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


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#21 M. Leary

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Posted 19 October 2006 - 05:59 AM

QUOTE(Jeffrey Overstreet @ Oct 18 2006, 02:15 PM) View Post

QUOTE
Exactly, which is Sascha Baron Cohen's point with Borat's stupid comments! He's not mocking the Roma, but rather those who treat them with such clueless disdain! IT'S SATIRE, PEOPLE!


Yes, like Ricky Bobby praying to the Baby Jesus... he's not mocking Jesus, but lampooning the ways in which Christians sometimes behave with some childishness and absurdity.

However, the difference between the two: Ferrell's is entirely an act. If Baron is doing his satire and luring in unsuspecting folks to take part in the sketch, then the pain they feel in the midst of their being duped... that's real pain, and that raises other issues about appropriateness and compassion.

I haven't seen the film, so I don't know if this applies.


I do resonate with this point, but I know I will be slammed for the following comparison: Cohen's characters basically do the same thing as the movie Crash. Cohen just makes it amusing (which is arguably worse). Crash simply builds on monolithic stereotypes in a way that forces the audience into a predetermined moral awareness of what its characters are only vaguely narratively aware of, which is the cheapest of all of Hollywood's tricks. Cohen does the same thing, inserting himself fictionally in these racially and politically charged situations in such a way that they are pushed to their extremes.


QUOTE(nardis @ Oct 18 2006, 07:33 PM) View Post

I'm quoting this post partly to address your concerns, Anders and Jeffrey. Because Cohen isn't funny to all Americans or Western Europeans. His humor is so edgy that it often plays very un-humorously.


But he is funny to most Western Europeans. In fact, his lampooning of American fundamentalism and conservatism are very well recieved in the UK and Western Europe.

#22 Tony Watkins

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Posted 19 October 2006 - 04:05 PM

I shall reply to this thread properly in the next few days when I get a chance (and I'm trying to find some stuff I wrote on Ali G seven or eight years ago).

Meanwhile, a tangent devil.gif

Sascha Baron-Cohen's cousin Simon Baron-Cohen is a leading psychologist studying autism. He's very interesting. One of the things I've heard him say is that he has come to suspect that autism is a set of highly exaggerated male characteristics. And before I get into trouble with Alan, if you want to talk about that, don't do it here. Far be it from me to encourage people to get into discussing tangents.

#23 Peter T Chattaway

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Posted 20 October 2006 - 12:31 AM

nardis wrote:
: Whereas Baron-Cohen's humor is deliberately provocative and outrageous - and not always very
: humorous. I think he's more aware than anyone that truly outrageous statements can (and sometimes
: do) provoke genuine outrage. it's not a matter of the audience "not getting it." It's that there's a
: meanness in his humor, and manipulativeness, too. FWIW, the rodeo sequence in the film got a *lot*
: of press here after it was shot ... and it would bother me a lot less if Baron-Cohen and the rodeo
: spectators had all been working from a script.

Ah, but the scene is funny precisely because they are NOT working from a script. The laughter is, in part, nervous laughter, not just funny-ha-ha laughter, and part of what makes scenes like this work is the fact that you, as the person laughing, aren't entirely sure where one kind of laughter ends and the other begins.

And the reason there's nervous laughter involved here is precisely BECAUSE there is the possibility of genuine outrage. It's funny because it ISN'T safe, it ISN'T tame, it ISN'T from a script.

Does Borat/Cohen go too far? No doubt. I am personally wondering what bribe the producers had to pay to prevent
Spoiler
. There is, in a sense, a rudeness to that scene that would certainly have pissed me off big time if I were the person in question. (Unless the scene I'm thinking of WAS filmed from a script, though it certainly seemed real enough, and scriptedness at this very crucial point in the movie wouldn't really fit the film's modus operandi.)

: Somehow, to me, this is a case of "See how clever I am? I can dupe anyone!"

No, not clever, I think, so much as bold. Merely duping someone would be clever. Saying outrageous things to their faces (as Stephen Colbert recently did with George W. Bush) is bold.

