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December 18, 2010

Cemetery Junction - UK cinema gem

Hilarious comedy legend Ricky Gervais takes up directing, starts with tearjerking drama
A look at british productions over the years
You don't need a particular taste, mood, or mindset to enjoy quality british movies because when it comes to movies, the brits are just as capable as huge Hollywood studios to produce great features for the silver screen.
You might have heard as such movies as... i don't know, let's say the Harry Potter series (oh you have? that's good, that means you haven't been living under a rock or on a deserted island or in China. Yeah, that's right, they hate fun in China, all they do is build stuff, just expanding the economy, till there's nothing to expand anymore. I'm sure the children from the slums of India have heard of it though, with all the electronics we throw out nowadays they're bound to end up with a dvd player and a couple of Harry Potter movies.
Enough about a middle-aged woman fantasizing about a teenage dorky boy with a stiff wand, my point is that if you're going to watch a movie, don't dismiss it because it's british, cause they're usually loads of fun, and if not, it's sure to be an interesting watch. If you haven't seen Trainspotting, you haven't missed out that much, but this feature is a cult classic in it's own right. It will rattle you to your core and keep you off drugs (that's the only way they could get away with making a movie about Ewan McGregor sh*tting himself). In all seriousness, watch it, it's great, well put together and rounded, and good entertainment value. Ah, did I mention it was directed by the british god of movies which young kids just go nuts for, after he made Slumdog Millionaire - a tearjerker about the kids in the slums of Mumbai, particularly one of them who has seen a Harry Potter and won a million bucks because he held the knowledge of the western world [later edit: this is totally somewhat inaccurate]. He also made The Beach, a movie featuring Leonardo DiCaprio in some exotic Thai island, this movie rendered 13 year-old girls helpless to contain their orgasms when watching it, i remember loving and hating this movie at the same time (hey hey, i'm no pedo, i was 13 myself back then).
Other gems from the british film industry are: Lock stock and two smoking barrels, Snatch, more recently: Rock'n'Rolla, Sherlock Holmes (by the courtesy of Guy Ritchie, another great director), [Green Street] Hoolingans, Kidulthood, Boy A (these are some teenage hard violent drama films, they just love these), Dogging and loads of other titles.

Ricky Gervais and his writing desk partner Stephen Merchant.
This duo started getting noticed through the hugely successful BBC Television series The Office. This had so much success the americans just couldn't wait to get their grubby little gravy covered hands on it, and Gervais being a practical man, made a contract with them and basically retired from ever needing to work again. He did continue however to experiment with different ideas, and like in The Office, he drew his inspiration from real life, or better yet, he drew an element, a particularly free thinking individual, Karl Pilkington. Gervais, Merchant and old "orange head" as they sometimes like to call Pilkington, sat down at a table and started discussing different matters. Ricky and Steve would incite Karl to expose his ideas about the world, about how old people are useless, about how some species of animals are useless and should not exist, and other stuff that might cross any normal human being's mind, but what keeps most of us normal, is not stating those facts, things like: "well, i can't describe this pain to my doctor, we should just invent a machine to transpose his brain into my body so he could feel what i'm feeling right now", or... "turtles are useless, what have they done for anyone lately, or ever for that matter?". He's not daft, or thick, he's just a very free thinker and agrees to have his uninhibited brain picked by Gervais and Merchant, cause let's face it, showbusiness pays good. He was once instructed to write a diary, so all the quirky ideas and thoughts be read at the weekly radio show they were doing, transforming them into a comedy gold.
They went from radio to podcasting, to HBO animated series (which basically depicts them in a room talking about stuff, then animating Karl's ideas and thoughts into the ridiculous nonsense Ricky and Stephen expose them to be. Karl needs them, because the whole process is helping Karl be himself, he wouldn't say all the things he does alone in front of a camera, at least not in the beginning.
More recently Gervais and Merchant sent Karl around the world to visit one thing or another and come back with impressions and ideas. This is particularly hilarious because he's not an ignorant person, he is interested in culture, but has his own particular absurd opinion which is usually comedy gold, or made that way by his co-stars.
Ricky Gervais is really known for the Office despite all his other work as a brilliant standup, he has a very good chemistry working for him, he's intentionally being an ignorant asshole and he does it in such way that you can't help yourself but laugh yourself off your chair. I can't imagine he might be revered as offensive by some, even though he is very brutal in regards to some subjects, i imagine that any obese people support groups hate his guts (well, obviously, first of all for being a lot smaller, specially now, in 2010 when Ricky's lost a whole lot of weight, i guess ripping on the fat people and being fat himself doesn't work as good if you are one, although in all fairness he isn't what they'd call fat in the states, a fact which he always points out in his standup).

Now for the shocker:
Out of nowhere (although recent appearance in several feature films and a few tv shows might have been a warning this might happen), Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant direct and appear in a british movie called Cemetery Junction. This is by all means a great british movie, even though it's made by Columbia (Sony, whatever), which is very "cash" and very very american. The spirit of the movie is totally british, the story, the acting, although the fact that the characters are a bit two dimensional is somewhat newbie it can be forgiven considering it's Gervais&Merchant's first feature film, and is much better than you'd expect a cinematic debut as a director&writer team to do.
Contrary to what IMDb clasifies as a "comedy", the core of this movie, is drama in the british suburbs, it's not about factories closing down, it's about how to live, or better yet how not to live your life.
The story is set in 1970's UK and follows the life of 3 young adults searching for a way in life, dealing with particular and general issues of the youth.
In the following trailer, very transparently Gervais tries to use his statute of a comedy god to make this movie appealing to a greater audience:

This trailer is indeed hilarious, but has nothing to do with the actual movie and/or zeitgeist of the movie.
Although it is salted with some funny lines thrown back and forth between the protagonist's dad (Ricky) and the grandmother.
Stephen Merchant also makes a short appearance in a comedical moment, but i'm not going to spoil it for you, watch the movie, it is really worth it!

And buy and go see more british productions, you always know you're going to get a good honest film. You never gamble when you watch a UK production, you usually don't expect ET or Schindler's List but you get more than your money's worth in artistic value, compared to weekly american movies that are thrown onto our big screens.
Thanks for reading!

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