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2006-11-07 20:33
by Jon Weisman

Though it's hardly the second coming of comedy, Borat has sufficient laughs to justify some of the buzz.

The movie soars when Borat puts himself completely at the mercy of a potentially hostile environment and truly reacts to his surroundings. In contrast, the set-up jokes, along the lines of his sister being the No. 4 prostitute in all of Kazakhstan, often fall flat without a good topper. At the start of the movie, I was worried about how little I was laughing, but the deeper Borat got into alien territory, the funnier he got. (It definitely helped when I was caught off guard by some stuff, as opposed to the clips I have seen time and again in promotion of the film.)

I'm not sure that the film is all that profound, since for every boor that Sacha Baron Cohen presents to us, one can assume that there are plenty of normal people he's not showing. I'm not shocked to find that there are racists and homophobes in the U.S. But the way Borat occasionally gets them to confront their prejudices is, well, entertaining, and again, Borat's ad-libs do approach genius from time to time.

And the wrestling sequence ... well, yeah, that worked.

But there's this storyline in some of the press that Borat has somehow reinvented audaciousness, and I think that's going a little far. Cohen is carrying the audaciousness banner, no doubt, but is what he's doing more nervy than what The Colbert Report, The Daily Show and some others are doing, night after night after night?

* * *

Sunday night, I saw a more serious kind of foreign film, Z odzysku (Retrieval), a Polish picture that won an award at the Cannes Film Festival and that will be the official Polish entry for the Oscars. It's a well-done film, with an opening scene that resonated in my head long after the plot had moved on from it.

The pacing is patient, and for the first half hour I did wonder whether the story of a young man trying to figure out his life amid unsavory options would pay off in the end. It does.

* * *

As a former James Bond diehard, who read all of Ian Fleming's novels and saw every film growing up before turning sour on the whole enterprise, I have to say that the trailer for Casino Royale really enticed me.

By the way, have you ever read Moonraker? The film was one of the worst in the Bond series, but the bridge game in the book was spellbinding - and I don't even play bridge.

2006-11-07 22:20:32
1.   scarface
I'm quite surprised to find someone who's actually read all the Bond books - usually in my dad's generation (which you aren't :)). I have too, but forgotten a lot of the details; I remember the general feel though.

What was most striking to me was the darker, more depressed(depressing?), less confident, less self-assured character in the books, when compared to the movies. There's no way we'd ever see Bond puke in the upcoming movie, right? Have the movies ever shown him suffering over women/marriage/etc.? Come to think of it, Craig's Layer Cake character reminds me a bit of the Casino Royale book version of Bond.

As for the Moonraker movie, I think the female lead was one of the hottest women I'd seen at that point in my life (the concept of easily available English movies and a videotape player was still new to me then). Therefore I think I have a soft spot for that movie:)

Yeah, I think the last Bond movie I liked was Goldeneye. Are you in the old-school Sean-Connery is king camp?

2006-11-07 22:41:10
2.   Jon Weisman
Yep, that's my camp.

In the trailer, Daniel Craig's Bond seemed more vulnerable than any I had seen.

2006-11-07 23:24:54
3.   Benaiah
I am worried that it will turn out to be like MI:3 where the romance was unnecessary and contrived and yet the movie was ultimately a romance. Often you can't have it both ways and I think that it is difficult for films to have both flashy action style and romantic substance.

As for Borat, well, when it worked it definitely worked. I think the press is hyperbolic because a) the performance is terrific and b) you won't find another box office smash movie with its political moments so explicit. As a southern man (raised in Alabama though I don't live there anymore) I was amazed to see those ignorant college boys speak so frankly about slavery, because I meet/met/know/knew people who acted like them all the time but I never heard them say it. The movie isn't entirely coherent but it's highs are really really high.

PS Thanks to this blog I have gotten into Veronica Mars and I have to say thanks. What a great show! I have one episode left in season one, so I don't want to look at your post above this one... yet.

2006-11-08 19:18:31
4.   MadMonk
Yes, the new Bond trailer is amazing looking. The reviews that I've read from UK is that this one is good. Best since Golden Eye.

I've read the books too as a lad and remember that Moonraker was very much different from the book. Of course, there is the complete reprise of You Only Live Twice as the Spy Who Loved Me, none of which was even close to the book at all.

I'm intrigued by this one. We'll shall find out soon.

Thanks for Borat's review. I was reluctant to go see this, now I will.

2006-11-09 13:07:57
5.   overkill94
Being a big fan of Da Ali G show, I knew I was going to be disappointed with the Borat movie. I knew I'd still really like it, but all this buzz coming from the press is by people who hardly know anything about the character.

The segments on Da Ali G show were only about 10 minutes long, so he could extract as much comedy from the situation as possible without becoming tiresome. There were still some very funny moments in the movie, but I feel like I laughed much harder when watching his segments on the TV show.

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