Friday, August 14, 2009

Brüno (Rhoades)

“Brüno” Showcases British Prankster

Reviewed by Shirrel Rhoades

Of all places, I frequently go to Tyler, Texas (I have a client near there). Checking into my hotel room, I tune to the local television station, KETK-TV. Great programming: Local news, religion, and gun shows. East Texas is straight-laced cowboy country, not the kind of place you’d expect to encounter a flamboyant over-the-top anything-goes fashion reporter from Austria.

Nevertheless, KETK-TV news director Neal Barton and sports director Danny Elzner were interviewed in July 2008 by just such a fashionista. They expected to talk about small-town news, but this guy named Brüno steered the interview toward such discomforting subjects as (gasp!) homosexuality.

Ha! They were punked. For Brüno was none other than British prankster Sacha Baron Cohen, best known for his mockumentary, “Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan.”

This phony-baloney interview with the Tyler TV folks was intended to become a segment in Cohen’s latest silly film, but much hit the cutting room floor.

This “eponymous flamboyant gay Austrian fashion journalist” is a character originally created by Cohen for his HBO program, “Da Ali G Show.”

One gossip blog called this new film “Brüno: Delicious Journeys Through America for the Purpose of Making Heterosexual Males Visibly Uncomfortable in the Presence of a Gay Foreigner in a Mesh T-Shirt.” That pretty much sums it up.

Sacha Baron Cohen’s “Brüno” is currently camping it up at the Tropic Cinema.

The Tyler TV station was not the only one to get fooled by this fake fashion maven.

“American Idol” hostess Paula Abdul was tricked into doing an interview with the fictional Brüno. “I was told I got the Austrian/German ‘Entertainer of the Year Award.’ I thought ‘Wow! That’s pretty fantastic,’” she explained.

Invited to a house devoid of furniture, she met with a “weird, tall, skinny, creepy looking dude” who was “dressed like Captain Nemo” – Sacha Baron Cohen in his Brüno guise.

During the faux interview Cohen coaxed her into sitting on human furniture. “He goes, ‘Immigrants! Immigrants’ and … these two Mexican gardeners come into the house,” Abdul recalls. “He tells them to drop on all fours and for me to sit down on them. I said, ‘I’m not gonna do that!’ and he goes, ‘Just sit!’”

Paula sat, but made her getaway from the bizarre interviewer as quickly as she could. It took her a while to figure it out. A year later she woke up “in a pool of sweat at two o’clock in the morning, going ‘Ahhh! Oh my god, they got me.’ I had no idea (at the time) it was Sacha Baron Cohen.”

While some people have filed lawsuits against the British comedian, Abdul shrugs and says, “I think it’s hysterical.”

In a stunt at the 2009 MTV Movie Awards, Sacha Baron Cohen was set to present the award for Best Male Performer. Appearing as a winged angel in a jockstrap and white go-go boots, his Brüno flew over the audience on wires. However, before making it to the stage, he fell onto Eminem. The rapper let loose with a string of expletives before storming out of the auditorium. (It was later revealed Eminem was in on the joke, having rehearsed it with Cohen beforehand.)

As another prank, Brüno stormed the catwalk during an Agatha Ruiz de la Prada fashion show in Milan. He got only a few steps down the runway before security guards dragged him away.

“Brüno” was produced and co-written by star Sacha Baron Cohen and directed by Larry Charles. Don’t confuse it with a 2000 film of the same name directed by Shirley MacLaine.

The question is, when millions of people have seen the “Borat” film and “Da Ali G Show,” how do you trick people without being recognized? Sometimes you don’t. In November 2008, Cohen (dressed as Brüno) was spotted at a Los Angeles rally in support of Proposition 8. Once recognized, he had to be whisked away by his film crew before reporters could interview him.

Online bloggers are having a field day with “Brüno.” One heading proclaimed: “Does anyone else think this guy is REALLY annoying?” Another said, “I spent the entire movie alternating between HUGE belly laughs and covering my eyes in disbelief.”

Others argued, “Isn’t it just a Zoolander rip-off?” After pointing out that Cohen’s Brüno character predated Ben Stiller’s fashion send-up, someone explained the difference: “One is a scripted film in which a moronic male model is brainwashed to assassinate someone. The other is a mostly improvised film in which an Austrian fashion reporter attempts to break up America.”

No, “Brüno” is not a film everyone will love. Sacha Baron Cohen recently appeared on the cover of Attitude Magazine in an attempt to appease angry members of the gay community who felt his character promoted homophobia.

Love him or hate him, you’ll agree that Brüno is outrageous.

[from Solares Hill]

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