The Brit List: The Best and Worst of 2012′s British Movies

The cast of ‘The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel’ – including Bill Nighy (left) Dame Judi Dench (center), Dev Patel (6th left) and Celia Imrue (right) arriving for the UK premiere. (Yui Mok/AP Images)

It’s awards season in Hollywood and we here at Anglophenia are doing our bit. We are handing out awards of our own – let’s call them the Anglies – to recognize both the high and low points for British movies in 2012.

British talent dominated in several of the year’s biggest moneymakers, including The Dark Knight Rises, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey and Skyfall. But it was also a year in which a few Anglophenia favorites, such as the film version of The Inbetweeners and The Decoy Bride, a starring vehicle for Doctor Who’s David Tennant, failed miserably at catching on with American audiences.

Here are five peak moments for British cinema in 2012 and then – you knew this was coming – five major oopsies.

TOP FIVE HIGHLIGHTS

1. 50 and Still Fabulous

The fabled James Bond film franchise marked its 50th anniversary with the cracklingly suspenseful Skyfall, the 23rd film in the series about the British super spy. Sinewy Daniel Craig, in his third outing as Agent 007, clearly now owns the role and received outstanding support from cast mates Judi Dench, Ralph Fiennes, Naomie Harris and The Hour’s Ben Whishaw. The movie, directed by Sam Mendes, has proved a huge international hit, grossing almost a $1 billion worldwide to date.

2. Three’s the Charm

British director Christopher Nolan completed his Batman trilogy in high style with The Dark Knight Rises, a dense, timely tale that wowed audiences and raked in nearly $1.1 billion worldwide. Major British stars in the cast included Christian Bale, Tom Hardy and Michael Caine.

3. Age Is Only a Number

The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, a geezer ensemble drama featuring a who’s who of older British stars, including the redoubtable Maggie Smith, Judi Dench, Tom Wilkinson, Bill Nighy and Penelope Wilton, was by far the year’s most successful small movie. The surprise blockbuster charmed audiences worldwide as it pulled in $134 million. Not too shabby for a film with a reported budget of only $10 million.

4. The Kids Are Alright

Former Harry Potter stars Daniel Radcliffe and Emma Watson showed themselves easily able to carry non-Potter films on their newly adult shoulders. Shedding his wizard’s wand, Radcliffe played a widowed lawyer who travels to a haunted village in The Woman in Black, a supernatural horror film. Watson, in an obvious departure from her Hermoine role in the Potter films, had to turn on the drama as a once promiscuous teen in The Perks of Being a Wallflower. Rupert Grint, where are you?

5. Abe Lincoln, Award Magnet

Is Daniel Day-Lewis’ really that much more brilliant than almost any other actor or does it just seem that way? His extraordinary performance as the 16th president of the United States in Lincoln, Steven Spielberg’s hit legislative thriller, is hoovering up just about every Best Actor award in sight, including a Golden Globe nomination. We fully expect him to get yet another Oscar nomination (it would be his fifth) and to win, too (taking home his third golden statue).

BOTTOM FIVE LOWLIGHTS

1. Fangs for the Memories

Robert Pattinson finished up his run as a vampire in the Twilight series with the release of The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 2, the final chapter in the series. Now he has to figure out what to do next. In 2012, his attempts to branch out beyond Twilight failed to yield much success. Both Bel Ami, a period drama, and Cosmopolis, a satirical drama about a tycoon who spends a long day riding around in his limo, barely registered at the box office. Bel Ami scrounged up a mere $120,500 in the U.S. ($8.3 million worldwide total) while Cosmopolis grossed $763,600 in the U.S. (and $6 million worldwide).

2. Brand X?

After seeming to be the next big thing two years ago, comic turned movie star Russell Brand continued to fizzle in 2012. His only movie, the musical Rock of Ages, was one of the summer’s big bombs, grossing $56 million worldwide (when it cost an estimated $75 million to make). In the movie, he shared a duet and a kiss with Alec Baldwin. Please, will someone figure out how best to use Brand on screen and fast?

BTW, NSFW:

3. No Togas, Ever

Okay, okay, we know it’s the handsome paychecks that persuade otherwise respectable and talented British actors – Bill Nighy, Ralph Fiennes, Rosamund Pike, Lily Pike and Irishman Liam Neeson, we mean you – to don togas and speak stilted, high falutin’ dialogue in awful sword-and-sandal epics like the Wrath of the Titans, but really? Is there no way to resist? Does Neeson not think that we recognize him under all that long hair and Zeus beard?

4. Two Nations Divided by a Common Language

If ever we needed a reminder that the UK and the U.S. are separate countries, just take a look at how the movie version of The Inbetweeners fared on the separate shores. In England, the comedy film based on the hit TV series about awkward teenagers was a huge winner, grossing $73 million when it was released there in 2011. When the R-rated comedy opened on this side of the pond last September, it eked out a grand total of $36,000. To add insult to injury, last month MTV announced that it was canceling its American version of an Inbetweeners series after just one season due to low ratings.

Also NSFW:

5. The Dead Can’t Sue

Poor Alfred Hitchcock came in for a double dose of abuse this year. The legendary British film director was the subject of two less than flattering on-screen portraits, in Hitchcock, a big screen release in which he was portrayed by Anthony Hopkins, and in The Girl, a made-for-HBO movie in which he was played by Toby Jones. Both films portrayed Hitch as voyeuristic, obsessed with his blonde leading ladies, and often sadistic toward them.

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Members of the Anglie Academy, how will you vote for this year’s British movies?

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