If this year's Academy Awards were any indication, the British film industry is alive and well. Gravity, Alfonso Cuaron's visual masterpiece, won a total of seven Oscars and swept the major technical awards. Framestore, the effects company behind Gravity, is based in the UK. Steven Price, who composed the Oscar-winning score for the film was born in Nottingham. Cuaron's film also won Best British Film at the BAFTAs.
Say what you will about the story in Gravity, but it has forever changed the game for visual effects in film. The imagery in all future films will be now be compared to the technical achievements of Gravity — and all of that is to the credit of British artists.
Whether it is behind the camera or in front of it, British filmmakers are changing cinema. This year's winner for Best Picture, 12 Years a Slave, is led by the British tandem of director Steve McQueen and lead actor Chiwetel Ejiofor; Christopher Nolan has yet to make a bad film; Benedict Cumberbatch has become one of the most sought-after actors in the industry; Some of the most successful superhero films are also led by British actors (Christian Bale as Batman, Andrew Garfield as Spider-man, and Henry Cavill as Superman).
The UK's importance to the film industry hasn't come out of nowhere. Some of the biggest sound stages in the world are located in England and some of the best makeup artists, costume designers, and production designers have been based there for years. For decades, major film productions have used these services. Recently, however, there seems to be more recognition of the UK's contributions by both critics and audiences.
These accolades are well-deserved. In general, the British product, especially on television, is better (eventually I will write a piece on why Sherlock is better than Elementary). Doctor Who has also grown a cult following in the US. For years, American television has taken concepts from across the Atlantic and used them for reality TV and comedy shows. Whose Line is it Anyway?, The Office, and American Idol come to mind.
British actors have also proved to be more versatile and seem to carry more gravitas in general than American actors. In addition, British actors can pull off flawless American accents, while the opposite is less likely to happen. If you need evidence, compare Bale's accent in American Psycho with Shia LaBeouf's “English" accent in Nymphomaniac.
A majority of American films seem to be focused on the box office numbers and not the content. Summer blockbusters are rarely nominated for major awards. Comedies and horror films are not even considered most of the time. What these movies have in common, is that they make the studios money. While American studios have focused on the almighty dollar, British filmmakers are creating some of the best stories on the big screen.
However, when a great film premieres, it is the US that gets a majority of the credit. American studios have a monopoly in distributing projects. By effect, the work of British artists falls under the umbrella of companies like Warner Bros. and Fox.
You may disregard this commentary as the rambling of an Anglophile, but it is hard to deny the quality of British filmmakers. What is needed is a greater appreciation for the individual talents of British artists. The accolades they received at this year's Oscars was a good start.