Sign in to follow this  
Followers 0
Peter T Chattaway

Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan

92 posts in this topic

Just come across this article by Craig Brown in The Daily Telegraph. He concludes:

Baron Cohen's supporters have suggested that, as with Ali G, our laughter is not at Borat, but at the absurdity of those he encounters. This is half-true, but no more than that: yes, we are laughing at the dupes, but we are also laughing at this primitive foreigner, with his dancing cats, his funny voice, his imprisoned wife and his pride in breaking wind.

It is clear that Baron Cohen has nothing against the Kazakh people. His producer has explained that they chose Kazakhstan pretty much at random: they just wanted somewhere which sounded far away, and was hard to check up on. But this has meant that, for most people, the oafish, loutish Borat Sagdiyev is the only Kazakh they could name. Would we feel comfortable if Little Britain's Vicky Pollard was the sole Briton of whom the world had ever heard?

It is a problem that goes to the heart of comedy. I laugh if someone else slips on a banana skin, but I cry if it happens to be me. Laughter from the onlooker springs, more often than not, from the discomfort of the participant.

Mel Brooks once summed up this dichotomy with characteristic bravura. "Tragedy is when I cut my finger," he said, "Comedy is when you walk into an open sewer and die."

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Hmmm. Zero stars doesn't seem to be an option in our ratings system.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

One of the reasons I think I will really enjoy this film is simply the opportunity to watch this guy work. I am a bit in awe of someone who knows his character that well, and can play it so seamlessly. Particularly, when the others are not working from a script.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Hello pipples. Hef adapted Borat accent for the use @ homes and works. I like!!!

Hef viewed so much short clips of upcoming moviefilm (with childrens allowing watch CLEAN parts only), thet I no longer am needing to attend this in cinema!

Waddupwidit, vanilla face?!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

nardis wrote:

: Looks like the Roma and Sinti in Germany are actually protesting the fact that this movie

: might well violate Germany's anti-discrimination laws.

And of course, because those laws prohibiting freedom of speech are in the law books, they can't be bad, right? Sorry, but I myself live in a country that has unnecessarily restrictive hate-speech laws, and I have little tolerance for this sort of thing.

: And in Salon, Stephanie Zacharek says Borat is funny, but also expresses qualms about cruelty and

: trickery. Hmm.

Yes, she recognizes that cruelty is an essential element in a lot of "great humour", and she acknowledges that Cohen may have gone too far with it. I don't think anyone here has disagreed with that.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

On the fringe of this frame, there is an advertisement from Amazon for a book called The Gospel According to Ali G. Does Amazon's software or Alan choose which books are promo'd in that advertisement.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Germans Accuse Borat of Slandering Gypsies - - But Not the Jews?

Given Germany's history, and given that Germany's anti-defamation laws were put in place especially to protect those groups persecuted by the Nazis, I kind of wonder why no one has stepped up over there to complain about the "Running of the Jews" sequence in the film -- which, if you're going to be offended by the film, is one of it's more potentially offensive moments. . . . Why the German hooplah over the gypsy slander, but not a peep about the Jewish sequence, which (for me at least) is far more cringe-inducing? I realize this is a complaint brought by a human rights group, not the German government, but it's just odd that the Jew routine wouldn't have someone over there filling out reams of paperwork at the state prosecutor's office.

Kim Voynar, Cinematical.com, November 3

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I just watched that film last night. I have never laughed as hard as I laughed at this film. I went in skeptical. I looked at the reviews on rottentomatoes, and I hear Joel Siegel say that it was the funniest things since Laurel and Hardy, and I thought, that is high praise, there is no way that it will live up to it. But for me, it came very close.

There is one scene, that Peter mentions in his first post, that I really wished they would stop, because I could not breathe. I was bent over, stomping on the floor, laughing hysterically.

Now, I don't know if it will hold up under a second viewing, so I don't know if it has staying power with me.

The other thing I was interested in, directed to those who have seen the film, when Borat is showing pictures of him and his 11 year old son to his etiquette coach,

how is that not child pornography

?

