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In search of America.We spent a decent portion of "Borat" with our hands over our eyes. We also spent a decent portion laughing, so don’t take that the wrong way. "Borat" isn’t really a film for the likes of us; we have a tough time with the comedy of excruciation, and dread at what was going to happen when our hero was invited to a formal Southern dinner (located, the camera pauses to note, on a street called Secession Lane) almost drove us out of the theater.

Borat Sagdiyev, Kazakhstan’s most famous fictional resident, is the greatest creation of British comedian Sacha Baron Cohen. It’s entirely due to Baron Cohen’s gifts as an actor and improviser that Borat, who’s a ludicrous and fantastic conception of a foreigner from a non-threatening third world country, comes across as believable. Baron Cohen totally inhabits the role of Borat, right down to lousy cut of his signature smelly grey suit. He’s invented a family, a hometown, an ersatz language and array of over-the-top customs for Borat; after watching the film, Baron Cohen’s insistence on doing all interviews leading up to the theatrical release in character makes total sense. For him to discuss his character in the third person wouldn’t just be inconsistent — it would verge on blasphemous. Borat is real!

And so are the people he meets. The film’s storyline, that Borat and his overweight producer Azamat Bagatov (Ken Davitian) have come to the US to film a documentary for Kazakhstani television, is only an excuse to get the characters on the road and interacting with the citizens of America’s heartland. Borat’s initial encounters with less-than-welcoming New Yorkers are more wince-inducing than funny; it’s not until he begins meeting people too polite to immediately tell him to fuck off that the film swings into gear.

If you’ve seen Borat segments from "Da Ali G Show," you’ll know what you’re in for. "Borat"’s episodes are a little more grand and a lot more reckless, but they still rest on the ability the character has to pull out the vulnerable worst in others. Borat’s unflappable good nature, his blatant prejudices, his maladroitness and his unwavering adoration of all things American trigger something in people, a mix of the conspiratorial and the condescending that leads them to say jaw-dropping things (when asked which weapon would be best suited for killing Jews, a gun store owner advises without missing a beat that a nine millimeter is probably the way to go).

We are a little mystified by those who would call the film subversive. We wish it was; we wish we could read more satirical value into it. But the bounds "Borat" pushes are ones of audience comfort, not social commentary. Yes, there’s inimitable pleasure in watching Baron Cohen, dressed in a gaudy stars-and-stripes shirt and cowboy hat, garnering a roar of support from the crowd at a rodeo by yelling "We support your war of terror!" But otherwise, "Borat" gets its laughs from the ugly ignorance of others — and what’s new about that?

Opens nationwide on November 3rd.

+ "Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan" (20th Century Fox)

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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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