because today is the 38th birthday of none other than my very favorite professional teabagger – I mean chameleon! – er, actor — Sacha Baron Cohen!
(The fact that it’s also the day Marie Osmond was born? Pay no attention to that. Besides, if we celebrate her birthday it might make her attempt to smile. Then her face will shatter. And I don’t know about you, but I don’t want that on my conscience.)
In honor of this day, take a moment to conjure your favorite memories of Mr. Cohen’s on-screen antics. Here are mine (this is SBC, so do I really have to warn you there’s offensive material in these clips?):
10. Ali G’s interview with Andy Rooney, who’s meaner than Bill Munney and Little Bill Daggett put together.
9. Bruno gets his frat on.
8. Borat learns how to defend against the dreaded “Jew claw.”
7. Aldofo Pirelli: Too sexy for his shaving cream, but not too sexy to lose a fight with Johnny Depp’s razor.
6. Da Ali G takes on the world of dangerous drugs. Respek.
5. Jean Girard turns Ricky Bobby into a frightened baby chipmunk. Who loves crepes.
4. Borat learns a harsh American truth: Women get to choose their sex partners. Is crazy.
3. Ali G talks feminism with Naomi Wolf. Booyakasha.
2. Whatcha gonna do when the Fashion Polizei come for you? Praise Paris Hilton, that’s what.
1. Sacha Baron Cohen is the funniest man alive. We must encourage him. Here’s why.
On this cheerful day, I feel almost certain that the rise of house music and the fall of apartheid? Not a coincidence.
It’s rare in life to get exactly the innermost desires of your anxious little heart. So when it happens twice in one weekend, it’s hard to cough up the appropriate words to describe it.
Lucky for me I came prepared to ward off this choked-up feeling. (Pops open bottle of Guaifenesin.)
But enough with the jokes. There’s nothing more difficult that reviewing movies you have pined to see, films that surpass your highest expectations. Perhaps I am up to the task; perhaps not. In any case, I’ll do my best to do justice (sweet, sweet justice) to “Bruno” and “I Love You, Beth Cooper,” which, after one viewing, earned two spots on my Top 10 of 2009 list.
“Bruno” (Sacha Baron Cohen, Gustaf Hammarsten)
The garrulous pinwheeling penis, the gay cage-match makeout session timed to “My Heart Will Go On,” the slinky seduction of Ron Paul, the ill-conceived Velcro jumpsuit, a dildo thruster that doubles as a clothing rack – forget everything you’ve heard about Sacha Baron Cohen’s “Bruno.” Every. Last. Shocking. Thing. Nothing but nothing will prepare you for the flaming-sick-wacko-D&G-studded work of inspired nuttiness that is “Bruno.” Cohen prepares a full-scale gayttack on the eyes, ears, the brain and, most important, funny bone. He makes you think, promptly sucker-punches you between the eyes, then barely lets the cranial pain subside before he goes right for the jugular. It’s a rough ride, for sure, but one original, smart and funny enough to keep you laughing through the pain.
The trick is making it to the closing credits. And my, what a challenge this is. “Bruno” is wall-to-wall zaniness disguising a sneaky ulterior desire to bludgeon prudery and expose ugly prejudice. And it’s all wrapped up in the form of one Bruno, an outrageously gay Austrian fashionista/TV show host. Kicked off his what’s hot now show (“autism is in!” he declares enthusiastically) after a wardrobe snafu, he pursues superstardom in America … where he quickly discovers that the U.S., for all its boasting of equality and acceptance, isn’t quite ready for his brand of, um, outness. (His first bid at fame, a celebrity interview show featuring long interludes starring Bruno’s unadorned, chatty member, is deemed “sick” and “worse than cancer.”) Trailing Bruno’s heels is Lutz (Hammarsten), his homely, faithful, lovestruck assistant who spends most of his time chained — figuratively and, on one occasion, literally — to his boss’s side.
Naturally, “Bruno” is less a cohesive movie than an outlandish, episodic satire. There’s a beginning and something vaguely resembling an end, but both are moot. Cohen doesn’t give two dildos and a strap-on about creating the next Great American Movie. Subtlety isn’t his shtick; he has all the tact of a Nazi storm trooper or Pat Robertson. This is a shock-and-awe campaign, pure and simple, designed to get all up in our alley and make us squirm with unease. With every wild stunt, he tests our limits, blasts through our boundaries, forces our real selves out of hiding and into the sunlight. Anyone with an open mind won’t walk away unsettled or unchanged. So be it. Cohen knows there’s truth in humor, and he means to make us believe. Conversion accomplished.
