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Why Princess Diana Is so Hard to Get Right Onscreen

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For a brief time we knew her as Lady Di, and for a longer span as Princess Diana. But in the end, whether you loved or loathed what she stood for, no appellation felt adequate. By the time the former HRH the Princess of Wales died in a car crash in 1997, at age 36, she had become just Diana, one name with a complicated set of ambitions, joys and disappointments folded within its petals. You can adore her or decry her as a wily social climber. The one thing you can’t do is stop looking at her: 24 years after her death, her specter is finding life everywhere, on TV, in the movies and on Broadway. In our imaginations, at least, Diana is more alive than ever.

Anthony Gerace (Source Photo: Getty Images)

She is also more mysterious, an enigma worthy of exploration, something many of us didn’t feel about her 10 or 20 years ago. For a long time–the tragic nature of her death aside, a terrible fate for any human being–it was easy to take her for granted, even to roll your eyes at her a little. As a royal, she looked fantastic in clothes–but didn’t she also wear a pullover with little sheep knitted in, a fashion choice that, pre-grannycore, swerved a little too close to the jeering trend of the ugly Christmas sweater? And if the Diana story was in some ways incredibly sad–her Prince turned out to be a dud in the husband department, deeply in love with another woman the whole time–she was also canny enough to know how to play to her crowd. The “shy Di” Prince Charles first courted–a nursery-school helper with a habit of inclining her head such that her eyes were almost completely hidden by the blondish swoop of her bangs–later became a poised, polished young matron who publicly spilled royal secrets, avowing not-so-subtly that she had married into a family of monsters. Even if you had sympathy for her, the superstar-victim routine could be distasteful.

So how should we feel today about Diana? The buffet of choices is so large that she can be almost anyone we want. In 2016, Chilean filmmaker Pablo Larrain released Jackie, starring Natalie Portman, an intimate fantasy portrait of Jacqueline Kennedy. Now, with Spencer, Larrain attempts the same treatment for Diana, with Kristen Stewart as the tragic Princess.

Kristen Stewart as Diana in Spencer.

Neon

Spencer takes place in December 1991, over a dismal Christmas holiday at Sandringham, the royal family’s country retreat, during which Diana decides to leave Prince Charles for good. But the movie feels less like a cry of the heart than a parody of a parody. Stewart’s Diana is so unpleasantly self-centered that she’d be a terrible guest at any Christmas affair. She’s late for every meal and complains, endlessly, that the family hates her and is trying to paint her as crazy. Meanwhile, she skulks about with her shoulders hitched to her ears, looking as if she’s about to pocket some of the royal silverware.

Read more: Kristen Stewart and Pablo Larrain Do Princess Diana Wrong in Spencer

A title card at the movie’s start informs us that Spencer is “A Fable from a True Tragedy,” and Larrain weaves in fairy-tale elements like so many threads of Lurex. Anne Boleyn makes a heavily symbolic appearance at the royal Christmas Eve dinner table, one unfortunate Queen blinking a warning to a woman who seems headed for a similar fate. Stewart, generally a marvelous actor, plays Diana as a mannered doe–the performance is packed with calculation and guile. Larrain may be trying to dive into the satin-and-sadness psyche of a misunderstood and persecuted woman. But he inadvertently turns this Diana into exactly the thing the royal family accused the real-life Diana of being: a willful and pouty complainer, or, worse, a megalomaniac. With friends like these, Diana doesn’t need enemies.

Spencer is heavily engineered to be one of those classy movies that wins awards. But the song-and-dance extravaganza Diana: The Musical is more like a work that Diana herself–known to be a fan of spectacles like The Phantom of the Opera–would warm to. The show–with music and lyrics by David Bryan and Joe DiPietro, and a book by DiPietro–was set to open on Broadway in spring 2020, before the pandemic brought the curtain down. The live show will finally go on as planned this November, but there’s a filmed version of the production available to watch right now, on Netflix.

Jeanna De Waal as Diana in Diana: the Musical.

