on 1 August 2014
BILLY ELLIOT  [Blu-ray] One of the Best Movies of the Year! A Triumph!
With 13 BAFTA® nominations. Billy Elliot is a heart-warming tale of an 11 year old coal miner's son Billy Elliot [Jamie Bell] in the North of England, whose whole life is forever changed when he stumbles upon Mrs. Wilkinson's [Julie Walters OBE] ballet class during his weekly boxing lesson. Before long, he finds himself immersed in ballet, demonstrating a raw talent never seen before and reaching for a dream that changes the lives of everyone Billy touches.
FILM FACTS: Awards and Nominations: 2000 British Independent Film Awards: Won: Best British Independent Film. Won: Best Director for Stephen Daldry. Won: Best Newcomer for Jamie Bell. Won: Best Screenplay. Nominated: Best Actress for Julie Walters. 2001 Academy Awards®: Nominated: Best Director for Stephen Daldry. Nominated: Best Actress in a Supporting Role for Julie Walters. Nominated: Best Original Screenplay for Lee Hall. 2001 British Academy of Film and Television Arts: Won: Best British Film. Won: Best Actor in a Leading Role for Jamie Bell. Won: Best Actress in a Supporting Role for Julie Walters. Nominated: Best Original Film Music. Nominated: Best Cinematography. Nominated: Best Editing. Nominated: Best Film. Nominated: Best Actor in a Supporting Role for Gary Lewis. Nominated: Best Original Screenplay. Nominated: Best Sound. Nominated: Best Director for Stephen Daldry. Nominated: Best Debut by a British Writer, Director or Producer for Stephen Daldry. Nominated: Best Debut by a British Writer, Director or Producer for Lee Hall. 2001 Golden Globe® Awards: Nominated: Best Motion Picture for Drama. Nominated: Best Supporting Actress for Motion Picture for Julie Walters. 2001 Screen Actors Guild Awards: Nominated: Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Leading Role for Jamie Bell. Nominated: Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Supporting Role for Julie Walters. Nominated: Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture.
Cast: Jamie Bell, Jean Heywood, Jamie Draven, Gary Lewis, Stuart Wells, Mike Elliott, Billy Fane, Nicola Blackwell, Julie Walters OBE, Carol McGuigan, Joe Renton, Colin MacLachlan, Janine Birkett, Trevor Fox, Charlie Hardwick, Denny Ferguson, Dennis Lingard, Matthew James Thomas, Stephen Mangan, Paul Ridley, Patrick Malahide, Barbara Leigh-Hunt, Imogen Claire, Diana Kent, Neil North, Lee Williams, Petra Siniawski, Merelina Kendall, Zoë Bell, Tracey Wilkinson, Merryn Owen (Michael aged 25), Adam Cooper (Billy aged 25), Dylan Barnes (uncredited), Martin L. Evans (uncredited), Adam Galbraith (uncredited), Darren Jacobs (uncredited), Hendrick January (uncredited), Sharon Percy (uncredited), Ken Richardson (uncredited), Leonard Silver (uncredited), Lee Smikle (uncredited) and Damian Winter-Higgins (uncredited)
Director: Stephen Daldry
Producers: Charles Brand, David M. Thompson, Greg Brenman, Jonathan Finn, Natascha Wharton and Tessa Ross
Screenplay: Lee Hall
Composer: Stephen Warbeck
Cinematography: Brian Tufano
Video Resolution: 1080p
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 [Anamorphic]
Audio: English: 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, French: 5.1 DTS, Italian: 5.1 DTS, German: 5.1 DTS and Spanish: 5.1 DTS
Subtitles: English, French, Italian, German, Spanish and Dutch
Running Time: 110 minutes
Region: All Regions
Number of discs: 1
Studio: Universal Pictures
Andrew's Blu-ray Review: If we could turn back the clock eleven years, we'd see that there was much talk of ‘Billy Elliot' and a possible mention nod for Best Picture. That never happened, as much as Universal would have liked it to. The film seemed to follow a certain formula, that's usually a shoo-in for a "hit" in films, and that was the story of one `Billy Elliot' [Jamie Bell]. The story takes place in Northern England, a blue-collar town that is currently in the midst of a coal workers strike. They are striking against their union and in the meantime have nothing better to do than taunt and throw eggs at the "scabs," meaning, the people who were working at the coal mine while the strike is going on. Billy lives with his father, brother and Grandmother in their house. The Dad, Jackie [Gary Lewis], and Brother, Tony [Jammie Draven] both are both currently unemployed and are part of the mob that is attacking the scabs on a daily basis. On top of all this, the family has just lost their mother (it never says how) and is coping with the death and her loss in their own ways. We see the town in many ways, and by the end we're used to seeing armed guards with Plexiglas shields line the streets. But all that is just the background. You see...'Billy Elliot' is all about the ballet!
