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Notes From the Back Row

Borat is funny, offensive and pure genius



By Feet Banks

20 th Century Fox are a bunch of pussies. Scared by how crappy the much-hyped Snakes on a Plane (which kinda ruled) did at the box office, the Fox execs cut way back on the initial release of the also heavily hyped Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan, releasing it in only 841 theatres North America-wide (compared to Santa Clause 3, which dropped in over 3,500 theatres.) This is why people in Vancouver have been laughing their asses off in sold-out Borat shows all week and we’re just getting our first dose of Cultural Learnings this Friday at the Village 8.

Borat is a fictional journalist played by British comic genius Sascha Baron Cohen ( Ali G.) After reporting on the traditional “Running of the Jews,” (complete with oversized papier mâch é masks with fangs) in his homeland Borat is sent to America, the “centre of Democracy and porn,” to learn about their culture. He starts in New York, learning that Yanks will accept a wild chicken on their subway much easier than a man kissing other men on the cheek. From there Borat travels cross-country in an ice cream truck (sometimes with a pet bear) in hopes of making it to LA and getting inside Pamela Anderson’s “vagine”, which he is convinced is utterly virginal. Along the way Borat meets various Americans and bounces his backwoods anti-semetic, chauvinistic, and poor manners off them in various scripted and improvised scenes. It’s like candid camera meets Punk’d, with a bit of Jackass, Tom Green and Andy Kauffman tossed in for good measure, all in mockumentary road-movie format. Which is to say it’s unique, incredibly hilarious, totally offensive, morally evocative and simply genius.

Whether asking what’s the best gun to shoot a Jew with (and getting a straight and honest answer), praising the U.S. “War of Terror” at a rodeo, or inviting a messy prostitute to a classy dinner party (which comes off worse than bringing a bag of his own shit to the table) Borat examines American tolerance while smacking the viewers with the foolishness of bigotry, fear, and ignorance of all sorts. That racist, chauvinistic Borat is the biggest moron of all is the film’s ultimate punch line. Funniest movie of the year? Most certainly, only Jackass 2 comes close. It’s been a pretty dry year for comedy all around.

But it’s a good week for movie watching at the Village 8. Along with Borat they’re also re-screening Little Miss Sunshine for people who enjoy less offensive laughs and Marie Antoinette , Sofia Coppula’s ( Lost in Translation) revisionist, rocked out bio of the famous Austrian princess turned French Queen. Themes of lost youth and cultural dislocation blend with a muddled story and lush production to produce an imperfect, yet almost satisfying film, somewhat like a mouthful of cotton candy.

Then there’s Stranger than Fiction, one of those screw-with-your-mind movies a la Charlie Kaufman, where Will Ferrell plays a dull IRS accountant who one day realizes he’s little more than a character in a novel who’s going to be killed off, unless… It bites ideas from other flicks, including Fight Club, but in the end is smart and quirky enough to be worth the ticket price.

Also showing is Running with Scissors, based on the writings of Augusten Burroughs. While it is certainly weird and mildly humorous for almost 25 minutes the film, chock full of schizos, poets, gays, and self-pity, is trying really hard to be the next Royal Tennenbaums but doing a terrible job. Beware, this is the kind of flick you end up stuck with when you’re with your girlfriend and Borat’s sold out. Avoid at all costs.

AT VILLAGE 8 Nov. 10-16: Borat; Stranger than Fiction; Running with Scissors; Marie Antoinette; Saw 3; Flushed Away; Santa Clause 3; Departed; Little Miss Sunshine.