Edited by Michael Todd

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Alan Thomas wrote:

: ...probably because he's Jewish?

That hasn't stopped some Jews from complaining, at least outside of Germany.

In other news, David Poland writes:

Borat

did over $10,630 per screen yesterday. Based on that, the estimates for the weekend should still vary between $22 million and $27 million.

The closest thing it a precedent here is Fahrenheit 9/11... but if Borat ends up doing just $120 million after this start, Fox execs will be fighting amongst themselves for months about the opening strategy. People who compared this film to Snakes on a Plane were wrong, not in 20/20 hindsight, but in the basic analysis of the genre opportunity. The same is true of F9/11. The film was a true phenom. But it also had a glass ceiling. If 10% of that film

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

And of course, because those laws prohibiting freedom of speech are in the law books, they can't be bad, right? Sorry, but I myself live in a country that has unnecessarily restrictive hate-speech laws, and I have little tolerance for this sort of thing.

No different in the EU and UK. The UK has fairly rigid hate-speech laws in place and they seem to just take Ali G et al at face value, if not implicitly ratify his racisms by laughing at them. Regardless, I have a hard time equating Borat singing "Throw the Jew Down the Well" with something like a supercessionist reading of John or a drunk person raving about how the Jews control Hollywood. It is the people in the crowd singing along with Borat in that scene that are a different matter. They aren't so funny.

Yep! Some Jewish organizations are taking exception to his work, and lots of individuals, too. The Anti-Defamation League has written to Baron-Cohen (and about him, of course) in the past. That material is available on the ADL's web site.

The ADL is hardly representative of all Jewish people, including Baron-Cohen himself. That Seinfeld episode about becoming Jewish for the jokes wasn't exactly a joke.

...All of this is humor with a victim. It is part of the overal culture of 'independence' rather than 'interdependence' and 'competition' rather than 'cooperation'.

It just so happens that Baron-Cohen is a smarty pants Cambridge grad who seems to be well aware of this aspect of his humor. I always took it for granted that his various characters and hysterical deceptions were secondary to his meta-comic lampooning of this culture of "independence" in the first place. Borat is decidedly non-Western in this respect (as he is not a white European or American male), and is the reason his character works so well in southern and rural America, all places that still prize a classical boot-strapping American individualism.

I have a hard time with the sort of editorial you find after articles like this at Salon or elsewhere. They hate Baron-Cohen for being a rude man, but they also hate the culture of "independence" that he so effectively satirizes. You can't have it both ways.

FWIW we had a really long thread about satire about a year or so back that broached a lot of the dialogue on this thread. I have the feeling that we are about to re-cover a lot of that same ground.

Edited by MLeary

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I have yet to see this film, and probably won't until its DVD release, yet I'm finding this one of the more fascinating film threads that I've read on A&F in a long time. It's interesting to me that Borat seems to be causing some of the same divisive discussions over what is humorous or offensive, that two films from the sixties elicited. Both Kubricks' Dr. Strangelove and Mel Brooks' The Producers produced many of the same discussions because of their comic approach on two subjects (nuclear war and Hitler) that, up until the time of their releases, had always been handled in a dramatic fashion. Kubrick was taken to task by members of the US Armed Force for suggesting that not enough safeguards were in place that would allow a high ranking person in strategic command to launch a nuclear offensive without Presidential authority. Brooks was taken to task by several Jewish organizations for his light-hearted portrayal of Hitler, much the same way that Boran-Cohen is now being criticized for his characters anti-Semitic viewpoints.

However, controversies aside, both Kubricks' and Brooks' films garnered a lot of award nominations. 4 Oscar nominations for Dr. Strangelove, and 2 for The Producers, which went on to win for Best Original Screenplay. Which brings me to my question. For those of you that have seen Borat, do you think that there is potential for award nominations next year?

Edited by Baal_T'shuvah

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Wow. Wouldn't it be something if Coen got an Oscar nomination? It would be hard to find an actor committing more fully to a role than Coen has committed to this one. This might be the best shot an actor has had at winning the award for a comedy role in many years...

