March 20, 2007

Borat - $2

Borat was hard to watch. I understand that Sacha Baron Cohen isn't actually a racist, I assume that because he is Jewish himself he is able to get away with the anti-semitism of his character Borat who has to be considered the most racist fictional character in history. I also get that this is a satirical movie which paints racism and sexism as the refuge of idiots.

The problem is I still didn't enjoy watching a movie full of blatant and inappropriate prejudices. The other problem is that Borat's target audience doesn't seem to understand the nuance that this movie is belittling Borat and anyone like him, from what I overhear from this movie's fans they instead imitate and admire Borat. I can't imagine that this was the intent of the movie.

The full title of this movie is Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan and the premise is that Borat is a Kazakh who is being sent by his government to film a documentary about America to help Kazakhstan improve itself. Borat travels around the US interacting with people who really believe they are being filmed for a Kazakh documentary and proceed to do and say things that I hope they wouldn't admit to anyone else.

This premise makes for a shocking movie full of uncomfortable moments. If you watched Borat and didn't cringe there is likely something wrong with you. For my part I cringed in almost every scene and didn't really laugh that often. I did laugh at times and to be honest not every person on the movie treated Borat poorly, in fact some people were downright nice to him.

In the end, after the movie stopped and I breathed a sigh of relief that it was finally over, I immediately wondered why so many people have given this movie such high praise. Cohen is not doing anything new here, admittedly he is one of the people who perfected this type of comedy years ago and this movie takes it to a new level; but the fact remains that Borat is not a new idea and mostly the movie is just full of horrible racism and sexism which now get repeated every day by people who've seen this movie and think it's hilarious.

There were some funny moments amidst the cringing and Cohen would have literally risked his life a few times to do the things he did so I hesitate to give this movie the lowest rating I've ever given.

I certainly put Borat on my 'Don't Watch It' list though and give it a value of $2.


Sheamus the... said...

the rodeo scene was shot just outside of my home town...i agree with you about this movie. I wont lie and say i didnt laugh though.

Jeff Coutts said...

Dave, I couldn't disagree more. I think you missed something here. If your offended by this movie, then you've already missed the joke. If people don't get the movie, that's there problem. Is this movie having a negative effect? I doubt it. People are idiots with or without this movie (which this movie clearly proves).

There were also many moment of candor that showed good and decent people as well people who should be ashamed of themselves. Borat is simply a character that draws this out of people.

I've said enough. I loved this movie, and it deserves all the praise it gets.

* (asterisk) said...

I've seen only two negative reviews of this movie, including yours, Tony, but I've not yet seen the film myself despite quite liking Cohen and his many characters. We had Borat, Bruno and Ali G on The 11 O'Clock Show over here about six or seven years ago; this is the same show that introduced the world to Ricky Gervais, incidentally. I will watch Borat someday soon, no doubt, and I expect I'll like it, in the way I like Curb Your Enthusiasm and similar doscomfort viewing! To each his own, eh?

Tony Tanti said...

jeff, I'll email this and some more comments today but basically my context for being convinced that this movie is affecting people is that a few of the most unassuming and "good kids" that I know are constantly making Jew and Gypsy jokes in the voice of Borat now. These are not dumb kids.

You're right about Borat drawing things out of people, the rodeo scene was quite a funny example of that as was the scene with the feminists, but a counter example for me would be the time spent in the Jewish couples house. That made me sick, and before you go reminding me that Cohen is Jewish, I know, but like I said the irony is that a Jewish guy has managed to make casual anti-semitism funny again.

Anyway, people are entertained by different things and I can understand people being entertained by this movie more than I was, but does a prank movie really deserve Golden Globes?! Cohen's not doing anything new here nor terribly creative, I'm still amazed at how many people are treating this like it's anything more than Jackass with a script. No doubt he did some pretty daring stuff but is breaking antiques really that funny?

I've gone on too long. I'm fine with people liking this movie if they weren't bothered by it the way I was or affected by it like the 16 year olds I know, but you'll have to do better than telling me I missed the joke. I get racist jokes, I just don't like hearing them.

Jeff Coutts said...

Hey Dave, I'm still not getting your argument. There is more to this movie than your giving credit for. The scene in the Jewish people's house was beyond over the top. How could talk of Jew's shape shifting into cockroaches possibly be taken seriously?

The movie is absurd. Almost as absurd as the world we live in, but not quite. This movie does justice to American culture in a way that no other movie could.

I'm not saying this movie is a master peace or anything but I just don't get why people get so offended by it. I read reviews where critics say that Borat is taking advantage of people who are nice to him despite his goofy appearance. You've got to be kidding me. The nice people in this movie stay nice, and are shown as nice. People are ridiculous, and people are racists. This movie shows them for who they are. And I'm glad it had the guts to do so. When I said, you missed the joke, I didn't mean you missed some sort of racists joke. I mean that you missed the point.

I see your point about how this movie might be inappropriate. And I don't think everyone should see it. But there are a lot of movies out there that I don't think everyone should see. Most movies actually. The fact is, all that a lot of movies do now is try to shock people with more and more disgusting or "daring" things and none of it ends up really amounting to anything. This movie actually does shock people . .. by showing them a little bit of who they are and the what kind of world they live in.

Okay, now I've just read into this way too much. But, that's what I think anyway.


Tony Tanti said...

Good points Jeff, I appreciate the counter perspective. You're right that some of the movie was so over the top is was clearly in jest and that's probably the impression I'd have come out of Borat with if I hadn't already seen the proof that the fans of this movie aren't getting it.

You said "I'm not saying this movie is a master peace or anything but I just don't get why people get so offended by it" and I guess what I'm trying to say is that I'm not hearing many people say they are offended by it, in fact I'm hearing too many say they love it.

I think Borat "offended" my senses in that it made me cringe and I didn't find it entertaining as much as it was hard to watch. I don't feel personally offended by it but I sure don't get why it deserves high praise. Like it all you want but nobody was complaining when Jackass got no Oscar nominations and I'd put Borat in that league.

Coutts said...

very interesting. haven't seen it. the only other review I've read of this movie was negative as well, they just said it wasn't funny because it wasn't funny. they said the jokes went on so long the laughing would die down, silence would ensue, and then people would start laughing again at the awkwardness of it all.