Archive for the ‘Sacha Baron Cohen’ Category

The Dictator

15 Jun

The Dictator –  Farce. A Middle East potentate finds himself without a crown or a court in downtown Manahattan and musrt foil a plot for his double to take over his vile dictatorship and turn it into a vile democracy. Color 212.


It’s funny, but not funny enough, and looking at its star, Sasha Baron Cohen, that may be because he himself is not inherently funny. He does funny things, though, and he says funny things too. He has funny ideas. And his stories are far-fetched enough to make us ripe for a guffaw.  For his purpose is to make us laugh – out of the other side of our faces, to be sure, but still…. Bert Lahr was inherently funny. So was Milton Berle, Fanny Brice, Jack Benny, Bob Hope, Charlie Chaplin, Buster Keaton, Martha Raye, Carole Burnett, Billy Crystal, Walter Brennan, Lucille Ball, Donald Duck, John Lithgow, Judy Davis, Judy Garland. They had what is called funny bones. Bert Lahr was inherently funny; Jack Haley, Ray Bolger were not. But they could do funny things. And they could be vastly entertaining entertaining us. With Cohen the humor is mainly physical. It collects us by antics, get-ups, accents, impersonations, and complicated contradictions. All to the good. I will continue to visit his films because there is a natural defiance and an elegance and novelity of wit harbored in him that makes him belong up there dressed in a djellabah and a false beard and a screwy accent, and ignorant of his own folly all the time. I would not care to see him play a comedy by Shaw. But this?  yes. For there is a giddiness in his breast that wants to roughride and that is worth witnessing for its own sake, and that is what really makes him a star. Enthusiasm for what he is doing. It’s not as common as one might suppose. Brad Pitt has it. So does Tom Cruise. To be present with it is just plain good for one’s digestion.




11 Dec

Hugo — Directed by Martin Scorsese. Drama. An orphaned boy winds the clocks of a huge Paris railway station as he seeks his true parentage. 127 minutes Color 2011.

* * * *

Asa Butterworth plays the 12 year-old and hits a homer. His performance is simple and ingratiating, for he lets his impression of his situation carry him, and Martin Scorsese lets Asa’s fine blue eyes carry him the rest. He is mated with another 12-year-old well played by Chloë Grace Moretz. The two of them take us along on their adventures in early 1930s Paris, adventures which are imperiled by the train station guard, a victim de la guerre, played with a crazy Martin Short accent which is supposed to be comic but is not, by Sacha Baron Cohen. The problem with the material lies not with them but with the special effects which clog and over-lengthen their tale. These effects which are 3-D and which at first impress and amaze, fade in power as they supplant the story and the human interest of it. For instance, two of the greatest actors alive, Richard Griffiths and Frances de La Tour (remember them in The History Boys), are sidelined, while the sequences in the towering stacks of a bookshop owned by Christopher Lee displace the narrative with a plot device that could have been handled more briskly another way. Virtuosoism will attack narration every time. For the entire film is manufactured by computer. All we see, save the actors themselves, is fabricated with the doomed magic of an application. It even opens the picture carrying a character moving through a maze, duplicating a famous opening sequence in another Scorsese film of years ago. But these elaborate and highly detailed fabrications steal breath. What first impressed now fails to. The forgotten passages of the huge old station bring us into the power of the secret mischief of the Hunchback Of Notre Dame and The Phantom Of The Opera, but with them the special effects of the station itself eventually cannot compete. The film almost loses heart – but not quite, for the heart is that of Martin Scorsese, and the story is that of the Ben Kingsley character, an old great silent film fantancist/magician/inventor, Georges Méliès, now superannuated and inutile and running a toy store in the train station. We hope our Master Scorsese does not fear to become like this director, outdated, his work lost and forgotten. The old director is restored to praise, and, when I saw it, the audience applauded Hugo, as I did myself. A good whole-family picture.


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