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
For those of you that have seen Borat, do you think that there is potential for award nominations next year?

If such awards were handed out to people for, as JO said, "committing to character" enough that they produce a culturally memorable and incisive performance, then yes. But since they aren't, then no.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Once again, for those who are so distrustful of satire that they insist on missing the point: Baron is a Jew whose character, Borat, goes around making alarmingly anti-Semitic statements (e.g. "What gun is best for killing Jews?" or some such) and GETTING AWAY WITH IT. This is not AT ALL an encouragement of anti-Semitism. EVERYTHING about the humour of those scenes hinges on our conviction that anti-Semitism is wrong, and that coming from a foreign culture really shouldn't excuse those sorts of attitudes.

So, as with anti-Semitism, so with anti-gypsyism. It's a bad thing. Baron knows it's a bad thing. But he also knows that many people will put up with it if it comes from a foreigner. And that's a problem. And it's a problem that he exposes in this film. No one with half a brain could possibly watch this film and come away thinking that Borat's ignorance and prejudiced attitudes are worthy of emulation.

Well said, Peter.

Just now catching up with this thread. I'll probably catch the film in the next couple of weeks.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

For the record, Focus on the Family's review calls it

"an avalanche of perverse, odious and repulsive satire. ... As noted, gypsies, Christians and the mentally handicapped are favorite targets. So are his fellow Jews. Explicit nudity and sexual "humor" race roughshod through issues of rape, incest, prostitution, pedophilia, masturbation and gay sex."

Edited by Jeffrey Overstreet

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

nardis wrote:

: . . . anyone who subscribes to the kind of prejudices that Baron-Cohen is trying to mock will more than

: likely not get his humor. He (or she) will agree with Borat instead. Which isn't funny at all.

Has it occurred to you that maybe Borat is about MORE than humour?

Once again, we go back to the example of Steve Taylor's 'I Blew Up the Clinic Real Good'. A terrific song, and one with a great message, at least for those who have ears to hear. But you don't like it because you heard some kids singing it in a way that sounded -- to you, at least -- like they agreed with the persona adopted by Taylor for that song. So either the kids didn't "get" the song, or you didn't "get" the song. But that doesn't change the fact that the song served a very valuable purpose. And one part of that purpose was this:

Taylor not only condemned clinic bombings in the song (which probably wouldn't have made much of an impression on the people who actually bomb clinics), he did so in a way that cut through the silence that some anti-abortionists maintained in the face of clinic bombings. In other words, the real target of the song was not the bombers, so much, as it was the people who, through their silence and acquiescence and their "well as long as you're not against us you're for us" mentality, were not as opposed to the bombings as they should have been.

Likewise, one of the things Borat does is to expose the way that we, in our society, acquiesce to the outrageous behaviours and attitudes of some people. Borat makes blatantly anti-Semitic remarks, and he GETS AWAY WITH THEM because we just accept that people from Muslim countries hate Jews, or whatever. This is a problem, and Borat exposes it. And the people who benefit are not the racists and bigots who might cheer Borat on; the people who benefit are the ones who might have tolerated this behaviour in the name of diversity or multiculturalism or whatever, and who now get a sense of how wrong they are to do so.

(FWIW, I think it is interesting that one of the "deleted scenes" I linked to earlier shows Borat asking a woman if a dog can be trained to attack Jews, and she replies, "Jews are Jesus' children, so this dog probably loves Jews"; I wonder if this scene was cut from the film because it showed a red-state American who actually OPPOSED his anti-Semitism, rather than ACCEPTED it -- it might not have fit the film's agenda.)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I saw this yesterday as a fun Saturday afternoon outing with a couple of friends from church. The theater was packed to the gills. This is Salt Lake City. I'm sure a lot of people didn't know what was coming, but I didn't notice anyone leave.

