★★★ / ★★★★
I think people’s claims that this movie was “provocative,” “unnecessary,” and “crude” should pass as compliments because it was what Sacha Baron Cohen (as the lead character) wanted to achieve. Directed by Larry Charles, the picture tells the story of the recently fired Austrian television reporter named Brüno and his aspiration to become the most popular Austrian since Hitler (his own words). In his quest to achieve his dream, he visits celebrities and politicians for interviews ranging from Paula Abdul, Harrison Ford, to Ron Paul. He also had the bravado to visit the Middle East and interview two men from extreme political parties currently at war with each other; not to mention visiting the home of a terrorist and throwing insults like he was asking to get hurt. If those weren’t enough, he also ended up going to a swingers party, to Alabama in the middle of nowhere, and to a group of people who “converted” homosexuals into heterosexuals. And believe it or not, there were still a handful of things that I haven’t mentioned. Not everyone gets satire. This film satirizes the fashion industry, celebrities from behind the cameras as well as those in the focus of the tabloids, to the very same people who choose to become mindless drones of the television, trying to shape their lives into what’s currently “in” or “hip.” I also liked the fact that it made fun of people who claim to know what they’re talking about when they really don’t (that scene with the two blondes was a riot) and it critiques overbearing parents who desperately push their children to superstardom no matter what the cost. If one really looks into it, there’s a certain thought that was put under the farcical (and downright hilarious) façade that it tries to market. In a way, this movie holds up a mirror to the American society and the very same people who react negatively toward the movie without strong, well thought out reasons are the ones who are being made fun of. And the funnier (or more tragic) thing is, they know it’s all true. The second half was more about Brüno’s homosexuality and how people in less liberal (to say the least) people in America reacts to it. Yes, the character is extreme but I doubt the reactions of such people would have varied that much differently if he wasn’t as “flaming.” At the end of the day, ignorance is ignorance and hatred is hatred. I had a really good time watching this film despite its flaws because it has a certain sharpness to it that I couldn’t help but admire. People say “Boycott this!” or “This should be rated NC-17!” All I can say is that they need to watch more movies and smarten up a bit.
Body of Lies (2008)
★★ / ★★★★
I expected a lot from this film because of three reaons: Ridley Scott’s direction, Leonardo DiCaprio and Russell Crowe teaming up, and its storyline regarding spies. Even though Scott’s movies generally do not have riveting ideas, he manages to entertain by playing with the fluidity of his characters’ morals and motivations. In this picture, it’s no different because he constantly manipulates the dynamics between the characters–mainly their loyalties–to the point where at times I wondered about the characters’ true intentions. The side effect of certain twists, however, left me confused. At times I didn’t know why a character is doing whatever he is doing for about ten to fifteen minutes. It wasn’t a good feeling; I felt like I was on the outside instead of feeling involved. I wish DiCaprio and Crowe had more screen time together. The movie actually popped during the (too few) scenes when they were facing each other, measuring each other’s abilities. I got tired of the scenes when the two of them would argue over the phone. Why do all that if they can be on the field together? As for the spy storyline, I’m glad the setting was in the Middle East not that because it’s accurate but because it’s relevant to the war in some way. This film is based on the novel by David Ignatius but I haven’t read the book so I don’t know how often this movie followed that literature. I also have to commend Mark Strong as the head of the Jordanian intelligence. I think he’s one of the most interesting actors to watch because he has his own intentions and he’s not willing to sacrifice his reputation for the sake of giving and receiving favors to and from the CIA. I also liked Golshifteh Farahani as DiCaprio’s romantic interest. Even though that romance angle did not work for me, I liked watching her because she has subtlety. This is far from a perfect film but it could’ve been leaner and meaner with a few more revisions in the script and cutting it down to about an hour and forty minutes. For the sake of entertainment and old-fashioned thrillers, this gets a slight recommendation from me.