Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Election Day

The setting:
A southern plantation estate, a rodeo, a bus of drunk frat boys, an evangelical mega-church, a business convention, Washington, DC;

The day after the election, with politics on our minds, I could be describing the heart and soul of the Republican party, red-state conservative strongholds, the voting base of one George W. Bush (Editorial note: a shame about those election results, guys). Instead, I'm talking about the playground of Sacha Baron Cohen’s Borat, a horny anti-Semitic journalist on loan from Kazakhstan to document the great American experience.

These two worlds couldn’t be the same thing, could they? This is the year 2006. Surely, we’ve moved beyond the days when our country was populated by the startling prejudice and idiocy that Borat encounters on his journeys. Right? Right.

Last night, election night, I saw Borat with a packed, lively crowd. I’m a firm believer in the communal experience of seeing movies on the big screen, sitting in a theater with strangers in the dark. Nowadays, most of us prefer Netflix DVDs on a flatscreen tv in the privacy of our homes. But I think we can all agree that a comedy is always best seen in a theater, or at least in a group setting. There’s just something infectious about a large crowd in synchronized fits of laughter.

Borat does nothing if not trigger hysterical laughter. This is comedy at its satirical best and outrageously offensive worst. You will marvel at Sacha Baron Cohen's tenacious performance. Borat’s ability to draw out the prejudice in his surprisingly willing subjects is jaw-dropping. These aren't actors, folks. I wish they were. I kept asking myself if this or that scene was staged. Did the person know this was a put-on? How could anyone say that with a camera on them?! Pamela Anderson surely was in on the joke, right? I’m not so sure. In any case, watching Borat interact with these people is constantly hilarious and often sobering. While the satire is sharp and intelligent, Borat also has some of the most brazenly obscene and offensive content I’ve seen in some time. I’m not giving any specifics here. I really want to. But I won’t. Don’t want to spoil anything. Needless to say, Borat is brilliantly subversive in its intent and hilariously juvenile in its execution. Most moviegoers will buy tickets for the absurd, gross-out sight gags but many will leave thinking about what Cohen is really up to, what he's saying, what's real, what's not. It's a low-brow comedy that makes you think.

So yes, all the hype surrounding Borat is dead-on. I don't know why I tried to resist. Borat is indeed one of the funniest movies ever made. The list-maker in me is already comparing it along side other comedy classics to see where it ranks, but why bother. There's no need. Just for god's sake, go see it if you haven't already. As for me, I'm still coming down off the high. If nothing else, it was perfect entertainment on election day and I’m looking forward to seeing it again.

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