REVIEW: The Dictator

24 06 2012

The first time Sacha Baron Cohen lost himself in a character for a full-length theatrical release was 2006’s “Borat,” and it hilariously exposed American xenophobia while also providing a rollickingly good comedy for those unwilling to see what the humor was meant to reveal.  He did it again in 2009 for “Brüno,” and its lack of success (and arguably humor) may have shown how much less ready America is to deal with pent-up homophobia.

Now Sacha Baron Cohen is at it again in “The Dictator,” this time not as a personality from his outrageously funny “Da Ali G Show” from HBO.  Admiral General Aladeen, the dictator of the fictional Republic of Wadiya, is every bit as politically incorrect and outlandish as his previous three (if not more so).  He makes jokes about 9/11 and being friends with Osama bin Laden, executes just about anyone who disagrees with him, sleeps with actress/underground escort Megan Fox, and asks his pregnant wife (Anna Faris) if she will be having “a boy or an abortion.”  Yeah, he went there.

Don’t get me wrong, there are still a few jokes that Cohen can squeeze out of his boundary-pushing routine.  “The Dictator” has plenty of brilliant comedic moments, although the ones that succeed seem only giggle-worthy and the ones that fail appear to have been ripped straight from the Adam Sandler playbook.  However, the laugh gap isn’t the movie’s biggest problem.

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Oscars 2011: Monday Morning Wrap-Up

27 02 2012

In case you didn’t get enough of me talking about the Oscars yesterday – I mean, I only live-blogged for 10 hours – here’s a bit of a debriefing which can benefit from hindsight and the absence of heat of the moment blogging.

NPR‘s Linda Holmes called the show a “regrouping;” EW called it “comfort food;” I called it “a VERY good night.”  If I had to sum it up in a word, it would be nice.  It was very nice to have Billy Crystal back after a very strange couple of years experimenting with Oscar hosts, both good (Steve Martin, Ellen DeGeneres, Hugh Jackman), bad (Jon Stewart, Alec Baldwin, Anne Hathaway), and ugly (James Franco, Chris Rock).  It was old-fashioned, just like most of the winners … but if something isn’t broken, why try to fix it?  Here was his hysterical song-a-logue opener, per usual.

Maybe the show was just fun for me because the red carpet was SO dull.  The only two women who were worth a desktop background were Rooney Mara and Jessica Chastain.  Bravo, hope to see you all soon.

I mean, THIS was the highlight of the red carpet!  Bizarre, bizarre…

As everyone knew, this was their movie:

And for all those who think “The Artist” will be a head-scratcher of a winner, at least it’s not forgettable and disposable like “The King’s Speech.”  Curious future Academy-minded ponderers will just have to look beyond the title cards and at the context of its win.  The collective psyche of Hollywood should be pretty apparent.

As for the acting winners, no one can really complain.  Jean Dujardin was charming as can be, and a new generation got to see the greatest actress of our time take the Oscar stage to claim a prize she deserves.  Octavia Spencer got all choked up, and it was beautiful.  Christopher Plummer was dashing as ever, and it was very cool to see the oldest actor to ever win an Oscar deliver quite the speech.  In my opinion, they got Supporting exactly as they should – and then just fell to the allure of a living legend and a Frenchman doing his best matinee idol.  Nothing wrong with that.

I always take solace in knowing that many of the greatest movies ever were not Academy darlings.  You can break down many films into “their” movies and “our” movies, and here are some of the greats from 2011 that now belong to us, the fans.  They get “The Artist;” we get “Shame.”

Overall, as I more or less close the book on 2011, the Oscars were able to brighten a pretty dull year.  They found some great work and rewarded it.  While it might not have been my favorite, “The Artist” is a joyous and buoyant movie that reminds us of the artistry and emotion that brings us to the theater and to watching the Oscars every year.

(And in case any of you were wondering, here was my best of 2011 as of last night.  There are still a few movies from last year I didn’t see that could make a few slots move.)