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Back when British accents were evil.

Back when British accents were evil. (photo)

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As we all know, the ancient world was run by a bunch of officious people with British accents, because Americans never did learn much Latin, and nothing says “empire” quite like a British inflection. We all know what it meant, and it saved us a lot of time.

What is the story of “Spartacus” if not one of dimpled all-American Kirk Douglas vs. accented, vaguely homosexual Brit Laurence Olivier? “Ben-Hur” was a little more complicated — Charlton Heston’s rebellious Jew went mano-a-mano against Irish actor Stephen Boyd, whose accent is un-American but not quite British. Adoptive dad Jack Hawkins, at least, had that benevolent posh accent going on, though he still definitely possessed the upper hand. (This is somehow even true in the British production of “The Fall of the Roman Empire,” where that same Boyd is now American versus Christopher Plummer’s evil Commodus.)

These rules served us well down through “Gladiator,” when gravel-voiced Russell Crowe and fey Joaquin Phoenix — both a little shaky on their accents, but pulling through — had their mortal face-off. And now Scottish director Kevin Macdonald wants to upend all of that by inverting the accents. Clever man.

The film in question is Macdonald’s upcoming “The Eagle of the Ninth,” in which the occupying Roman army finds themselves out in Scotland and out of their depth. The Americans/Romans are Donald Sutherland and Channing Tatum (as “Marcus Aquila”), their imperialistic values contrasted with Celtic slave Jamie Bell, plus a whole bunch of people who speak Gaelic.

“It was always my concept for this film that the Romans would be Americans,” Macdonald says. “That was my first idea about the movie and it still holds up whether or not we had any money from America, that would have been my approach.” The cynics among us might argue that this really has more to do with, say, putting Channing Tatum in charge of the army than anything, but hey.

This kind of political “commentary” seems a little on the nose — hey, look at those American imperialists! — but if the movie (scheduled for a September release from Focus Features) takes off, I suppose it’s really no more of an inversion than “Avatar”‘s triumph of the alien insurgents. Generation gap ahoy.

[Photos: “Ben-Hur,” MGM, 1959; “The Eagle of the Ninth,” Focus Features, 2010]

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The Best Of The Last

Portlandia Goes Out With A Bang

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The end is near. In mere days Portlandia wraps up its final season, and oh what a season it’s been. Lucky for you, you can watch the entire season right now right here and on the IFC app, including this free episode courtesy of Subaru.

But now, let’s take a moment to look back at some of the new classics Fred and Carrie have so thoughtfully bestowed upon us. (We’ll be looking back through tear-blurred eyes, but you do you.)

Couples Dinner

It’s not that being single sucks, it’s that you suck if you’re single.

Cancel it!

A sketch for anyone who has cancelled more appointments than they’ve kept. Which is everyone.

Forgotten America

This one’s a “Serial” killer…everything both right and wrong about true crime podcasts.

Wedding Planners

The only bad wedding is a boring wedding.

Disaster Hut

It’s only the end of the world if your doomsday kit doesn’t include rosé.

Catch up on Portlandia’s final episodes on demand and at

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Your Portlandia Personality Test

The New Portlandia Webseries Is Going Your Way

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Carrie and Fred understand that although we have so much in common, we’re each so beautifully unique and different. To help us navigate those differences, Portlandia has found an easy and honest way to embrace our special selves in the form of a progressive new traffic system: a specific lane for every kind of driver. It’s all in honor of the show’s 8th and final season, and it’s all presented by Subaru.

Ready to find out who you really are? Match your personality to a lane and hop on the expressway to self-understanding.

Lane 10: Trucks Piled With Junk

Your junk is falling out of your trunk. Shake a tail light, people — this lane is for you.

Lane 33: Twins

You’re like a Gemini, but waaaay more pedestrian. Maybe you and a friend just wear the same outfits a lot. Who cares, it’s just twinning enough to make you feel special.

Lane 27: Broken Windows

Bad luck follows you around and everyone knows it. Your proverbial seat is always damp from proverbial rain. Is this the universe telling you to swallow your pride? Yes.

Lane 69: Filthy Cars

You’re all about convenience. Getting your car washed while you drive is a no-brainer.

Lane 43: Newly Divorced Singles

It’s been a while since you’ve driven alone, and you don’t know the rules of the road anymore. What’s too fast? What’s too slow? Are you sending the right signals? Don’t worry, the breakdown lane is nearby if you need it.

Still can’t find a lane to match your personality? Check out all the videos here. And see the final season of Portlandia this spring on IFC.

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Last-Minute Holiday Gift Guide

Hits from the '80s are on repeat all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC.

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GIFs via Giphy, Photos via The Everett Collection

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