Netflix

Is Diana: The Musical any good? Not exactly. The early numbers, especially–during the part of the show that details the meeting and courtship of the young Diana and her Prince-to-be–are bright, cheerful and chirpy. The show’s star, Jeanna de Waal, bursts onto the stage with a peppy-Princess number about being underestimated, which just happens to be called “Under-estimated”: “Your prison has been built/ your downfall’s been devised/ Won’t they be surprised/ when you’re underestimated?”

The whole thing feels a bit self-helpy, cheerleaderish. But in a strange way, Diana: The Musical–an effervescently pro-Diana entertainment that also acknowledges how much the young Diana craved the spotlight, only to be burned by it–is a more honest work than Spencer. There’s nothing arty or arch about it; you can imagine Diana herself humming the songs, tickled to see her own reflection in them, and pleased as punch that she could inspire a Broadway show. Who wouldn’t like that kind of fame, rendered in a sweet, harmless form–especially Diana, who was first made famous by photographers and then, years later, almost literally hounded to death by them? A Broadway musical, even a silly one, isn’t the worst memorial for a woman who came to be known as the People’s Princess.

Read more: The Crown Doesn’t Fully Explain Why Princess Diana Was So Popular. Here’s How She Became a Global Celebrity

Yet of all these recent portrayals, it’s Emma Corrin’s, in the fourth season of Netflix’s fiction-based-on-fact drama The Crown, that comes closest to capturing Diana’s opalescent mystery. Corrin’s Diana first appears as a schoolgirl dressed as a tree sprite for a student production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Charles (Josh O’Connor) has come to the family home, Althorp, to pick up her older sister Sarah for a date; he spies the young Diana sneaking around in her tights, an awkwardly gamine adolescent who’s trying not to be seen–and yet clearly, desperately, wants to be seen, especially by a real-life Prince.

Emma Corrin in Season 4 of The Crown.

Netflix

This scene is marvelous for the way it asks–without necessarily answering: Had Diana been scheming, from a young age, her way into the royal palace? And then comes the kicker: So what if she had? It’s common for young girls to yearn for fame, to dream of being acknowledged as charming and beautiful, to want to be seen. Corrin, so mischievous and flirty in those early scenes, helps us see that ambition in the very young Diana. But we also see how, just a few years later, that delight gives way to a particularly cruel disillusionment. In The Crown, days before the royal wedding, Diana discovers that her fiance has recently designed a gold bracelet as a “farewell” gift for his not-really-an-ex, the married Camilla Parker Bowles. (Though The Crown is fictional, this anecdote is essentially factual.) The future Princess sees she has been betrayed; she wants to back out of the marriage, but it’s too late.

The Crown shows the stricken bride in that puffy merengue of a wedding dress. Corrin’s Diana looks so very small; as seen here, that dress–at the time a sigh-worthy symbol of fairy-tale fantasy–may as well be a white wolf eating her alive. Young Diana Spencer got the prize she thought she wanted, and when she realized how hollow it was, she reinvented herself to fit into her strange, unhappy surroundings–and then reinvented herself again to get out. No wonder we have no idea who she really was; she died on her way to becoming that person, leaving behind a jumble of puzzle pieces that will never be an easy fit.

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Moderna Says New Vaccine for Omicron Variant May Be Ready in Early 2022

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Bloomberg — Moderna Inc. Chief Medical Officer Paul Burton said he suspects the new omicron coronavirus variant may elude current vaccines, and if so, a reformulated shot could be available early in the new year.”We should know about the ability of the current vaccine to provide protection in the next couple of weeks,” Burton said Sunday on the BBC’s “Andrew Marr Show.”

“If we have to make a brand new vaccine, I think that’s going to be early 2022 before that’s really going to be available in large quantities,” he said. “The remarkable thing about the mRNA vaccines, the Moderna platform, is that we can move very fast,” he said.

The Cambridge, Massachusetts-based biotech company mobilized “hundreds” of staff early on Thursday, Thanksgiving Day in the U.S., after news of the omicron variant spread.

Protection should still exist, depending on how long ago a person was vaccinated, and for now the best advice is to take one of the current Covid-19 vaccines, Burton said.

“If people are on the fence, and you haven’t been vaccinated, get vaccinated,” he said. “This is a dangerous looking virus, but I think we have many tools in our armamentarium now to fight it.”

