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We need more squalor and misery in this comedy!

We need more squalor and misery in this comedy! (photo)

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A side pleasure of subscribing to Sight & Sound, the fine monthly magazine put out by the British Film Institute, is that you get to read about the dozens of British films that never raise their heads this side of the Atlantic. Many of the reviews come with qualifiers about the movies’ small budgets and smaller ambitions. The tone is generally optimistic but mildly disappointed.

One such film is “Cemetery Junction,” the second directorial effort from “The Office” creator Ricky Gervais, who shares the credit with regular collaborator Stephen Merchant — it has yet to receive an American release date. And while “Cemetery Junction” was produced by Sony, and will almost certainly make it to theaters here eventually, David Cox’s disparaging observations about the film in the Guardian inadvertently suggest reasons why so many other British films don’t make it to the U.S., even without the handicap of subtitles that hamper most other foreign films.

The problem with “Cemetery Junction,” writes Cox, is that Gervais and Merchant have grafted Hollywood elements — an uplifting “reach for the stars” arc, good-looking young actors — on top of ’70s environments that don’t match: “The dishy protagonists would look quite at home on one of the big screen’s sunlit campuses; on the outskirts of Reading their allure is faintly embarrassing.” He suggests the British don’t want sunshine and reassurance: “We want to salivate over hospital closures, redundancies and uncollected rubbish.”

04212010_damned.jpgMaybe that’s why a crowd-pleaser like “The Damned United” didn’t do very good business in America — not because it’s a soccer story, but because middlebrow arthouse audiences aren’t into “lovingly observed squalor” as a form of nostalgia. Imagine someone making a nostalgic movie about how wonderful urban blight in ’70s Detroit was — it’s well-nigh impossible.

Cox’s speculations are tongue-in-cheek, but he’s getting at (and embodying) a stereotype about the British — that they’re proudly gloomy, taking self-deprecation and deprivation to pathological levels — and saying it’s true. Surely there must be some truth for it to remain so virulently persistent. But it suggests those reams of British films never make it over here not because they’re bad, but because they project modesty of expectations and take a certain gloomy pleasure in squalor — and when you’re marketing an English-language movie in the U.S., where quirk and some kind of happy ending seem required, that’s the last thing you want.

[Photos: “Cemetery Junction,” Sony International Motion Picture Production Group, 2010; “The Damned United,” Sony Pictures Classics, 2009]

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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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