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Gauging the Borat Backlash

Call me immodest, maybe even inconsistent, but I would like to stake a claim for The Reeler in what looks like it could be a burgeoning Borat backlash. While I quite enjoyed the film and still laugh whenever I think of star Sacha Baron Cohen's chicken flopping around the subway upon their arrival in New York (I often don't know how I survived the rest of the movie), remember that Reeler contributor Lewis Beale had among the earliest and most severe distastes for the actor's schtick. More recently in New York, reports The (U.K.) Sun -- granted, not the most luminescent beacon of journalistic endeavor -- Baron Cohen allegedly took a beating from someone even less enamored of Borat's affections:

(Photos: STV)

Borat star Sacha Baron Cohen was beaten up by a passer-by after he tried to play a prank as his alter ego.
He approached the man and said: "I like your clothings. Are nice! Please may I buying? I want have sex with it."
But the bystander didn't see the joke. He took one look at Cohen and punched him in the face.
The funnyman -- known for his Borat catchphrase "Jagshemash!" -- yelled for help but was slugged again and again.
He was rescued by actor pal Hugh Laurie who had been on his way to a New York bar with Cohen.

"Jagshemash!"? Really? Anyway, the bullshit meter is running a little hot on this one, as you might imagine, but what of the Father of The Reeler, David Carr, who today used his Carpetbagger blog to swat Baron Cohen like a particularly nasty fly who set up camp in his holiday kitchen?

The Bagger gets the joke, it just doesn't make him laugh. Again and again in Borat, (Mr. Cohen) ... takes advantage of the fundamental civility of most Americans. Yeah, the rodeo guy is a homophobe, but the unwitting people at the dinner party where he returns from the bathroom with a bag of excrement, or the etiquette coach to whom he shows pornographic pictures, were mainly victims of their own good manners. Much like Michael Moore at his worst, Mr. Cohen uses a road show built to stick it, not to The Man, but to the Average Joe. ...
But the best joke of all is not in Borat. It turns out that Mr. Cohen is very quick to defend his own privacy when he is not inhabiting a persona. He has been unwilling to speak about Borat as himself, doing interviews only as the character.
In fact, Mr. Cohen can be downright ferocious when it comes to people failing to "respect his space." The Baguette, the Bagger's colleague Paula Schwartz, happened to be at the premiere in 2005 of Wedding Crashers, a film in which Mr. Cohen's girlfriend, Isla Fisher, had a role. She was present when Richard Corkery, a veteran Daily News photographer, took a shot of Mr. Cohen.
"As soon as Corkery took a shot of Cohen, he came rushing up to the diminutive Corkery, who's about 5′4″, and put his hands around Corkery's neck and shook him," the Baguette recalls. "Not too hard, but hard enough, and given his size, it was scary." (Mr. Cohen's spokesman denied at the time that Mr. Cohen touched the photographer.) ...
It is not that the Bagger is hung up on the movie's casual untruths. He knows that Kazakhstan is among the most tolerant of Muslim nations and has diplomatic relations with Israel. No big deal, this is the movies, right? Still, the Bagger left Borat the other night feeling as if he had been locked in a video game, where the bored shooter spends the evening picking off easy targets.

Oh, lord. So does this mean I won't be getting a holiday card from 20th Century Fox?

Posted at November 14, 2006 12:01 PM

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