The Heart of Me (2002)
Tuna and I already covered this, and generally hated it.
Movie House Review. I am revisiting it to make film clips since it
features two famous women uncovered in clear lighting.
Full title: "Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious
Nation of Kazakhstan"
I guess I spend too much damned time on the internet.
I must be one of Borat's biggest fans, yet gauged by the audience reaction,
I enjoyed the film the least of anyone in the theater. Of course, like
everyone else in the room, I laughed at everything I hadn't already seen. The
problem is that I had already seen just about everything. In fact, I had even
seen several deleted scenes on one internet site or another. About the only
material which I had not seen in the film was the outrageous male nudity.
(Which is shockingly explicit and gross.)
Borat is a fictional reporter from Kazakhstan who has been a
recurring character on Sacha Baron Cohen's "Da Ali G Show." He is not
a Kazakh (Russian: "Казахи"), a word which actually refers to a
specific ethnic group, but rather a citizen of Kazakhstan of Russian
ethnic origin, correctly referred to be the Russian neologism "казахстанец"
(English: Kazakhstani), which was coined to describe all inhabitants
of Kazakhstan, including non-Kazakhs. In the film, Borat is sent to
the United States by Kazakhstan's ministry of information in order to
learn about American culture and to show his people how the lessons of
America's modernization can help Kazakhstan move into the future. His
original mission was supposed to take place entirely in New York,
interviewing various experts and recording their wisdom for his
national TV network. He becomes distracted from the mission on his
first night in New York when he sees a "Baywatch" rerun and falls in
love with Pamela Anderson. From that point onward, his visit to
America becomes a quest to cross the country and claim Pamela as his
new bride in the traditional Kazakh manner, which basically consists
of hauling her off forcibly in an ornately decorated potato sack.
His anti-semitism prevents him from flying to California, because
he fears that Jews will repeat their 9-11 airline hijackings, so he
takes his $700 travel budget and blows it all on a run-down former ice
cream truck which still includes all the product banners and even the
music function. He tries to buy a gun to protect himself from Jews,
but is unable to meet the residency requirements, so he buys a bear
instead. At this point Borat, his producer, his photographer and the
bear embark on a cross-country journey to California, interacting with
real people along the way.
Or do they?
We think we are watching a few minutes of scripted character development
back in "Kazakhstan," followed by Cohen's improvisations inside that
character. We think that the framing devices - the Pam Anderson plot and the
scenes between Borat and his producer - are scripted, but that Borat's other
interactions are with real people outside of the joke, being themselves,
and reacting genuinely to a man they truly believe to be from Kazakhstan.
But is that really what we are watching? Do we see real people reacting to
Borat's outrageous behavior, or actors pretending to react to Borat's
That is the one real problem with the Borat movie. We never know how much
of it consists of street theater in which Borat improvises scenes with real
people and in so doing exposes their prejudices and foibles, and how much
consists merely of staged and scripted scenes. It's my opinion that a high
percentage of what we think to be real is actually staged. You will see why I
came to that conclusion if you ask yourself, "Where did they place the
camera?" Start with the driving lesson and ask yourself that question. How did
they get the wide shots of both men in the front seat? In most recent movies
the answer to that question is that they are in a special stationary car
(usually with no windshield) and are being photographed by a camera on the
hood. But if that is the case, it can't be a real driving lesson, can it? Are
we supposed to believe that the driving instructor actually continued with the
lesson after he thought children were in danger? In a later segment, did Borat actually lure the
children to the ice cream truck with the music, then scare them by letting the
bear roar through an open window? Were those genuine reactions when we saw the
children running away from the truck in fright, or were those child actors
told to act like they had just seen a bear in an ice cream truck?
Why do I care, if it is funny?
