Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan
Posted 08 November 2006 - 03:59 AM
: . . . I expect it to clip James Bond this weekend to remain seated at number one.
Actually, James Bond opens NEXT weekend.
Posted 08 November 2006 - 10:41 AM
Michael Todd wrote:
: . . . I expect it to clip James Bond this weekend to remain seated at number one.
Actually, James Bond opens NEXT weekend.
I just realized that. Thanks...
Posted 08 November 2006 - 11:58 PM
: I was raised in a very different time - you just never would have said *anything* remotely like his
: anti-semitic lines if you didn't believe in them wholeheartedly. (Earlier I made a comparison to
: jokes about lynchings - same deal.)
So ... are you saying that the young coots are so removed from the historical reference points that they are dishonouring them ... or that they are so removed that they can put them in perspective ... or ... ?
If all you are saying is that Borat (which you may or may not have seen) isn't made for a woman of your generation, then fine, no one's going to argue with that. But if you are implying that there is something wrong with everybody else enjoying and benefitting from the film ... then you need to say something a little more substantial than, "I'm older than you all and I was raised in a different culture."
: Somehow, I think it takes someone like Spike Lee to really pull off this kind of thing (his film
: Bamboozled, for example). Spike makes people uncomfortable, and he makes them think.
Spike Lee's a comedian!? Hmmm.
And as for Bamboozled, I barely remember it, but a skim through my contributions to the six-year-old OnFilm thread on that film here, here, here, and here indicates I wasn't terribly impressed with that particular movie (e.g., "That was one of the things that rankled me most, was Lee's suggestion -- or was it only the Wayans character's suggestion? -- that Rhames and Gooding were merely conforming to some 'grateful Negro' stereotype. I'm sorry, but that's just plain bullspit. . . . By forcing us to look at Rhames and Gooding through a racial screen, instead of seeing them as humans acting in a very human manner, Lee creates racism where there was none before."; "Your argument, I guess, is that the 'sloppy, all-over-the-map' technique of the film, which Rosenbaum criticizes, *is* the 'self-criticism' that Rosenbaum is looking for? That Lee is so determined to undermine the notion of a 'black entertainer' that he deliberately messed up his film, making it less than entertaining itself? I'm open to that possibility, but if that was Lee's intent, I'd hardly praise him for it; that falls into the not-good generating-more-heat-than-light category for me.").
Posted 09 November 2006 - 03:30 PM
Posted 09 November 2006 - 07:50 PM
Posted 13 November 2006 - 10:58 AM
I don't know if anybody's mentioned this yet, but I was very impressed with Larry Charles' direction. It's not easy to create all these real-time stunts, involving real people, and then craft a strong narrative around them, complete with progressing character arcs, and callbacks to previous scenes. It's in a category by itself--I don't think it qualifies as "Best Screenplay" or "Best Direction" territory, since too much of it was unscripted.
I will also say that I thought that, in certain scenes, some real-life people came across as better than expected; you feel pity for anybody who finds themselves in SBC's presence... certainly the cordial Southern dinner scene will rank amongst the most unusually cruel pranks I've seen in a long time, as you can see they really tried hard to be considerate and patient until SBC crossed a line, and they all probably realized they were in on a prank. (I felt no sympathy, however, for the frat boys--the ones who are suing the filmmakers). I breathed a huge sigh of relief after the church scene, knowing that SBC probably could have been a whole lot more venomous/"clueless" (like the rodeo scene) but didn't.
Posted 16 November 2006 - 02:59 PM
Posted 22 November 2006 - 04:17 PM
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.
For me, too. I've been trying to think of a film that made me laugh harder than Borat, and I'm coming up empty. I've seen films that are better satire, that are funnier in their own way, and that are superior works of cinema. But I laughed to the point of tears numerous times watching Borat.
And I refuse to feel guilty about it. Life is too darn short, and laughter is good medicine. On that score, Borat is downright biblical! (OK, tongue is in cheek, just to cover myself, but I do mean it. Sort of...)
Posted 22 November 2006 - 04:57 PM
And for you who feel guilty about laughing at people being deceived, please read the first book of the Bible. Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph all deceive. In 1 Kings, God sends out a lying spirit to Saul. At least Borat's lies are funny and there is a constancy of the outrageousness of his character.
Remember, Isaac means laughter.
