What Are The Sexiest Depictions of Monarchy in Television or Movies?

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After the fine response to my last royalty post, I thought it good to feature another one. Historical drama can sometimes feel too formal, which is why I’m sure things are often sexed up. And sometimes it is in keeping with various scandals of history involving royalty, which is even more fun. So which depictions of real life monarchy where the sexiest for you on television of in film. I have a feeling The Tudors is going to get a deserved mention.

 

And on a related note and after discussion with the fabulous Gill, I think that I should host a blogathon on celluloid versions of monarchy. Royalty in movie and television should make for fine posts. At the moment, I’m busy but in the nearby future, I promise to do a blogathon.

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An Update

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It probably seems like I’ve been doing this posts a lot lately, but I’ve just been so incredibly busy. I also wish to keep everyone in the loop regarding myself. So by this Tuesday, I should be back on my usual schedule around here. In the days leading up to that, I’ll still be around but intermittently so. There’s no reason to worry about me, everything is fine. I just wanted you all to know that it’s genuinely because I’ve been busy that my appearances haven’t been as frequent. Meanwhile, here’s what may be cooking.

What Are Your Favourite Depictions of Real Monarchs on Television and Film?

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Anyone who knows me well, will be aware of my passion for history. It presents such interesting subjects and is amazing to read how times have changed over centuries. The monarchs of old always got my interest for their power and majesty, which has been presented many times on television or film. So which depiction of famous monarchy is your favourite? There’s a good many to take cues from and I may just discover some I wasn’t aware of yet. Below is a video with some suggestions.

R.I.P Harry Dean Stanton

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I woke up this morning go the news of Harry Dean Stanton’s death at the age of 91. A perennial scene stealer whose  weathered face and sunken eyes were hard to miss, he appeared in too many movies to count. I loved his reliability and ability to imbue oddball characters with charm and memorability, I can’t say I ever saw him make a misstep as an actor. So while it’s a sad loss to the industry, this fine actor has left us with a fine catalogue of performances to revisit time and time again and ensure that his talents live on.

Requiem for a Dream

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Film Title

Requiem for a Dream

Director

Darren Aronofsky

Starring

  • Ellen Burstyn as Sara Goldfarb
  • Jared Leto as Harry Goldfarb
  • Jennifer Connelly as Marion Silver
  • Marlon Wayans as Tyrone Love

The hopelessness and destructiveness of drug addiction and shattered dreams is brought to chilling and startling life in Requiem for a Dream. Darren Aronofsky directs this harrowing movie that is never easy to watch, but totally hypnotic and devastating in his it captures the lows of drug abuse and addiction in general.

The film concerns four characters in Brighton Beach, New York and in the shadow of Coney Island. Sara Goldfarb is a kind, middle-aged widow who is hooked on television shows and sweet foods. Though she has friends, she is lonely and her only real visitor is her son Harry. The trouble is Harry, while at heart a good young man, is hooked on heroin and other drugs, which prompts him to regularly pawn her television to feed his drug habit. He and his best friend Tyrone, who also takes drugs, want to make some money from dealing so they can make it big and not have any worries at all. At the start, their drug business goes pretty well, yet goes sour as darkness sets in. Also present in their lives is Harry’s rebellious girlfriend Marion, who has a flair for fashion designing and wishes to open her own store. She is from a privileged background, but has distanced herself from it and hangs frequently with Harry. Marion regularly starts to consume heroin and other drugs as much as Harry and the once artistic and loving girl resorts to prostituting and degrading herself to get the next fix. This really becomes prominent as Harry and Tyrone’s plans implode and they are all left scrambling for the drugs they crave so much. Meanwhile, Sara receives a call that she has been selected to appear on television. Thrilled by the prospect as it has become a sanctuary for her, she sets about cleaning up her blowzy image. Yet she become extremely fixated on her appearance for television and in particular getting into a red dress from her younger days. Now older and having put a bit of weight on, she attempts to diet but can’t help her hankering for sweet foods. Finally, she goes to a sleazy and corrupt doctor who prescribes a collection of diet pills. Sara begins taking them and while the weight falls off, her increasing dependence on them results in a horrifying mental breakdown. Quickly, the drug addictions worsen and the lives of the quartet are irrevocably altered into darkness and desolation.

