Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Is Wii "Wiitarded"? And Some Half-Assed Opinions on "Borat"

Interesting comments on the previous post. After reading these two reviews on Slate, however, one against Nintendo's new Wii, and one ostensibly for the Wii, but also kind of against it anyway, I think the XBox 360 is going to be the one for me. Over the long haul, I need a system that will allow me to commit heinous (though digital) acts of ultra-violence (think "Hitman"), and the Wii will never ever let me do that. Looks like it's going to be me and the fine folks at Microsoft walking hand in hand down Video Game Avenue for the next 5 years or so.


Anyway, "Borat". Peggy and I saw this in a packed theater on Friday night. And I mean packed. I can't remember the last time I was in a theater this full-- maybe not since the last installment of the "Lord of the Rings" trilogy. Even the front row was fully-stocked. I thought it was a funny movie. I laughed at a pretty regular clip throughout, as did my audience. But the funniest part of the movie for me came out of a scripted scene, a scene not at all dependent on the credulous and overly-polite Americans upon which Cohen preys; I speak of course of the man-on-man naked Kazakh wrestling in the hotel room scene. I laughed very very hard at this. Not Cougar-Scene-in-"Talladega Nights" hard, but tearfully, certainly. What I liked least about the movie was what made up the bulk of "Borat": the scenes involving the dupes. Whether it was the genteel southerners in Alabama who hosted Borat for dinner or the moronic, racist, mysogenistic frat boys he hitched a ride with, that kind of humor just makes me uncomfortable and there's not much that's funny about it. I think Christopher Hitchens was right when he wrote that "Borat" is less a testament to the inate racism and backwardness of rural America than it is evidence of America's surfeit of politeness. (Maybe not so much in New York when Borat was trying to kiss fellow pedestrians, but that's the big city.) Though I guess there's a sort of pleasure in watching small-minded and ignorant sons of bitches hang themselves with their own words, but overall it just seemed like a smart Cambridge graduate from England coming into the American countryside to pick on some hick yokels. Don't they have ignorant hicks in England?

Also, I thought the transitions between the bits were clunky; just throwing up some subtitles while the fat guy talks to Borat in the ice cream truck about which "important interview" they had to prep for next seemed kind of lazy. Overall "Borat" felt like an overlong episode of his HBO show featuring just the one character, but despite the apparent shoestring budget, Cohen manages to pull it off. I didn't love it, but the movie's entertaining and very funny in parts.

(And what's the concensus on the Pam Anderson thing? She had to be in on it, right? Otherwise wouldn't Cohen have had to go to jail for a time.)

Also, Robert Altman, the auteur who directed classics like "Popeye" and "A Prarie Home Companion" and "Dr. T and the Women", died today. Maybe this will inspire me to get up off my ass and see some of the movies he's actually famous for. Anyway, it's sad. Not Kubrick sad, but you know. Sad.


Speck said...

The first slate article that was anti wii sounds like nothing more then a bitter gamer who was able to master the system instantly.

For you Crane, I always recommended the 360. Its simply the overall winner.

But I'm having a lot fun playing Zelda...and the controls allow me to sit back and have a more chill disposition, then having to have two hands in front at all times on a controller...its more like lounging when you channel surf.

Anonymous said...

So wait... the Wii allows you to be more sedentary than other gaming systems? Is there a system that allows the player to nap and play?

If not, I say "Pshaw, technology. Pshaw."

Captain Mike said...


Speck said...

Yeah...I can only imagine what your blog is going to be like when you finally make over to P.J.'s neck of the woods...

blankfist said...

Yes, Pam was in on it. And, dude, hugely funny movie. And the ghoulies-in-the-face wrestling scene was not even in the same ballpark as the cougar scene. It was way, way, way, way funnier. Way.

Speck said...

Gotta agree with Heath. I almost lost my shit laughing at the 69 scene.

harwell said...

Very cynical post Crane. Kind of sounds like someone woke up on the wrong side of the rock this morning...

Borat was great. Sure there are hicks in the U.K., but Americans do everything better, especially on-camera racism (right Kramer?).

Am I crazy to think that there was actually some sweetness in the film???

Cynical dude. It's the reason you also hate Sea World.

Nathan said...

Crane hates Sea World? Why?

blankfist said...

Because he views it as the Hardees of liquid worlds. You see, Waterworld is McDonalds. Sea World, to Crane, seems a cheap knock off... a Shoneys to Waterworld's Hamburger Hamlet. A CiCis Pizza to WW's Pizza Hut. Oh the food analogies could keep coming and going, but I think we're all hungry now, right? What were we talking about again? Something about Highlander and McNuggets?

blankfist said...

Hey Crane, you know I read that negative review on Slate, and I know what his problem is... he's trying to point the controller at the screen and expecting it to align perfectly. That's just stupid. It's like a mouse in that it's relative to the screen - not absolute. However, the commercials for the Wii are misleading, because they show people aimming directly at their TV, which is not how relative electronics work.