“I Love You, Beth Cooper” (Paul Rust, Hayden Panettiere, Jack Carpenter)
When promoters describe a teen romcom as a combination of “Juno” and “Election,” certain expectations arise. Squash them. Chris Columbus’ adaptation of Larry Doyle’s pithy coming-of-age novel is no “Juno” — not even close. Does that mean ”I Love You, Beth Cooper” deserves to be lumped in with the likes of (shudder) “She’s All That”? Heavens no; that’s way harsh. A comedy with this much smarts and heart deserves better than that.
For starters, let’s chew on the plot, which spices up teen movie cliches with sly, self-referential humor: Loser valedictorian Denis (Rust) lets it rip with his graduation speech, confessing his affection for blonde hottie/head cheerleader Beth Cooper (Panettiere). Starting with The Big Speech? There’s a novel idea, and it’s quickly followed by others: Denis and his sexually ambiguous BFF Rich (fantastic newcomer Jack Anderson) throw a sad party … and Beth shows up with hot friends Treece (Lauren Storm) and Cammy (Lauren London) in tow. (“It’s the trinity,” Denis whispers reverentially, pointing out the odd fact that cool people in high school movies always show up in threes.) It’s hardly a rockin’ good time, and things only get worse when Kevin (Shawn Roberts), Beth’s coked-up meathead Army squeeze, crashes the party and, well, various other parts of Denis’ scrawny body.
If this all sounds familiar, suppress any forthcoming yawns; “I Love You, Beth Cooper” is hardly run-of-the-mill. Yes, all the points are there, waiting to be ticked off: the trashed house; the crashed party; the let’s-buy-some-brews! excursion; the steamy shower scene. But Columbus provides just enough warmth and wit to offset Doyle’s barbed quips about the nature of high school life. There are poignant moments to behold, such as Rich’s quiet anxiety about his sexuality, or Beth’s fear that life after high school is a bumpy, all-downhill trek. Which is surprising in itself, really: Who knew a teen movie could contain good acting? Rust (who’s actually 28) nails the gawky geek act, making Denis an oddball smart enough to know his life’s just beginning and Beth Cooper won’t be the best part of it. Part self-conscious showman, part awkward dreamer, Carpenter could not be better. Keep an eye on this one; he’s got a future, and it will be bright. And may Disney never reclaim Panettiere, for she’s got the chops to make Beth much more than an empty head and a firm pair of fun bags. She’s far better than she ought to be, and it makes “I Love You, Beth Cooper” a bittersweet, thoughtful meditation on growing up. With, ahem, a little nudity thrown in for good measure.
In the name of The Virgin Pamela, Interweb, I declare that today marks a very exciting day in the life of me, for ’tis the day the production companies behind “Bruno” and “I Love You, Beth Cooper” have quit lollydicking around and finally released their movies! Cohen’s mind-perverting satire (and, thanks to that MTV movie awards stunt, his bare buttocks) have been on my mind for eons. Now it’s time to live the magic. Tonight. 5:30 p.m. Manchester 14, Rock Thrill. Be there.
In other news, I may have to reconsider my knee-jerk distaste for blonde starlet Hayden Panettiere. Is it possible she could be more than a fairly fantastic pair of knockers accessorized by a cherubic little face? Could there be thoughts bouncing about in that round head, and smart ones? Her interview with OMG! — I read OMG!; deal with it, haters — suggests an affinity for oceanic mammals, a stint that landed her in hot water with the cops and a surprisingly level head.
Meh. Stranger things have happened. (Hell, Blossom earned a Ph.D. in neuroscience.) Could Panettiere be a younger Anna Faris? Hmm. It’s high time to see if Barbie girl can act.
Now, if I could just get Mr. Phelps to show up in his US & A speedo with those $1,000 bills, this day would be perfect.
M. Carter at the Movies
Yep, it looks like “Bruno” is taking it up the tailpipe again. (I meant criticism, people. Kindly extract your minds from the gutter.)
It seems that gay activists across America are worried the film dabbles in all-too-common stereotypes and may give people the wrong impression about the GLBT community, what its members stand for and, most important, that they condone the wearing of Velcro jumpsuits to a fashion show. (OK, fine, I added the last one. It just seems like poor judgment in general, no?)
Being something of a flaming liberal myself, I’m inclined to agree. Sure, “Bruno” has the potential to shock, awe, offend and generally dismay. But consider this: The people who are offended are the ones who get it. They get that Cohen is jabbing at them, shining a big bright strobe light (note the reference to house music) on their prejudices and misconceptions and parading them around in all their vivid ugliness. Even if they get huffy (they will) and storm out of the theater, they will be aware, on the teeniest of teensy levels, that it’s the bigots, not the lesbians or the gays or the bisexuals or the transgendered, who are the butt of the joke. If you ask me, that moment of realization — or even one of genuine hesitation — makes every risk Cohen takes into a big, fat payoff.
