Tag Archives: The Crown


Stream verb (SEND): To send continuous sound or moving images using computers. Wi-fi networking allows you to stream music from a PC to the device. This one.

Stream verb (FLOW): To move continuously. Tears streamed down her cheeks; Record numbers of applications were streaming into our offices; Sunlight was streaming through the window. Not this one.

I am old-fashioned. All of my news comes from words printed on actual paper (well, except for the guilty workday pleasure of checking in at HuffPost to see if Mueller got the T. or there are new photos of the royal family). My phone is for texting and taking pictures (and the odd phone call), not for movies.  My computers are for emailing, googling, writing, blogging, Facebooking, and those sneaky moments with HuffPost (see above), not for movies. My car is just for driving (not for playing music or stories…)

I read books for stories. I go to the theater for movie-stories. Except when I don’t. Except when I turn to my television for both. That big slightly-rectangular black screen in my living room. That cable-less, dish-less big black blank…with a tiny device called Roku attached to it—and therein lies the magic. The stories—in movies, in series, in documentaries. The stories minus commercials. The stories I want when I want them.

Streaming. I love this magical new world—which I’m sure is about to be tarnished, sullied, altered, and further monetized by the loss of net neutrality. But for now, this winter, this holiday…it has been nothing short of splendid. Stories stories stories and no danger of the bloated T. face appearing.

Here’s what I’ve been watching with a one-two sentence description and recommendation. Most of them I’ve enjoyed in two or three day binges. I’ve gradually expanded my streaming channels—the danger is that if I’m not careful my story sources will soon cost more than my old cable bill. That’s okay—still no commercials and no bloated reddish face topped with an orangey hair-like substance.

Let me begin with the best of the best. For me that’s The Crown (Netflix). It’s near the top of what I’m calling my high-class, smarty-pants soap operas (well, not sure anything can ever top Downton Abbey). The second in a series that will eventually cover Queen Elizabeth’s whole life, it’s full of sudsy drama and some reasonably authentic history. I’m somewhat addicted to all things British so of course I consider The Crown a perfect gift for holiday escapes (shades closed, fleeces on, phone off, lefse at hand…the good life for sure)

Then along came the last season of A Place to Call Home (Amazon/Acorn), except for the final four episodes which have since been downloaded. I’m saving them for the most special of occasions, maybe tonight to start the year right, maybe for this weekend with a foodie treat of some specialness? I’ve talked about this series before—described it as Australia’s Downton Abbey with the downstairs folks moved to the farms and the time upped to the 50’s. I can’t bear to leave this family—what to do.

New seasons (and probably final seasons) of two of my favorite detective series have come available this fall, Broadchurch (Acorn) and Top of the Lake (Hulu). The first is one of those great British detective series with broody guys, strong women and it rains a lot. The second is Australian with super-strong, not so silent women and it’s sunnier. Elizabeth Moss is the main character in Top of the Lake and apparently with her Handmaid commitment is not coming back so it will likely end. Both shows have plenty of dastardly deeds and bad hombres to keep my attention without resorting to quite as much swaggering and gunplay as most American detective stories.

Robert and Marsha (bro and sister-in-law) pointed out a new one-season event from Sweden I’ve just finished watching. Rebecka Martinsson (Acorn) based on the detective novels of Asa Larsson, one of my favorite Nordic Noir writers. It’s excellent if you like smart women taking care of business with just enough personal story-line to make them your best friends. There’s also a whole lot of northern Sweden’s bleakly beautiful landscape, especially in the dramatic winter scenes—reminds me of much of northern Minnesota at its chilly best.

Haven’t been serious about my movie and documentary to-see lists yet but have watched the first half of the Joan Didion doc. Amazon had a glitch so couldn’t finish it but certainly will. It’s fine work by Didion’s nephew, intimate and poignant and admiring but not simply pretty either. Didion is one of my much-admired writers and it may be nominated for an Oscar so it will be pure pleasure to return to it.

Finally…The Handmaid’s Tale (Hulu). I read the book while in Jaisalmer in the West Indian desert state of Rajasthan. In my golden room in a golden fort. It was a great late-night read with my wide open windows and the sounds of quarreling dogs wafting not-so-gently in. It’s hard to duplicate that experience on my couch in front of the TV, however brilliant the streaming experience is. That’s the long way of saying I’m having a hard time with it right now. I believe that’s because the first two episodes cover a few major experiences that take awhile to reach in the book, and because they are filmed exactly as I imagined them to happen. It’s rare to have a scene that’s existed only on paper and in your imagination come alive right before your eyes precisely as you pictured it. Of course I had the advantage of being an Elizabeth Moss fan and visualizing her right there in front of my eyes as I was reading. Anyway, it’s quite a story, and I just read that Margaret Atwood, the author, will be heavily involved in the second season which takes off from the book but moves beyond. Good idea. I’ll stay with it.

