Thursday, September 28, 2006

Adam Make Great Review of New Borat Movie...Is Nice!

I've never been to a movie screening where only thirteen people showed up.
Sure, there were tons of things going on in CBus a week ago. There was Tool over at Nationwide Arena (spitting distance from the theater). Trick Daddy on campus. Being a Thursday, I'm sure there were about 700 keggers as well.
Still...thirteen people??? That's really no excuse. Especially when that wee handful of dedicated folk were treated to the funniest damn movie of the year.
That's right. We watched Borat.

Sascha Baron Cohen is one of the most insanely hilarious people alive. The word "genius" gets bandied about too frequently these days, but he truly deserves it. Some of the insanity he got away with on Da Ali G Show was not only inspired and hysterical, but relevant and downright important. That he did it all in character with a perfectly straight face was amazing.
Borat was my favorite of his three characters on Da Ali G Show. Sure, Bruno usually humiliated people more and Ali got the most high-profile interviews. But the dimwitted TV host from Kazakhstan was the guy who could go to a country bar and get the rednecks to sing a chorus of "Throw the Jew Down the Well". Borat embodies an innocence that's necessary to find truth. Sometimes the truth is ugly, and unless we confront it we can never cleanse our hands of it.
Borat as a character is satire at its purest form, with all the wit of Swift and the amazing physical humor of Danny Kaye. He's a loveable idiot who somehow manages to outwit every single person he meets. Borat exposes intolerance with comedy.
Can you tell I'm a fan?
My expectations for this movie were set impossibly high.
Throw in the hype of the current imbroglio with the government of Kazakhstan wanting to meet with President Bush over the movie (how many comedians cause an honest to goodness international incident???), and the bar just went higher.

Hot damn, does the movie deliver.

We begin in Borat's home village in Kazakhstan. We get to meet his family, his asshole neighbor and the village rapist. Etc. Etc.
From what I'm to understand, it's the depiction of the Kazakhs as a bunch of backward twits barely out of the Stone Age what has the government of Kazakhstan gunning for this movie. Strange that I've never heard the government of Poland protesting about all the damn Polack jokes out there, but I digress.
I happen to have relatives from Eastern Europe. The civilized part of Eastern Europe. Still, I've heard stories from the ones who've come to visit. Heard things that made me believe Hostel could have been a true story. I'm sure Kazakhstan is nice (just like I'm sure that Tom Cruise is totally sane and lucid). However, that whole region has the reputation of being exactly what it's portrayed as: technologically backward, unfriendly to women and intolerant of other peoples.
The issue of anti-semetism in Borat is also utterly ludicrous. As we all know, Sasha Baron Cohen is a Jew. Borat's anti-semetic views were always showed to be spawned of ignorance, making him more of a boob. In the film, they highlight the issue in such a way that hopefully makes some people rethink their bigotry. Of course, since bigots aren't the brightest bulbs on the Christmas tree, I'm not entirely hopeful about that.
If the government of Kazakhstan wants to improve their image in the eyes of the world, perhaps they should improve their country instead of attacking comedians and satirists.
The same goes for our illustrious president. It doesn't matter how much fun Borat has with your voter base, Mr. Bush. Hands off. It's all only funny because it's TRUE.

Did I just go on a rant? My bad.
Anyway, Borat is selected to go to the United States and report on things in the American culture that can benefit his homeland. So, with his pudgy government handler/producer/cameraman Azamat in tow, he makes the journey to New York.
I have no idea if the reactions Borat got from New Yorkers are real or not. Then again, I've never tried to kiss a New Yorker on the face. Or lost my chicken on the subway.
New York is a bust. Whether it's meeting with a comedy coach or a group of humorless feminists, Borat's not quite getting through to his American contacts. Then, something amazing happens.
Borat sees a rerun of Baywatch on the hotel TV. And falls head over heels in love with Pamela Anderson.
Borat throws away his itinerary and decides to travel to California to marry his Pamela. He convinces his handler that they can report on the real America while they make their way across the country.

Does Borat find the real America? Well, if the real America is intolerant yokels at a rodeo, drunken racist frat boys, bigoted Southern socialites or nonsense-spewing Pentecostals at a revival meeting, the answer is yes.
Granted all of these types of people DO exist. Hell, there are just as many rednecks in the Midwest as there are in the South (though none of them up here would think that a "SECESSION: IT'S THE RIGHT THING TO DO!" bumper sticker belonged on their truck's bumper).
As social commentary, Borat can somehow juggle being subtle and yet also incredibly broad at the same time. Borat can make a crude comment that forces his American hosts to reveal flaws in their character. He can pull a Jerry Lewis pratfall in a antique store or have a very graphic naked wrestling match with a man in the middle of a management conference just as well as he can take the piss of a dinner party full of snobs by inviting a black prostitute or sneak anti-war commentary into an incendiary speech to a crowd of good ol' boys. He can do something in a plastic bag that might just be untoward in polite society and give it to a prim and proper hostess. And he does it all without ever giving up his poker face.
The combination of pseudo-documentary footage and the narrative story should be jarring. But it's not. The line between fiction and reality blurs as easily as Cohen adopts his Kazakh persona. Somehow, they manage to wrap reality segments seamlessly into the narrative movie.
The more I thought about what was happening, the more I questioned the reality of it. How can Cohen be so brilliant at setting people up to show what bigoted nitwits they are? How can he be exactly at the right place at the right time so often? And how does he manage to escape from so many of these situations without major bodily injury from the people he's offended? Was the whole film just an elaborate ruse?

Some time during the movie, I gave up caring what was real and what wasn't, because I was emotionally invested in this mad trek across the nation. I actually wanted Borat to meet Pamela Anderson and marry her in the traditional Kazakh manner. I wanted him to bring back all of the best of America to make glorious benefit for the Kazakh people. I'd bought hook, line and sinker into the cinematic reality just as much as the real people that Borat deceives.
Afterwards, as the miniscule crowd filed out, I noticed something. Everyone was still laughing. It says something good about a comedy when you're not quite done with your laughter even after the credits are over.

Borat is wonderful, intelligent, subversive and also likely to be deeply offensive to quite a few people. Hopefully those people will pull their heads out of their keisters and figure out the joke.
The more I think about it, the more I enjoy Borat. Unfortunately, I want to see it again, with a proper audience. And I have to wait until November to do that. Frankly, that sucks more ass than a Kazakhstan street whore.