No, it’s the people who just laugh stupidly and point and say “that foreign gay dude is funny” you need to lobotomize, swiftly and with great force, as they leave the theater.
Not to mention there are all the fans (this hand waving in the air? yeah, that’s mine) who’ll get two … two … two shows for the price of one: a biting, incisive, technicolor satire (“Bruno,” of course) and a re-enactment of “Confederacy of Dunces” with popcorn. July 10 can’t get here fast enough.
Some notable news in the world of movies:
* Who killed Bill? – A slew of breaking news reports reveal that 72-year-old David Carradine, none other than Bill from Tarantino’s wildly popular “Kill Bill” films, was found dead in a hotel room in Bangkok. The circumstances surrounding his death seem, at best, a little shady. Natural causes? Maybe. Suicide? Also possible. But maybe it’s just that no one considered the obvious: Nobody puts The Bride in a corner.
* Pulling a Streisand … Raimi-style — Remaking a beloved low-fi film takes a certain amount of intestinal fortitude. But remaking your own cult hit? Why, that’s takes a real hefty pair of low-hangers. Sam Raimi, the mastermind behind “The Evil Dead” movies that catapulted Bruce Campbell into his current lucrative career of, ahem, being Bruce Campbell, has signed on to remake … his own movie. Details are pretty scant, but it looks like Raimi’s got plans to handle the screenplay, and casting is speculation-only at this point. This could be genius or two steps away from a “Glitter”-style meltdown. (Funny how closely related those states are, isn’t it?) I’ll attempt to be open-minded about this, but I know one thing: If Nicholas Cage is the new Ash, I’ll have to find an obliging tree branch to end my misery.
* The Teabag Heard ‘Round the World — I’m was disheartened to hear that Sacha Baron Cohen’s stunt at the MTV Movie Awards — which will forever exist in my mind as The Bruno Butt Plant of 2009 — was not only staged but rehearsed. The reason for my unhappiness has nothing to do with the stunt itself. (Does it get better than a half-naked, flaxen-haired, flamboyantly gay angel plopping his bare butt cheeks on a homophobic white rapper?) This means I have to reform my opinion of Eminem, who showed way more acting chops one inch from Cohen’s derriere than he did anywhere in “8 Mile.” What’s next? Is Andy Rooney going to show up in “Bruno” dressed as Sarah Jessica Parker and make out with Cohen? (Note: Cohen, if you could pull this off, I’ll devote my life, full-time, to stalking you.)
* How I Know the End of the World Is Imminent – Theologians, religious scholars and crackpots alike have been arguing for centuries over the exact date the End Times will make our Blackberries stop working and our Starbucks stop flowing (oh, and humanity will die, too). I suspect they’ll keep right on fighting about “the signs” while missing the one right in front of everyone’s face: “Twilight” winning not one but FIVE AWARDS at the MTV Movie Awards last weekend. Let that sink in. “Twilight” … won … five … awards. The names of the awards aren’t as shocking as, you know, the fact that the movie won any award ever. I don’t know about you, but that tells me end times are drawing nigh. I’m going to need a Bible, a Quran, the Tao Te Ching, the Talmud and a broom. Quickly.
He did it. I can’t believe he did it. If you’d asked me a month ago if I thought it was possible, I’d have listed things more likely to happen: a) Pat Robertson agrees to a Barbara Walters interview in which he announces he now supports gay marriage and has legally changed his name to “Banana Hammock” to prove it; b) In 2009, Meryl Streep acts in a movie and does not get nominated for an Oscar; or c) South Carolina gets voted the smartest state in America.
I’m talking, of course, about Sacha Baron Cohen’s decision to retool and revise “Brüno,” a much-hyped, highly controversial film based on a character he created for “Da Ali G Show,” in order to squeeze an “R” rating out of the MPAA.
Mr. Cohen, if I may, a question: Is you on crack or somethin’?
Sigh. I suppose in Hollywood, selling out is the norm. But Cohen always operated a little left of center, which is why I — and everyone else who loved “Da Ali G Show” — am more than a little surprised and disappointed. I mean, this is the guy who didn’t flinch during an interview (insert air quotes to undermine the seriousness of that word) with Andy Rooney in which Rooney, angry at being duped, unloaded a sack of insults on Cohen. Cohen never broke character. In the outtakes of “Talladega Nights,” he never smiled, or even looked like he thought about smiling. The man doesn’t flinch. He’s that good.
Though I’m a tad miffed at his self-censorship, I can’t help but pine for July 10, when Cohen unleashes his outrageous Austrian fashionista upon the world at large. Judging by the crazy-sexy-weird promo shots, it’s bound to be the movie release heard ’round the world.
I just pray that it will show everyone the healing powers of house music. I mean, it did wonders for the end of apartheid.