The emergence of the omicron strain has seen countries rush to clamp down on travel from southern Africa. Fears that it could exacerbate a winter Covid surge in the northern hemisphere and undermine a global economic recovery sent a wave of risk aversion across global markets Friday that continued Sunday when the Middle East opened for the week.

Moderna said in a release on Friday that it was working rapidly to test the current vaccine against the omicron variant, and studying two booster candidates.

“Since early 2021, Moderna has advanced a comprehensive strategy to anticipate new variants of concern,” the company said. “The company has repeatedly demonstrated the ability to advance new candidates to clinical testing in 60 to 90 days.”

(C) 2021 Bloomberg L.P.

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Europe’s Energy Crisis Is About to Get Worse As Winter Arrives

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Bloomberg — Energy prices in Europe are repeatedly breaking records even before winter really kicks in, and one of the most damaging cost crunches in history is about to get worse as the temperature starts to drop.A super price spike in the U.K. last month forced some industrial companies to cut production and seek state aid, a harbinger for what could play out widely in Europe just as it contends with a resurgence of the coronavirus. For governments, it could mean tension with neighboring countries by moving to protect supplies. For households, it could mean being asked to use less energy or even plan for rolling blackouts.

The trouble is that any fix is unlikely to come from the supply side any time soon, with exporters Russia piping only what it has to and Qatar saying it’s producing what it can. The energy industry is instead faced with relying on “demand destruction,” said Fabian Roenningen, an analyst at Rysted Energy.

“We have seen it over the last couple of months already, and in many industries, it will most likely continue and even increase,” he said from Oslo. “It’s just not profitable to operate for a lot of the players in the current market conditions.”

The outlook adds to the sense of foreboding in Europe. The region is back at the epicenter of the pandemic again with Covid-19 cases surging and fears about a new variant identified in South Africa swirling the globe. Restrictions are being tightened in some countries, while household budgets are being squeezed by rampant inflation. On top of that, freezing weather could mean the lights going out. A return to lockdown like in Austria would help curb power demand, though few governments want to do that.

France, Europe’s second biggest economy, is particularly at risk. The possibility of a chill in January and February is causing concern for the nation’s grid operator. Availability at nuclear stations, the workhorse of the French power system, is low after the pandemic delayed the maintenance of some reactors, according to a report on Nov. 22.

Power prices there are the highest since 2012 as a cold blast creeps into France and is expected to take hold by Monday when workday demand starts to rise.

Last winter, the grid operator appealed to households to use less energy at peak times and activated some demand reduction contracts with manufacturers when things got really tight. The next step would be to reduce voltage across the network and then rolling blackouts of two hours per region as a last resort. All that would come ahead of a presidential election.

“If there’s a deep cold snap and there’s no wind, things could become tight given the lesser availability of nuclear plants and the recent closure of dispatchable generation assets using coal,” said Nicolas Goldberg, a senior manager in charge of energy at Colombus Consulting in Paris. “If it’s getting really cold and there’s no wind, it may become a problem.”

France is also a key exporter of electricity to neighboring countries, meaning that the effects of a crisis would reverberate in Germany, Spain, Italy and Britain. Maximum demand is expected to be 80.7 gigawatts on Monday, still some way off the record 102 gigawatts from February 2012.

The situation is already so dire this early in the winter season because of a blistering rally in natural gas prices. Stores of the fuel, used to heat homes and to generate electricity, are lower than usual and are being depleted quickly. Analysts have warned that gas stores could drop to zero this winter if cold weather boosts demand.

Rolling blackouts are a possibility, warned Jeremy Weir, chief executive officer of Trafigura Group, a Swiss commodity trading house on Nov. 16.

“If the weather gets cold in Europe there’s not going to be an easy supply solution, it’s going to need a demand solution,” said Adam Lewis, partner at trading house Hartree Partners LP.

On the supply side, what Russia does next will be key. President Vladimir Putin signaled he would help Europe with more supplies to stabilize the market, but while shipments have recovered after a slump at the start of November, they are low compared with last year. How much gas Russia sends to Europe in December remains an even bigger mystery.

