Borderlands (Zev Berman, 2007): 6.5/10

The Magic Flute (Ingmar Bergman, 1975): 7/10

La Guerre Est Finie (Alain Resnais, 1966): 7/10

Speed Racer (The Wachowski Brothers, 2008): 8/10

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Location: milwaukee, wi

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan (Larry Charles, 2006)

This is less a review than a collection of thoughts on this incredibly thought-provoking movie. Let me just mention, though, that it is absolutely as hilarious as I expected and hoped it would be, and that I think Sacha Baron Cohen really is the new face of comedy. I honestly can't praise him enough for his boldness and his absolute dedication to character, something that is shown by his refusal to put his own face in the limelight, and instead keep the focus on the character Borat (although countless Borat interviews got a little tiring, I was still very respectful of someone who's not as fame-hungry as he is dedicated to the project).

The first time I saw the film (opening day, the first showing), the audience was either completely silent or completely engrossed and hanging on every joke. I, being in the second category, was, at times, doubled over with laughter. Without spoiling any of the surprises the film has in store, Borat's appearance on the local news and at a Southern dinner party are among the hilarious highlights. The second time I saw it (the next day, with the father and brother at a mega-mall theater) was quite a bit more problematic. Unlike the first audience, the second really enjoyed the Jew jokes. Quite a lot. I mean, the biggest laugh in the theater was at the "Running of the Jew." Now, I could very possibly be underestimating my fellow movie-goers, but that huge response made me very uneasy. It was definitely more possible that the people were laughing at the Jew puppets than at the ridiculousness of the Kazakh holiday, or even that Cohen made up said holiday.

Borat's anti-semitism is in your face, even aggressive and angry at times, but it's not real. As most people know by now, Cohen is a devout Jew who comes from a deeply religious family and even observes the Sabbath. The anti-semitism, then, comes from a very personal place within Cohen; I can only imagine how painful and cathartic writing the Jew jokes must have been. Cohen might have exorcised some of the demons he's felt being Jewish in a subconsciously, even counsciously, anti-semitic world. He chose America as the setting to show the world these demons, and after viewing the film, it seems rightly so. Some scenes in the film are painful to watch, especially the rodeo manager who wants to string up gays and the frat boys who, well, think this country would be better off if we still had slaves. Borat doesn't need to parody these people, they do it to themselves. Instead, he goes after the minds of the audience, and those in the movie who think themselves liberal, understanding people. It had more of an effect on me than a hundred Crashes could have.

This movie isn't for everyone, and I'm surprised it did as well at the box office as it did (although I think word of mouth will propel it to the top of the box office again this weekend). I am not surprised that Fox, at the absolute last minute, pulled it out of more than half of the theaters it was supposed to debut in. This film is not for mainstream America, I think, although the fact that it's doing so well makes me doubt that statement (but audience reaction reinforces that, so I'm utterly stuck). This movie is confounding, thought-provoking, and hilarious. Thank you, Mr. Cohen, for unleashing this beast on the world. Only a few jokes fall flat throughout the whole film, and it's definitely one of the best this year. See it. Seriously.


RIYL: Curb Your Enthusiasm (same kind of self-effacting humor, same director)

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