Sunday, January 31, 2010

Nicholas And Alexandra

Nicholas and Alexandra is a 1971 film based on the life of Tsar Nicholas II and Tsarina Alexandra Feodorvna. The movie was based on the book by Robert K. Massie.

Micheal Jayston - Nicholas II
Janet Suzman - Alexandra Feodorvna
Roderic Noble - Tsarevich Alexei
Tom Baker - Gregory Rasputin

Nicholas and Alexandra won an Academy Award for Best Art Direction-Set Decoration and Best Costume Design

The movie begins with the birth of Tsarevich Alexei during the Russo-Japanese war. Although told by many of his advisers to back out of the war with Japan Nicholas is adamant to continue this war because he now has a son to fight for. Even his Mother suggest so!

When Alexei is diagnosed with hemophilia (that Alexandra, through her Mother's side, gave him), Alexandra is distraught. She seeks the help of A "saint" name Gregory Rasputin. He manages to "save" Alexei which gives Alexandra the idea that he is a holy man. Alexandra becomes dependent on Rasputin much the the hatred of nearly everyone around her and the Russian people, who no nothing of Alexei's disease. 

Russia is filled with civil unrest. The people do not want to continue in the war and the factory workers are hostile about their conditions. The people decide to petition to the Tsar (they do not know that he already left because Alexei was bleeding) but they are only met with gun fire. This day is known in history as "Bloody Sunday".

As Alexei grows up, he become rebellious against his condition. He wants to play and run but if he can't because it might trigger the bleeding if he merely bumped into something. The Tsar highers a sailor by the name of Nagorny to look after his son.

The movie also shows Russia's political instability. With the assassination attempt on Stolypin to the fall of the Duma. When World War I starts the reign of Nicholas II falls into the gutter. Nicholas decided to take charge of the army from his more experienced cousin, leaving Alexandra as regent. She is in the control of Rasputin who in fact has the REAL power. Rasputin is so hated that two men; Grand Duke Dmitri and Prince Felix Yusupov, lure Rasputin to a party and the precede to murder him. The troops are poorly armed and more men die each day. the people DEMAND that Nicholas abdicates. He does and also for his son. He wanted to protect Alexei. Thus the monarchy falls.

Lenin takes power and he places the royal family in Siberia. The Russian civil war begins and the royal family has to be transferred again; this time to Ekaterinburg. The royal family is seen optimistic all except for Alexei who has become quite pessimistic. With the White Army fast approaching to save the Tsar. The Bolsheviks order the family to be executed. To make the family happy, the guard sends the undelivered letters from Tsar family and friends.

The family is then lead to a quiet room where they think they are about to leave. As men enter the room, Alexei kisses his father on the cheek. The guards pulls out the rifles and aim it at the unsuspecting family. The girls scream and Alexandra tries to make the cross before a hail of bullets descend on the family. The final scene shows the bloody and bullet filled wall.              

I give this movie 4/5. I didn't like Janet Suzman as Alexandra. I thought her acting was marvelous (especially close to the end) but she just does not looked like Alexandra to me. I did however love the fact that they portrayed Nicholas not only as a Tsar but as a fool. Nicholas was a "fool" in a sense even though he had was still a good Tsar. It's rightly shows the mistakes that Nicholas makes in his reign. This movie represents a point of view that is indeed mostly truthful. At first when I watched it I didn't really enjoy it but when went back to watch ALL of it, I thought it was quite potent. The movie is a long one but still worth while. I tried to do my best on the plot summary but the movie is quiet in depth and has a lost more than I could write about in this "short" summary. It is a rich movie for knowledge. I would recommend this to most people but you would have to watch the movie more than once to appreciate it.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Women of Windsor: Their Power, Privilege and Passions

Women of Windsor: Their Power, Privilege and Passion is a 2006 book written by Catherine Whitney.

This book rotates around the lives of the Queen Mother, Elizabeth, Queen Elizabeth II, Princess Margaret, Countess of Snowdon and Anne, Princess Royal.

Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon marriage the Duke of York, Prince Albert brought her out of an obscure Scottish family of nobility. Their marriage was a happy one producing two children: Elizabeth and Margaret. Together they were known as "we four". The model for the perfect family. Elizabeth was a well liked figure and earned the nickname "The Smiling Duchess" because she was always seen smiling. The Duke of York is suddenly placed on the throne when his older brother, Edward VIII, abdicates in order to marry the divorcee, Wallis Simpson. Elizabeth never liked Wallis and although her husband wanted to meet up with his brother, she was adamant that he should not come here with her. As a queen Elizabeth proved her self able and was much loved by the public.

Elizabeth (the younger) and Margaret were raised in a family of care and love. Elizabeth was nicknamed "Lilibet" after her failed attempts at saying her name. Elizabeth was a stern and duty bound child while Margaret was lighthearted and bubbly. When she was 13 she had met a handsome boy and was instantly smitten. He was Prince Phillip of Greece.  During the Second World World, Elizabeth desperately wanted to help. After much pleading her father finally allowed her too.

Philip asked Elizabeth's hand in marriage when they were older and she wholeheartedly said yes. But it was illegal for an heir to marry without the permission of the King. George VI didn't particularly like Phillip but eventually he allowed them to marry. The marriage was a "happy" one. Elizabeth was certainly happy but Philip was not. He did not like walking a step behind his wife. He often took long trips away from her and was rumored that he had had affairs. It didn't matter to Lilibet. Her loved followed along the lines of "Absence makes the heart grow fonder". He made sure that although she was the head of state, he was master of the home.

When George VI dies, everyone in his family is heart broken but most of all; Princess Margaret. Margaret consoles in Peter Townsend. Their friendship slowly blossoms into love. In 1953 he divorces  his first wife and proposes to Margaret but Elizabeth being the traditionalist that she orders them to call it off even though most of the public wanted to marriage to go through. After a bunch of rebound relationships, Margaret married Antony Armstrong-Jones.

People originally saw Princess Anne as a stubborn and "ugly" child. She was always wanting to get away. And her favourite was was through horses.She loved riding. She was over shadowed by her brother and her parents were not the most affectionate. She only gained recognition because as she grew older she became quite a beauty. She believed that beauty didn't define people and hated the attention from the press.

On November14 1963, Princess Anne married Mark Phillips. Anne showed her self to be a tough woman and did a rather good job holding off a kidnapper that was asking for a ransom.  They both loved horse riding and both had won many award for it so the two decided to start their own horse farm. Their marriage soon lost its flair and Anne returned back to her charity work. The two later divorced and remarried.

Elizabeth had a hard time dealing with her son's bachelor lifestyle. She decided that he needed a wife and off he was looking for a wife. He chose Lady Diana Spencer. Although she was pretty and seemed diminutive she was in fact a strong willed and emotional woman. She and Charles never really got along most importantly on Charles mistress, Camilla Parker-Bowles. Elizabeth did try to sympathize with Diana but she was beyond helping Diana and Charles divorced. On August 21, Diana died in a car accident in Paris, leaving the rest of the royal family in muddles with themselves and the public.

The book ends with the sad deaths of the Queen Mother and Princess Margaret. Will the house of Windsor produce most women worthy of recognition as these?

I give this book a 3/5. This book was quite easy to read unlike most of the biography books you tend to read. It had a nice flow. The information was quite informative. Primarily this book would be more for the Elizabeth than the Diana fan kind of book. I would recommend this to anyone who is looking for a more up-to-date image on the monarchy in England.