QuicktakeHow Europe Has Become So Dependent on Putin for Gas

The long-awaited start of the Nord Stream 2 pipeline to Germany from Russia would ease the continent’s energy crunch. The project is finished, but has run into regulatory hurdles and it’s unclear when flows will start.

Qatar, the world’s biggest exporter of liquefied natural gas, says it’s already producing gas at full capacity. The Gulf nation, which has low production costs thanks to an abundance of easy-to-extract fuel, has ordered six more LNG ships from South Korea on top of four tankers purchased from China in October.

If things get really bad, countries could resort to curbing sales of natural gas to other regions. An even more extreme scenario could see them halt flows of gas and power to one another, sparking political acrimony and hitting economies.

The European Union has what it calls solidarity principles that are supposed to prevent any state blocking exports of power or gas and leaving another member short, especially when it comes to supplies for households.

The solidarity, though, has never been tested in a wide-scale crisis and grid operators say that they’re allowed to stop or alter power flows through inter-country cables if they have security of supply issues. When the nicknamed “Beast from the East” hit at the end of February 2018, it was quite late into the heating season. This year, it’s likely that a less severe weather event could have a similar impact.

“It shows how exposed Europe’s power system is to the volatility in commodity prices,” said Roenningen in Oslo. “In the short term, there’s not a lot that can be done.”

(Updates with demand forecast in 10th paragraph.)

-With assistance from Francois De Beaupuy and Will Mathis.

To contact the author of this story:
Rachel Morison in London at rmorison@bloomberg.net

(C) 2021 Bloomberg L.P.

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How Germany’s New Government Plans to Be the Greenest One Yet

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Among environmentalists, hopes have been running high for Germany’s new government. At elections this September, growing concern about climate change, boosted by the worst floods to hit the country in 500 years, helped the German Greens double their parliamentary seats.

Though the Greens’ performance wasn’t enough to win them the chancellorship, it gave them significant clout in coalition negotiations, which they promised to use to push through parts of their radical climate action program.

They have delivered–partly. On Wednesday the party unveiled a three-way coalition agreement with economic liberals the Free Democrats and the center-left Social Democrats, whose leader, Olaf Scholz, will succeed Angela Merkel as chancellor. The deal contains a raft of measures to slash Germany’s greenhouse emissions, which remain high compared to many European neighbours because of its heavily industrial economy and greater reliance on coal.

The measures include a commitment to massively expand renewable energies, turning over 2% of national territory to the cause; a target to phase out coal by 2030, eight years earlier than previously planned; and a plan to weaponize foreign policy to drive shifts on climate abroad.

The Greens won the right to appoint the foreign minister, which will be party co-leader and former chancellor candidate Annalena Baerbock, and the head of a “super ministry” for the economy and climate protection, which will be her co-leader Robert Habeck. They will also get to pick the ministers for agriculture and environmental conservation. “We are in charge of all key energy and climate ministries,” says Sven Giegold, a Green member of the European parliament, who was on the party’s core coalition negotiating team, “and we have a whole roadmap for a post-fossil future based on renewable energy.”

But some climate campaigners said they were frustrated by a lack of clarity on the timeline for Germany’s promised phase-out of fossil fuels. For example, many had hoped the agreement would set an end date for the use of natural gas, a fossil fuel that Germany and other European countries are increasingly using as a “bridge fuel” to reduce reliance on more-polluting coal and oil in the short-term. The European Environmental Bureau, a network of activist groups and NGOs, called the gas commitments “highly disappointing” and “a missed chance for Germany to give clear indications” to energy markets.

Gielgold says the new government is focused on ramping up renewables and their supporting technologies as fast as possible so that they can replace fossil fuels, rather than on the exact dates those fuels will leave the mix in Germany or elsewhere in Europe. “Honestly, it’s not the phasing out, but the phasing in, which will inspire others to act,” he said.

Here are the four key points in the German coalition’s plan on climate, and how they could affect the rest of the world:

Expanding renewable power

The coalition pledged to make the expansion of renewable energies “a central project” of its government. By 2030, the agreement says, 80% of Germany’s power generation will come from renewables–up from around 40% today. Experts say the target is comparable to the U.K.’s goal of reaching net zero on electricity generation by 2035, and the U.S.’ of hitting “100% carbon pollution-free electricity” by 2035.