Darren Aronofsky masterfully crafts this shocking and hard-hitting movie, unearthing a desolate wealth of broken emotion in the desperate situations of the characters and how their dreams are ultimately crushed by addiction. His restless camera and variety of techniques, such as time-lapse, exaggerated sounds and split screens that throw us into the dangers of addiction and the brief moment the characters feel any hope are mesmerising as well as horrifying. He truly makes the movie a painful but necessary experience that leaves your stomach churning and your head spinning. While Aronofsky is chiefly a visual director of the highest order, he can also expose the sadness of individuals grasping for something just beyond their reach. His screenplay, co-written with Hubert Selby Jr., the author of the book from which the film is based, discovers the lost hopes and pipe dreams of the four people and how they go about it the wrong way in the end. One stand out example is the revealing and very tragic monologue from Sara to her son, as she speaks of how her pills have helped her be someone again( when in reality, the sad irony is that her mind has been broken and she continues to slip). The manic sincerity and deluded belief with which she speaks of how she feels like she matters again is just so devastating to watch and heartbreaking in the extreme. Cinematography and editing immediately out you in the mindset of these tragic characters looking for the next gig, spinning and often in extreme close up so there’s no room to hide. What most stands out is the scenes of drugs being consumed as they offer escape, high or buzz that everyone craves. The high is temporary and fleeting, but enough for the characters to get by for that moment, while it erodes away their self-respect and sense of reality. It’s all illusory in the end as their cravings grow and their lives are destroyed by their habits. Routine and repetition feature heavily throughout the psychological drama, almost another form of addiction in itself for everyone involved. There’s no big happy ending to Requiem for a Dream, and neither should there have been because it would have cheapened it. What we are left with is a shattered and bleak picture of just how far these four people have fallen in chasing what they thought would be the answer to their prayers, but became a nightmare. As a movie, Requiem for a Dream leaves you shaken and floored with just intensely it depicts addictions of every kind and the dark, grim outcome of them. I mean, the last half and hour is a visceral descent into personal hell for the characters and we are pulled in too and forced to witness the degradation of it all. And of course, there is the iconic and memorable score for Requiem for a Dream that lingers in the mind. Composed by Clint Mansell and performed by the Kronos Quartet, the throbbing, humming pulse, haunting strings and electronic design of the music provides hypnotic listening and deep horror in equal measure.

Ellen Burstyn heads the cast with the best performance in the movie. The rest of the small cast are extremely fantastic, but Burstyn is the real glue of it all. She is simply heartbreaking and mightily powerful in her portrayal of the sweet, widowed and obsessed mother whose life spirals into oblivion once she gets the call to say her biggest dream will come true(eventually at the expense of her mind). It’s a completely vanity free performance as Burstyn throws her body and soul into Sara; hauntingly displaying insecurity, deluded dreams and a quivering vulnerability that continues to unravel as pills ravage her. An impressive Jaded Leto, sporting a gaunt face and withered physique, finds a deep desperation within Harry, who is inherently a good person making the wrong choice. He’s a dreamer at heart, much like his best friend, but one whose life continues to crash as his habit worsens that Leto plays splendidly and convincingly. Jennifer Connelly contributes a fearless sense of debasement and drowning as the initially rebellious and crazy in love Marion, who gets more hooked on heroin than her boyfriend and resorts to desperate measures for it. A surprisingly effective and largely serious performance from the usually funny Marlon Wayans is what rounds out the tragic quartet of characters. At first he is jocular and filled with wonder, but over time his dreams go up in smoke and Wayans subtly embodies that feeling of loss and sadness. What is admirable about all the performances is how far they are willing to go to depict the hardships and horror of addiction, which they all do to a massively skilled and shocking degree.

