Intra-Office Borat Dialogue

Amy and I discuss cultural learnings for make publicity glorious box office weekend. We sit exactly one Craig away, yet we Skyped our Ebert-and-Roeper routine. How antisocial is that? Jagooye! Amy Odell 11/6/06 4:01 PM I found Borat offensive. The … Read More

By / November 6, 2006

Amy and I discuss cultural learnings for make publicity glorious box office weekend. We sit exactly one Craig away, yet we Skyped our Ebert-and-Roeper routine. How antisocial is that? Jagooye!

Amy Odell 11/6/06 4:01 PM I found Borat offensive. The stuff more about women than Jews. Michael D. Weiss 11/6/06 4:02 PM But isn't the point that he's lampooning backward bigots and misogynists? Amy Odell 11/6/06 4:02 PM Yes, it is, but I found myself forgetting that because I was surrounded by 17 year-old boys who seemed to be laughing at the fact that he was ridiculing women/Jews rather than the fact that he was playing a backward-ass character. Michael D. Weiss 11/6/06 4:07 PM But that makes the 17 yr-old boys too stupid to get the joke. Why does that reflect poorly on Cohen? If anything, I thought he was cruel to certain people who weren't really deserving of his satire. That Southern woman at the dinner party who tried to show him American bathroom etiquette (or really, just how not to be a savage). Funny as it was, she was being very kind, assuming there was a cultural disconnect and that this poor guy from an ex-Soviet satellite needed a tutorial in assimilation. Also, the nice old Jewish couple who ran the B&B. I wonder how they felt being used like that to make a point about Antisemitism. That stuff made me cringe, to be honest. Amy Odell 11/6/06 4:08 PM Right, I agree with you on those points. I did find the humor rather cruel in that sense. And yes, the 17 yr old boys are too stupid to get the joke, but it's still disturbing that that's the message they extract from it. Michael D. Weiss 11/6/06 4:10 PM They probably thought that RV full of frat guys came off looking okay, too. Amy Odell 11/6/06 4:10 PM Yeah, I was AMAZED at how backwards those Southerners were. You know it's out there but to actually see it like that is so disturbing. Michael D. Weiss 11/6/06 4:13 PM Right, and it's not like a comedy looking to scandalize Americans is going to show you as many thoughtful and decent people from the red states as it is the Confederate flag-flying yokels and racists. The guy at the rodeo, for example. He was certainly the worst of the bunch, but I remember reading an article somewhere about that "Throw the Jew down the well" sketch that aired on the HBO show. The question asked was, “Were those patrons of the honky-tonk bar REALLY advocating killing Jews, or were they so in thrall to the act of a performer that they didn't register what it was they were clapping and singing along with – they just mouthed whatever chorus he told them to?” If you or I met any of these people, would we necessarily find them malicious rednecks? As much as this is supposed to be cinema verite, I think filming somebody causes them to say and do thing they otherwise wouldn't, or at least not as badly as they do in front of a camera. Amy Odell 11/6/06 4:15 PM See, I would think people would be a little camera shy. But like the guy at the gun shop–when Borat asked, "What's the best gun for killing a Jew?" It seemed to very honestly answer, "Oh, use this one." But the scene at the rodeo where he riled all those people up— they were clearly feeding off each other. But I thought he was very smart about how he escalated their response–very well-calculated Michael D. Weiss 11/6/06 4:19 PM I mean, clearly, we’re dealing with some form of abject stupidity. The only distinction is whether these people really don’t hear what they're being asked/told — are they filtering out everything except that which demands an immediate response? Or are they sympathetic to this hate-mongering foreigner? (Actually, one thing that did impress me was how friendly most people were to Borat. What is he, after all, but a low-down Commie trekking through America's heartland? Wouldn't they have run him out of each and every town he visited, if this anthropological thesis — Americans are short-fused reactionaries — were true?) Amy Odell 11/6/06 4:20 PM I think they see him as someone they can influence. The frat boys are a perfect example: I think–they just wanted to get him wasted. And the lady at the dinner–she wanted to teach him about American/civilized culture. Michael D. Weiss 11/6/06 4:21 PM I couldn't quite tell what was semi-scripted and what was completely improvised… Amy Odell 11/6/06 4:21 PM Yeah, I was wondering about that too–like the Pam Anderson scene? Michael D. Weiss 11/6/06 4:22 PM Right, and I didn't like that he invited Linell [sp?] – the black prostitute – to that house. Was the intention to say, look — they live on a street called Secession Drive! They're racists! Or was it just lowbrow mockery: here’s a whore in this genteel palatial home? She could've been white and dressed like that and I’d still think the hosts would have been within rights to call the cops. The Pam Anderson scene had to have been planned. He'd have gone to prison otherwise. Also, wouldn't she have bodyguards at a book signing? Amy Odell 11/6/06 4:23 PM Well couldn't she have just called her PR rep ahead of time or something? I wouldn't expect Pam to be that good of an actor. I thought she seemed pretty real. My guess would be it was planned- maybe she didn't know about it but her people did But I think that was a strength of the film overall–it all seemed very real. Michael D. Weiss 11/6/06 4:24 PM There was something on Slate to the effect that she's been pranked by Borat before, or at least knew what his character was about before filming began. Amy Odell 11/6/06 4:24 PM Oh, I didn't know that. She did well then. What did you find funniest? Michael D. Weiss 11/6/06 4:26 PM The Running of the Jew. Oh, and the garage sale where he thinks he's haggling with a gypsy. Don't know why I found the latter SO funny, but I did. Amy Odell 11/6/06 4:26 PM Ah yes, I forgot about the gypsy. That was very good. I found the streaking scene funny, I won't lie. Not the super disgusting parts in the hotel room. Michael D. Weiss 11/6/06 4:26 PM Probably because it was out of some weird, Central Asian Grimm fairy tale, the way he approached her using cautious, rehearsed language. Amy Odell 11/6/06 4:27 PM Yes, that was GREAT. Michael D. Weiss 11/6/06 4:27 PM The hotel room scene… How on earth that got past censors. They had to block out the puppets having sex in Team America! Amy Odell 11/6/06 4:27 PM Well, they did censor it. Sort of. Michael D. Weiss 11/6/06 4:28 PM (Though did you notice the size of the black bars covering their dicks? A bit on the hyperbolically long end, I’d say. The little touches like those are what made the film worthwhile.)

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