Monday, February 05, 2007

The Brits that Did Me Proud Last Year.

I really, really pride myself on being British. I’m proud of pretty much everything we encompass (save Little Britain, Jade Goody, the chavs, the WAGs, the bastardisation of Burberry, Wayne Rooney, Kate Moss & Pete Doherty, Daniel Radcliffe and Emma Watson), and I am fiercely patriotic of England (but not Scotland, mind) when it comes to international football. But the area that I am proudest of Britain most of all is of their fantastic work in films. And 2006 was no different, especially as I saw Notes on a Scandal and Venus at the weekend. (yay!) Therefore, here is an entire post dedicated to some fantastic Brits who gave us fantastic work last year. Some received Oscar nominations, some didn’t, but all – and I mean all – were brilliant.

So there.

Andrea Arnold, who won an Oscar for her short film Wasp, delivered my choice for the most disturbing film of the year – Red Road. Her direction shows a edgy new style rarely seen in cinema, and the final scenes linger long after the credits have rolled.

Samuel Barnett’s portrayal of a sweet-natured gay boy struggling with himself in 1980s Sheffield was sweet, touching, funny, and the best male supporting turn of 2006. In the end, The History Boys (a film I loved, loved, loved), didn’t pick up enough momentum in the Oscar race to secure him that much-deserved nomination, but Barnett will always have as very special place in my heart.

Emily Blunt gave two of the finest supporting turns, both on the big screen, and on the small. In Stephen Poliakoff’s interesting political drama (which, incidentally, was on TV last night), she is brilliant and whilst blowing Bill Nighy and Robert Lindsay off the screen, also earnt herself a Golden Globe. And even though my endless campaigning for her incredible turn in The Devil Wears Prada somehow failed to earn her an Oscar nomination (losing out to Abigail Breslin, of all people *seethes*), but I will always look back on 2006 as the year that the world sharpened up to the brilliance of Miss Blunt.

Borat was not one of my favourite films of 2006, and nor did I particularly value Sacha Baran Cohen’s performance in it, but I’m still mentioning him, because, watching his acceptance speech at the Golden Globes, for some reason, I still felt a huge amount of pride for him. His performance wasn’t great by any standards, but it was still unashamedly funny, and there’s precious little humour in the world nowadays.

Judi Dench chilling performance in Notes on a Scandal is one of the best performances of her life. Having read the book last month, I had huge expectations for this film, and, whilst I felt slightly let down, I was completely blown away by Dench’s performance. She brings levels of depth, sadness and wit to Barbara that no other actor could.

It’s been over 10 years since Jennifer Ehle showed graced our TV screens as the wonderfully sweet Lizzie Bennet, and Alpha Male is probably her best performance since. Her portrayal of the put-upon mother who loses a husband and slowly loses her family is wonderfully realistic and sweet. She steals every scene she’s in, and provides the basis for a potentially dull film, making it totally watchable.

The last time we saw Graham King, he was standing on the red carpet, saying “I think it’s disgusting.” He was speaking of Scorsese losing yet another Oscar (that time to Clint Eastwood). Two years before that? He was mourning the Scorsese’s loss for Gangs of New York. All this time, he has stuck with Marty, and last year, he produced Scorsese’s most commercially successful The Departed. It’s not fixed whether or not The Departed will win Best Picture (I really, really, want it to, but something tells me it might lose to Sunshine), but this might finally be the year that Scorsese gets a Best Director Oscar, and I would love to hear King’s interview on Oscar night when he does. He’s stuck with the director for so long now, and they’ve produced some work of great, great quality.

James McAvoy is such a babe. I could just say that and leave it there, but I haven’t yet touched on his wonderful acting ability, which would be rude of me to miss out. Firstly – he made Starter for 10, with his wonderfully alluring geekiness and sweet dopiness. His performance as Scottish medic in Kevin Macdonald’s The Last King of Scotland is sublime – charismatic, deep, and completely believable. Forest Whitaker’s been raking up the accolades, but I beseech you – give McAvoy’s performance a look too; he’s just as good. We’ll next see him in Jane Austen story Becoming Jane, and then starring alongside Keira
Knightley in the film adaptation of one of my favourite books Atonement, and I’m practically soiling myself in anticipation of seeing more of the Scottish sexpot.

