Sunday, February 13, 2011

2001 BAFTA "Best British Film" Winner: BILLY ELLIOT is Amazing

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 137 (of 2003) by Leroy Douresseaux

Billy Elliot (2000)
Running time: 110 minutes (1 hour, 50 minutes)
MPAA – PG-13 for some thematic material
DIRECTOR: Stephen Daldry
WRITER: Lee Hall
PRODUCERS: Greg Brenman and Jonathan Finn
EDITOR: John Wilson
Academy Award nominee


Starring: Jamie Bell, Gary Lewis, Jamie Draven, Julie Walters, Jean Heywood, Stuart Wells, and Nicola Blackwell

When Billy Elliot (Jamie Bell) takes a fancy to ballet dancing over boxing, his newfound love comes at the most inopportune time - his family is slowly disintegrating. His dad Jackie (Gary Lewis) and his brother Tony (Jamie Draven) are striking coalminers. His mother’s passing has made his father a broken man, and his brother is a violent strike agitator. His teacher, Mrs. Wilkinson (Julia Walters who received an Oscar nomination for this supporting role), however, sees something in Billy and encourages him to think about auditioning for a position at the Royal Ballet Academy in London. With her encouragement, Billy strives through his self-doubt and his personal troubles to dance to his heart’s content.

Set in an northern England mining town in 1984, Billy Elliot is an inspirational movie that exceeds beyond the usual expectations even for a movie of its type. You don’t have to go very far into the film before you realize how this movie can make you feel so good while being, for the most part, quite sad. Through the despair and hardships, Billy has to succeed at being himself. A young lad (11), he stands in the face of obstacles and rushes headlong into doing what he wants. He simply uses the bumps in the road as momentum for his next dance step. It is easy to see why audiences took this fine film to heart.

The acting is exquisite from top to bottom with the director making the most of his cast and the actors drawing every last drop of quality storytelling from the script. Every now and again, a child actor has a performance that stands out as so good it matches the performances of the best adult actors, such as Anna Paquin in The Piano and Haley Joel Osmet in The Sixth Sense. Mr. Bell’s performance joins their company because he does something few children can do: to hold the audience’s attention and to carry the film with the craft of acting, rather than with the trick of being cute, precious, and precocious.

As Billy’s suffering father, Jackie, Gary Lewis nearly steals the show. Lewis plays Jackie as a man on shaking ground. He’s lost his wife and his job, and his elder son seems to run the house. When Jackie finally sees his son dance, Jackie has a reason to live, and he’s ready to fight for his son’s ambitions. Lewis totally sells us on the Jackie’s transformation from the beaten man to the loving, supporting dad.

Director Stephen Daldry and screenwriter Lee Hall, do more than just play to our emotions. Daldry is certainly a director to keep an eye on despite a misstep like his follow up to this film, The Hours. In Billy Elliot, he and Hall have created a film that sends our spirits soaring and inspires us to dream or to, at least, vicariously enjoy the triumph of Billy. It is truly a work of art when you can engage the mind, the heart, and the soul. Billy Elliot will stand out as one of the finest films in recent memory.

9 of 10

2001 Academy Awards: 3 nominations: “Best Actress in a Supporting Role” (Julie Walters, “Best Director” (Stephen Daldry), and “Best Writing, Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen” (Lee Hall)

2001 BAFTA Awards: 3 wins “Alexander Korda Award for Best British Film” (Greg Brenman, Jonathan Finn, and Stephen Daldry), “Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role” (Jamie Bell), and “Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role” (Julie Walters); 9 nominations “Anthony Asquith Award for Film Music” (Stephen Warbeck), “Best Cinematography” (Brian Tufano), “Best Editing” (John Wilson), “Best Film” (Greg Brenman and Jonathan Finn), “Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role” (Gary Lewis), “Best Screenplay – Original” (Lee Hall), “Best Sound” (Mark Holding, Mike Prestwood Smith, Zane Hayward), “Carl Foreman Award for the Most Promising Newcomer” (Stephen Daldry-director and Lee Hall-writer), and “David Lean Award for Direction” (Stephen Daldry)

2001 Golden Globes: 2 nominations: “Best Motion Picture – Drama” and “Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role in a Motion Picture” (Julie Walters)


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