Grim and unrelenting, but intentionally so, Requiem for a Dream is a haunting film in every sense of the word as envisioned by the highly skilled Aronofsky. Bolstered by a wholly committed cast, in particular a heart wrenching Ellen Burstyn, Requiem for a Dream is challenging and horrifying, but you’ll never forget it once you’ve seen it.

Crooks in Cloisters

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Film Title

Crooks in Cloisters

Director

Jeremy Summers

Starring

  • Ronald Fraser as Little Walt
  • Barbara Windsor as Bikini
  • Bernard Cribbins as Squirts
  • Gregoire Aslan as Lorenzo
  • Davy Kaye as Specs
  • Melvyn Hayes as Willy
  • Wilfred Brambell as Phineas
  • Francesca Annis as June

An amiable and easy comedy about a band of crooks living in hiding by pretending to be monks, Crooks in Cloisters has a certain sunny feeling that’s difficulty to resist. Yes it may not be a vintage comedy and some of its dated, but the fact that it’s got something of an irony to it keeps you watching.

Amiable Little Walt, along with his crooked crew, consisting of his lady Bikini, flashy Squirts, Spanish and talkative Lorenzo , nervous Specs and poetry loving Willy, pull off a small train robbery in London. Yet rather than basking in the glory of their earnings, they have to keep a low profile. Fleeing London because of the increasing search for them being headed by a determined detective, Walt tells them all that he has somewhere ideal for them all to stay. It’s an island on the Cornish Coast.  What he hasn’t explained is that they will be hiding out in a monastery and disguised as monks! This is to everyone else’s dismay as they expected something else entirely. As they all get to grips with difficult life as pretend members of clergy, Walt continues to have a sideline in crime to make some living, but largely goes at it straight. They are helped by former sea dog and fisherman Phineas, who can be a crafty so and so at the best of times. Much hilarity ensues as they all try to make a go at things in the most unlikely of circumstances. The funny thing is the whole gang, initially after failed attempts, grow to like the monastic lifestyle and while crooks, they begin to rethink their ways and consider going straight for the very first time.

Jeremy Summers directs this easy film with no frills or pretence, just the desire to have a good time. Plus, the Cornish coast does look very idyllic in the grand scheme of things. The first half of Crooks in Cloisters is filled with amusing antics as the group struggles with living like genuine monks, as old habits die hard for them all. The attempts by Bikini to serve up edible food provide great laughs, while the forever gambling minded Squirts can’t resist placing a few bets on his winning greyhound. The script, which contains lashings of Cockney slang and references, also gets the film at a sprightly pace. Crooks in Cloisters goes a little overboard on occasion and while the Cockney humour is amusing to me, many who are unfamiliar with it may have difficulty seeing it as funny. But the good nature of proceedings is pretty winning and hard not to smile at watching a most unlikely group find unexpected joy in a lifestyle so different from their own. It’s not high art, but neither is it trying to be. The film is the equivalent to a movie you put on during a Sunday afternoon when there’s nothing else that takes your fancy. It’s harmless and simplistic, yet has a certain amusing and cosy charm going through its veins. Crooks in Cloisters is more a film to chuckle at than really laugh out loud at, not that that’s a bad thing mind you. It’s a familiar set up of. What largely benefits the film is a sprinkling of depth in the latter stages, added with a sort of bittersweet irony that befalls the gang. A comical score is employed and while a tad over the top, often suits the events on screen.

