ScrimismsPresently suffering a dearth of witticisms

November 2006

Movies21 Nov 2006

I don’t know much about Khazikstan. A quick look in wikipedia tells me that it’s the 9th largest country by landmass, and has an adult literacy rate higher than the US of A This, one realizes, as one watches “Borat! Cultural Leanings of America to Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan“, is more than most Americans know.

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, or perhaps in a “backward central Asian country”, you’ve probably heard about this movie. A British comedian toured the “US and A” completely in character as the titular Kazakh journalist, leading people to believe that he is making a documentary. The result is a portrait of America through the eyes of a racist, homophobic, anti-Semitic, misogynistic dolt, who, it must be said, fits in rather well with the locals at times.

Based on the premise, this movie could have been great: the potential for satire is amazing here.

So what did I think? It was hilarious. But, that’s all. It wasn’t clever, like a Monty Python sketch that makes you repeat it in your mind over and over. It didn’t have much of a larger social point to make like most good satire. Perhaps I am just so jaded that homophobic rodeo cowboys, sexist college kids and uptight New Yorkers seem run-of-the-mill. Even the creationism failed to excite me (Borat goes to a religious revival and makes friends with “Mr. Jesus”). At least this lack of punch is counter-balanced by Borat’s endless crazy antics that go way over the top time and time again.

I left the theatre actually wishing Borat had broken character a little here and there. I wanted to know more about how they fooled people into thinking he was really from Kazakhstan. I wanted to know who was “in” on the joke and who wasn’t. I want to know if Borat and his “producer” were simply talking in gibbersih when they spoke to each other. And, most of all, I wanted to know how Borat managed to stay out of jail, considering some of the crazy stunts he pulled.

Movies and Musings14 Nov 2006

I saw A Scanner Darkly last night. For those who don’t know, it’s an adaptation of Philip K. Dick’s dystopian story of drug addiction in near-future California. It has a fairly interesting plot: the main character is an undercover narcotics agent assigned to spy on himself.

The most striking thing about the movie is the rather bold decision to use rotoscope animation: the movie was short as a live-action film, and then traced over frame by frame by animators. When I saw the trailer I thought at first that the animation was purely a gimmick, but they made very good use of it – most obviously in the camouflage suits worn by the undercover narcotics agents and in the drug-induced hallucinations experienced by the various characters – but also with some subtle effects accompanying the protagonist’s descent into madness, like constantly shifting objects and a skewed sense of perspective.

The movie was a lot better than it could have been. Worth seeing.

As I walked home from the film in the dark, my thoughts turned to other dystopian scenarios. I realized that if global warming were to radically warm the Canadian climate, we would still have the same long days and short nights in the “winter” time, since the length of the day, is, of course, caused by the axis of the earth’s rotation. For some reason, it’s comforting to think that there are limits to the environmental changes we humans can cause.

To a new kind of darkness: have you seen the Man in Black’s last music video? It’s fantastic.