As the Bible declares many times, it is through Isaac, not Ishmael, that salvation comes. Likewise, Jews have a spiritual inheritance of jocularity through Isaac. Baron Cohen comes from a long heritage of deceit and humor.
Heck, I even think Jesus was funny. A quarter of the things that are recorded of Him saying seem like satire to me. "I must travel today, the next day, and the day after that, for it is not fitting that a prophet die outside of Jerusalem." That is funny stuff.
Edited by Michael Todd, 22 November 2006 - 04:58 PM.
Posted 22 November 2006 - 05:24 PM
His comments were edited out of the article.
OK, I found some of my professor's comments on humor in the Bible here. I wonder if he'd see "Borat" as a justified use of humor. Note his disclaimer at the end of this, which, I suppose, could be used to support "Borat's" detractors. Anyway, it's food for thought:
Scripture itself contains humor. God laughs at the wicked in Psalm 2:4, and he declares the wisdom of the world to be foolishness in 1 Corinthians 1:20, something worthy of derision. Proverbs too identifies wickedness with foolishness. And although it condemns inappropriate jokes in 10:23, it contains some comical images, such as the sluggard who “buries his hand in the dish and will not even bring it back to his mouth” (19:24, 26:15), or the wealth of the rich that “sprouts wings, flying like an eagle to heaven” (23:5), or the quarrelsome woman who is “a continual dripping on a rainy day “(27:15). The recurring theme that “Whoever digs a pit will fall into it, and a stone will come back on him who starts it rolling” (26:27; cf. 28:10; Ps. 7:15; 9:15; 57:6; Eccl. 10:8) can hardly be read today without evoking Road Runner cartoons.
Sin in Scripture is tragic, but it is also comic. The seriousness of it should not detract from our ability to laugh at it. This laughter is edifying. It shows us how pitiful are man’s efforts to oppose almighty God. That Satan himself should imagine that he can overturn God’s throne is the height of absurdity. That mere human beings join his rebellion is even more ridiculous. The point of comedy is often disproportion, and if we don’t see the disproportion here enough to laugh at it, we have not quite caught the point. And the disproportion between creator and creature can lead to a holy laughter, in which reverence and amusement coincide. Scripture contains other jokes as well. That God chose an ass to speak to Balaam (Num. 22:22-41) probably struck the ancient Hebrews as funny, just as it strikes us. Jesus’ own humor includes the camel trying to go through the eye of the needle (Matt. 19:24), the Pharisees who strain at gnats and swallow camels (Matt. 23:24).24We don’t laugh at these passages, I suppose, because the jokes are so old. But they are funny, when you think about them afresh.
Again, Scripture emphasizes disproportion, as it seeks to teach us to view the world in the right perspective. I am often amused by Acts 12:12-17, in which the church is praying earnestly for Peter’s release from prison. God answers their prayers miraculously, and Peter goes to the prayer meeting. Rhoda, the servant girl, hears him knocking, but does not open the door. Rather, she reports to the prayer meeting that Peter is there. Rather than letting him in, they get into an argument about whether he could really be there, while he keeps knocking. All too typical of theological and ecclesiastical assemblies! Eventually he comes in and tells what God has done. So, God gently mocks his people, who cannot believe that he would actually answer their prayers. So, Scripture speaks well of a cheerful, merry, or glad heart (Prov. 15:13; 2 Cor. 9:7). That should not surprise us. Laughter is close to cheer, and cheer is close to joy. Christianity is about serious matters, but it does not make us glum. So, it does not seem to me wrong to include humor in theology, preaching, counseling, and general speech about the things of God. That does not seem to me to compromise God’s holiness. Rather, done in the right way, it increases our appreciation for God’s greatness, by showing the disproportion between the creator and the creation. Of course, humor that demeans God or his image in man is wrong. But good humor is a wonderful remedy to human pride and despair. 24For other examples of Jesus’ jokes, see D. Elton Trueblood, The Humor of Christ (NY: Harper, 1964).
Edited by Christian, 22 November 2006 - 05:34 PM.
Posted 22 November 2006 - 05:31 PM
Posted 24 November 2006 - 02:53 PM
I still haven't seen Borat, but I don't think Krauthammer's argument holds water, since anti-Semitism is as anti-Semitism does. If this is "the most welcoming, religiously tolerant, philo-Semitic country in the world", that doesn't mean that the anti-Semitism (among other anti-s) Borat uncovers aren't also real. And, of course, the idea that he ought to be uncovering anti-Semitism in Europe, rather than here, is silly - the whole point, as Krauthammer realizes, is that European anti-Semitism doesn't need to be uncovered, since it is already out in the open.
