November 2006

Sasha Baron Cohen’s “Borat; Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Great Nation of Khazakstan” surpassed even my generous predictions, coming in with US$26M opening weekend on less than 900 screens and making it the largest opener of its kind.

The theater on the second night was sold out for every show, and the line ups to get into the theater were an hour long. The crowd was a mix of “Jackass” fans, GOP-haters, frat boys, seniors, tweeners and basically anyone else. Though the film really doesn’t say much, it does establish another first; it seamlessly binds together a variety of methodologies for commenting on the status quo – drawing on the Tom Green-cum-Jackass man on the street socio-agitator school, the Mork and Mindy/Coming To America – what we look like from outer space narrative fiction format, and the Michael Moore campaign-documentary, all wrapped up in a very contempo video blog indie subbacultcha format that functions as a silver bullet at its everything-that-is-popular-to-deride targets. This thing is waterproof.

In the same mainstream movieplex, alongside big openers like Dreamworks “Flushed Away” and Tim Allen’s big xmas sequel “The Santa Clause 3” are Borat allies “Shut Up and Sing” – the Dixie Chicks bio-pic/promo/doc about the censorship and derision they faced after commenting on Bush in Iraq, and “Death of a President” – the controversial virtua-doc about the hypothetical assassination of the current standing president of the US in 2007.

This is an audacious new brand of cinema that has learned much from the highly advanced and surreptitious coercion tactics used by the megacorps and marketing agencies, to cloak their agendas in the lowbrow and self-effacing. There isn’t a lot of content to speak of, but it belies how intense the culture war, that is the culture war of the left and right in America has become.

Watching “American Dad” today on Fox, I didn’t know what to make of a segment about the staunch alpha male Republican father deciding to have sex with a man so that he could be accepted into the gay Republican movement. It’s so inverted, (coming from Fox) that I couldn’t help but be suspicious that in some way it was not so much Seth Macfarlane testing his limits, as it was Rupert Murdoch taking one on the chin via prime-time humor hour so that he can push his GOP agenda harder during “serious” air.