Harry & Meghan Documentary Review

A logical mind would say that we ought to believe that everything that we read in the press is true. We can hope that the journalists have done their homework before putting (digital) pen to paper. But a realistic mind says otherwise. There are some publications that are more than happy to fudge the facts in order to increase sales.

The new six-part Netflix documentary, Harry & Meghan was released this weekend. In this docuseries, Harry and Meghan sit in front of their camera and tell the story. From their early years to their eventual courtship, marriage, and becoming parents, nothing is off-limits. Backing up the couple are family, friends, and a handful of respected experts who add additional details to the narrative.

I found their honesty to be refreshing and real. Harry talks about the mental health challenges he experienced after the death of his late mother, Princess Diana. For her part, Meghan describes the racism she experienced as a biracial woman. The villain in this piece is the media, charged with spreading lies and half-truths in order to get eyeballs on screen and hands on newspapers.

Though some say that the facts have been smudged, I think the message is clear. The purpose of the program is to hear their story in their own words, which I think is quite refreshing. It is also telling (in my mind, at least), there are crickets coming from the palace. Instead of responding to the criticism, the silence speaks volumes.

Do I recommend it? Yes.

The first three episodes of Harry & Meghan are available for viewing on Netflix. The next (and final) three episodes drop on the 15th.

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The Crown Season 5 Review

For four seasons, Netflix‘s The Crown has pulled back the curtain to tell the story of the Windsors.

Season five premiered last weekend. Taking place in the 1990s, it dives into the personal and professional troubles of the late Queen Elizabeth II (Imelda Staunton) and her family. Standing stalwart beside her is her now-late husband, Prince Philip (Jonathan Pryce), and late sister Princess Margaret (Lesley Manville).

Among the issues that the Windsors are dealing with are the failing marriages of three of the Queen’s four children. As we all know now, the “happy” union of the former Prince Charles (Dominic West) and the late Princess Diana (Elizabeth Debicki) has reached its breaking point. Returning to the arms of his ex, the former Camilla Parker Bowles (Olivia Williams), he is torn between duty and love.

This season is amazing. Among the main cast, Staunton and Debicki are the standouts. Staunton perfectly follows in the footsteps of her predecessors, Claire Foy and Olivia Coleman. Debicki’s performance as Diana is award-worthy. If I close my eyes and just listen to her, I almost expect that it is the real person, not an actor playing a part.

The only thing that we have to remember is that this is not a documentary. The show is fiction. Some of what we are watching has been made up and not based on actual events.

Do I recommend it? Absolutely.

The Crown is available for viewing on Netflix.

Diana, William, and Harry: The Heartbreaking Story of a Princess and Mother Book Review

There is no bond as important as a mother with her children.

When the late Princess Diana was killed in a car crash in 1997, she left behind two young men who were forever changed. The new biography, Diana, William, and Harry: The Heartbreaking Story of a Princess and Mother, by James Patterson, was published last month. It tells the story of Diana and her sons as human beings, not just celebrities or royals who live in a gilded cage.

While ensuring that both of her boys know what their responsibilities and futures will be like, she also gave them the opportunity to be ordinary kids. After her untimely passing, they grow up (with the usual and unusual hurdles due to the family they were born into) into responsible men, husbands, and fathers who continue Diana’s legacy.

What struck me was that Diana learned how to work within the system while rebelling against a way of life that may seem archaic to some. Her love for her sons, specifically when her marriage to Prince Charles (now King Charles III) was falling apart, was evident from the word go. Even when her own mental health issues weighed heavily on her, her boys still came first.

Choosing to live and parent as she did, she set up William and Harry to become empathetic and understanding of the idea that not everyone lives like they do. In doing so, she set the English monarchy on a path that allows tradition and modernity to exist concurrently.

Do I recommend it? Yes.

Diana, William, and Harry: The Heartbreaking Story of a Princess and Mother is available wherever books are sold.

