Category Archives: British Film

Damned United (2009)

Peter Morgan (Writer of The Queen and Frost/Nixon) reunites for the third time with Michael Sheen (lead actor of The Queen and Frost/Nixon).   Michael Sheen can tick off another box on his list of his portrayals of iconic Englishmen as his witty performance is a key reason for what makes The Damned United a joy to watch–the versatility with which he plays this role, having watched him be David Frost and Tony Blair is a tribute to his acting–he may have a generic look, but his attention to the details of voice inflections and mannerisms is stellar.

The film follows two different stories, switching frequently from Brian Clough’s miraculous time at Derby County and his disappointing and shambolic time at Derby’s then rivals Leeds United. It is important to pay attnetion to the titles that announce a variance in the year, so as to see where we are in time.  The film doesn’t get involved in Clough’s personal life (which may well have been in a shambles–while he has a wife in Derby, she seems pretty preoccupied with the seperation of work an dhome life, which seemed unrealistic at best–when Clough takes off for Leeds, he has two boys in tow but no wife in sight).  

The story focuses on his career with both clubs, starting off with Clough viewed firstly as a small-time 2nd Division manager to a arrogant manager on top of the Division 1, another key issue is his close friendship with his assistant Peter Taylor (Timothy Spall) and hatred of the man who preceded him as Leeds boss, Don Revie (Colm Meaney). While at Leeds the key points of focus is Clough’s determination to replace Don Revie as a hero in Leeds and ‘father figure’ as well his poor relationship with the players and the end to his arrogance.  The flaw of arrogance is fleshed out and then exhonerated in the film.  Clough spends 44 days as the coach of Leeds United (the film doesn’t show why he has such intense hatred for the club, which would have gone a long way to explaining why he wanted the job, and how he approached it).  When that fails, he goes crawling back to Brighton and Peter Taylor, who takes him back after a bit of a tongue lashing, and the two go on to do brilliantly.  Not so for the hated Don Revie.

The film is wonderful–not just appealin got soccer fans, but to those who like a story with nuance.

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Lost in Austen


‘Lost in Austen’ is a four-part 2008 British television series for the ITV network, written by Guy Andrews as a fantasy adaptation of Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen. Loosely following the plot of Austen’s novel, it sees a modern girl, Amanda Price, somehow transported into the events of the book via a portal located in her bathroom.
Amanda loves Austen–for all the right reasons really. She loves the manners, the attention to details that the characters have, and that things matter. Appearances and rules are important to Amanda. He love interest is someone who lacks all of these qualities and she has struggled with what to do–should she stay or should she go. Enter Elizabeth Bennet. Right out of Amanda’s favorite Austen novel. Through the looking glass-okay, not really. But through a door in the bathroom wall, which is a link from Amanda’s flat in Hammersmith to the early 19th century home of the Bennet’s, of Pride and Prejudice fame. Elizabeth choses to stay in Amanda’s world and Amanda is left to cope with Elizabeth’s–she tries valiantly to ensure that all the relationships that are supposed to come to fruition in the novel do, and of course it all goes horribly wrong, until, in the end, it all goes very right. Some sticklers for the original story, or who cannot suspend belief long enough to allow the tenets of the new story to take hold may be appalled. But I loved it.

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An Education (2009)

 


I watched this movie on my flight to Frankfurt, and was very pleasantly surprised by it. In scope, it is a small movie, unlike many of the Oscar nominees for Best Picture. It is a cautionary tale mostly to parents. A true con artist gains the confidence of a 16 year old school girl, her parents, and the audience. We can see that he is lying to the girl and her parents, but just how badly he is lying is something that takes us all in. The chorus, the one who is filling us all in on the real score is Helen, the least savvy amongst us. She is a well-dressed pretty face, and what she lacks in education and guile, she makes up for in her kindness to Jenny, and therefore we are endeared to her, and everything she says comes to be true–and more.
But the part that is hard for parents to swallow is that the con artist has the parents completely on the line, and Jenny points this out–she is a young school girl taken in by an older man–an age old story. What is their excuse? Jane Austen had a thing or two to say on this point, and Jenny’s experience a decade later with her school mistress is not markedly different from the Britain at the time of Austen.

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In the Loop (2009)


I admit it. I have been watching quite a few movies since the year began. I was on a brief viewing hiatus in December. The trip to Nicaragua led directly into the holiday bussle and I couldn’t manage to squeeze in either exercise or movies. But the New Year has reversed that trend quite nicely. Always start off the year where you hope to end up. I have never been good with resolutions, but I am a terribly entrenched creature of habit, and good habits are better than bad ones. Best of all, sometimes good habits get positively reinforced, and the first week of 2010 was one of those times.
This movie is a terrific spoof on the dynamics of international politics, in this case United Kingdom-United States relations. It is hopelessly ribald, language wise, and while I do not think myself a prude in that respect, this was right at the limit of what I can tolerate, language-wise.

War and how we get ourselves into one is the back story. The movie goes about demonstrating how the mountain of this significant event is reduced to a series of festering mole hills by the people charged with making the ultimate decisions that affect the world–literally. They are depicted here as heartless combatents who at the same time absolutely must get along. The paradox is highlighted again and again throughout the movie. Every faction is either figuratively or literally sleeping with another. The take home message is that the mechanics of politics, like the making of sausage, should not be looked at too closely. Just focus on the end products, and vote for the guys who have the least objectionable outcomes. And keep your sense of humor about it.

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