Well, I'll tell you why. Because many of the film's most ardent proponents
have posited that it is not merely a silly gross-out comedy, but a piece of
Swiftian satirical genius that uses Borat's prejudices to expose people's
racism and other indefensible beliefs. If the film is exposing the racism of
real people, that argument has some merit. It's a very different matter if it
is merely exposing the racism of fictional characters played by actors
delivering scripted lines. Correct me if I'm wrong, but I think that latter
one has already been done.
If you have not been living in a plastic bubble, you probably know about
Cohen's ongoing feud with Kazakhstan. After the early film festival
screenings, the government of Kazakhstan protested the way their culture is
portrayed in this movie, and Cohen used that protest as fodder for more
of his mockery. First he appeared as Borat and agreed with Kazakhstan's
decision "to sue this Jew," going on to explain that recent reforms have made
Kazakhstan just as modern and free as any other nation because "homosexuals no
longer have to wear blue hats, and women can now ride inside of bus." The
ever-humorless officials of Kazakhstan then countered with formal protests to
George Bush, and a P.R. campaign to show the reality of their country,
including a massive ad in the New York Times. This time Borat responded that
the country's claims of equality for Jews and women were merely vicious lies
and propaganda spread not by genuine Kazakh officials, but by evil
impersonators sent out by Kazakhstan's mortal enemy, Uzbekistan!
The latest round in the sparring contest has
Kazakhstan's refusal to let the film play in their theaters. Of course,
that isn't because of the content. It's just that both Kazakh cinemas have
Grumpy Old Men booked through 2008. They love that movie. "Is very hilarity,"
crowed the movie reviewer for the Almaty Times, now long deceased. He was
never replaced, and is not likely to be as long as there are no other movies,
so saving a salary is one more reason to stick with the status quo. And there's no reason
why there should be any changes: all 25
seats are filled for each showing, and sometimes they even add some folding
chairs when Janko is not using them for his poker club. Kazakhstan's foreign
minister did say that Borat will probably be seen in their country eventually,
about the same time it is shown on airliners, because a Delta stewardess
always sneaks them an airline copy.
I have mixed feelings about Cohen's feud with Kazakhstan. On the
one hand, I feel that he might have been better off if he had simply
made up a fictitious country in Eastern Europe or Central Asia. If you
weren't aware of it, none of his material actually has anything to do
with Kazakhstan, other than the occasional mention of a real city or
person, the use of their flag and coat of arms, or an occasional
comedic exaggeration of something unusual in their culture. (For
example, his claim that they drink fermented horse urine is based on
the very real fact that the national drink is kumis, which is
fermented mare's milk.) In fact, the "Kazakh village" scenes are
actually filmed in a gypsy village in Romania; Borat's catch phrases
are actually accented Polish; the discussions between Borat and his
producer are in Yiddish and Hebrew; and the culture he affects is just
plain bogus. He could change his origin to any obscure culture and the
routine would work just as well. He could just as easily have claimed
an origin from Estonia, Belarus, Uzbekistan, Herzegovina, Tajikistan
or a couple dozen more places in the former Soviet Union or Soviet
Bloc. You could probably add some other places like Lebanon and
Nagorno-Karabakh to the list, and nobody would be the wiser.
Kazahkstan just happened to draw the short straw.
If Cohen/Borat ever decides to build his satire on the real culture
of Kazakhstan, he can certainly find plenty of fuel for that fire.
After all, this is a country obsessed with horses, where the most
famous national dish is not something familiar to Westerners, like
kielbasa or goulash, but
sausage made of dough and horse meat. Indeed, horses not only seem to
be the basis of their
menu, but of all their recreational activity as well. Their
traditional national game is not baseball or soccer, but kokpar, a
horseback game similar to polo except that the two competing teams
score not by depositing a ball in the goal, but by carrying a headless
goat carcass there. You know that Borat is not really ridiculing
Kazakhstan if he's ignoring those things!