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Best Movies of 2021

  1. Quo Vadis, Aida?: This harrowing tale of one woman’s choice to save her family or save as many people as she can during the Bosnian War is as powerful as a film can get.
  2. Mass: Two sets of parents meet after one of their sons has killed the other in a school shooting to figure what happened. Along the way, they are forced to answer questions that are painful and difficult.
  3. Spencer: This fictional take on Princess Diana (Kristen Stewart) and what might have occured during Christmas in the early 1990’s is a unique take on the myth of the late royal.
  4. Belfast: A young boy is growing up during the Troubles in Northern Ireland in the late 1960’s. As he starts to transition from a child to a young adult, he begins to realize that nothing is ever a simple as it seems to be.
  5. Black Widow: After ten years, Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) finally gets the movie she should have gotten. Trying to atone for her past while living in the present, she must face reality and make up for mistakes.
  6. Framing Britney Spears: This Hulu documentary took viewers in the life and career of Britney Spears and how it has changed since her father took control over both.
  7. West Side Story: Steven Spielberg’s adapation of this beloved musical takes it into the 21st century while retaing its message about prejudice and lack of opportunity.
  8. The Eyes of Tammy Faye: Jessica Chastain not only brings Tammy Faye Bakker back to life, she reveals the real person behind the punchline.
  9. Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings: This latest addition to the MCU is more than just the first all Asian cast. It is the story of a complicated father/son relationship and a young man who cannot run from his fate.
  10. Moxie: A shy teenage girl stands up to the sexist bullshit at school and empowers her fellow female students in the process.
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This will be my last post of 2021. Wherever you are and whatever you’re doing tonight, have a safe and happy New Year. See you in 2022.

Spencer Movie Review

Spending time with the family during the holidays can be a wonderful and heartwarming experience. It can also be emotionally fraught with unspoken emotions and arguments that have yet to be resolved.

The new movie, Spencer, takes place over Christmas in the early 1990s. Princess Diana (Kristen Stewart), as tradition commands, is spending the holiday with her husband and her in-laws. Her “fairy tale” marriage to Prince Charles (Jack Farthing) is at its breaking point. Reigned in by Major Alistar Gregory (Timothy Spall), the only person she can trust is her dresser, Maggie (Sally Hawkins). As her mental health declines and she begins to see the ghost of Anne Boleyn (Amy Manson), she has a choice. Diana can continue to stay where she is and spiral out of control or break free, knowing that her life will never be the same.

OMG. Spencer is not only one of the best films of the year, but also a surefire contender come award season. Stewart’s Diana is truly exceptional. This is a woman who just wants love, but is treated as a commodity by the ones who are closest to her. She tries to fit in, but it is quite obvious that Diana sticks out like a sore thumb. I have zero complaints about this movie. The tension starts with the opening shot and does not let up until the credits roll. It is gloriously uncomfortable to watch, knowing what we know about Diana’s all too short life.

My favorite aspect of this film is that it destroys the myth that American actors cannot play British characters. While we generally accept British actors (i.e. Man of Steel) playing American characters, the same cannot be said when the situation is flipped. The most frequent complaint is that the accent the performer uses is more of a caricature than the real deal. Stewart is so good in the role that I almost forgot that I was watching a piece of fiction and not a documentary.

Do I recommend it? Absolutely.

Spencer is currently in theaters.

Thoughts On the Prince Harry and Meghan Markle Interview

The fairy tale books we are read to when we are young present images of royal perfection. Though the characters exist within this world have problems, those issues are resolved by the time the story ends. But that is fiction. But, as we all now, real life is not as simple.

Last night, the interview with Prince Harry and Meghan Markle aired on CBS. Sitting down with Oprah Winfrey, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex explored issues relating to their marriage, mental health, the overwhelmingly negative and racist press coverage, and the decision to step back from the Queen’s inner circle.

The overwhelming message I got is that the family, known as “the firm” is an institution that is more concerned with the external image than the well-being of individual members. The treatment of Harry’s mother, the late Princess Diana, contains more than enough evidence of that fact. The thing about intuitions is that while tradition is all well and good, one must roll with the times. Just because something was rolled under the rug two or three generations ago does not mean that rolling it under the rug now is going to make it any easier to deal with.

I appreciated both Meghan and Harry’s honesty. It must have been cathartic to get all of that off of their chest, especially in front of an international audience. I also appreciate that instead of being a tabloid-ish tell-all, there were some boundaries. Harry could have easily revealed who made the awful comment about his son’s potential complexion. Instead, he chose to keep that information private.

I have nothing but admiration for the both of them. The problem with a toxic environment is that it is often too familiar. It takes a lot of courage to step into the unknown and even more courage to emotionally move on from what is keeping us from living a full and happy life.

The Crown Season 4 Review

Sometimes a writer does not need to look too far back into the past for inspiration.

The 4th season of The Crown premiered yesterday on Netflix. The season follows the lives of the British royals from 1979-1989. Coming back from season 3 are Olivia Coleman (Queen Elizabeth), Tobias Menzies (Prince Philip), Josh O’Connor (Prince Charles), Erin Doherty (Princess Anne), Helena Bonham-Carter (Princess Margaret), and Marion Bailey (the Queen Mother). Adding new levels of drama and intrigue are Emma Corrin (Princess Diana) and Gillian Anderson (Margaret Thatcher).

In addition to the internal family drama, there is political and economic upheaval beyond the walls of Buckingham Palace.

