due to his mother’s ill health, he is ambushed by Tommy Lascelles and the Archbishop and told he will not be able to attend the coronation. In a case of truly horrible timing, the Archbishop, having stormed out on David, gets the news that Queen Mary has passed on and must go back in the room and let him know.

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At the viewing party, David is at peak bitterness and is reveling in the laughs his guests shower on him for his snarky jokes about the royal family. But as the ceremony progresses, David’s demeanor gradually changes as the enormity of what he has given up and forced on his niece, as well as grief over his mother’s death catch up to him. In a quite powerful final scene, Wallis watches David through a window as he plays the bagpipes outside, tears welling in his eyes.

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Summary

An appreciation of this episode probably heavily rides on your feelings of David. If all you see is the selfish, petulant man who abandoned his family and his responsibility, then this episode likely falls flat. Personally, I see the tragedy in the man and despite all the flaws, there is an undoubtedly virtuous element to his doing what he did for love. I see him as a mostly broken man who is only held together by this woman who his family will not accept.

The episode itself is superbly made. The entire cast are on top of their game and the juxtaposition of the actual ceremony and David watching it on TV is a clever plot device. Philip’s struggles with bowing, before ultimately doing so, is sure to be a significant moment for him. Has he accepted his role or will his bitterness grow from here? Whatever the case, it is a clear case of the Crown ruling over Elizabeth’s personal life and feelings; one last victory for the late Queen Mary.

Grade: A

 

TV Review – The Crown Season 1 Episode 4

Episode 4 – Act of God

The Crown’s fourth episode takes a bit of a break from the royal stuff to focus on the Great London Smog of 1952. The episode is the first to zero in on Winston Churchill and his own issues of the time. The smog, or as he calls it the “act of God”, serves as ammunition for those gunning for his head. Churchill is actually culpable in some way; he not only ignored scientific warnings of the possibility of an event like this, he encouraged more burning of coal.

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Everyone is affected by the smog, not just Churchill – it may have accelerated Queen Mary’s already poor health, Philip can’t fly and Elizabeth is forced to walk to Parliament! Queen Mary also gives Elizabeth an interesting but highly antiquated pep talk, telling her she is answerable only to God and that people like them have been put on Earth and placed above others by God himself. It is ridiculous to the audience, but to the young Elizabeth, in the 1950s, it is intriguing to consider how much of this she actually takes on board. With pressure mounting on her to push Churchill out, she might very soon be forced to exercise a bit of that God-given power.

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But Churchill is the focus here and by association, his secretary, Venetia Scott (Kate Phillips). Although introduced in the previous episode and already established as someone who the Prime Minister is fond of and who gave him a bit of confidence boost, Venetia is used here as a sort of grassroots look at the effects of the smog. Her housemate is terribly ill and when forced to escort her to the hospital, Venetia is hit by a bus and killed. Churchill is clearly upset by her death, but uses his grief to fuel himself and deliver a speech about the smog that he hits out of the park and really puts his scheming colleagues on the back foot.

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Summary

The main theme of this episode could be doing nothing. Elizabeth is encouraged to sit back and do nothing about Churchill, Margaret and even Philip. Then of course, there is Churchill, whose doing nothing may have gone a long way to actually causing the Great Smog. This is a filler episode, no doubt, but one that does help to shape Churchill’s role through the series, as well as give him a bit of emotional depth. It also gives us more of an idea of what Elizabeth is going to face throughout her reign in terms of impartiality. It is very un-human for any person to do nothing when faced with a problem, let alone someone in a supposed position of power. But this is exactly what Elizabeth must learn to master.

Grade: B-

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TV Review – The Crown Season 1 Episode 3

Episode 3 – Windsor

We begin with a flashback to December 10th 1936, the day King Edward abdicated the throne, leaving his brother to be king and therefore, Elizabeth the next in line to the throne. The now Prince Edward, Duke of Windsor, and back to his given name of David (Alex Jennings), will come to have a continued presence throughout the show, serving as a sort of reminder to Elizabeth of what can happen if she doesn’t play her role properly. Jennings is excellent as the former King, providing enough substance and depth for the audience to feel some sympathy towards him, even though he regularly comes across as catty and pretentious.

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Between the flashback and the current day, we see that Queen Mary’s feelings towards David and his actions- abdicating, marrying the widowed American Wallis Simpson, leaving England- haven’t changed one bit. She is cold and short to her eldest son, and puts the blame for King George’s death squarely at his feet. In a letter to Wallis, David derides the entire royal family, using nasty nicknames and terms like “dumpy and plain” to describe them. But he says he is doing his best to remain civil in order to gain favour and receive a more handsome allowance.

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Meanwhile, Philip is fighting his own battle to try and keep the Mountbatten name and his home at Clarence House. Philip’s uncle is prematurely celebrating his being the “Royal name”, but Churchill is having none of it. Besides rejecting Philip’s wishes, he is also expecting Elizabeth to wait 16 months for her coronation. But Elizabeth is no fool, and realising Churchill is stalling to keep the jackals at bay, says he must try and help her if she is to agree to his proposed 16 month wait. Unfortunately, Cabinet aren’t in on the deal and firmly reject all of Philip’s wishes.

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Elizabeth then meets with David and after discussing pugs and their flatulence, get to heart of the family squabbles. Elizabeth asks for an apology, for thrusting her into the spotlight, into a life of being under the spotlight, for never being able to lead a “simpler life, a happier life”. David does apologise and Elizabeth obviously accepts as she then asks him to be her adviser. David then gives advice that he himself would have rejected; she must keep the Windsor name and move to Buckingham Palace. Not even the royally banished and disowned David is willing to back up poor Philip.

