Lane vs. Borat

Sacha Baron Cohen is one of the few British Jews to venture successfully into the comedy of shock,” writes New Yorker critic Anthony Lane in one of the oddest Borat reviews I’ve read so far. “[The] defense of Borat as an unwitting scourge of the reactionary — unearthing Midwestern beliefs no less parochial than those he left behind in Kazakhstan — is sound as far as it goes. But the movie goes further. It is equipped, like an F-15 Eagle, to engage multiple targets at once.”
And here’s where the curious umbrage kicks in. I can’t quite figure where Lane is really coming from deep down, but he isn’t very pleased with what Cohen’s up to, that’s for sure.
“If you can’t bear to hear Alan Keyes — whom Borat interviews, and who, like most of the participants, has no idea what he is dealing with — described as a ‘genuine chocolate-face,’ then for pity’s sake stay home. As for the scene in which Borat smooches a blond woman before introducing her as his sister, the ‘number-four prostitute in all of Kazakhstan,’ it is, like most of the film’s lavatorial gags, both daring you to gawk and forcing you to look away.
“What game is Baron Cohen playing, exactly, when he shows mock footage of an annual Kazakh ceremony known as ‘the Running of the Jew,’ in which children kick a giant egg to bits, to stop ‘the Jew chick’ from being hatched?”

  • Boy, Lane was your hero two weeks ago when he was slamming Sofia Coppola, and now he’s un-figureable?
    I enjoy reading Lane for the bon mots, but he’s not that useful a critic; his opinions are sort of ethereal and self-amused, i.e., often bordering on useless. (Also, a close friend used to work at the book imprint that published him and says he’s a high-handed prick, not that this matters.)
    Anyway, Denby’s prose isn’t nearly as good, and I don’t always agree with him, but among New Yorker critics at least he gives you an opinion you can chew on.

  • jeffmcm

    Anthony Lane is a critic for people who don’t like movies, which is why he writes for the New Yorker, so that every other week the snobs can chuckle about the films they have no intention of seeing.

  • Doghouse Reilly

    That’s silly, Jeff. There’s a difference between “literate” and “snob”. The New Yorker hasn’t been a publication for snobs in many years.
    Anyway, the snobs you have in mind seem to be upper class nose turners, who, to the extent they even exist anymore, tend to like the types of prestige movies that both Lane and Denby tend to dismiss. Of course, it was Kael at The New Yorker that did more to demolish the notion that elite/prestige/conservative/snob movies were real movie art. In that wake, the true culture snobs nowadays are the indie-hipster types.

  • Craig Kennedy

    Who are these mysterious “indie-hipster types” I keep hearing so much about? Is there a membership card or a secret handshake? I enjoyed A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints but didn’t see Larry the Cable Guy…Do I qualify?

  • MilkMan

    I am removing this site from my bookmarks bar.
    Jeff: You talk like a bimbo. You don’t understand what Lane is saying. All you want to know is: 30 million this weekend or is it a bomb?
    Jeff: Get out of Los Angeles. I can tell that you really love movies. Sometimes you write very eloquent reviews. But most of the time you talk before you think. This is why people call you a gossip and not a critic.
    Read some Rosenbaum. Some Gonzales. Just read somebody else and then Lane will start to make more sense.
    Just because you’re surrounded by old whores doesn’t mean you have to act like one.
    I’m out of here.

  • jeffmcm

    You can be literate and still be a snob. I have a subscription to the New Yorker, and I routinely skip Lane’s reviews because I know it’s just going to be a smug wankfest. I’m talking about snobs who don’t go to movies at all, who think they’re amusing diversions for the lower classes.

  • Wells to Milkman: I call Lane’s “Borat” review “odd” and “curious” and “hard to figure” and you’re “out of here”? You sound very cranked up about something other than my mild little commentary. Care to share?

  • cjKennedy

    Who are these mysterious “indie-hipster types” I keep hearing so much about? Is there a membership card or a secret handshake? I enjoyed A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints but didn’t see Larry the Cable Guy…Do I qualify?

  • T-maker

    Sometimes it’s an accumulation of things with a seemingly inconsequential triggering factor, Jeff. When you taste the gun metal a few seconds before you snuff out your own candle on some dark, lonely L.A. night you’ll see it for yourself.