While the characters are largely archetypes, the actors clearly have fun with them. Ronald Fraser is very fun as the leader of the motley crew who likes to think he has a plan up his sleeve, but regularly falls short on delivering that. There’s a good heart in there, beneath all the bravado and schemes that Fraser plays to a fine degree. Barbara Windsor, possessor of helium voice and bouncing, bubbly attitude, has some hilarious moments as the moll of the bunch, specifically when she becomes interested in the culinary arts and takes issue with the reaction to her meals. The delightful Bernard Cribbins is a hoot as the most conspicuous member of the group, whose mind is usually on placing bets or some other wanted luxury that leads to trouble. Gregoire Aslan is the wittiest of the bunch, while Davy Kaye is the always timorous and most unable to hold his own water. The youthful looking Melvyn Hayes is a standout here. Playing the most eloquent and sensitive member of the motley crew, he has a real desire and passion to embrace the lifestyle with an almost childlike glee. You can’t help but smile when this guy comes on screen. Wilfred Brambell as the sneaky former seaman and Francesca Annis as his gorgeous granddaughter also make a mark in this comic movie.

So while it’s no comedy classic by any means, the gentleness, laughs and later a slightly bittersweet tone makes Crooks in Cloisters a smashing way to spend and hour and a half.

Weekend

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Film Title

Weekend

Director

Andrew Haigh

Starring

  • Tom Cullen as Russell
  • Chris New as Glen

A deeply arresting and genuine movie by writer/director Andrew Haigh about a chance encounter that segues into an unprepared, romantic connection between two men, Weekend is an intimate experience that reveals a personal and poignant story of finding what could be love in a short space of time.

In Nottingham, Russell is a relatively shy gay man who works as a lifeguard. While out of the closet, you get the feeling he’s not too comfortable with expressing his sexuality or embracing it. After a few drinks with his straight friends one Friday evening, he heads to a gay bar. Here he picks up Glen, who he takes back to his flat and they have sex. The next morning is when we learn more about both men. Glen is outgoing, assertive in his sexual preference and often defensive, whereas Russell has trouble really opening up and letting his guard down. Glen is doing an art project and recording the experiences he has with other men. At first, Russell feels very awkward at doing this but as talkative and commitment phobic Glen wins him over, the dynamic between them changes. What was expected to just be a bit of fun and mainly a one-night stand transforms into something very different for both of them over the weekend. Russell and Glen get more acquainted with each other as they meet up, do drugs, have sex and most importantly, forge something meaningful and not at all what either planned. Russell begins to remove the barriers he put up, while Glen struggles to come to terms with his longing for Russell that put at risk his phobia of commitment. As the connection grows and they both get more comfortable with each other, they have to contend with where this unexpected, romantic bond will go for both of them and what the future may hold as Glen will soon be leaving to live in America.

Andrew Haigh, who would later go on to direct the equally impressive 45 Years, really contributes a personal feeling to the film. As director and writer, his dialogue is so authentic and realistic that you often find yourself remembering that it is a film and not just watching two real people go through this. That’s the power of the film, you really get that intimacy and sincerity of real life through the journey of both men, figuring out what is next on the cards for them. Haigh discovers humour, pathos and romance in the gradual attraction of Russell and Glen, rounding out events with a real slice of life quality. The usage of natural lighting grounds everything in a realistic fashion, not needing any fancy edits or oodles of style to get to the point. Everything has a feeling of being a fly on the wall, which adds to the growing intimacy of the two men and the audience. Situations that are familiar to all of us; the first meaningful conversation, uneasy coming clean with buried angst and the connection of physical pleasure are all here in observant and clear-eyed fashion. Even the two main sex scenes, which while revealing and holding nothing back, have a depth as they showcase the changing dynamic of the relationship. In them, you can see these two people gaining acceptance and converging in a physical and mental way and finding solace and perhaps something else in each other’s arms . There are no big, melodramatic declarations of true love, overt tragedy or sappy ending to be found in Weekend, it is too perceptive and honest for that sort of thing. Instead, a sensitive bond that may be uncertain and unsteady yet loaded with unexpected connection forms between Russell and Glen, and is beautiful to observe. Now there are many that might label Weekend just a gay movie that only has limited appeal in terms of audience, but that does it a major disservice as it has things that will appeal to all walks of life. Topics of conversation may include aspects of defining homosexuality and prejudice, but the story itself has a far-reaching thematic value that is complimented by these insights. To be honest, the fear of getting close, awkwardness of realising attraction and confronting fears are the biggest points of the film that are observed with nuance and . I believe that anyone, no matter what your sexual orientation, will find something relatable and truthful in Weekend. It simply has a really intimate way of expressing itself through meaningful situations that seem real( as opposed to Hollywood gloss) and having a refreshing maturity and sincerity to them. And it doesn’t become pat or obvious in the long run either. As the title suggests, the film takes place within a short period of time. But that doesn’t mean that weekend is at all rushed. It favours the progressing approach that truly fleshes out both men and allows for souls to be bared and contemplate their feelings. Now if that sounds like the same old story that’s been done before, nothing could be further from the truth in Weekend. Sure are opposites who are attracted to each other, but it’s the almost documentary like execution of the piece that feels almost like a chamber work that lends a beautiful openness and emotional heft to it.