If there’s a single one thing to be sure of come Oscar night, it will be that Helen Mirren will walk off, Queen of the night. (Okay, that was lame.) Being a Londonite, I was one of the first people in the oscar-buzzing blogring to get to see The Queen, and as soon as I’d finished watching it, I knew that this would be the film to earn Mirren her Oscar. And just about everyone agreed. But then, something very weird happened. People starting dropping out of the “Team Mirren” bandwagon as quickly as glory-hunters starting jumping into the Manchester United one. Momentarily, I myself was one of them, using phrases like “slightly overrated” and “not THAT amazing” about Mrs. Mirren. But thank the Lord for reappraisals, because, having watched the film again, I can see that Mirren is as wonderful that I had ever believed. I’m personally slightly (but only slightly) more partial to Ivana Baquero and Penélope Cruz, but I can fully recognise the wonders in Mirren’s performance, and come Oscar night, I’ll be delighted for her win.

Peter Morgan wrote a lot of TV stuff. But this year, he broke out in two of the best British films – The Last King of Scotland and The Queen, writing the scripts to both of them. For The Queen’s witty Britishness, its intelligent depiction of the country in a difficult time and its impartial look at some people we thought we were past caring about, he received an Oscar nomination and won the Golden Globe for Best Script. But his writing in The Last King of Scotland is as commendable. Based on the novel by Giles Foden, he cleverly weaves a thriller-like film that works on a human level as well, the audience experiencing every emotion – including fear through Nick’s eyes. And that’s genius.

Venus, for all its chavviness, was not a film that I particularly cared for, but Peter O’Toole was near-flawless in it. In a hybrid of Humbert Humbert and OAP, he plays Maurice, a man who feels his time’s ending. 40 years on from his master-performance in Lawrence of Arabia, he still bears the screen charisma he had then, playing a slightly creepy role with tenderness of spirit.

And finally… top 10 British films of 2006
01. The History Boys
02. The Last King of Scotland
03. Red Road
04. Severance
05. The Queen
06. Starter for 10
07. Sixty Six
08. Notes on a Scandal
09. Flushed Away
10. Casino Royale

Best Performances by Brits
01. Helen Mirren, The Queen
02. James McAvoy, The Last King of Scotland
03. Emily Blunt, The Devil Wears Prada
04. Jennifer Ehle, Alpha Male
05. Peter O’Toole, Venus
06. Samuel Barnett, The History Boys
07. Judi Dench, Notes on a Scandal
08. Danny Dyer, Severance
09. Michael Sheen, The Queen
10. James McAvoy, Starter for 10

So, that was me. Which Brits shone for you this year??


Anonymous said...

Well, no-one could be proud about Burberry.

Great article.

Besty said...

I love how you title it with "Brits" but then post an England flag. :P

Emma said...

Well, that's typical of me, isn't it? :D

How're you doing, lad?

Rowena Julez said...

I wish I could see more Brit movies in Malaysia. I think the last Brit movie I watched was Keeping Mum. Yes, THAT long.

My dad isn't pleased with ManUre's win either. He supports Arsenal by the way. Everyone in family supports different teams.

But we support England in international football. Haha.

Emma said...

Extra note to Besty - I mentioned Graham King, specially for you!! You could at least say thanks!

@ Rowena: Ugh, Manure suck, suck, suck. My brother supports them. He's fat like Wayne Rooney.

And England is fantastic! Yay! We are so gonna beat Spain on Wednesday. :)

Rowena Julez said...

Hahaha! He does? My mum supports ManUre (of all the teams she could pick). And one of my friends thinks Rooney is sexy.

England's fantastic alright! I'm sure Crouchy will score against the Spaniards, since Shrek's not playing. Hehe...

paul haine said...

Rebecca Hall, who was in Starter for Ten as well as The Prestige.

Anonymous said...

cillian muphy should be on here!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Vicky Pollard said...

yer but no but yer but how can you not lik Little Britian? You iz a bitch

Catherine said...

Sorry, anonymous, but Murphy's Irish! Hate to quibble over things like this usually, but it needed to be said!

Reel Fanatic said...

Hola Emma ... If I had a vote, I would put Dame Dench's performance in Notes on a Scandal just a notch above Dame Mirren's in The Queen, but there's definitely no stopping the Mirren express at this point .. they were both just amazing

Besty said...

Sorry Emz, didn't read it properly yesterday.

yes, I'm really please you mentioned him. He's the best/ :)

And I love your dig at Glory hunting Mancs!

Emma said...

Vicky Pollard - crappy impression, seriously. And Little Britain isn't funny, sorry to say.

Emma said...

Reel Fanatic - indeed, both women shone. It certainly was an excellent year for us Brits, and showed that we had more to be proud of than just Kate Winslet! :@)