Tuesday, July 09, 2019

TV: A fairy tale they won't stop telling

NETFLIX's THE LAST CZARS makes you think -- mainly about how little either NETFLIX or the makers of the series know.


As SPUTNIK pointed out early on, the series' establishing shots, like the one labeled "FEBRUARY 4, 1905," are incorrect containing things not present at the time of the shots or things painted the wrong color.  Historical isn't a minor issue for THE LAST CZARS because this isn't just a drama, it's a docudrama.  It uses narration and then trots out some poorly acted scenes of drama.

It's about as historical as AMERICA'S MOST WANTED, albeit far less interesting.

TOWN AND COUNTRY raved over the . . .  Well not the performances but over facial similarities in casting.  As always TOWN AND COUNTRY is the leading publication on all important issues or at least the definitive source no one else really cares about.

And no one should really care about THE LAST CZARS except for the tiny element of viewers still lamenting the demise of 'SKINAMAX' aka CINEMAX AFTER DARK. If you're just not getting your share of gratuitous female breasts and nipples, THE LAST CZARS may be the show for you.

But we are honestly confused as to who this show is for?

If you're interested in a documentary, you'd watch one.  If you wanted a drama did you really want all the documentary voice over.  More to the point, the stilted writing and acting should run every drama fan off.

Larger issue though, who is this for?

AMAZON's already done a piss poor series THE ROMNOFFS where each episode revolved around some loser insisting that they were descendants of The House of Romanov.  Film wise, there's been both a live action ANASTASIA (starring Ingrid Bergman) and an animated one (voiced by Meg Ryan) as well as a TV film ANASTASIA: THE MYSTERY OF ANNA (starring Amy Irving).  The 2017 Broadway musical ANASTASIA will probably be a telefilm or theatrical one at some point.  There's been many movies and films based on the dynasty or people claiming to be part of it -- MATILDA, NICHOLAS AND ALEXANDRA, I KILLED RASPUTIN, RASPUTIN: DARK SERVANT OF DESTINY, RASPUTIN THE MAD MONK, RASPUTIN AND THE EMPRESS, CLOTHES MAKE THE WOMAN, FALL OF EAGLES, PETER THE GREAT, THE FALL OF THE ROMANOVS . . .

That's not a complete listing and films like ASSASSIN OF THE TSAR are not included because they were made by Russia or the Soviet Union.  We have included joint-productions where the US or UK teamed with Russia for a film or mini-series.

But that Russia would be interested in the story of the Romanovs makes sense, it is their history.  We can understand that.  Natalie Wood, before she died, having had trouble getting studios interested in a film about Frances Farmer, had decided to play Anastasia on stage and this made sense as well, her parents were Russian immigrants.  If, tomorrow, Carly Simon decided to write a musical about the dynasty, we wouldn't question that (due to her college studies).  However, this obsession that is this topic by so many others?

Over the holiday, TCM aired a number of movies supposedly fitting the 4th of July.  So they trotted out the musical 1776, THE DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE (a 1938 short film) and, best of all (the only one with true entertainment value) THE SCARLET COAT.  That last one is a 1955 film starring Cornel Wilde, Anne Francis, Michael Wilding and George Saunders that's built around whether or not the revolutionaries will learn Benedict Arnold is a traitor.

Watching that film especially, we were reminded that the last big American project about the Revolutionary War was that musical (1776) from the year 1972.  It's true that, in 1985, the UK made the film REVOLUTION but, again, it was made by the United Kingdom.  It's also true that for years Jane Fonda attempted to make a film (A HOUSE DIVIDED) about the Revolutionary War with no luck.

So why is that?

These Romanov films and mini-series and TV movies aren't really needed or wanted.  They never explore the revolution or the people who were a part of it.  It's just oh-poor-dynasty.

It starts to seem less like it has to do with the Romanovs and more like it has to do with the emergence of a revolution that a capitalist system really doesn't care for.  Isn't that really the point of this obsession with the Romanovs on the point of people who have no real stake or interest in it?  It's just more propaganda and hasn't this propaganda been going on since the start of the Bolshevik Revolution that took down the Romanovs to begin with?

Think about it, how many films or TV shows has the US made questioning what happened to those in the colonies loyal to England?

But we have had non-stop portrayals of those poor Romanovs.  Poor, poor Romanovs.

John Reed and Louise Bryant tried to report reality and were attacked by the US press and the US government -- so very often the same apparatus.

NETFLIX's THE LAST CZARS would be bad entertainment regardless of its focus.  It's entire format and execution would render it useless.  But as consumers, we also need to be critical about what they're putting in front of us.  The Russian Revolution was a historic thing.  But that's not the story they're telling, is it?  The story they're telling is that the revolution destroyed those wonderful Romanovs, those poor Romanovs.  Looking at how THE LAST CZARS fits into that body of work, we're seeing a non-stop effort to demonize the rights of the people while glorifying a few.  We don't see that with the French Revolution portrayals and we don't see it with the Revolutionary War portrayals.  So ask yourself why we see it always and forever with the Russian Revolution?

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