By Will Barber – Taylor
For years I’ve been told that Americans makes the best films. I’ve been told by friends, colleagues, relations and almost everyone under the sun that they are fantastic at making films. I was brought up on tales from my grandmother of how wonderful the American musicals were; how great John Wayne was in all the cowboys he starred in and how my great grandpa looked like Kirk Douglas etc. The thing is though, while this may have been true fifty years ago, is it true now?
Over the course of the last year or so, I’ve seen a dozen or more films which have varied from The Amazing Spider Man 2 to Mr Turner. Throughout this experience I’ve begun to have heretical thoughts. What is the US film dream isn’t all it is cracked up to be? What if…. What if British film makers are actually as good (and even more heretical?) or even better than our cousins on the other side of the pond?
This idea was brought to a head by a recent viewing of the latest gung ho American film, Into The Woods. Let me save you the bother of seeing it. It is a thinly constructed series of half fairy tales woven together with some of the most irritating and forgettable songs I’ve ever heard. This wasn’t helped by the acting from some of the greats of American cinema, Johnny Depp played (from what I could gather) a paedophilic 1930s spiv pretending to be some form of rodent in possibly the worst role of his career; Meryl Streep looked like she had walked off the set of a particularly realistic version of the Beggar’s Opera directed by Andrew Lloyd Webber; Chris Pine – aka Captain Kirk himself, resembled some type of pantomime Buttons but with more chest hair. The two saving graces of the production were James Corden and Emily Blunt who managed to bring some actual naturalistic acting to the film (even when poor Corden looked like an Aldi price Indiana Jones) and portrayed characters that we could sympathize with.
After having seen Into The Woods in its full, hair raising glory I began to think to myself whether the spoon feed idea that Uncle Sam always knows best was in fact right. Into The Woods over the top family fun was far inferior to a British produced family film, Paddington based on the works of writer Michael Bond. In fact, thinking about it I’ve liked every single British produced film that I’ve seen this year. From art house beauty such as Mike Leigh’s Mr Turner; to political satire like The Riot Club; to creepy horror flicks like The Woman In Black: Angel of Death; wonderfully witty surrealism in Wes Anderson’s Grand Budapest Hotel; to family comedies like What We Did On Our Holiday and as mentioned earlier, Paddington.
Meanwhile, US productions companies are producing such masterpieces as Cameron Diaz fronted Sex Tape; putrid comedy sequel Horrible Bosses 2; resounding fart in the wind Dracula Untold; Frank Miller’s revolting Sin City: A Dame to Kill For; muscle bound carbuncle The Expendables 3; more terrible vaguely sci-fish sequels like The Purge: Anarchy and Transformers: Age of Extinction and many more besides.
American films and Hollywood itself is drying up. Its vast well, once filled with new and exciting ideas is instead full of the recycled garbage of yesteryear. Bloated with sequels such as Pitch Perfect 2, Ted 2, Avengers: Age of Ultron, reboots of franchises like Terminator Genisys and Batman Vs Superman and retellings of great tales that have been simply done to death such as Cinderella and Frankenstein, the once vibrant landscape of tinsel town is currently cluttered with disused hankies.
In Britain, cinema is (with the exception of misses like Mr Browns’ Boys D Movie) undergoing a rebirth of creativity and passion. Maybe, if we celebrated our own home grown cinema more it might convince ol’ Uncle Sam to learn a thing or two from British cinema.