At the centre of it all are two marvellously engaging and natural performances from Tom Cullen and Chris New. Cullen possesses an affable but introverted manner that is perfectly used for Russell, who is often the more quiet of the two and not quite comfortable in his skin just yet. Complimenting this awkwardness is the bravado of Chris New, who lets us glimpse his characters reasoning for not wanting a relationship and how his show of brash attitude is something of a mask. Both performances are nuanced and organic, aiding the realistic tone of the movie and presenting two well-rounded individuals questioning things they never thought they’d have too. Plus, the burgeoning chemistry between the two is gradual and completely honest in every way. These two are simply sublime in a film that touches the soul and highlights how sometimes its easier to open up to a stranger than someone close.

A sensitive, heartfelt movie that boasts a naturalistic dialogue and unaffected, organic performances from the two leads, Weekend is a touching, perceptive and engaging film of two people finding an unexpected bond that will resonate with everyone for its universal messages and truths.

The Theory of Everything

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Film Title

The Theory of Everything

Director

James Marsh

Starring

  • Eddie Redmayne as Stephen Hawking
  • Felicity Jones as Jane Hawking
  • Charlie Cox as Jonathan
  • David Thewlis as Dennis Sciama
  • Simon McBurney as Frank Hawking
  • Emily Watson as Beryl Wilde
  • Maxine Peake as Elaine

A soaring and immensely moving movie based on the journey of Stephen Hawking and his first wife Jane, as they defied the odds stacked against them, The Theory of Everything has both emotion and insight into a brilliant mind that refused to be halted, despite the dark prognosis given to him and how his wife persevered and supported him.

We begin with Stephen Hawking in 1963 where he is a theoretical physics student at Cambridge. He is especially gifted at maths and curious about cosmology, yet hasn’t decided on what to do for a thesis. Around this time, he meets pretty literature student Jane. Both are of different ideals; Stephen believing in stars and science, while Jane is more artistic and a believer in God. Both start to fall in love and Stephen also begins to become interested in studying time for his thesis. Yet his burgeoning relationship with Jane and are dealt a devastating blow. His muscles start to play up and after a nasty fall and examination, he is diagnosed with ALS; which directly affects muscles, the body and eventually his ability to walk, speak and breath. He is also told that he only has around two years to live. Reeling from this, Stephen throws himself into his theories and attempts to push Jane away, but she refuses as she is deeply in love with him. Together, they marry, have children and instead of giving up, continue to face the hardships of his condition head on. Yet as time goes on, Stephen’s condition worsens and it takes a toll on Jane. She dearly loves him, but the strain of his debilitating body and dependence on her is becoming more difficult to bear. Stephen excels with his theories and experiences success as a respected scientist speaking of the universe and how it came to be, but can obviously see that his condition is not something he can just ignore. As everything grows more testing, Stephen and Jane are forced to confront what to do next, despite their deep love for the other.