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Philip is then given the bad news from Elizabeth and is understandably upset by the unfairness and shot to his masculinity. But he does have a new hobby to keep him occupied – flying. Despite how dull he feels the man is, Philip has enlisted the help of Peter Townsend to teach him how to fly. This plotline doesn’t add a whole lot to the story, but it does build on Philip’s free-spirit and unsuitability to the Royal family, as well as giving Peter a bit of background to allow us to understand what Margaret sees in him.

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Summary

This episode is not quite as entertaining as the first two. The narrative is still moving along nicely, but there was too much time spent on quite superfluous elements. David nee King Edward adds a lot to the series, firstly due to Alex Jenning’s strong portrayal, but also in the way he highlights the life vs duty balance and the parallels between himself and Wallis and the other couples in the show. Queen Mary also gets more strong moments; her bitterness towards her son is odd for the layman, but remembering her letter to Elizabeth it is clear she truly does but the Crown above all else.

The little battle between Elizabeth and Churchill was entertaining, and their little games amounting to nothing after Cabinet shuts them down is a strong reminder that the UK is a democracy and ultimately, the Crown does not come with the level of power commensurate with the expectations on those who wear it.

Grade: B

My Favourite Films of All Time

Hud – Martin Ritt – 1963

After a relatively late start to his career at 29, partly due to his role in World War II, Paul Newman had a stellar career that spanned over 50 years. From 1956’s Somebody Up There Likes me through to 2002’s Road to Perdition, Newman has a catalogue full of excellent performances in mostly just as excellent films. So when I tell people I consider his best performance to be in Hud, a now little known and seen film from 1963, it can often surprise. That is of course, unless they have seen the film. Newman dominates, but this is by no means a one-man show, and the movie as a whole is one of the very best of the 1960s.

Adapted from a novel written by a very young Larry McMurtry, Horseman, Pass By, Hud focusses on the Bannon family on a cattle ranch in Texas- Newman’s Hud, Melvyn Douglas as his father and owner of the ranch Homer, Brandon deWilde as his nephew Lonnie and their housekeeper Alma Brown played by Patricia Neal. The film centres on the strained relationship between Hud and his father, with Lonnie and Alma caught in the middle, and unsure of their own feelings of fondness for the reckless Hud.

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Homer Bannon is a deeply principled, old-fashioned rancher who has been hurt by the deaths of his wife and eldest son. Hud, while capable in his work on the ranch, is arrogant and rebellious and has little care for the proper way his father likes to do things. Lonnie idolizes both his uncle and his grandfather, and is caught between their fued. Alma has worked for Homer for a long time and is very loyal, but she also shared a mutual long-term attraction to Hud that she has never acted upon for fear of being hurt. It is basically a 4-piece stage act played out on the vast Texas Panhandle.

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Hud begins with the death of a cow. This sets the tone for a film that is very much a grassroots look at real people in real situations in real places. Lonnie is sent to look for Hud and finds him escaping the house of a married lady just before her husband gets home. Back at the ranch, the clash of personalities is quickly established with Homer adamant law and procedure must be followed, whereas Hud believes they should offload all their cattle before they lose all their hard work. With Hud also chastising his father for buying sickly Mexican cattle, the tempestuous father-son relationship is firmly established.

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While waiting for veterinarian test results, Hud takes Lonnie out for a drink that ends in a drunken brawl. Inebriated and exhilarated, Hud opens up to Lonnie about the death of his brother and his father’s lack of fondness towards him. Returning to the house, Homer pounces on Hud, admonishing him for corrupting Lonnie. Hud fires back and a brief argument ensues. It’s a terrific scene, full of old wounds and sub-text, that is nailed by all involved.

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From this point on, with the cattle being found to have foot-and-mouth disease and having to be exterminated, Homer and Hud are at war for the ranch. Hud, regressing further into his self-centered behaviour and again intoxicated, goes into Alma’s room at attempts to assault her, but is thwarted by Lonnie. This is the nail in the coffin for Lonnie’s views on his uncle. With Alma deciding to leave and all relationships highly strained, the ranch is in turmoil. Homer dies after a fall from his horse and without any real allies or role-models left, Lonnie leaves the ranch as well. He leaves Hud alone in the house, a swaying window-shade signifying the uncertain future.

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The acting in Hud is what sets it apart. Douglas and Neal won the Oscars (Supporting Actor and Lead Actress respectively) and were more than deserving. Douglas, in a career spanning over 50 years, is terrifically subtle and realistic as the Bannon patriarch, the steady ship slowly falling apart as modernity closes in. Neal, in one of the shortest Best Actress winning roles of all time, is a perfect mix of strength and vulnerability. She too, is a victim of time; a passive life led dampening her spirit. deWilde, who’s career never really took off as an adult, before his untimely death at the age of 30, is outclassed by his co-stars but does an admirable job as the impressionable youth who is forced to grow up quickly as the relationships between those he trusts and respects fall apart around him.

As good as everyone else is, Newman is clearly the standout. In perhaps the best performance of his storied career, he makes a character who could very well be seen as the villain, into someone the audience can sympathise with. Hud is more flawed than the usual rebels and outcasts Newman specialised in; reckless, amoral and deeply bitter and resentful, it’s hard to imagine anyone besides Paul Newman being able to make him not a complete dick. His being able to pull this performance off is what sets Hud above similar family-dramas of this era.