Back in December, when we at NPI were going over what we were most looking forward to in the new decade, Josh mentioned his anticipation of Charlie Kaufman’s next film. He is not alone. Kaufman has many admirers: Roger Ebert called his directorial debut, Synecdoche, New York, the best of the Aughts, and many other sources gave that honor to Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.
The cult of Kaufman began in earnest, though, with the release of Being John Malkovich in 1999. This film, directed by Spike Jonze, was Kaufman’s first produced screenplay. It established Kaufman’s reputation as an inventive, cerebral, and idiosyncratic voice in Hollywood. Continue reading »
Josh points out that Sacha Baron Cohen is being held to an unfair standard in many reviews of Brüno: Why is a comedian obligated to perform social commentary? The goal of Brüno is not to end homophobia, it’s to be funny.
The fact is that Cohen has never really been a social commentator: Even his work as Borat never had the exaggerated social implications that some people claimed. The people featured in the film were generally marginal, or their prejudices came as no surprise. What does come as a surprise, and is more often mined for laughs by Cohen, is tolerance and social manners.
In Brüno, this is even more obvious. The jokes in the film don’t often come from highlighting homophobia, but from what exactly Cohen can get away with. Can he talk on the phone while he’s getting his anus bleached? Yes. Can he get Paula Abdul to sit on a Mexican worker posing as furniture? Yes. Can he show his penis to a focus group, and then make it talk? Yes. Can he pretend to fellate a ghost in front of a psychic? Yes. Continue reading »