James Marsh sensitively directs this biopic with a clear understanding of visual and emotional depth. In terms of pacing, he pitches things just at the right speed, only tripping up sometimes and rarely at that. Other than that, Marsh has a good eye for pattern and symmetry, particularly in reference to Stephen’s study represented by swirling and circular spirals. Kudos must be awarded to the cinematography in this biopic that practically shimmers and lends a hopefulness to what is already a highly moving and extraordinary story. The occasional use of an old style camera, complete with grain and colour abrasion, is also notable in capturing the changing events and as a passage of time for the couple. It’s the emotional core of Stephen and Jane that really stands out the most, as they take on the deafening odds and continue to challenge what they’ve been told. We are invested in their love for each other; we get to glimpse those moments when both realise that it’s not as easy or as straightforward as love just being enough, yet there is still a very touching sense of bond that transcends all the darkness they endure. Both may overcome severe obstacles thrown at them, but there’s a refreshing honesty to The Theory of Everything that underlines how even the strongest of loves can be shaken and pushed to breaking point. Overall, it’s the inspiring nature of the story that is what sells The Theory of Everything, depicting Stephen’s refusal to stop working and Jane’s backbone of steel in supporting him. The resilience that both of them show and went through for real is simply outstanding, considering the initially dire outcome that was predicted for Stephen upon diagnosis. Pathos and uplifting moments are frequently employed and add significantly to the difficult journey of Stephen and Jane; one that is testing as it is rewarding. Some may quibble with the often sprightly pace of the film which only occasionally gets in the way. Though saying that, as the story covers such a large area of time, it seems only right to cut any flab and focus on the emotional and personal crux of it all. In that sense, it cuts straight to the heart of the deeply engaging and honest story observed. And while it does that, it still takes time, especially in the beginning to foreshadow the decline of Stephen’s health through various hints. I simply have to commend the score of this movie that moves through lovely rhythms and melancholy moods with a clear command and soulfulness. It brings out such a richly evocative to an already

What really invests your heart and soul in is the two sublime performances from Eddie Redmayne and Felicity Jones. Eddie Redmayne, in an Oscar-winning performance, is a physical and emotional marvel as the renowned Stephen Hawking. He completely transforms into the part; displaying the deep intellect of his mind, ability to crack a joke even in dire situations and in latter stages when his condition has rendered him unable to speak and largely paralysed, his face and eyes say so much to us all. We truly feel the palpable toll his diagnosis takes on him, but how he is not going to simply give up on his dreams. The difficulties of Stephen’s deterioration physically only seem to make his mind more determined to thrive, a quirk that Redmayne fully explores and exudes with clear nuance and clarity. He is so invested in role that you forget that it’s an actor playing a part, such is the conviction and dedication to the task of playing Hawking that Redmayne does with every fibre of his being. Redmayne fully warranted the Oscar he received for his powerful performance here. No less excellent or beautifully nuanced is Felicity Jones as his wife Jane. Jones has that ability to really suggest her innermost feelings without saying a word, as it is clearly written over her face. This skill is wonderfully employed in a sensitive performance of immense strength and vulnerability from the talented Jones. Jane is a lovely person but no pushover and a compelling force of inspiration, who can be a stalwart rock but is not immune to feelings of sadness and deep uncertainty. Both stars have a sensitive and deeply felt bond with each other that resonates deeply and will stir your feelings. Supporting players are finely chosen, with Charlie Cox, David Thewlis, Simon McBurney, Emily Watson and Maxine Peake fleshing it out. But the film ultimately belongs to Redmayne and Jones.

Anchored by two beautiful performances and strikingly directed and scored, The Theory of Everything celebrates strength and love in the face of adversity. Plus, it allows an understanding into the mind of Hawking and how he triumphed, with help from Jane, to become the respected man he is still now.

Big Announcement

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I have something to tell you all. Lately, I’ve had many things on my mind and life antics to deal with. And while I love blogging and all of you, my schedule and commitments are distracting me. Which means that for the next few weeks, I might not be blogging as much as usual. Have no fear, I’ll still be around and won’t completely disappear. There’s no need to worry it’s nothing life threatening. It’s just for a few weeks while I sort things out. Hope you all understand.