Edited by David Smedberg, 24 November 2006 - 02:53 PM.
Posted 25 November 2006 - 06:06 PM
Posted 14 December 2006 - 02:59 PM
Like moviegoing masses around the world, Israelis have crowded theaters to watch the hit spoof "Borat." But they are laughing for another reason: They actually understand what the anti-Semitic, misogynist Kazakh journalist is saying.
Associated Press, December 14
Posted 09 February 2007 - 10:04 PM
Posted 04 March 2007 - 08:21 PM
I remember one occasion during college when a touring theater company visited our campus, and offered a class on theater improvisation. My roommate and I volunteered to participate, and almost immediately launched into a routine that included some pretty juvenile “bathroom” humor. The instructor stopped us, and told us that use of “bathroom” humor is cheap, because it makes people laugh simply through shock. We sat down, embarrassed, armed with the understanding that good comedy was actually pretty difficult to do.
What reminded me of this story? This weekend I finally had the chance watch Borat! Cultural Learnings of America For Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan. If you somehow missed the marketing maelstrom for this film last fall, let me briefly explain. Sacha Baron Cohen, a British comedian, plays Borat Sagdiyev, a “Kazakh” journalist who tells people that he has traveled from Kazakhstan to the U.S. to make a documentary, and he fools real people into believing his story along the way. It’s like Candid Camera, but with the people fully aware that a camera is rolling.
When this film was released last fall, Cohen was aided in his marketing campaign by an unlikely source – Kazakh government officials who stumbled over themselves with righteous indignation trying to tell the world that Borat did not actually represent Kazakhstan. It was interesting to live in Kazakhstan when this happened, because I’d see officials jumping up to condemn Cohen, and then backpeddling to try and repair the damage their condemnation had caused.
As an expatriate working in the local arts community, I was invited to participate in a local television program that discussed how Kazakhstan should respond to Cohen, with one side wanting to sue him for defamation of national character, and the other side wanting to respond by not responding. It was all very interesting, but the bottom line was that the movie was not to be shown here in local theaters, and so most arguments were from a lack of first-hand knowledge of the film.
This weekend, I finally got my hands on a DVD from Thailand. After watching the film, I can understand the offense people in Kazakhstan felt, but in reality, the only real connection to the country was Cohen’s brief use of the Kazakhstani flag and some authentic Kazakh names. The truth of the matter is that his portrayal of my wife’s people was so ridiculous and over-the-top that you would have to be pretty naïve and narrow minded to buy it, even if you’d never heard of Kazakhstan.
So I wasn’t offended by his representation of Kazakhstan, but I was very offended by Cohen’s cheap use of “bathroom humor”, ad nauseum. And, interestingly, my offense wasn’t so much based on some sort of bruised morality, but I was actually more offended as an artist, that Cohen kept falling back on the cheap laugh.
For example, when Cohen was unable to get a group of white Alabamians at a dinner party to say something incriminating, he resorted to the use of literal bathroom humor (can’t get much more literal than that…), and then he added insult to injury by bringing a prostitute to the table. This, in my mind, demonstrated Cohen’s cheap character rather than any lacking in his hosts, and it was a shoddy method that he fell back on several times.
I did think that Cohen was clever in the way he used his seemingly innocent personae to encourage people to reveal their true thoughts on sensitive topics, such as race. And while the movie does have some funny moments that aren’t connected to the potty or perversion, they are so few and far between that it doesn’t make it worth the effort. To me, the film doesn’t have much by the way of redeeming qualities, and certainly won’t tell you anything true about Kazakhstan.
In conclusion, If you have been thinking of watching Borat, I would say don’t bother. Life’s too short, and there are plenty of other good films to watch. In fact, while I’m traveling around the U.S. this summer, I hope to take the opportunity to show some authentic Kazakh films to show what Kazakhs and Kazakhstan are really like.
Posted 04 March 2007 - 10:31 PM
But now knowing that it's a REAL country, I'm apalled (not just at my geographic ignorance, but) at Cohen's brutally unfair and uncalled for defamation of an actual nation. As a Christian, I "tolerated" the film's defamation of my religion. But his vilifying a whole country is unacceptable.