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Getting the joke.

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"We support your war of terror!"
"Borat" (and check out that awesomely hideous new website) has prompted some interesting writing on the nature of Sacha Baron Cohen‘s particularly transgressive form of comedy — all with the somewhat smug caveat of "we know this is brilliant and subversive and laugh at it for the right reasons, but will the rest of America?" Carina Chocano at the LA Times observes:

This, I think, is where the genius and horror of Borat’s explorations really lie: The joke is not on the U.S. or Kazakhstan or even the fake Kazakhstan of Cohen’s imagination. The joke is on petrified, inward-looking nationalism of all stripes. What’s funny is a jingoism so blinkered it can’t see the joke in a fake Kazakh singing the fake Kazakh national anthem to the tune of the American one. (Or the irony, for that matter, in the malaprop: "I support your war of terror!")

But she also writes that "it made me wonder what percentage of Borat’s legions of fans see past the crazy stunts and poop humor and into the heart of Cohen’s trenchant satire. Certainly, the screening I attended was packed mostly with a low-humor crowd that isn’t necessarily representative of his admirers. The median age seemed to fall somewhere between first shave and learner’s permit, and the scene was fittingly rowdy." Chocano’s piece is paired with one from Mark Olsen and John Horn that attempts awkwardly to tie the film to a trend of subversive comedy that, they insist, also includes "Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby" (a "sly sendup of NASCAR culture"), a thought generous enough to have even the director, Adam McKay, questioning it: "I don’t want to speak for my movies; you could say my movies are just completely silly and dumb, but in the case of ‘Idiocracy’ and ‘Borat,’ without a doubt there is a really subversive and sophisticated assault on American culture." (Conversely, Tim Robey has a piece in the Telegraph on the endurance of the dumb frat-boy movie, and includes in his list of five favorites in the genre "Harold and Kumar," which as we recall was written up as subversive and socially relevant by plenty of critics here.)

Entertainment Weekly offers up their cover story on "Borat" — Josh Rottenberg runs down the controversy surrounding it, including general unhappiness from the government of Kazakhstan and the Anti-Defamation League, with its fears that "the audience may not always be
sophisticated enough to get the joke." There’s also some insight into the development of the film, including the fact that Baron Cohen consulted Trey Parker and Matt Stone, among others, before settling on a form:

Baron Cohen recognized that, for all his debts to past satirists, from Jonathan Swift to Mark Twain and beyond, what sets his work apart is its total demolition of the boundary between the wildly surreal and the all-too-real. South Park, The Onion, and The Daily Show all offer their critiques from a self-consciously wry, above-the-fray perspective. Even Stephen Colbert does his Bill O’Reilly-ish shtick with a twinkle in his eye, and both guests and viewers are in on the gag. Baron Cohen, by contrast, allows his subjects and his audience no comforting recourse to ironic detachment, giving his social commentary a unique gut-punching immediacy. ”You can’t top reality,” says South Park’s Parker. ”We’re basically still just in the business of making cartoons.”

Both Stephen Armstrong at the London Times and Josh Rottenberg at EW have interviews (with loads of overlap) with Baron Cohen, who will apparently only speak to the press via email, in character, leading up to the film. We haven’t seen the film yet ourselves — we are looking forward to it (and the idea that an ostensibly broad comedy was the most interesting and provocative film at Toronto thrilled us to no end), but surely we weren’t the only ones that found "Da Ali G Show" much more fun in theory than in practice? When we tried to actually watch it, we would cringe so hard we’d fall off the couch and hurt ourselves, and someone would have to tell us what happened afterward.

+ Taking stupid seriously (LA Times)
+ Stupid has never looked so smart (LA Times)
+ The mystery of the frat-boy movie (Telegraph)
+ Beyond the Cringe (Entertainment Weekly)
+ A Star Is Borat (Entertainment Weekly)
+ Welcome to my world! (London Times)

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The Best Of The Last

Portlandia Goes Out With A Bang

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The end is near. In mere days Portlandia wraps up its final season, and oh what a season it’s been. Lucky for you, you can watch the entire season right now right here and on the IFC app, including this free episode courtesy of Subaru.

But now, let’s take a moment to look back at some of the new classics Fred and Carrie have so thoughtfully bestowed upon us. (We’ll be looking back through tear-blurred eyes, but you do you.)

Couples Dinner

It’s not that being single sucks, it’s that you suck if you’re single.

Cancel it!

A sketch for anyone who has cancelled more appointments than they’ve kept. Which is everyone.

Forgotten America

This one’s a “Serial” killer…everything both right and wrong about true crime podcasts.

Wedding Planners

The only bad wedding is a boring wedding.

Disaster Hut

It’s only the end of the world if your doomsday kit doesn’t include rosé.

Catch up on Portlandia’s final episodes on demand and at

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Your Portlandia Personality Test

The New Portlandia Webseries Is Going Your Way

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Carrie and Fred understand that although we have so much in common, we’re each so beautifully unique and different. To help us navigate those differences, Portlandia has found an easy and honest way to embrace our special selves in the form of a progressive new traffic system: a specific lane for every kind of driver. It’s all in honor of the show’s 8th and final season, and it’s all presented by Subaru.

Ready to find out who you really are? Match your personality to a lane and hop on the expressway to self-understanding.

Lane 10: Trucks Piled With Junk

Your junk is falling out of your trunk. Shake a tail light, people — this lane is for you.

Lane 33: Twins

You’re like a Gemini, but waaaay more pedestrian. Maybe you and a friend just wear the same outfits a lot. Who cares, it’s just twinning enough to make you feel special.

Lane 27: Broken Windows

Bad luck follows you around and everyone knows it. Your proverbial seat is always damp from proverbial rain. Is this the universe telling you to swallow your pride? Yes.

Lane 69: Filthy Cars

You’re all about convenience. Getting your car washed while you drive is a no-brainer.

Lane 43: Newly Divorced Singles

It’s been a while since you’ve driven alone, and you don’t know the rules of the road anymore. What’s too fast? What’s too slow? Are you sending the right signals? Don’t worry, the breakdown lane is nearby if you need it.

Still can’t find a lane to match your personality? Check out all the videos here. And see the final season of Portlandia this spring on IFC.

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Last-Minute Holiday Gift Guide

Hits from the '80s are on repeat all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC.

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GIFs via Giphy, Photos via The Everett Collection

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