Friday, October 23, 2020

Borat Subsequent Moviefilm | Lefsetz Letter

It’s positively mind-blowing.

I almost didn’t watch it, the “New York Times” gave it a bad review. That’s because they looked at it through the wrong lens, it’s not a movie, it’s PERFORMANCE ART!;

I’m not the biggest Borat fan, I’m not even the biggest Sacha Baron Cohen fan, but I was intrigued by the distribution plan of “Borat Subsequent Moviefilm.” It’s free with Amazon Prime, which seemingly everybody in America has, or has access to. In other words, to use the term of the techies, Cohen has reduced the “friction” between his work and his audience. Talk to any true artist, it’s never about the money, sure, they want to get paid, but they’d sacrifice every dollar to reach more people, to have an impact upon society.

And it’s funny how not a single musical artist has had an impact politically in the twenty first century. Boomers keep expecting “Eve of Destruction,” of “For What It’s Worth,” but they’re never gonna come. One can analyze the scene, the vapidity, the commerciality, but that is missing the main point…NO MUSICAL ARTIST CAN REACH EVERYBODY!

But somehow Borat can.

I love a good stupid movie. My favorite is “Stripes.” Which has a similar sensibility to “Borat Subsequent Moviefilm,” as in it questions authority while laughing at it and those watching are in on the joke. But “Borat Subsequent Moviefilm”? It’s commenting on the America we live in today, in a way no one in the media seems to be able to do other than Cohen himself.

In this same twenty first century, the only people allowed to speak truth are cartoon characters. Look at “South Park,” never mind “The Simpsons” and so many others. They tackle taboos, they say what real human beings cannot.

And the “South Park” twins ended up going to Broadway with “The Book of Mormon.” And you’d think that Mormons would hate it, but they love it! Just like right wingers will love “Borat Subsequent Moviefilm.” And they’ll also get a dose of truth, many doses of truth, that cannot be denied.

As for Rudy Giuliani, this film should put the nail in his coffin. And it’s not about him tucking in his shirt, but what he says earlier, about Trump and China and the coronavirus. He repeats right wing tropes, like the virus was created in a lab and Trump is doing such a great job, and you’re stunned. You always thought Rudy was smart, but now his cover has been blown, he’s nearly as insane as Trump himself! Until he became president I too bought the party line, that Trump was intelligent, but we now all know that is untrue. Furthermore, Rudy is so sleazy, hitting on the female interviewer, smiling, baring his teeth as if getting ready to devour her like the Big Bad Wolf, that your stomach turns. This is who this guy really is? And you realize yup, it’s him, just like it’s everybody else in this road trip of a film.

It starts out stupidly in Kazakhstan. But then as the film unspools, when Borat gets to America and starts interacting with people, you gradually get stunned. At first you think it’s just one gullible person, and then you realize all these people are gullible!

The anti-Semitism. Getting the bakery employee to write hatred on the cake without blinking.

You start to squirm with every progressive set-up. You wonder how Cohen did this, and you wonder about the consequences. Like the debutante ball and that time of the moon. No one just laughs out loud or tells Borat to get out immediately other than when he enters a ballroom to give his daughter to Pence. But by piercing the bubble of this conservative nonsense it makes Pence and his followers look like nincompoops. It’s amazing what people will say if they believe they’re in a bubble, that the real world and the media are excluded. As for the anti-Covid rally, getting the assembled multitude to shout hatred…right there you see the perils of groupthink.

So, Sacha Baron Cohen just disrupted the movie business. They thought it would be the too long and not good enough Scorsese film “The Irishman.” And then maybe “Mulan” on the Disney Channel. But the truth is “The Irishman” was an endurance test and it turned out that “Mulan” was also far from stellar and it was on Disney+ and…

This is like “The Sopranos” on HBO.

