Thursday, April 23, 2009

And the Best of British To You, Sir! (/Madam)

Dave from Victim of the Time here once more. It's St. George's Day here- the patron saint of England (and several other countries but who cares about them?)- and although usually all that patriotism makes me slightly ill I thought I'd be more cheerful for once and bring you good mostly-American people some examples of my country's film-making prowess. Although even though it's the English patron saint's day I'll still sticking the banner out to cover the other three countries of our country, because it's all very confusing and we haven't devolved yet. Only a matter of time, though, I hear. [/tangent]

Ten years ago, the BFI polled a whole bunch of people to determine what the best British films of the twentieth century were. Now- spoiler!- the winner was The Third Man. A fair enough choice, says I. You can't beat a bit of zither. But, since they did that, and happily it's ten years later, I've decided to be stunningly original and bring you some of the best of what we've had to offer in the first decade of the twenty-first century. In bite-size form, because you've already seen what happens when I start rambling.

Boy A. Plot description doesn't sell this one very well (I think someone's still holding it against me), but it features a superb Andrew Garfield, who I'm sure you'll all know in a few years time if you don't already (that's him to the left there), some wonderful cinematography and a screenplay that is really rather affecting.

Bright Young Things. A marvellous 1930s romp from the ever-dapper Stephen Fry, based on an Evelyn Waugh novel and with a superb Stephen Campbell Moore in the leading role. It's all generally very witty and slightly posh and a bit naughty and all very delightful until the war turns up and spoils it all, like it always does. Bloody war.

Ghosts. You might know documentary filmmaker Nick Broomfield from his two Aileen Wuornos films, but his first foray into a narrative film is rather excellent as well; focusing on a tragedy involving illegal Chinese immigrants working in Britain and struggling to survive. Draining but a very powerful watch.

Hallam Foe. Or Mister Foe as you Yanks might know it. Someone's favourite Jamie Bell (above) is preoccupied by the memory of his dead mother, and when he sees someone who looks just like her... things get a bit creepy. All full of gritty Scottish grimness and disturbing plot turns, but fascinating and superbly crafted. (And also with Claire Forlani, who I never knew was British before this, did you? You probably did.)

The House of Mirth. Terence Davies is one of our best but most scarce auteurs, a bit like Terrence Malick really; this adaptation of Edith Wharton's novel is slow, deliberate but superbly affecting, with- see a theme here?- a stellar turn from the wonderful Gillian Anderson.

Hunger. I look at this list and it's rather full of depression. You'll be glad to know things don't change with this one; painstakingly in its depiction of Bobby Sands' hunger strike, this is hardly the most comfortable watch you'll ever have, but the viscerality twinned with director Steve McQueen's (not that one) painterly sensibilities is an impressive sight to behold. [see previous TFE posts]

London to Brighton. More fun and games here as an experienced prostitute and a teenager new on the job run away, all bloody and the like, from their pimp in London and go to Brighton (er, obviously) because something rather bad has happened and they'd quite like to stay alive, thanks. Paul Andrew Williams blew people away a few years ago with this dark, powerful thriller.

Morvern Callar. Samantha Morton gets fucked up in Ibiza. Lynne Ramsay's intimate style is key to unlocking this strange, beguiling and strangely beautiful piece of work.

This Is England. Skinheads are scary. This film about skinheads is also scary, but marvellously so; Shane Meadows' work is always imbued with a rather morbid sense of humour, and the electrifying sense of constant danger. Thomas Turgoose marks himself out as the young boy who joins a gang of skinheads, and experiences the joy of community and the dangers of growing up all at once.

Vera Drake. Obviously if you're an Oscar-watcher you won't need me to tell you how good Imelda Staunton is here as a 1950s housewife who does backstreet abortions, nor that Mike Leigh brings his usual keen improvisation eye to the period setting. You already knew that? Good. Bears repeating, though, doesn't it?

Blimey. We're a depressing bunch, aren't we? I think my flag has wilted.

15 comments:

dismayed english major said...

The House of Mirth is actually written by Edith Wharton (not Evelyn Waugh).

Sara said...

Edith Wharton wrote "The House of Mirth," not Evelyn Waugh. I have a ridiculous girlcrush on Gillian Anderson and she tried, but the film didn't do justice to the desperation of the novel's Lily Bart.

Dave said...

Apologies for the mistake, which really shouldn't have been there since I actually checked it before writing that. There's no need to be dismayed...

brianmaru said...

Great list. Would like to add the lovely Happy-Go-Lucky in place of Mike Leigh's Vera Drake.

Derreck said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Derreck said...

i'm horrified that Spice World wasn't even considered.

It collapsed into its own awfulness and in that depression, a classic was born.

but seriously, it's a decent list. I would've liked to see Billy Elliot on the list though. I just remember flipping through the channels, watching it for five minutes and being hooked. A young boy doing ballet and cursing at Julie Christie is just asking to become a great movie.

Fernando Moss said...

Julie Christie?

Scott said...

The best thing tied to this list was Fenella Woolgar in Bright Young Things. Superb.

Derreck said...

whoops. i meant Julie Walters. dammit, i don't know how i got those two mixed up.

(smiles while secretly pissed) Thanks for catching that.

;)

Joel said...

Any chance for me to chime in on Boy A and I'll take it. Loved that movie so much, hard to believe it was made for TV!

Wayne B. said...

I liked "Dirty Pretty Things", its English right? I dont know if they count but I think they were partly English-financed: "United 93" or "Eastern Promises"... two neo-classics!

Ben said...

I really loved Gillian Anderson as Lily Bart and the film as a whole is such a perfectly realised adaptation and so different from Scorsese's Wharton adaptation.

Glad you mentioned Boy A as well. Andrew Garfield was great and I cried many many tears at that film.

NATHANIEL R said...

adding a couple of these to my queue.

thanks

brianmaru said...

@Wayne B - Love Dirty Pretty Things. Ejifor's performance in that is one of my all time favorites.

Glenn said...

London to Brighton was... intense. Not quite as thematically strong as, say, This is England (my #1 of 2007), but those final 30 minutes or so are absolutely frightening.