29 December 2006

Cinema: Borat is boring

Meant as a spoof of widespread anti-semitism and other prejudices commonly found among Americans, this film has had a vigourous build-up. But it fails to make its intended point. Full essay.


Anonymous said...

Let's see how generous the film critics are if (or when) Borat do one on Singapore.

Anonymous said...

Cohen is genius. The movie doesn't do Borat justice. You should search youtube for clips of Borat filmed in England (where the film originated). There were some really classic responses Borat managed to elicit from people, including someone who admitted that it would be good if shooting Jews (for sport) was allowed.

As a sidenote which will very much interest you, Cohen has three personas: Ali G, Borat and Bruno. Bruno is a gay fashionista, and Cohen uses him to expose homophobia in the populace and reveal the shallowness of the fashion industry (though in the process he does act in an unflatteringly stereotypical manner). Again, search youtube using any of the keywords Borat/Bruno/Ali G to watch more of his clips.

Anonymous said...

Actually, just showing a gun shop in a film makes many people in the world think Americans are weird. Uncivilised brutes! But actually, only a government that really trusts its citizens would allow them to purchase arsenals of (potentially-overthrowing) firepower. With so many handguns and assault rifles in America, it is a testament to their government's stability and their political system that there aren't revolts all the time.

zut said...

Hmmm.. just to add on a point on the movie itself. I'm not sure whether you caught this moment during the rodeo bit but from what I can recall, "Borat" managed to get the rodeo organiser to proudly exclaim that both Muslims and gays should be hanged or executed for their actions. This was said after "Borat" attempted to greet the man using the 'kiss-cheek' mathod (sorry, don't know a better word to describe the manner).

The comedian's brand of humour has always been rather infantile throughout his career so I wasn't affected by the pervasive toilet humour (not that I liked it but I was fully aware that this would be prevalent in the movie). I wouldn't say I'm surprised by the reactions that the people on the film portrayed and I'm not sure how 'real' these scenes are. Ultimately, I felt 'Borat' was an interesting diversion amidst the generally disappointing cinema fare this hols.

Anonymous said...

Borat ( played by Sacha Baron Cohen, is an orthordox English JEW.)
as such, he can diss the Jews and make fun of them.
SBC has his own show called the 'ali G Show' on HBO. he even got to interview James Baker, of the Reagan Adm, and now brought in to report on the Iraq war, the findings are in a book- Baker Halmilton Report.
Personally, I don't find his humor funny.
But what the heck...Borat is now worth US40 million, pretty good for a Jewish boy who majored in History at Cambridge, worked for Goldman Sachs,UK, then went on to movies.
One segment was funny, when Borat came to Arizona n did a clip in a bar full of white cowboys, n got them all singing 'Throw the Jew in the well'...
I thought that was hilarious, and another memorable clip- where Borat says:"Where do u go when you wish to interview gays?--Alabama!'
I mean that is funny...n I am gay.
On the issues of guns-
Here in America, anyone can buy a gun, AK47s, any type u want, thru anyone.
I am not for guns, but sigh...it is the 2nd Amendment- which is the freedom to bear arms.
That 2nd amendment will never change. Just ask the NRA.

JohnM said...

Hi Alex

Your Borat review was extremely interesting in providing a very different assessment of the film. Please allow me to offer the traditional view from London.

You are right in saying that Borat may not work in a cultural milieu outside the Western European/American one which is why I found your perspective fascinating. The film doesn’t just directly satirise the American attitudes (and generally Western) attitudes in the four scenes you mentioned (and yes, they signed their legal rights away) but also indirectly. If you went to see it thinking that, then for sure you were disappointed! The film was sold to you under false pretenses :-)

When I saw the film with a group of friends in London we were either laughing or averting our eyes (no, he can’t say THAT!) We laughed, because in the current politically correct climate certain storylines/expressions have been so taboo that to mention them and poke fun at them is so cringingly embarrassing that we snigger and chortle (“this is the town rapist”; “it has been scientifically proven that women have small brains”). Not only does it show how we were or might have been and by making us laugh at his non-PC utterances he allows us to absolve ourselves: surely if we laugh, we don’t agree with him, really.

The other aspect of our culture that may be missing in Singapore is that we tend to think of East Europeans and citizens of the countries of the former Soviet Union as uncouth brutes. Borat reinforces that image and we laugh at the grotesqueness of it. ). There is also so much stuff that may be missed: the running of the Jews refers to the running of the bulls in Pamplona, Spain, and the Russian pogroms in the 19th century all in one - very post-modern, hehe. And don’t forget the slapstick: he did really get his face into that guy’s hairy bottom!

