Saturday, March 17, 2007

DVD Watching

The Departed. Did James Cagney actually say “You dirty rat” or just the impersonators? Whatever, rats in crime gangs can make an exciting plot, as in Donnie Brasco. The Departed ups the ante, with a rat in the mob and a mob mole in the police department. The mob goes about hunting for their rat while the police hunt for their mole. Who will get discovered first?

Scorsese’s use of color and light is excellent. There is one superb chase scene on foot, worthy of Hitchcock, in which the rat follows the mole, trying to get a look at his face. Great suspense.

The characters are all modern and naturalistic; they’re neurotics or worse. The dialogue is full of profanity. The story is brutal and depressing. But there is enough tension and suspense to make the movie a passable entertainment for a few hours.

Office Space. This is an older movie I just got around to watching. Anyone who has ever worked in a cubicle will find plenty to laugh at here. Apparently, the movie has become something of a cult favorite, and some of the lines are famous, such as “Looks like somebody’s got a case of the Mondays.”

Borat. I’m conflicted about this movie. I’ve read a lot about how anti-American it is, how sick the humor is and what a horrible person Sacha Baron Cohen is for tricking people into thinking he was real and filming the results. All this is true, but still the movie made me laugh. Yes, he makes fun of Americans, the same types Mencken attacked 80 years ago when he wrote about the “booboisie.” You could also call the movie anti-Kazakhstani, because he makes that country look even worse.

As Steve Martin said, comedy isn’t pretty. If you’re going to do satire, you might as well go all the way. Cohen went ALL the way. I mean, when you wrestle naked with an obese man, taking the fight into a crowded elevator and then into a convention hall, that’s commitment. A lot of the movie is jaw-dropping, as in “I can’t believe he did that.” And there is something nihilistic about abusing people’s trust just to get a laugh. (Pamela Anderson, by the way, was in on the joke.) Still, there are moments of brilliant, hilarious satire, like the way Borat reacts to the Jewish owners of a bed and breakfast. At one point he thinks they have shape-shifted into cockroaches in the middle of the night and he throws money at the bugs to make them go away.

Our politically correct age has a neo-puritan aspect. Today there are just as many things polite people do not say as there were in the Victorian Age. It's fun to see Cohen say the things the rest of us censor. Watching him with a group of Manhattan feminists is priceless. It’s a funny movie, but not a lovable one.

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