I binge watched a good chunk of the new season last night. It is nothing short of fantastic. I loved the new additions to the cast. Corrin brings a humanity to her role and adds to the mystique of the real woman behind the character.

If there is one actor among the main players who deserves an award for her work, it is Gillian Anderson. I am the first to admit that my knowledge of Thatcher’s work as Prime Minister is limited. But I know enough to know that then and now, she is a polarizing figure. As the character, Anderson plays a ball busting, glass ceiling shattering woman who is as formidable as the Queen.

The thing I really enjoyed so far is the complete 180 of how Charles is viewed. Last season, he was a young man trying to out who he was as a human being while dealing with burden of responsibility placed upon his shoulders. This season, he still draws empathy, but not as much as did during season 3.

Do I recommend it? Absolutely.

The Crown is available for streaming on Netlflix.

Can Meghan and Harry Truly Go Their Own Way?

One of the truths of life and love is that who one falls in love with is unpredictable.

When Meghan Markle and Prince Harry married in the spring of 2018, it seemed like a modern fairy tale. The marriage of a biracial, previously divorced American actress and a high ranking member of the British royal family was every storybook romance brought to real life.

Nearly two years later, Meghan and Harry’s decision to step down from their royal duties seems to have shaken the royal family to its core.

To be fair, Harry will never realistically be King. Which frees him and Meghan to create a life of their own choosing (well, as much as they can).

Some have pointed to the overt racism that Meghan received from the British tabloids and the lingering trauma of Princess Diana’s death that guided the couple to make their decision. If those are their reasons (in addition to giving their son as normal a childhood as possible), then I can respect that.

The reality is that they will be never be completely divorced from the British royal family. Harry is and always will be a member of the House of Windsor. I’m sure that this decision was not made out of spite, but because Harry and Meghan felt that it was right for them.

The other reality is that the lifestyle they are used to is not exactly poor. They will also need to hire security, but the question is, who will be funding their new life? I’m not a British or Canadian taxpayer, but given their soon to be new life, I would not be happy if my tax dollars were given to fund their lifestyle.

Only time will tell if Harry and Meghan will be able to go their own way. Whatever happens, I wish them well in their new life and for many years to come.

Thoughts On The Memories Of Princess Diana

20 years ago today, Princess Diana was killed in a car crash. She was 36.

When she married Prince Charles in 1981 at the young age of 19, she looked every inch of the fairy tale princess who had found her prince.

But life, as we know it to be, is not a fairy tale. It is complicated, it contains unforeseen twists and turns and can be heartbreaking.

The thing that I see in the memories of her is a pliable, caring, innocent young woman, who persevered through the sh*t that was thrown at her and learned to not only stand on her own two feet, but also make a life of her own choosing.

In finding her backbone and learning to stand on her own two feet, Princess Diana not only increased her icon status, but also became a heroine to those who find themselves fighting to develop their own backbone.

As many other have said before, if we remember her for nothing else, we remember that she was amazing mother. Her sons, Prince William and Prince Harry have grown into men that I am sure their mother would be nothing but glowing about. As a mother-in-law to Catherine and a grandmother to George and Charlotte, she would have been a light of modernity and love in the darkness of blind tradition.

RIP Princess Diana. Your legacy of love, strength, compassion, and humanity will last forever.

In Defense of the Princess: How Plastic Tiaras and Fairytale Dreams Can Inspire Smart, Strong Women Book Review

At first glance, the idea of the princess and feminism seem like they are on opposite sides of the spectrum. The princess is a delicate creature in a large ball gown, waiting for a prince to rescue her from whatever peril she is in. Feminism states that women can stand on their own two feet and be counted as human beings without relying on a man.

Author Jerramy Fine believes that not only can both exist, but they can co-exist. The daughter of hippies who has been infatuated with the idea of princesses and royalty since her childhood, Ms. Fine published her latest non-fiction book, In Defense of the Princess: How Plastic Tiaras and Fairytale Dreams Can Inspire Smart, Strong Women in 2016. Drawing examples of both fictional princesses (i.e. the Disney Princesses and Princess Leia from Star Wars) and from real princesses (Grace Kelly and Princess Diana), she writes how a woman can still be a princess, but still be strong and stand on her own two feet.

I really liked this book. I find that the my belief in feminism is often at odds with the “princess” ideal that, like many girls, I was raised with. Ms. Fine is able to put to bed, once and for all, that these ideals are at cross purposes and can never come together. My only disagreement with the author is the notion that Sleeping Beauty, Snow White and Cinderella (especially in the forms that Disney has presented) can inspire young girls to be strong, courageous and independent. While some of the latter-day Disney Princesses are role models, I hardly think that “Someday My Prince Will Come” is going to embolden future generations of girls to break the glass ceiling for good.

Do I recommend it? Yes.

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