May 19th, 2012

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The Dictator

I have mixed feelings about Sacha Baron Cohen, or at least for his movies. I think he's a comedic genius. The way the man can commit to his kooky characters is \m/ brilliant and he is the master of the bad foreign accent of questionable origins. Back when Sweeney Todd casting was being announced, I was stoked to see him as Pirelli, and right now I'm really psyched to see him in Les Miserables. But when it comes to his own movies, I approach with caution. While his Borat and Bruno characters may have been fantastically played, I didnt find the movies funny. Partly it was because the joke just got old, but mostly it was the way those moves were scripted, or weren't scripted as the case may be. I love unscripted when you have two actors who are improv-ing, but when your unscripted includes a "victim" who is not in on the joke, it just gets awkward for everybody. So I was a little bit more optimistic for The Dictator than I would have if he were sticking to his old format, but I still wasn't quite sure what I was in for.

Turns out, yes, this is exactly the way that Cohen should make his movies. This is what works. The Dictator was hilarious. He still had freedom to play, as evidenced by the fact that many scenes from the trailer had completely different but equally hilarious dialogue. But at the same time, there was more structure. Things were set up to go in a particular direction, and everyone was in on the joke and trying to achieve the same goal. Now there were certainly gags that didnt work, namely a few of the planned scenelets (the baby scene comes to mind), but even within those seemingly unnecessarily sections there was some brilliant dialogue. There were some laugh out loud moments and some jaw dropping did-he-just-say-that?! moments.

As expect, Cohen was spot on with his performance. Actually, he was pulling double duty (pun halfway intended) with two characters. There are few actors who can commit to such an extreme character as well as he can. Again, master of the geographically ambiguous accent to the point where I forget what his sexy deep Brittish voice sounds like. I was actually YouTube-ing interview clips for a few minutes just to hear him talk. He had some good supporting people and cameos: Ben Kingsley, John C Reilly, and there was a quick cameo that I wont give away, but I'll give you the obvious hint that if you've been reading my blog for the past week, you'll know why I was incredibly happy to see this person on screen, even if only for 5 silent seconds. Unfortunately I felt Anna Faris was a bit of a weak point. It took me a while to get used to her hipster minded to the max character, and I think she tried too hard to match Cohen's over the top-ness. Had she held back a little bit, it might have worked out better.

Yeah so maybe it was just a matter of expectations, but I was rather pleasantly surprised by this movie. I really thought it was gonna be a painful 90 minutes, but it was just right.

The Dictator - \m/ \m/ \m/
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Edward Norton: American History X

This has to be the finest performance of Edward Norton's career. This movie is also one of my favorites. This blog post is gonna be a bit of a cheat because I think I said everything there is to say about this movie when I did my previous write up on the movie. My rant on Norton losing the Academy Award, general thoughts on his performance, scenes from the movie that haunt me. It's all in there. I really dont know what I can add to it without just gushing.