July 11, 2009

"Bruno" disappointed me.

I'm a big fan of "Da Ali G Show," where Sacha Baron Cohen plays 3 characters in short scenes that wrap up in half an hour. But, having seen "Borat" and now "Bruno," I have to admit I don't want to watch one of the characters for 90 minutes, especially "Bruno." I'm not a fan of story arcs. I love disjointed little bits. I like Bruno as the Austrian fashion reporter with the microphone in his hand. People who want to get on TV and to appear trendy will tumble into agreement with praise for Hitler or take direction that makes them look gay. (Here's an example I find especially funny.) But in the movie "Bruno," Bruno is fired from that job and comes to America to try to get famous again. That's not much of a story. It's just a narrative thread to connect different scenes — possibly generated after many of the scenes were filmed.

But why am I complaining? Didn't I just say I liked disjointed little bits? Well, but now Bruno is kind of down and out, and much of it is Sacha Baron Cohen trying to show us what Americans are really like. Fortunately or unfortunately, Americans failed to give him the homophobia footage he seems to have hoped for. I'm sure a ton of unfunny footage was thrown out, and that what went into the film was the closest he could get to hilarious, but most of these Americans simply remained stone-faced and tried to preserve their professionalism and dignity in the face of a very clownish man. Cohen did what he could — for example, wielding multiple big dildoes at a martial arts instructor — to goad people into flipping out about the gay guy, but — other than getting Ron Paul to blurt out "queer" twice — it just wasn't happening.

And the struggling Bruno can't be so outrageously bitchy. He wants people to help him. He's needy. He's more like Borat. But he's not lovable. I don't want him lovable. The Bruno I like needs to believe he's wielding power so he is able to trick people into showing their desire to leverage their fame through him. We see that in the movie in the one scene where some parents are trying to get their little kids hired as models. They think Bruno has some showbiz power, and they grovel before it. One woman is ready to make her 30 pound daughter lose 10 pounds in one week and to submit to liposuction if she can't get all that weight off. Now, that was something! It would be daring as hell to have 90-minutes on that level of pain. But that wouldn't be too funny, and it wouldn't be a blockbuster.

25 comments:

former law student said...

Cohen is past his sell-by date.

Pogo said...

My son and his friends are going to see it today.

Given the option, I chose to bang my head wall-ward, slowly.

In my comedy calculus, coerced embarrassment x 1.5 hours = unfunny².

As for homophobia, he'd have had a bigger reaction in certain neighborhoods in France and England, but he'd probably have been killed. I suspect he also avoided East LA with his schtick.

Fred4Pres said...

Plus you always have Titus, Ann. How can Cohen-Bruno compete with him?

Lem said...

I've thought Ali G was amusing.

But I walked out on Borat and I'm passing on this one.

To me if feels like watching extreme gore. Some people love it, I cant stand it.

Lem said...

It's intellectually gorish.

knox said...

Fred, you beat me to it.

The descriptions of this movie always make me think of titus's efforts to get a reaction amongst the commentariat here. As raunchy as it can get, there is rarely a reaction. In fact most regard him as a beloved commenter. Even the "fellow republicans" line doesn't get a rise. I soured on him myself, once he made fun of a female commenter's looks, but whatever.

Paul Zrimsek said...

Since this seems to be my day for dredging up old Onion pieces, here's either Bruno or Titus.

Pogo said...

The only remaining way to shock Americans is to Taze them.

Like fascism and rare truffles, folks are forever looking for intolerance in the US, though it predominates elsewhere.

Maguro said...

Good thing we're told that Baron-Cohen is trying to "expose homophobia" in middle America. Otherwise you might get the idea the Bruno is just a rather unfunny gay minstrel show.

Chip Ahoy said...

The comments to the Cohen video you linked confound me greatly.

The classic group energy-focusing exercise whereby a group levitates an individual with their fingertips, is predicated upon a simple ritual. Any ritual will do, say, counting off to ten then back down to one. No matter how well or not the ritual is performed the first time, the facilitator says, "No. No. No. Get the tempo right! It's 1 to 10, then 9 again back down to one, rhythmically without missing a beat, then lift. Com'on what's so hard about this, can't you even count right?" This chastises and focuses the entire group. The second round participants are more fully invested.