Unlike people in America, where the children tend to play Basketball, Baseball or English Football, and not that horrible "American Soccer" statement, and in England, and sports like Boxing, Wrestling and Soccer are also very popular in England. As a daily activity, Billy goes down to the local gym where he boxes, or at least tries to. His mind is clearly elsewhere. Due to the economic status of the town, the girl's ballet class has been moved to the other half of the gym where Billy and the other boys go to box. After class one day, Billy's curiosity gets the best of him and he starts to watch the girls do their ballet. He is enthralled with it and starts to go on his own time, still under the guise of boxing mind you. As he is more and more taken with ballet, his teacher, Mrs. Wilkinson [Julie Walters OBE] sees something special in him and decides that his "gift" might best be expressed at the Royal Academy of Ballet located in London. Up until now, Billy had been doing a good job of keeping his ballet "secret" from his unsupportive brother and father. However, upon Mrs. Wilkinson's visit to Billy's house, they all learn the truth and what Billy has really been doing.
It's at this time when things start to change for Billy Elliot. His father, sometimes abusive, and certainly very unsupportive of most everything anyone does, has a change of heart. He swallows his pride and becomes a scab to get money to pay for a trip for Billy to go to London. It's also at this time when the film really takes off. ‘Billy Elliot' is a very odd, strange film. Some of the subplots don't seem to make sense to me. Billy and Mrs. Wilkinson's daughter seem to be interested in each other, yet it's never explored. Billy's friend, Michael, is another strange child. He walks in on him dressed up in his sister's dresses and wearing makeup. We later find out that he's gay, or as they say...that insulting word a "poofter." Still, ‘Billy Elliot' has those certain areas of it that liken it to films like ‘The Karate Kid’ or ‘Rudy.’ The film is set in England and I suspect for the Americans the dialects are so thick that it takes a bit of listening to make out everything that's said, so it is best to put up the Subtitles. Still, the underlying theme is there and that's what makes ‘Billy Elliot' well worth watching.
Blu-ray Video Quality – I can remember watching this film on a standard inferior PAL DVD and now on this brilliant Blu-Ray package and being thoroughly impressed with the transfer. The opening sequence looks even better on Blu-Ray and the 1.85:1 aspect ratio transfer is certainly a step up (or definitely a leap?) in quality from its inferior PAL DVD counterpart. I'd forgotten how dull some of the scenes look, though it's not a fault of the transfer, rather just the grey skies in Northern Ireland in general. There are still a few specs of dust and grain in a few selected scenes, namely the outdoor shots, but by and large Universal Pictures has given this a definite royal treatment.
Blu-ray Audio Quality – Though the film has received an upgrade in the audio department, it still sounds a bit on the shallow side. This new 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio sound mix gives a bit more clarity to the vocals, though the thick Irish accents do tend to prevail and take front and centre. The movie isn't a total loss, however, Billy's statement of "I like to boogie..." sequence does still resonate throughout and really injects a bit of much needed depth into the film, speaking in terms of audio, of course. Surrounds are used, though not very often.
Blu-ray Special Features and Extras:
Special Feature: The Real ‘Billy Elliot’ Diaries  [20:28] Here is a portrait of the three boys playing Billy on stage are George Maguire, James Lomas and Liam Mower. It shows them at home and describes the audition process. Other contributors include Jimmy Carr, Stephen Daldry, David Furnish, Sir Elton John and Ashley Lloyd.
Special Feature: From Screen to Stage  [19:26] Covers the process of converting the story into a musical, including interviews with Stephen Daldry, Lee Hall, who wrote the book and lyrics of the stage show and Sir Elton John, who wrote the music.
Special Feature: ‘Billy Elliot’ Making of Breaking Free  [21:35] Your heart sinks, as it begins with a quote-heavy saccharine narration that begins "Once in a while there comes a movie..." Fortunately it gets better than that, with some worthwhile interview clips from Stephen Daldry and others. For those who weren't around in 1984 Britain, it does give you enough information you need to know about the miners' strike. Ardent Thatcherites will certainly disagree, but I suspect they won't be watching this film anyway. Still less will they be lining up for a musical with a song like "Merry Christmas Maggie Thatcher" in it. This is the only extra carried over from the original DVD release. It betrays its age by the fact that Stephen Daldry's hair seems to have gone completely grey in the last five years. Other contributors include Jamie Bell, Julie Walters OBE, Jonathan Finn, Gary Lewis, Greg Brenman and Peter Darling. Narrated by Brent Selzer.