There were parts where I laughed, parts where I snickered, parts where other people laughed and I felt stone cold, and one part where I laughed so hard I felt in danger of throwing up in my popcorn bucket. That was the nude wrestling scene. I'm sure other people felt in danger of throwing up for other reasons, and it is something of a mystery as to how they got away with it, but it was so over the top and unexpected, I was pretty much in hysterics. (Plus -

that whole scene along with others goes to the irony of Borat's/Khazak's homophobia when he's engaging in all his homoerotic behavior.

)

I'm not sure how I feel about the movie overall. There's something very unsettling about that kind of humor, and I think we get it in small doses on the Daily Show or sometimes SNL, but take the most potentially offensive and over the top bits of those shows and imagine them going to feature length...I don't know. I wouldn't say that people who don't find it funny "don't get it" or have an impaired sense of humor. There were plenty of parts of the movie I "got" and understood how and why they were satire, but I still wasn't up for laughing at it. (The stuff about

incest and rape, in particular

.) It's definitely not a movie I'll go around recommending except to maybe a few select people. I think a lot of people will end up seeing this with no idea what they're in for, and will come out a bit shell shocked.

[bTW, there was a preview for the Reno 911 movie, which looked a lot more up my alley in the subversive and satirical yet silly and often inappropriate comedy category.]

Edited to add that I just read Peter's last post and I DO think it's about more than humor but I'm not sure Cohen totally pulled off that aspect of it. It's very, very, very difficult to do social and political satire well to the point that actually leads to the necessary "ah-ha" moment. I think American Dreamz was one of those movies that was extremely ambitious and sought an ah-ha moment. For me, that movie succeeded a bit better than Borat as a satire but didn't fare as well as a comedy. Borat is more successful as a comedy and less so as a satire. Neither movie really accomplished what it set out to do, IMHO.

Edited by Sara Zarr

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Sara Zarr wrote:

: I DO think it's about more than humor but I'm not sure Cohen totally pulled off that aspect of it. It's

: very, very, very difficult to do social and political satire well to the point that actually leads to the

: necessary "ah-ha" moment.

Fair enough. Interesting comparison with American Dreamz.

nardis wrote:

: Ditto my point above . . .

Wow, they say people tend to repeat themselves in these sorts of debates, but THIS... ;)

Surprised no one else has mentioned this here yet, but Borat was #1 for the weekend, with $26.4 million -- despite playing on only 837 screens -- and The Santa Clause 3, which everyone had predicted would come out on top, had to settle for $20 million on 3,458 screens (and it was almost beaten by Flushed Away!).

The only other movie to be #1 on less than 1,000 screens since January 2000 (which is as far back as I checked) is Michael Moore's Fahrenheit 9/11, which opened June 25, 2004 and grossed $24.1 million on 868 screens. Interestingly, both films were hotly-hyped and much-debated mixtures of comedy and politics. Though as you can see, Borat opened slighlty smaller and made slightly more money -- for whatever that's worth.

Edited by Peter T Chattaway

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I can't really understand why so many people seem to be taking this movie seriously. There are some funny bits, yes, and some biting satire, of course. But much of this has nothing to do with social commentary -- it's just one man being rude to unsuspecting people, many of whom treat him more kindly than he deserves (and more than you might expect).

If you shoot enough film of enough people, you'll be able to get the footage you want that will make them look stupid and make you look brilliant. Yet, these "victims" (not sure what to call them) serve as America writ large. Borat paints with a very broad brush.

It's also telling to me that almost every comment I have encountered on this film mentions a) how offensive it is, and B) that Cohen is Jewish.

Offensive, even to the commentators who love to see America's heartland skewered as a collection of intolerants.

And to mention that Cohen is Jewish as a defense against the anti-Semitism seems to belie the nature of satire to some degree. In other words, you have to be in on the joke to appreciate it. (It wouldn't be funny if Cohen really was a Muslim... So is it great satire?)

I might understand the fuss over the film a little better if it was well-made, but its really an episode of Punk'd done poorly and for too long.

Call me humorless. I don't even care. In a world that gives Fahrenheit 9-11 an Oscar, I shouldn't be surprised anymore at what people will like or admire. But I am.