That's what Cohen did in the video, and it's one of the things that makes him a great psychologist. The ritual was P-A-R-T-Y, woot. "Com' on. Do it again, this time with more energy," Cohen told the boys. That confused one participant who protested, "More energy?" Because there was nothing wrong with the first PARTY countdown and the first woot was already at full energy. Nonetheless, they all agreed to do it again and at that point they were then more fully invested in their coming out of character for the interviewer. This, after having already agreed to a strange spontaneous wrestling demonstration, and already having kindly and generously imparting their wrestling knowledge upon the questionably fem, foreign, and clearly odd interviewer, getting physical with him even tumbling in the sand. It's a short step to energized Boy's Gone Wild mooning.

What the video showed me, other than all those wrestlers appear to be rather short, is how friendly Americans are, how open they are, and how willing they are to accept differences and odd characters, but like anyone, how unwilling they are to being duped. Cohen could have said, "this is for Christian TV," or "Sesame Street TV," or "KKK TV" or any other group the boys wouldn't care to be associated with, and he would get a similar reaction.

It has nothing to do with hate. Generally, American commenters to the video you linked found it hilarious and say so. British viewers chime in with their typical and predictable condensation, "Yanks are so cring-worthy," "Yanks are so fucking stupid," etc., the usual stuff, little of it cheerful. The wrestlers are branded as haters by some commenters when there was nothing hateful expressed, just an unwillingness to be tricked into being associated with GAY TV and with footage that would misrepresent them as gay, and that is hilarious.

Ask a Londoner on the street how to get to Trafalgar Square and they're likely to say, "Dunnodeweye?" Twenty-eight pages of stupid tourists anecdotes by British, always exactly this lovely responding to the prompt, "Stupid Tourists: What's the stupidest thing you've ever heard a tourist say? Ever heard an American talking about visiting "Scotchland, England"

Ask a Parisian how to get to the Arc de Triomphe and they'll likely say, "Go down two blocks and turn left at the Washington Monument, then another block to the Statue of Liberty, then a right at the Lincoln Memorial, can't miss it," because they are, speaking generally, precisely that open, helpful, and friendly to visitors.

It's enough to put you off continental travel altogether.

Ask a young American wrestler for a few techniques and he'll show you, ask for enthusiasm and he gives it. Tell him you just tricked him into pulling down his shorts for gay TV and you're lucky to get away with your nose in tact.

The Europhile said...

The comedy of humiliation just isn't that funny.

rcocean said...

Cohen can be funny in small doses Cf: "Ali G" and his "Throw the Jew down the Well" song.

But I've never found humor directed downward funny. Cohen reminds me of those comics who make fun of service people at McDonalds and 7-11. Not funny.

bagoh20 said...

Humor is great like sex is great. But, it does matter how you get it. You can degrade or be cruel or maybe just lazy. It may still feel good, but virtue asks us to consider what else we are doing in it's pursuit.

I've grown past taking advantage of women for sex. Consequently, I get less. I can live with that too.

This stuff and the Letterman on Palin "humor" is not moving the cultural or comedy ball forward.

Meade said...

The Europhile said...
"The comedy of humiliation just isn't that funny"

Bears repeating.

chuck b. said...

Yeah, I would like to see all the funny bits, but not the whole movie.

Henry Buck said...

Why "sex tools" in the tag, rather then "sex toys"? Tools sounds horrible, toys sounds fun!

chuck b. said...

Henry: http://althouse.blogspot.com/2009/01/get-sex-you-deserve.html

peter hoh said...

The next Cohen is already at work, but not doing the Borat/Bruno schtick.

Henry Buck said...

I should have clicked on the tag to see prior posts. I disagree on the use of tool over toy, though.

Big Mike said...

fls and I agree on something. Except I think Cohen was born past his sell-by date.

Joe said...

I found Borat so unfunny and just plain stupid, I gave up half way through and ejected the DVD. The few clips of Cohen as Bruno were even dumber and less funny.

Oligonicella said...

Does modern humor of this nature elude me? Yes, because I want it to.

BJM said...

Ali G was funny, uneven but amusing. Borat reminded me of Andy Kaufman and how much was funnier he was at put-on schtick.

Sasha Baron Cohen and Adam Sandler become tedious very quickly. "You Don't Mess with the Zohan" was as unwatchable as Borat.

Chris said...

After seeing the film, I've got say that as much fun as it is to see rednecks upset by the queers, it's a little tired at this point. Rednecks are so 1998 - we get it. It would have been hilarious if he'd managed to make some uber-PC lefties the target of his pranks. More challenging for sure (since the PC set spends most of its energy worrying about how they appear), and probably much less agreeable to his audience (who prefers to see rednecks looking bad than liberals), but it would have definitely been worth it.

halojones-fan said...

For my money, the funniest "shock by gay" bit in recent times was Perez Hilton getting punched in the nose.