Special Feature: The Music  Shows each musical number in the film, with a commentary from Stephen Daldry on how the music was chosen. T.Rex was in Lee Hall's original script, though songs like "London Calling" and The Jam's "Town Called Malice" were added in editing. Each musical number can be played separately, but there is a "Play All" function. Stephen Daldry is a very lucid commentator, so it's a pity that he hasn't provided one for the feature itself. All the extras are in 4:3, with extracts from the film in non-anamorphic 1.85:1.
Special Feature: Extended Deleted Scenes with Director's Commentary  There are three subdivided sections are as follows: Billy's Story [9:39], Tony's Story [7:17] and Dad's Story [5:35]. The middle section indicates that Jamie Draven's performance as Tony has been hampered to some extent by pre-release cutting, which Stephen Daldry acknowledges in his commentary. There are also three extended scenes, totalling 5:40.
Finally, `Billy Elliot,' well what can I say and that is it has danced its way into my heart. I laughed, I cried, and I did all the god-awful things typically associated with generic film-critic quotes. But Stephen Daldry's Adult rated film, Oscar-nominated coming-of-age jig isn't at all what I expected, and I suspect it won't be what most newcomers expect either. Funnier, darker, more sobering and more poignant than your average puppet-strings tear-jerker, its portrayal of a struggling family, an out-of-work widower and a bright-eyed boy who dares to dream a dancer's dream is quite the moving film. The fact that ‘Erin Brockovich’ was nominated for Best Picture over ‘Billy Elliot’ still rubs me up the wrong way and totally insulting. Ah well, that is life. Universal Pictures Blu-ray release is worth the cost of admission, despite a so-so video presentation and a single extra. This is a film that, despite whatever you may think going in, deserves an audition in your home theatre. Give it a shot and see just see how difficult it is to resist its charms, which is why I have loved this film so much ever since I viewed on the British Television, especially when I was actually around at the time when the 1984 - 1985 Miners' Strike was in full swing and seeing this film brings it all back, especially with the struggle between the Prime Mister Margaret Thatcher and the NUM [National Union of Mineworkers] Union Leader Arthur Scargill and the film really shows the hardship the miners went through and Billy Eliot's emotional struggle with his strong willed heterosexual family. The film builds nicely in a pace over the course of the 1 Hour 51 minutes to a rapturous finale at the Royal Ballet auditions, topped off with a rousing emotional rollercoaster that will have audiences fumbling for their tissues and cheering in the aisles at the same time. Stephen Daldry's direction is flawless, energising the dance sequences, choreographed brilliantly by Peter Darling, and catching its breath during the sequences between Billy and his family. This is a total triumph. And that is why it is a great magical honour to add this to my ever expanding Blu-ray Collection. Highly Recommended!
Andrew C. Miller – Your Ultimate No.1 Film Fan
Le Cinema Paradiso
WARE, United Kingdom
on 3 August 2002
Does the perfect movie exist? Billy Elliot must come very close. From its brilliant casting, to clever cinematography to ... foot stomping choreography, this movie has got it all. The freshness and originality of Billy Elliot almost jumps off the screen. The British production house, Working Title Films over the last five years or so have had some great hits: Four Weddings and a Funeral, Notting Hill, Bridget Jones's Diary, Elizabeth and in late 2000 we got Billy Elliot. They take great risks by using untried scriptwriters, directors and young actors and somehow have produced a string of fabulous movies.
The plot of Billy Elliot is simple enough; a North Country lad from a coal mining family discovers the joys of dance. Against opposition from his father and elder brother, young Billy discovers himself and his talents. All this happens within the vortex of Margaret Thatcher's mid-1980's economic and social revolution, which swirls around them.
At first glance, you might be tempted to classify Billy Elliot into the well-trodden school of gritty, British social realism, best expressed by Ken Loach of Cathy Come Home fame. Although mostly set in a working class world, the direction and camera work captures scenes of outstanding beauty. Cranes and bridges move like graceful, colourful birds; a kitchen table containing just two sauce bottles and duck-egg blue salt and pepper shakers has the aesthetics of an Old Master's still life.