To achieve it, the government plans to increase Germany’s solar capacity five-fold to 200GW, and off-shore wind more than four-fold to 40GW by 2030, with a mandate to accelerate designation of land for onshore wind power. The agreement also calls for a costly overhaul of Germany’s electricity grid geared towards solar, wind, and hydrogen.

Germany’s renewables push could be decisive for the rest of the E.U., restoring faltering cooperation on offshore wind and pressuring others to ramp up national spending in line with the bloc’s climate goals, according to Lisa Fischer, an energy transition expert at European climate think tank E3. “[The Greens] have sort of gone on the offensive: focusing on getting real ambition on renewables deployment, and perhaps they haven’t used their energy on putting in negative criteria on gas and coal as much,” Fischer says. “And the ambition level there is great. I do think it’s a game changer for Europe.”

Phasing out coal

Germany is the world’s fourth largest consumer of coal and has lagged far behind its western European neighbours on phasing it out, due to its large reserves of lignite coal, which it has historically relied upon to ensure its energy independence. Coal made up more than a quarter of German power production in the first half of 2021

The agreement says Germany will bring forward its coal exit from the 2038 date the previous government had set. “Ideally, this will be achieved by 2030,” it reads. Though some campaigners were frustrated by the lack of a firm commitment, energy experts say the worsening economic case for coal in Europe–due to E.U. regulations and market shifts– makes it likely the 2030 date will be met.

The accelerated timeline on coal will help pile pressure on Eastern and Central European countries who are aiming for later dates. Germany has historically wielded economic and political influence over those countries, but its message on coal has been muddled by its domestic reliance. “A 2030 German coal exit leaves nowhere to hide for Poland, Czechia and Bulgaria,” climate non-profit Ember said in a statement. “Those left behind will face high electricity prices, an uncompetitive economy, and increasing pressure to act.”

Cutting reliance on natural gas

Germany, like much of the rest of Europe, is highly reliant on natural gas for heating, a sector which makes up 12% of the E.U.’s carbon dioxide emissions. Countries face a costly drive to retrofit buildings to use renewable-powered electricity, or other renewable technologies, for heat.

The coalition agreement says that “all newly installed heating systems must be operated with 65% renewable energy by 2025”, but it is unclear how fast buildings will be expected to replace their systems. Meanwhile, an existing plan to build hydrogen-ready gas power plants, combined with the lack of an end date for natural gas use, leaves the door open to gas remaining part of electricity production for years to come.

Campaigners hope the German government will strengthen its gas targets next year, as part of a promised raft of new climate legislation, and as it participates in a long-awaited E.U. review of subsidies and taxes for the fuel.

Putting climate at the center of government

Some of the brightest lights in the coalition agreement come not from policies, but from the way that climate is positioned in the structure of the German government, with Green-leadership of “the traditionally important parts of German decision-making, like agriculture, foreign policy and the economy,” Fischer says.

In an interview with TIME before the September election, Baerbock said that her priority in coalition negotiations would be overhauling the current “totally stupid” situation where “every ministry does what they want and the environment ministry does the environment.” As foreign minister, Baerbock has pledged to align trade and aid with climate goals, and to use Germany’s leadership of the G7 in 2022 to encourage other wealthy countries to accelerate their investment in clean energy infrastructure.

But perhaps the most important ministry remains out of Green control. The Greens lost the battle to appoint the finance minister–one of the fiercest of the coalition negotiations–to the Free Democrats, whose leader Christian Linder will now take the post.

An influential industry lobby group said on Tuesday that the next government would need to spend some 860 billion euros by 2030 to trigger the emissions reductions it is calling for across the economy. It may be hard to extract that much from fiscal hawks the Free Democrats. Giegold, though, says that the consensus-based nature of German politics gives him confidence that the other two parties will stump up the money to meet their commitments. “Normally in Germany, we are dull, gray, and boring,” he says. “And that means we stick to what we have agreed.”

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