Anglofile: Movies and Actors

I’ll admit that I was in a poor mood earlier today – I worked the lunch shift at my summer job, and on my break I popped a tire. Buckets of sweat and $120 later, I was in no mood. Usually when things go wrong, I quickly set myself to formulating a plan to pull out of it, to fix it… but today, there was nothing for my problems. I had a parking ticket to pay and was $120 poorer for having hit a curb pulling out of the bank parking lot – it’s a tough break but you just have to live with it. And so it was that this afternoon, escapist that I am, I needed to leave my troubles behind and immerse myself in a story. Reading books is a fantastic option, and I love to read, but when time doesn’t allow for a full novel, I turn to movies. Relatively short, full of emotion, visually engaging… for 90 minutes or less, and the day is turned around.
Since the theme of my life this summer is enjoying myself and preparing for a term abroad in London, I decided to compile a list of my favorite British movies and actors. The list may seem odd, and highly variable. Ranging from silly to serious, profound to surface,  laughter to tears… Some are classics, some are more recent blockbusters… Some are set in the UK, others outside… All of them are fabulous, and there’s at least one for every occasion and mood. Now I’ll just work my way through the list until I no longer need movies to transport myself to London… my flight to Heathrow will take care of that ;)

I’ll start with the movie that I reached for first this afternoon – a romantic comedy that always cheers me up: Bridget Jones’ Diary. Renee Zellweger is totally inspiring and utterly relatable, and although being American I don’t have a perfect ear for accents, to me Renee’s is believable. It doesn’t hurt that her co-stars are two of England’s finest male actors – Hugh Grant and Colin Firth. The name Hugh Grant immediately calls to mind a series of classic films… Four Weddings and a Funeral, Notting Hill, About a Boy, Sense and Sensibility, Love Actually… with his quick-witted comedy, the subtle back-handed compliments, the sarcasm… I just love Hugh for a laugh, and even more when it comes to matters of the heart, and he steadies those blue eyes on the camera and becomes so sincere. Colin Firth is an equally impressive actor, who recently received a Golden Globe, a SAG award, a BAFTA, and an Academy award for his role as King George VI in The King’s Speech. Although he mostly takes serious, dramatic roles, he did loosen up with Amanda Bynes in What a Girl Wants – a movie (set in London) that I loved when it was released in 2003 – and in Nanny McPhee (set in 19th century England) in 2005. The latter’s cast included Emma Thompson, another great English actor. The first movie I remember seeing with Emma in it was Sense and Sensibility with Kate Winslet and Alan Rickman. And while we are on the topic of films adapted from Jane Austen novels, let’s not forget Pride and Prejudice. My favorite version stars Kiera Knightley. Kiera is a young but incredibly versatile actor who has played a soccer champion (Bend It Like Beckham), a duchess (The Duchess), a pirate (Pirates of the Caribbean), and a barbarian (King Arthur). One of my most recent obsessions is the Young Victoria, starring English actress Emily Blunt.
As certain points while making this list I had to ask myself - do British accents really make a great British movie? Do I love Hugh Dancy or just his accent? What about Jude Law? At last I had to ask myself - Do I really care? No, I don’t need to discern or distinguish which it is I really love about British film. Lovely accents are just the icing on the cupcake.
Now, let’s move on to some great films from the 1960s that I really love. How about To Sir With Love starring Sidney Poitier – and although he is not British, this movie makes the cut because it is set in the slums of London’s East End, the storyline is brilliant, and the rest of the cast is English. And who else made more iconic movies in the 60s than Surrey-born actress Julie Andrews? The Sound of Music! Gone with the Wind! Mary Poppins! Or what about some more recent films set in the 1960s? The Boat that Rocked (released in the US as Pirate Radio), where Bill Nighy steals my heart – could I please have him as my quirky great-uncle? Or An Education, where Carey Mulligan plays a na├»ve Francophile schoolgirl who falls for an older man?
This list could go on for quite a while – obviously I’ve loved London and British accents and films for a long time – just one more reason I’m so looking forward to being immersed in the culture as a study abroad student. I’ll just list some actors and movies that I left out, and if you are so inclined, you can rent them (and hopefully enjoy them as much as I have).
The Edge of Love
Finding Neverland
Shakespeare in Love
Sherlock Holmes
Shaun of the Dead
Charlie Wilson’s War
All of the Harry Potter Movies
Circle of Friends
Billy Elliot
Notes on a Scandal

Judi Dench
Sean Connery
Orlando Bloom
Minnie Driver
Emma Watson
Michael Caine
Anthony Hopkins
Gerard Butler
Ian McKellen
Daniel Day-Lewis
Ralph Fiennes
Paul Bettany
Ewan McGregor
Helena Bonham-Carter
Gemma Arterton 

There are also some movies I haven’t seen, but hear are well worth the time and effort of seeking out: London Boulevard, the Constant Gardener, Jane Eyre, the English Patient, the Remains of the Day.

Anglofile: Music

So, it’s been a while since I last sat down and added new music to my iTunes library, but at last the day has come. You’ll notice the anglofile heading, which is a play on the word “anglophile,” referring to a person who loves the UK or British culture; my intention is to channel my excitement for my semester abroad with the CAPA program in London in the fall into a series of blog entries. This one is about music. Unsurprisingly, I want to collect some music by British singers, songwriters, and musicians. I already have a bunch from older bands and performers: The Beatles, the Smiths, Elton John, U2, Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, Radiohead, Coldplay, Arctic Monkeys, Sting, etc. I began to search for some more modern music artists, with the hope of adding some women to the list. What I found was several female artists whose music ranges from soothing ballads to quirky, upbeat dance anthems.

Artist: Katie Melua (born in Georgia, but moved to the UK at age 8, so she’s included**) 
Favorite Song: “No Fear of Heights”

Artist: Adele [English singer-songwriter]
Favorite Song: “Set Fire to the Rain”

Artist: Duffy [Welsh singer-songwriter]
Favorite Song: “Warwick Avenue”

Artist: The Noisettes [London-based indie rock band]
Favorite Song: “Never Forget You”

Artist: The Ting Tings [English duo]
Favorite Song: “That’s Not My Name”

Artist: Lily Allen [English recording artist, glam rock and alternative]
Favorite Song: “Smile”

Artist: Laura Marling [English folk musician – only one month older than me!]
Favorite Song: “Blues Run the Game”

Artist: Corinne Bailey Rae [British singer-songwriter and guitarist from Leeds]
Favorite Song: “Is This Love (Bob Marley Cover)”

Artist: Amy Macdonald [Scottish singer-songwriter]
Favorite Song: “This is the Life"

Artist: Natasha Bedingfield [British pop singer-songwriter]
Favorite Song: “Strip Me"

Artist: Florence + the Machine [English musician]
Favorite Song: “Cosmic Love"

Artist: Amy Winehouse [English singer-songwriter]
Favorite Song: “You Know I'm No Good"

Artist: Natalia Kills [English singer-songwriter]
Favorite Song: “Mirrors (Doctor Rosen Rosen Rx Remix)"

Artist: Eliza Doolittle [English singer-songwriter]
Favorite Song: “Skinny Genes"

**[Note to Americans: "Georgia" here refers to the country between Russia and Turkey, NOT the state... come on, I know you were thinking it]