In the spirit of starting 2018 off right, I’ve written something, taken my cold medicine, eaten broccoli. I have one more evening ahead of guilt-free streaming, and then it’s back to reading and writing and gym and more damn vegetables.  Happy New Year.



20161113_172142Here’s what I’ve been paying attention to in my world to avoid the nonsensical but-far-from-funny farce of Washington DC. A MOOC about history and constitutional issues in the Muslim world; books about the controversial Mitford Sisters in the war years and about troubled detectives and dastardly deeds in darkest Scandinavia; a Netflix series, The Crown which is the most enticing period drama this year, almost better than Downton, about the world as lived by Queen Elizabeth in the early years of her reign and…finally…movies. All chock full of a real world far less tawdry than our current DC drama.

Three movies have stood between me and despair. Enticing, thoughtful, heartwarming movies. Let’s begin with Moonlight because it is surely Oscar material and also the most difficult to describe. I’m sure it’s clear, or at least will be when you read this, that I am about as far from an informed movie reviewer as one could get—on the other hand I do love them and I go on this annual winter movie binge so why not share some thoughts?

Moonlight is basically about a black kid growing up in the Liberty City ghetto of Miami. A Gay Black Kid. And we all know if there’s one nasty prejudice that’s been shared by all races, colors, creeds, it’s homophobia. It’s not an easy story but so immediate, so hating, so loving, you come away profoundly affected, not the least because the acting is absolutely top form.  I’m attaching the link for the excellent NYT review so please read it. http://www.nytimes.com/2016/10/21/movies/moonlight-review.html?_r=0

I want to share some thoughts that may or may not make sense. Moonlight is a coming-of-age story in the best and deepest sense of the word. A vulnerable gay kid growing up under the most bleak of circumstances. What struck me rather forcefully is that because this film is not about a black kid growing up gay and there’s an accompanying story with white people around, and it’s not about the great divide between blacks and whites, and it doesn’t give us any messages about race—it becomes this moving, thoughtful, beautiful, gay-kid-growing-up story. It’s so tender and personal and insightful with all of the characters, places, situations. So how to say this: To Me: because it all takes place within the black American world it simply becomes about this kid and his story. Like Boyhood plus. I loved this film. Second film in a row on Sunday and I never moved a muscle—almost shed a tear now and then but it’s not really a sentimental film either. It’s just really really fine moviemaking.

Queen of Katwe. Here’s where I can do some travel name-dropping. I’ve spent a few days in Kampala, Uganda with my friend Jill so of course I took this all very personally. I admit to not seeing slums quite as dire as Katwe but did see a variety of situations from comfortable middle-class to pretty grim housing situations. Queen of Katwe is the classic feel-good story. Poor kid makes good under the most difficult of circumstances. What makes it most interesting is that it takes place in the Ugandan slums of Katwe (whose fascinating history you might want to check out on Wikipedia), and that everyone except the two stars (Oyelowo is British Nigerian and Nyong’o is Kenyan Mexican) is Ugandan. No whites of African or European origin are thrown in for good measure and middle class Ugandans have major roles as well as the dispossessed of Katwe. So I loved this film too. It’s not quite as powerful as Moonlight but it made me happy—and that’s okay once in awhile. And of course the actors, both Hollywood and local, are brilliant. David Oyelowo and Lupita Nyong’o…need I say more. Also Madina Nalwanga, not a name yet but really fine.     http://www.npr.org/sections/goatsandsoda/2016/10/05/496425623/photos-theyre-  all-kings-and-queens-of-katwe

A Man Called Ove. Okay so I felt very much at home here. Old cranky but good-hearted Swedish guy (old cranky Swedish guys are a lot like old cranky Norwegian guys) has life tragedies of the universal sort: fired from his job, deceased wife to whom bad things had happened, annoying neighbors, a deep desire to kill himself—well maybe that latter isn’t universal but you see where I’m going. May as well say this up front, It’s a solid film of the sentimental sort but…of course…I enjoyed it especially because It Is Scandinavian. And there were a lot of old white people in the audience that looked just like me—not like the evil-voter kind of old and white! It’s a nice film, but maybe one you don’t have to see right away, although don’t miss it forever unless you really dislike cranky old white guys—oh dear, we have a new government full of them don’t we? Ove is much smarter and nicer than that though.