The question is, Does bold equal funny? And the answer is, Not always. I didn't find Colbert's speech particularly funny (partly, I suppose, because it wasn't particularly clever, except for one or two lines). Borat, OTOH, I do find funny (partly, I think, because I like him as a CHARACTER), even when I'm not sure that I should.

Meanwhile, tangent re: humour translating across cultures: Check out this article on how the French translations of The Simpsons differ between Quebec and France.

#24 Tony Watkins

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Posted 20 October 2006 - 08:28 AM

Baron-Cohen has been invited to Kazakhstan. This from today's Guardian:

Following months of angry denunciations by Kazakhstan and a recent advertising campaign in the New York Times extolling its national virtues, the former Soviet republic has finally embraced Borat.

The country noted for its mirthless response to comedian Sacha Baron Cohen's fictitious Kazakh journalist - whose antics in the US are featured in a new film - has invited the performer to visit.

"I understand that the feelings of many people are hurt by Cohen's show," deputy foreign minister Rakhat Aliyev told local news agency Kazakhstan Today. "But we must have a sense of humour and respect the creative freedom of others." . . .


#25 Peter T Chattaway

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Posted 23 October 2006 - 05:46 PM

Just discovered "BoratMovie" has been uploading deleted scenes and the first four minutes of the film to YouTube; click here for the list. Of particular (though not exactly special) interest to readers of this board might be the deleted scenes "Dinner Prayer" and "Puppy".

#26 Tony Watkins

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Posted 01 November 2006 - 05:23 AM

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


#27 Tim Willson

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Posted 01 November 2006 - 01:37 PM

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

#28 anglicanbeachparty

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Posted 01 November 2006 - 03:01 PM

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.

#29 anglicanbeachparty

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Posted 02 November 2006 - 12:33 PM

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?!

#30 Peter T Chattaway

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Posted 03 November 2006 - 05:09 AM

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.

#31 Michael Todd

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Posted 03 November 2006 - 12:38 PM

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.

#32 Peter T Chattaway

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Posted 04 November 2006 - 05:52 AM

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

#33 Michael Todd

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Posted 04 November 2006 - 08:01 AM

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,
Spoiler
?

Edited by Michael Todd, 04 November 2006 - 08:02 AM.


#34 Peter T Chattaway

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Posted 04 November 2006 - 01:08 PM

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’s gross came from under 17s, it was a lot. This film is going to draw every single teen in America who can get their parents to buy the tickets (or to scam in whatever other ways kids do these days -- though it will be hard to buy-n-switch, as with these kinds of crowds, there is usually a ticket checker at the door).

But Fox has won this round for sure. I think [The Santa Clause 3] will come back on Saturday and end up with a little over $20 million for the weekend, perhaps passing Borat... perhaps not. But even being in a battle on 837 screens screams "phenom" and word of mouth will be even louder. On 2500 screens next weekend, look for Borat to do $35 million-plus. Even that modest projection would put it $15 million ahead of where F9/11 was after 2 weekends. . . .


#35 M. Leary

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Posted 04 November 2006 - 03:06 PM

QUOTE(Peter T Chattaway @ Nov 3 2006, 06:09 AM) View Post

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.

QUOTE(nardis @ Nov 4 2006, 02:51 PM) View Post

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.

QUOTE

QUOTE
...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, 04 November 2006 - 03:06 PM.


#36 John Drew

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Posted 04 November 2006 - 03:36 PM

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, 05 November 2006 - 02:51 AM.


#37 Overstreet

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Posted 04 November 2006 - 03:55 PM

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...

#38 M. Leary

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Posted 04 November 2006 - 04:00 PM

QUOTE(Baal_T'shuvah @ Nov 4 2006, 04:36 PM) View Post
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.

#39 Overstreet

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Posted 04 November 2006 - 04:04 PM

QUOTE
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.



#40 Overstreet

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Posted 04 November 2006 - 04:14 PM

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

QUOTE
"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, 04 November 2006 - 04:15 PM.