The film's Director of Photography, Brian Tufano, has been quoted as saying, "... framing, composition, colours and texture are the elements you need to convey a story." Some scenes captured by Tufano's camera are nothing short of magical. We have Billy and his girlfriend Debbie walking past a wall of riot-shielded policemen. She nonchalantly rattles a stick along the shields and then she passes behind a parked police van. The van moves off and Debbie has disappeared. Has she been beamed up or abducted?
Billy's elder brother, Tony, a hotheaded union agitator, is chased along the streets near the Elliot family's terrace house. The lanes are full of virginal white, bedsheets hanging out to dry. Tony gets caught up in these as the police lay into him with their truncheons. We have the understatement of only seeing his blood seeping through the shroud-like sheets. If this movie were out of today's Hollywood, it would have been full-on gore. Despite the drama and action in this scene, it has an almost comic touch, with the soundtrack giving us The Clash doing London Calling. The chase through the streets and houses could come straight from a Max Sennet Keystone Cops movie from the 1920s.
In the reconciliation scene between Billy and his Dad, we see the two of them perched on a fence. A cemetery - where Billy's Mum lies buried - is in the foreground. Behind the fence is a field of golden ripe corn and on the skyline there are the sinister looking headframes of the coal mines. When we see the two of them wrestling and laughing in the cornfield, we are reminded that truly emotionally moving scenes in movies are possible without relying on Hollywood's formulaic schmaltz.
The blending of classical and contemporary music throughout the movie, both as a setting for the dance routines and as background music is natural and seamless. The climactic final scene, which is set 14 years later, has Billy debuting in a starring role in the Royal Ballet's Swan Lake. The build-up and tension from Tchaikovsky's music takes us to that transcending moment where Billy launches himself into a grand jete, where he seems to float in space.
Billy Elliot is a film that appeals at many levels, but the best recommendation is to just sit back and enjoy one of the best movies you will see in a long time.
As a footnote, it's worth seeing the DVD version of the movie since the subtitles will really help you get the most from the subtle nuances in the thickly accented dialogue.
on 12 October 2014
Though an ignoramus when it comes to ballet I quite enjoyed this film, however, it was let down by the poor audio levels on my DVD. In a small run down community in the county of Durham there is a miner's strike. Riot geared police far outnumber the citizens of this small town, who gather daily to hurl abuse at the 'scabs' who refuse to strike. In this populace there is a motherless family called Elliot, Father, two sons and grandma. Billy, the younger, is allowed 50p a week to attend the local boxing club, here, in the ring, he is somewhat standoffish, rarely, if ever, throws a punch but prances energetically around the ring, where he ends up on the canvass. In the same room tutu clad young girls have ballet lessons. Billy becomes intrigued and joins in with these dance classes, the instructress soon realizes that Billy is quite talented and gives him preferential treatment. Meanwhile, at home Billy looks after his grandma who is apt to wonder off. Occasionally, he sits at their upright piano and one fingers the odd tune. Billy is most active when out and about instead of merely perambulating along, he breaks out into dance routines, pirouetting, gargouillading, cabrioling, etc. His father hears that over the past few weeks Billy hasn't been attending his boxing lessons, so he goes to the club and finds Billy prancing about in ballet shoes with the young girls, his expression tells it all. Billy desists from this activity for a while However, his teacher thrilled with his progress, enters him for a scholarship, he doesn't turn up. She then visits his family, there is many a choice word bantered around and that seems to be the end of it. Christmas comes along, out comes the piano, into the yard and it is sledge hammered to bits, Heaven forbid, it wasn't a Bechstein, Bosendorfer, Bluthner or Steinway. However, it does provide warmth while they eat their meagre Christmas fare. Billy and his mate, a future transvestite? Go to the boxing club to prance about, he finds a tutu for his friend. It is noticed by passersby that there is a light on at the club so Billy's father goes to investigate. He is shocked by what he sees, Billy goes through one of his dance routines, this seems to really impress his father who pays a visit to Billy's dance teacher, who, in turn arranges an interview for Billy at the Royal Ballet School in London. The father explains to the family that there must be something better in life for Billy than his present lot, so, decides to pawn the family jewels and take Billy to London. Billy doesn't create a good impression at the interview but is nevertheless accepted. We next see him as a young man performing 'Swan Lake' at the Royal Opera House. That's it! Because of the poor sound quality, I give this 4 stars only.