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Alan Sillitoe, 1928-2010.

Alan Sillitoe, 1928-2010. (photo)

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This is what it looks like when your face gets trapped in an expression you didn’t choose for 50 years. Alan Sillitoe, who died yesterday at the age of 82, was many things — as Richard Bradford’s excellent obituary points out, some of his more remarkable extra-curricular achievements included denouncing the USSR’s human rights abuses in Brezhnev’s presence at a 1968 Congress of the Soviet Writers’ Union. He also wrote some 53 volumes of work, including poetry and children’s fiction. And yet every obit — including this one — fixates on two of his works that were made into movies: short story “The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner” and novel “Saturday Night and Sunday Morning.”

The so-called angry young men were a non-movement operating under a label imposed for others’ convenience — there’s not a whole lot in common between, for instance, Sillitoe and Harold Pinter, but they were lumped together. (The only one who really fit was John Osborne, a man so angry he was buried with a copy of “Hamlet” with all the lines but Hamlet’s crossed out.) But there’s no denying that the protagonists of “Runner” and “Saturday” are, well, angry young men. The runner expresses himself mainly through physical acts of defiance, the machinist in “Saturday” through verbal ones.

04262010_loneliness.jpgSillitoe had the fortune (or perhaps curse) of adapting those two works for the screen. They have aged far, far better than most of the like-minded so-called “kitchen sink” dramas — at the very least, they’ve dated better than the film version of “Look Back In Anger,” the original prototype. This would seem to be because Sillitoe was simply a much better writer than those around him. They’re worth watching as films, not just as social documents.

There’s a moment in “Runner” that’s haunted me for years. It’s the moment before the big race, with the borstal boys (criminal-minded youth in reformatories) set to compete against the public school boys. They’re all getting dressed in the same room. You’d expect this to be the moment when class tensions bubble up, in a dreary indictment of the class system. But no: the boys begin talking to each other and find out they’re incarcerated in parallel ways. The borstal lads have no freedom, the public school boys get whipped if they’re caught smoking. In that moment, they discover the ways they’re being oppressed in the same kind of ways; it suggests a way out from the dreary mess of post-WWII England, and it’s hopeful and delightful in all kinds of unexpected ways. For that moment alone, I’m grateful to Sillitoe (whose written prose, by the way, is also excellent). Rest in peace.

[Photos: “Saturday Night and Sunday Morning,” Video Beat, 1960; “The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner,” Warner Home Video, 1962]

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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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