Thursday, December 28, 2017

Back to the stars

Over the weekend we took in the latest film in the Star Wars saga: The Last Jedi. I'm not a Star Wars fanatic--I did see the first three, missed the next three, and went to the last full movie a year or so ago, The Force Returns. I don't think any of the sequels, prequels, whatever, matched the original. For one thing, Alec Guinness only appeared in the first and Harrison Ford was a new face, at least to me, in that one.

This time, we get to say good-bye to Carrie Fisher, who eventually became the strongest performer in the troupe; when she started, it struck me that she was lucky to get the part. To me, the new leading players are fine but they could be in any adventure picture. And there's not enough cleverness in the writing to make this picture stand out. Lots of plot, lots of action, and what appeared to be a search for deeper meaning that remained unresolved.

Later, I watched the first few episodes of the second season of The Crown, on Netflix. There's some good acting here--last year's series was definitely high-quality. But I realized what the problem will be: the royals are not inherently interesting. Especially the Queen and Philip. Princess Margaret was an attention-getter because of her much more lively--and in many ways, sad--life. 

And I see that later in this series, they will bring back the Duke of Windsor, who commands interest because his abdication turned out to be one of the best things that happened to the Brits. He barely escaped being officially labelled a collaborator in World War II. He managed to outlive his dutiful brother, George VI, who earnestly took on the responsibility he never expected to have, and performed mightily.

There's also a drop-off on the political side. The series did confirm my view that Winston Churchill deserves great respect for the five-plus years of his wartime leadership, which was magnificent. But the series shows him in his last years as Prime Minister in the early 50s, when he was losing it and didn't have a war to fight nor an empire to defend. The finest decision by the British electorate was in 1945 when they decided that Winston was not the man to lead them in peacetime.

The speedy demise of the great Foreign Secretary, Anthony Eden, when he finally became Prime Minister, was well presented, but I'm already wondering about the portrayal of Harold (Supermac) MacMillan, who turned out to be shrewd enough to stay in power for more than seven years. Claire Foy does a fine job as the young Elizabeth II--even in these early years as queen, she already demonstrates that she may be the only one of the royals with any common sense.

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