If this year's Academy Awards taught us anything, it's that Americans will always appreciate creative moviemaking professionals who speak English but are not American.
Consider how many of such people worked on the recent crop of Oscar-nominated films, from Slumdog Millionaire to The Reader to The Dark Knight to The Duchess to Happy-Go-Lucky to In Bruges. Even the particularly American stories -- Revolutionary Road, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Frost/Nixon -- were chock full of Brits, and the quintessentially American awards program itself was hosted by an Australian.
Maybe it's because we find their accents seductive. Or, especially as in cases when they conceal their accents, maybe it's because they remain foreign and exotic yet still gracious enough to not make us read subtitles.
Anyway, none of the movies mentioned above are playing in the inaugural Mostly British Film Series, a co-presentation of the San Francisco Neighborhood Theater Foundation and the California Film Institute, but who cares, because quite a few promising and similarly credentialed others are.
Having culled eight days worth of heartwarmers, crowd pleasers and challengers from selections of the Toronto, Edinburgh and Sydney film festivals, the new series' organizers have arranged for several auspicious Bay Area premieres. They are mostly British, the thinking goes, so we know we can count on them.
The talent roster of reliably familiar class acts includes Michael Caine in Is There Anybody There? as an old magician who befriends a boy in a retirement home; Toni Collette as a beleaguered matriarch in The Black Balloon, a drama about a family with a highly challenging autistic son; Brenda Fricker and Robert Carlyle in Stone of Destiny, a Scottish heist-caper comedy; and Colin Firth and Kristin Scott Thomas in Easy Virtue, an adaptation of the Noel Coward play.
Speaking of dependables, Mostly British obviously isn't afraid to reach back in time a little, to Christopher Nolan's feature debut, the neo-noir Following, from 1998, or even to the Powell-Pressburger romance classic I Know Where I'm Going!, from 1945 -- not to mention 1969's Age of Consent, Michael Powell's final film and Helen Mirren's first as star. And if some of these don't sound quite stiff-upper-lip enough, try Hunger, one of the most artfully brutal films you will ever see, if you dare, about the final weeks of IRA hunger striker Bobby Sands.
Maybe the take-home message of Mostly British is this: Cor blimey, there's a lot of bloomin' movies in the English-speaking world. If we know what's good for us, we'd best not miss out on them.
The Mostly British Film Series runs from February 26 through March 5, 2009, at the Vogue Theatre in San Francisco and the Rafael Film Center in San Rafael. For tickets and information, visit voguesf.com and cafilm.org.