Regards Kazakhstan/Romania, yes, you are right. I told my friends that being probably the only person in the cinema who has actually been to Kazakhstan , I knew that Kazaks are Oriental-looking (more like the Mongolians really) and not like Romanians. But Kazakhstan is really a pastiche of the old Warsaw Pact. For instance, when he introduces items for the Kazak film he is shooting, he speaks Polish to the camera. The titles are in the Cyrillic script. He also speaks Yiddish to his fellow Kazak producer, which is an even bigger in-joke given his anti-Semitism.

In answer to the Straits Times’ critic question: the IMDB trivia section says that the police were called 91 times during the filming. And a glbt aside: his son is an actual gay porn star (Stonie) who is now famous about the size of his penis although, being normally passive in the industry, it is his backside that used to be better-known. Google for
"Borat's Son a Gay Porn Star"

tsft said...

I think you're supposed to loosen up before you go out there and watch movies like Borat, YB.

"I gather that the film was meant as a spoof and thus a critique of various aspects of American culture, especially anti-semitism."

No. Borat isn't so much a commentary on America itself as it is a commentary on prejudice. Borat's "deep-seated" prejudice for Gypsies and Jews is not so much developed as it is Pavlovian – he seems barely sure if he's ever met a Jew in America. He's homophobic, and proud of it, and yet he embraces and kisses every man (on both cheeks, at least in the Youtube videos) he meets on his travels.

Borat is about reaching out to irrational village idiots who fit that mould, and the real point is that they are everywhere, or at least just Kazakhstan and the US.

You make a big issue out of Borat's occasional sidecracks about America, whereas there are bigger battles to be fought and more salient points to be shared. So there is a more universal appeal to Borat than you suggest.

What is noteworthy is the difference between the reviews on our side of the world, and the Americans, who adore Borat. (Borat has a "universally acclaimed" score of 89/100 on Metacritic, which collects and averages review scores from a very US-centric list of reviewers: http://www.metacritic.com/film/titles/borat) And they're fine with Borat because they understand the spirit of the movie and the context of his antics.

Perhaps your real complaint is that the comedy is too low-browed for you, but if that is the case, like Ebert points out, the vast majority of America's comedy output would be equally unpalatable. You're due another visit to the cinema...

Matilah_Singapura said...

eS B Cohen rocks. Any comedian who gets in the face of his audience so as to give them an "experience" is doing his job well.

Cohen brings out the schadenfreude in all of us. When I see his "victims" squirm during interviews and encounters with Ali G, Borat or Bruno, personally I feel later that it was time well spent on having a luagh at some of humanities constant hang-ups.

There is too little laughter in the world. Laughing at the expense of someone else gives you a feeling that you've obtained "something for nothing".

And since there is no shortage of human stupidity on the planet, we may perhaps have an inexhaustible resource to produce an abundance of humour which this palnet sorely needs.

Unfortunately in Singapore, you can't make jokes about many things that are so stupid, they ought to have the taken the piss out of.

Imagine, Ali G pothead Rastafarian interviewing Lee Kuan Yew, or the homosexual Bruno taking LHL to task over "alternative lifestyles" in Singapore.

Law suit for libel: $1 million

Loss of revenue from being BANNED in S'pore: Several Million Dollars

The look on the faces of father and son as they squirm during the interview and end up with foot-in-mouth...


ddeane said...

Cohen is boring. He is funny in places, but in the end, it's the same damned "joke" over and over. I want to scream "we get it already! roll credits!" and save myself the hour and a half of excruciating boredom. But if you like congratulating yourself on what an enlightened person you are compared with Cohen's cinematic victims, well, this movie is just the thing for you.

Cohen is a gifted actor/mimic and I can't fault his commitment to his "bit", but his premises are flawed and he plays an elaborate game of "gotcha" trying to trick people into seeming to agree with his various lunatic outbursts.

He's the man with a hammer, to whom everything is a nail. Naturally, he thinks he has hammered a lot of nails, when all he's really done is confirmed his own prejudices via various editing and other tricks, not unlike some of Michael Moore's more dishonest documentary moments. Premise first, then stack everything up in a prejudicial way to reach the foregone conclusion.

Funny? For about a minute or two. Once you understand Cohen's methodology, however, it's boring as hell. And it's very easy to see through his methods, if you try.