EDIT TO MAKE SOMETHING CLEAR:

When I mention people "taking this seriously" and that "people" might like or admire the film, I was referring to the media and the public generally, not anyone commenting in this thread. Sorry if it came off as being dismissive -- I really do understand that some of the humor might be up you alley -- but some of the coverage implies a greatness I just don't see.

Edited by Tim Willson

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Tim Willson wrote:

: I might understand the fuss over the film a little better if it was well-made, but its really an episode

: of Punk'd done poorly and for too long.

People have compared it to Jackass, too. Lucky me, I don't watch TV, so these kinds of allusions never even occur to me. (Though I have mentioned Candid Camera in a few conversations -- does that date me, or what?) (Mind you, Candid Camera's Allan Funt DID make a feature film called What Do You Say to a Naked Lady? in 1970, which I have never seen, but I assume it has certain parallels with certain scenes in Borat.)

: Call me humorless. I don't even care. In a world that gives Fahrenheit 9-11 an Oscar . . .

Actually, that film was never even nominated. The Michael Moore film that won an Oscar was Bowling for Columbine (2002).

: When I mention people "taking this seriously" and that "people" might like or admire the film, I was

: referring to the media and the public generally, not anyone commenting in this thread.

No worries!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Tim Willson wrote:

: Call me humorless. I don't even care. In a world that gives Fahrenheit 9-11 an Oscar . . .

Actually, that film was never even nominated. The Michael Moore film that won an Oscar was Bowling for Columbine (2002).

Doh! I started to write "...that gives Michael Moore an Oscar" then thought I'd be more specific. That's what is sometimes inelegantly termed a brain fart...

It was Bowling for Columbine that was a point of comparison for me, given that Michael Moore seemed to hunt for clips that would support his premise (rather than observing from the journalist's neutral vantage point). He has been accused of using his "documentary" footage deceptively, and it seemed to me that Cohen may be doing something similar for comedic effect. In other words, it doesn't matter whether or not someone is fairly represented, as long as it's funny.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

It's so easy to be funny and cruel at the same time, but much, much harder to be both compassionate and funny at the same time. But it's doable...

There is a massive thread on this around here somewhere. If I had better facilities with the search engine I would find it.

(MLeary again)

It is the people in the crowd singing along with Borat in that scene that are a different matter. They aren't so funny.

No, they're not funny - and anyone who subscribes to the kind of prejudices that Baron-Cohen is trying to mock will more than likely not get his humor. He (or she) will agree with Borat instead. Which isn't funny at all.

That isn't Baron-Cohen's fault. The "weaker brother" argument doesn't apply to secular satire. What is even less funny are the sorts of people that write editorials at Salon (which you referred to positively) that want to have lavish heaps of their left-wing nanny-state cakes and eat them as well. They are less funny because their problems are far more subtle and insidious than the guy who flies a Confederate flag from his porch.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Will Googling it using "site:artsandfaith.com" not even do the trick?

Matt

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

That search string plus "satire" brings up 22 pages, none of which are the thread I am thinking of. Perhaps it was deleted or something, as it got a bit rowdy IIRC. I just remember SDG and others making some good points on the issue in question.

Edited by MLeary

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I just watched that film last night. I have never laughed as hard as I laughed at this film. I went in skeptical. I looked at the reviews on rottentomatoes, and I hear Joel Siegel say that it was the funniest things since Laurel and Hardy, and I thought, that is high praise, there is no way that it will live up to it. But for me, it came very close.

There is one scene, that Peter mentions in his first post, that I really wished they would stop, because I could not breathe. I was bent over, stomping on the floor, laughing hysterically.

Now, I don't know if it will hold up under a second viewing, so I don't know if it has staying power with me.

The other thing I was interested in, directed to those who have seen the film, when Borat is showing pictures of him and his 11 year old son to his etiquette coach,

how is that not child pornography

?

B/c it's photo-shopped?????

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!


Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.


Sign In Now
Sign in to follow this  
Followers 0