Thursday, July 25, 2013

Summer Cinemacations #2- Destination England

England is a slightly more difficult destination, mostly becuase, unlike the sun-drenched coastline of Italy, England isn't necessarily known for its sun-drenched, well, anything.  It's a lot of craggy rock coastlines and temperamental weather patterns, leading to a film culture that is disappointingly lacking in road trip films.  I personally have always been a bit obsessed with England, considering myself at least a mid-level Anglophile.  I blame it on reading Pride & Prejudice at an early age, but the truth is it goes further back.  My parents, my dad especially, were PBS fiends in the 70s and 80s, basically anticipating the next installment of Poldark the way people today are jonesing for Breaking Bad.  As further explanation, I was once told that I had probably spent a previous life in England, to which I basically said, "no duh!".  Anyway, all of this is to say that while I've done my research on British films, not many of them have the "Tour Around Town" feel that the Italian ones do, nor are they necessarily summer friendly.  I'm going to do my best, but if you have any suggestions for ones I missed, please feel free to drop a comment!

1. Pride And Prejudice (2005)- I know, I know, you're thinking "but...but...but, what about Colin Firth?!?!  I can't even take this list seriously without a wet-shirted Briton!" Well, hear me out.  Anyone worth their Austen-tatious hipster salt knows that, if you're talking strictly about adaptations, the marathon 6-hour version is the way to go.  Darcy! Lizzie! Lydia! and obviously the much more rakishly charming Wickham!  But if you're going for sheer visuals, Joe Wright's 2005 is the can't miss version.  Joe Wright and director of photography Roman Osin, work together here to create visuals that seem like they're recreations of Victorian paintings.  There are several shots (the one where they've pulled the wagon over and they're eating apples most especially comes to mind) that took my breath away in the theater and that, today still, I just like to pause and look at, like some sleep induced postcard.  But that's because I'm a weirdo.  The point is, while Pride & Prejudice is mostly thought of as a character study, which it is, by the time you get to Lizzie's jaunt around the Lake District which leads her to the magnificent Pemberley grounds, you realize, it's as much a physical journey of leaving home and discovery as it is a personal attempt to find one's true place in life.In fact, you'd be well served to just go ahead and watch Joe Wright's other films, especially Atonement and Anna Karenina, for their visual panache.




2. Hot Fuzz- If you want to know what it's like to live in a quiet, English suburb, search no further than the idyllic hamlet of Sanford.  Well, of course, the sedate town is being manipulated to appear perfect by a bunch of mafioso Neighborhood Watch pensioners, but that's besides the point.  Well, no that is the point, of the movie at least, but for my listing purposes, the point is that the town seems perfect.  All British suburbs seem infinitely more interesting than American suburbs, perhaps because they seem like historical landmarks and in Hot Fuzz, the small-town appeal is on full display.  Filmed in Wells, in the district of Somerset, even the hooligan vandals seem more like a tourist attraction than a menace.  It's like somebody made a real-life Lego version of "quaint British village" and it works.  I mean there's clearly more to love about Hot Fuzz than just the setting, but the town is pretty wonderful.



P.S. If you like Hot Fuzz, you'll definitely want to check out The World's End, which comes out in August.

3. Notting Hill-  Sure Hugh Grant hit a rough spot in the mid-90s.  By rough spot I mean he filmed the movie Nine Months.  I also mean that he was caught with his pants down.  But he recovered very nicely.  Before you could even say "Lewd Acts", Grant had once again risen to the top of the Go-To Rom-Com guy list, like the proverbial cream of the actors' crop.  Wait, forget I said that, that was lewd.  Still, in 1999 he paired with America's Sweetheart, Julia Roberts, for Notting Hill, one of the gold standards in the Golden Age of Romantic Comedies.  It MIGHT not be as good as, say, Sleepless In Seattle, but it is incredibly charming, not the least of which reason is because it's filmed in one of the most charming (i.e. expensive) parts of London, Camden.  I'm kidding, it's not filmed in Camden, it's filmed in Notting Hill, duh.  The blue door of William Thacker's (Grant) flat has become a kind of Mecca for single women and the "I'm just a girl standing in front of a boy asking him to love her" line is probably the quote on said single woman's Facebook page (not mine, I swear).  While it runs the gamut of incredibly cheesy to fun to kind of moving in an unexpected way, I dare you to watch it all the way to the end and NOT want to spend Sunday's in the Park with Grant.

Enjoy the Uber-90s feel of the trailer below:



4-My Fair Lady - Ok, this is a bit of a cheat, but, as a film, it's so BRITISH, that I had to include it.  Plus, it's an Audrey Hepburn film and I think that having it on the list adds a nice symmetry to this whole film list endeavour.  It stands out more as a costume film than anything else, but I love the story behind My Fair Lady.  Here is the story.
Julie Andrews had originated the role of Eliza Doolittle on stage.  As an adaptation of the play "Pygmalion", "My Fair Lady" began as a stage musical before being swooped up by a studio.  Well, as any young ingenue, Julie Andrews had hoped that her success on the stage could translate to the big screen.  Unfortunately, the studios thought she didn't have enough box office clout and went with Ms. Hepburn.  On Oscar night in 1965, only one of them walked away with the prize...and it was Andrews, for her role in 1964's Mary Poppins, an equally British movie.  While My Fair Lady won the lion's share of the rest of the statuette's Hepburn wasn't even nominated. Really, you can watch either Mary Poppins or My Fair Lady, as most of the only scenes outside of a house are walking through a dour-looking London, with few landmarks available for ogling, but there's always been something about My Fair Lady that has appealed to me.  I think my love for Rex Harrison's Henry Higgins is what has led to a lifelong tendency to pick terrible men to have crushes on. 



5.  The Trip- mostly by way of being one of the few, and the most recent, "road trip" movies to come out of England.  Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon star, in what some might call a mockumentary (it feels much more documentary than mocking) of a trip around the country of England's finest restaurants.  It's filled with impersonations and all of those things which make a great road trip, including wanting to throttle your partner after about the 3rd day, while still realizing that you'd probably rather be stuck in a car with them, than with about 90% of the rest of the population.  It's mostly hilarious, but like all great movies, sometimes it hits a little close to home.  If you like England or Alan Partridge or food, you should definitely give this one a try:



So that's my initial list if you'd like to take a trip to England, but just simply can't afford it.  If you're more the Harry Potter type, you can always go to Universal's "The Wizarding World of Harry Potter", though in reality, that trip might actually cost more than a plane ticket across the Atlantic.

I'd also like to point out that many times, British television does a better job of showcasing the country's beauty, even if it usually is in the guise of a murder mystery (aka horrible things happening in beautiful places).  My picks for those shows would be Sherlock and any of the Inspector Morse series (Inspector Morse, Inspector Lewis or Endeavour) all of which take place in Oxford.

So what'd I miss, or which did you watch and love or hate?  Happy Viewing Vacation until next time around!






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