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Armando Iannucci

Review: The Death of Stalin

Reviewed by Robert Horton for Seattle Weekly

If satire doesn’t draw blood, what’s the point? For years that was the problem with Saturday Night Live, which tended to make its political caricatures into lovable clods, figures of fun rather than fury. (Things have been more barbed around there lately.) In Britain, there’s a long tradition of going for the jugular rather than the jocular, and Scottish writer/director Armando Iannucci wields the scalpel with cutting precision. His Oscar-nominated 2009 comedy In the Loop was a scathing look inside UK politics, and he co-created Steve Coogan’s long-running character Alan Partridge, an acidly sketched broadcaster whose first TV talk show was canceled when Partridge accidentally fatally shot a guest. More recently, Iannucci created Veep, HBO’s Emmy-winning political satire.

For his latest big-screen project, Iannucci comes close to perfectly balancing comedy and savagery.

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Film Review: ‘Alan Partridge’

Steve Coogan as Alan Partridge

Between the showbiz parodies of SCTV and the anchorman toolishness of Ron Burgundy, there is a missing link of media satire—missing for Americans who don’t frequent British TV, that is. This step on the evolutionary scale goes by the name Alan Partridge, a broadcast personality with a remarkably unctuous, maladroit style. As embodied in Steve Coogan’s reptilian performance, Alan combines an unshakable and unwarranted vanity with a staggering level of self-interest. He’s a man who’d gladly throw elbows in the direction of women and children who happened to stray into his path to the lifeboats.

Hatched over 20 years ago as a radio character, Alan’s had his shot as a national TV host (which, among other mortifications, resulted in his killing a talk-show guest). At the present stage of his well-traveled career, he’s a DJ at a small-time radio station in Norwich.

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