Bob and Justin's Mad Movie Blog

My name is Bob. My friend Justin and I are aspiring filmmakers and we have pretty similar tastes in movies. This will include our take on what's going on in film and television today as well as updating you on the status of our own work.

Monday, November 06, 2006

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

One of the greatest truths I've ever learned is that people- A LOT of people- are jerks. You can be nice and hope they are too, but in the end, they're still jerks. For most of the rest of us, ya know, the ones who have to deal with them, it's tough. They push our buttons and sometimes it can be all we can do to hold it together. This is why "most of the rest of us" need to see "Borat." It's revenge.
Through the guise of a jovial TV reporter with from Kazakhstan, Sacha Baron Cohen pushes the buttons of the ones who push us. The real brilliance of it (taking a page out of John Cleese's guide on how to irritate people), is that he lets them believe it's completely unintentional. Borat just doesn't understand the American culture.
"Borat: Cultural Learnings of America For Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan" (come on, ya gotta say the whole title) begins as a special presented on Kazakhi television. Borat shows us his village, in which he is the sole owner of the latest technological advance, the clock radio. He explains that the government is sending him to "U.S. and A." to learn about American culture and thus improve Kazakhstan. These opening scenes are staged, but once he gets to New York City, he's interacting with real people who have no idea that this man is really a British Jew from the BBC. On the subway he tries to greet men with kisses. After all, it's a part of Borat's culture. He doesn't know any better and he just wants to be friendly. Does anyone politely try to explain that that isn't done here? No. Nearly all threaten him with physical violence. This continues on the street. It doesn't take long for Borat to realize that things are not going well. This is where the plot of "Borat" reveals itself. Coming across an episode of "Baywatch," he discovers Pamela Anderson and decides that he must find and marry her. Upon discovering that she lives in Los Angeles, he decides that this is where he must go. He convinces his producer, and sole travel companion Azamat (Ken Davitian), that they must drive to L.A. to see the real America. This sets up Borat's journey across the country, encountering all manner of racists, snobs, and well, jerks. The real brilliance of the film is that he doesn't expose these people for who they are. He lets them do it themselves. They believe they'll be on TV in Kazakhstan, not on movie screens all over the world. They couldn't be more open and honest about their prejudices, especially when Borat himself is a vocal anti-Semite. He does meet some nice people along the way. His driving instructor and etiquette coach come to mind. There are others, such as former presidential candidate Alan Keyes, who remain polite, but are clearly very uncomfortable. For the most part however, we don't like who he meets, and there's something immensely satisfying about seeing him push them until they go over the edge.
"Borat" is offensive at pretty much every turn, and it contains some of the grossest moments you will ever see projected onto a movie screen. But all of this is done with such cleverness and imagination that we can't help but laugh until it hurts. As I've said before, uncomfortable humor is my favorite kind ("Freaks and Geeks," Martin Scorsese's "The King of Comedy," etc.). Getting us to laugh and squirm at the same time is Cohen's way of making us a part of the film. More comedies should do that.
Go see this movie film! 10/10


At Thu Nov 09, 05:56:00 PM PST, Anonymous Anonymous said...

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