I imagine if you can use a mouse you can use the Wii-mote.

Anonymous said...

With the exception of SHORT CUTS and/or THE PLAYER, Robert Altman hasn't made a good film since the 70's - yeah I respect him as he is a maverick of cinema, but he really hasn't made anything as stellar or interesting as MASH, IMAGES, or NASHVILLE or McCABE AND MRS. MILLER OR even THE LONG GOODBYE.

I think he blew his load early, and just spent the rest of his career making these little personal ensemble films. Which is fine.

He was quite prolific, which is cool - so I don't know why he always complained about H-Wood as they let him make his film, which were usually eccentric and according to his tastes.


Cookie's Fortune
Mr. T and the Women (what a joke)
Godsford Park (zzzzzz)
Praire Home Companion (a film that would have been fun for the actors involved versus the audience)
and there are a lot more - go to imdb and let me know if you've even seen or heard of half the films on his credit list.

What would you guys prefer - to be a director of say 5-10 films in your career - but all be stellar and innovative, or 20-40+ films - prolific, just making personal autuer oriented work?

As for Borat - this is the ressurection of vaudeville humor. We are going back to our roots. There is nothing new and innovative about it. It's just plain funny - it ain't art and yes - it does a good job of exposing how utterly stupid most people still are, even in a post-industrialist country like America. I think culture watchers and other sycophants with nothing better to do just look into the damn film to much.

Most Americans are racist and have no idea what is going on overseas -and our forced PC cover up shit hasn't worked.

Americans must accept this, laugh at their ignorance and move on as a people.


Anonymous said...

And Crane - how could you forget?

Thomas Pynchon just released a new book and you haven't even mentioned anything about it. It's called Against the Day.

And any real writer worth their salt - even if one loathes him - understands and admires the sheer bravado of Pynchon!

Tsk, Tsk Crane - you've got to stop reading John Patterson and Stephen King hackfest novels and get with the program! ;)


Anonymous said...


Fascinating paper on the Canadian gaming industry by a famous Marxist Autonomous called Nick Dyer Witheford.


JudgeHolden said...

Papa, why are you trying to eat my lunch on the comments? :)

On Thomas Pynchon I'm with you. He's a great writer -- I've read "The Crying of Lot 49" and his collection of short stories, but I'm afraid that, leaving aside enjoyment for a moment, mere comprehension of his novels requires a master's degree in English, or at the very least, a companion volume explaining the novel, written by someone who's got the degree. I have a bunch of his books sitting on my shelf, taunting me, and here goes Pynchon, putting out another 1,000 page tome no one but those grad students are going to read, so I'm probably not going to celebrate. Sad to say, I'm just not up to his level at the moment. But I am awaiting your 1,000-word review of "Against the Day" (or "Gravity's Rainbow") very soon. ;) (j/k)

And as for me reading all of those Stephen King and James Patterson novels -- a) Patterson and King aren't in the same "hackfest" category, and b) I read lots of stuff that's in the "program", I just happen to include King in that category. Finally, I'm with you on Altman. I think your first auteur option, the Kubrick rubric, is the superior of the two. Or you could just be great and prolific, a la Scorsese.

Also, I do kind of hate Sea World. Did I tell you that, Shawn?

Heath: you may be right about that Slate reviewer who shat on the Wii. But he did mention Duck Hunt and said that he thought that worked better and that's 20 or so years old. I'm reserving judgement until I get a chance to try it myself.

Anonymous said...

I love you Crane - you know I'm just picking on you. Guess Heath's been an influence.

Pynchon is a big inspiration for me - and pretty much got me into my fascination with conpiracies. I read him in college (undergrad) before coming to film school. My good friend got me into Crying Lot and then Gravity's Rainbow - which are the only books I've read...

As for Altman - http://www.wsws.org/articles/2006/nov2006/altm-n23.shtml

Check out this excellent article about him.

Anonymous said...

As for Christopher Hitchens - what a joke!

His blind support for the Iraq war makes him blind to what the neo-cons really are about - which is a society of perpetual war based on myth.

What a wanker.

Plus, why does he think he's part of some cultural vangard in the US.

Check out the Millen for some tasty tidbits on the Neo-Cons and Straussians.


JudgeHolden said...

It's all cool, Paul. I'm totally into you, too ;)

I picked up the new Pynchon tonight for the first time -- massive, massive tome. Looks like a few months of dedicated reading for a few brave souls. In regards to Hitchens, he's just as out of his mind about Iraq as he ever was (he still thinks there was indeed an al quaeda/Saddam link, for example), but he's smart as all hell and arguing with him would be the last thing I'd want to do. He wrote a book calling for Henry Kissinger to be indicted for war crimes and another book calling Mother Teresa a lunatic -- if nothing else, he's never boring, and I can't help but admire his robust and unembarrassed atheism. But there is something about his continued and unapologetic support of the invasion of Iraq (contrasted with Andrew Sullivan's regretful stance about his own former support for the invasion), that's very off-putting.