Having noted that, we need to realize that an important element of
Cohen's humor is derived from the ignorant attitudes of the real
people he encounters in the USA and the UK. He constantly hammers away
at the fact that he can say anything he likes about a real country -
the ninth largest country in the world, a country with a successful
space program, for heaven's sake - and nobody ever seems to know that
he is completely wrong in every detail. That point would be lost if he
came from a fictitious country. It is surprising that he never seems
to get unmasked by the people he pranks. My family comes from Central
Asia. My daughter's grandma still lives in Uzbekistan, and her
great-aunt still lives in Kazakhstan. Anyone in our family would
immediately spot Borat as an imposter and, of course, Polish speakers
should immediate recognize the phrases he uses and pronounces almost
but not quite correctly. It seems that someone in America would speak
Polish or Kazakh or Russian to him and realize he's just winging it.
But nobody ever does. (Or maybe those episodes are left on the cutting
By the way, two funny things that you might miss if you're not paying close
There is a point in the film where Borat and Azamat have a big fight and
Azamat runs off with their bear. When they reunite, keep an eye on the
contents of the refrigerator when Borat opens it.
Stay for the closing credits and listen to the male
chorus sing a stirring rendition of the Kazakh national anthem. Try to make
out all the words. The first verse is entirely about potassium, and the second
is about how Kazakhstan has the cleanest prostitutes in the region, except for
Anyway, it is a very funny movie, although you'll laugh just as much at
your own discomfort as at the situations. The nude fight between Borat and the
obese Azamat might set the all-time cinema record for the greatest quantity of
nervous laughter per minute. Whatever the reasons for your laughter, you
should get a good chance to tickle your funny bone. I saw it in a regular
suburban multiplex, and the very mainstream audience was laughing constantly,
even the middle-aged ladies who looked like Republican conventioneers.
It's gross, and daring, and dumb and smart. Borat certainly leaves behind such contenders as Talladega Nights and Clerks
2, and establishes itself as the funniest movie of 2006.
Unless you're stoned, of course. Then you should go with All the King's
William Styron, Novelist, Dies at 81
- "Mr. Styron’s early work, including “Lie Down in
Darkness,” won him wide recognition as a distinctive
voice of the South and an heir to William Faulkner. In
subsequent fiction, like “The Confessions of Nat Turner”
and “Sophie’s Choice,” he transcended his own immediate
world and moved across historical and cultural lines."
Kazakh cinemas 'won't show Borat'
CNN interviews Borat
Weekend Box Office Results for November 3–5, 2006
- The phenomenal Borat pulled in $31,511 per screen.
biggest opening weekends of all time are Pirates of
the Caribbean with $32,800 per screen, and Spider-Man
with $31,800. No other wide release has ever gone above
$30,000 per screen.
- The other two wide releases finished #2 and #3.
Flushed Away performed within the analyst's range of
expectations, but Santa Clause was down a bit.
- The Departed continued to be strong, dropping only
19% from last week, and passing $100m. It is now within
a hair's breadth of The Aviator's total, and will thus
become Scorsese's biggest hit in a day or two.
- The Queen was a surprise top ten finisher, given
that it was only on 350 screens. It bulled its way into
tenth with nearly $8,000 per screen. That would have
been the big story of most weeks, but this was Borat
- Overall, the weekend was about even with last year.
(Down 3%) It had been expected to be much worse by
analysts, but Borat saved the day. The weekend was about
$14m higher than the average of the experts'
predictions, and Borat accounted for all of that, with
an extra $16m above expectations.
The speech accent archive
Miracle attributed to John Paul II.
- Turns out the Sorvinos asked the Pope to intercede
for Mira's Oscar for Mighty Aphrodite
Saddam sentenced to death by hanging, sponsors line up
for televised event.
Actress Adrienne Shelly found dead in New York office at
Funny Campaign Ads: "a sampling of some of the funnier
campaign ads from recent weeks"
Borat is placed in charge of The Sun's Bizarre section for
a day. Wawaweewa.
Yellow asterisk: funny (maybe). White asterisk: expanded format.
Blue asterisk: not mine. No asterisk: it probably sucks.