First we had “Dream On.” Then even “Sex and the City.” But when HBO aired “The Sopranos,” not only did we realize the show was better than anything on the big screen, in theatres, but it made a joke of all the network fare. Yes, you can credit HBO for changing television, and our entire nation’s consciousness. You see then the other pay channels had to create original programming to compete with HBO. And then Netflix came along with an open checkbook and suddenly we were living in the heyday of television. Sure, there are too many shows to watch, over four or five hundred per year at the last count, but the truth is…MOST ARE NOT WORTH WATCHING! We no longer live in a three network world. Television resembles the music business. The label releases a bunch of product just hoping ONE album/artist/track hits. And if it does, it covers all the dreck financially. And the audience is drawn to hits. And hits often take time to grow, the perfect example being “Breaking Bad,” which was on TV for years but didn’t break through until it was on demand on Netflix.

So we’re all looking for something to watch.

And we’re all listening to our friends, the scuttlebutt. We may not watch all the way through, but we’ll give recommendations a chance.

And you want to watch “Borat” to be PART OF THE DISCUSSION! I only lament we’re in the Covid era, otherwise “Borat Subsequent Moviefilm” would be the topic of discussion in the office for at least a week. Those left out would immediately watch it, just to render an opinion. That’s what we want to do. That’s one of the reasons I watched it today, I wanted to be up to date. Meanwhile, there’s not much I need to be up to date on these days, other than the news.

And Rachel Maddow and the rest of MSNBC have spent four years with a serious tone trying to take Trump down, and it hasn’t worked. But this stupid “Borat” movie will have more impact than any of the anchors’ bloviating, more impact than last night’s debate, because when you see the insanity in action you just cannot defend it, you’re forced to wake up.

That’s right, there’s a right wing bubble, trying to keep people from the truth, demonizing everyone who is not inside it. But Cohen pierces that bubble with the tiniest of pinpricks, over and over and over again. And ultimately it’s simple, you let people be who they are and you can’t help but laugh at them, they incriminate themselves, and you question your own beliefs.

The plastic surgeon who talks about Jewish noses. Who doesn’t take offense. Irrelevant of his beliefs, this is how we’ve gotten here, no one speaks up. And then when black people speak up those on the right refuse to address the issue, talking about law and order as opposed to systemic racism. Then again, Tucker Carlson says racism is history in America. Tell that to a black teenager in a hoodie walking through an upscale mall or the streets of Beverly Hills.

This film is jaw-dropping. Like I said, not at first. But the cumulative effect ends up being overwhelming. Cohen does not relent, he keeps on upping the ante, keeps exposing right wing tropes for what they are. How are you gonna defend the viewpoints in this movie? You can’t, you can just do your best to ignore it. But the younger generations will eat “Borat Subsequent Moviefilm” up and watch it over and over again. And as they recite its elements their parents will watch it too.

Never underestimate the impact of art. I truly believe we can credit MTV with demystifying and destigmatizing homosexuality as well as interracial relationships. When you see it on the screen and all of the tropes are proven untrue, it has an impact.

Then again, we’ve still got a long way to go. James “The Amazing” Randi just died and even though he did his best, there are still clairvoyants and other fakers ripping off the public.

But Randi never reached everybody. Oh, he reached a lot of people on “Johnny Carson,” but “Borat Subsequent Moviefilm” is not here and gone, rather it will live on, on demand, on Prime Video. That’s the world we live in, one of on demand, if I can’t watch it when I want to, I wont. Make it inconvenient and I’m out. This is what the older generation does not get about the youth. This is how the youth have learned to live in a world with so much incoming, whereas so many elders have just punted, thrown their arms in the air and said it’s too overwhelming.

And, ultimately “Borat Subsequent Moviefilm” is overwhelming. It overwhelms your senses. At first it’s just intellectually funny, but then you can’t resist laughing out loud, sometimes hysterically. And almost all comedies are uneven, you can’t review them through the lens of a drama, just like you can’t send a rock fan to review a hip-hop show.

“Borat Subsequent Moviefilm” is a bullseye. Watch it NOW!


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