Macumba Sexual (1983)
Director Jess Franco says that he enjoys making three types of films:
- First there is the horror genre, such as Vampire films.
- Second is the sex film with minor horror elements.
- The third category is what he calls his mysteries, but not in the same
sense as we think of a mystery, as in a whodunit. Rather, he likes to make
films where the audience is not quite sure what is going on.
Macumba Sexual, or just Macumba as he prefers to call it, is the third
Lina Romay and her husband are on vacation in the Canary Islands. They are
both having erotic nightmares about a certain Princess Obongo, played by the
famous transsexual Ajita Wilson. Romay's nightmare seems to be coming true
when she gets a call from her boss, asking her to travel to another island and
meet with the same Princess Obongo to clinch a real estate deal.
Unfortunately, Obongo works for the Macumba of death and darkness, and
thinks Lina Romay is her successor. What, you don't know what a Macumba is, or
anyone who works for one? Well, it's nothing like a macaca. A Macumba is one
of the many polytheistic gods imported to the Canaries by immigrants from
The entire film is in sort of a waking dream state, and you are never
positive what is going on, thus qualifying it as a mystery by Franco's
definition. Franco himself plays the part of an idiot hotel manager, one of
his favorite roles. He feels he has a real talent for playing the fool.
Macumba Sexual is a rare example of a Jess Franco film actually made under
Spanish auspices. After a few films in his homeland, he became tired of
Spanish censorship and made films elsewhere, but things had changed enough in
Spain by 1983 for Franco to consider rediscovering his roots. With this film,
he was given a low budget but complete artistic freedom so, like it or not,
you are seeing his vision untainted. It is now also released uncut for the
first time. Severin uncovered a pristine print, interviewed Jess and Lena for
the special features, and remastered an already good transfer into a crisp,
saturated print of this film. It is especially welcomed because this film
contains spectacular imagery. In fact, the beautiful visuals far outstrip the
minimalist plot and in typical Franco fashion, the gorgeous images include
plenty of nudity. We have full frontal and rear nudity from Lina Romay, Ajita
Wilson and Lorna Green, as Ajita's slave.
Some, including me, consider this one of Jess's better films.
This is a strong C+, top cult material, again with kudos to Severin.
Dann reports on MI3:
Events over the last couple of years have pretty much proven that Tom
Cruise is at best a flaming dipwad with no regard for women, and a really
mean spirit. Even his ex-employer thinks so, which is why they're his
ex-employer. Still, he manages to make some pretty exciting movies, and
2006's Mission: Impossible III, while being maybe the worst of the three,
is still full of action and fun to watch, with the possible exception of a
totally boring and bland ending.
Ethan Hunt is retired from the field and now trains new IMF (Impossible
Mission Force, but of course you knew that) agents, and is preparing to
get married. He's called back into action to rescue one of his newest
graduates, who has been captured by a super-bad international
weapons/information dealer with no conscience. He gets the girl, but
things do not turn out well.
Because of the outcome of the mission, he now embarks on a new mission
to capture and bring back the bad guy. He succeeds, but the guy is
snatched back, and also snatched is his new wife of two days. Now the
stakes are higher.
Lots of excitement and action are the staple of the MI series, and this
one offers plenty. The story isn't bad, but the ending is sure to
disappoint. It's still worth watching, though.
A little "Hankster Light" for today.
We have "Caps & a Clip (zipped
.wmv)" of Janet Tracy Keijser topless in a little lovemaking scene from
another baaaaad movie "The Halfway House."
Notes and collages
Bree Turner in Deuce Bigelow
...when I was talking about this scene with a guy he told me that he used to
work at a pool supply retailer where he deliberately cranked the AC above the
cash register counter to get pokies from the female customers.... men can be
Olivia Hussey in Romeo and Juliet (1968 Zeffirelli
In this visually lush film, Olivia
Hussey as Juliet is the jewel: her beauty is staggering.