Thursday, November 02, 2006
Boratmania! (Boratmania?)
He's almost here.

On Friday, "Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan" opens in 800 theaters. Judging from advance press, the film -- starring Sacha Baron Cohen as his misogynistic, anti-Semitic Kazakh TV personality character -- appears to be the funniest comedy of the year.

"I feel like someone just played me 'Sgt. Pepper's' for the first time," "Simpsons" writer George Meyer told "40-Year-Old Virgin" director Judd Apatow at an early screening, according to Entertainment Weekly.

Whoa.

Reviews have supported Meyer -- the film is getting 93 percent favorable notices, according to review aggregator Rottentomatoes.com -- but, as the old saying goes, will it play in Peoria?

The Associated Press' Ryan Pearson observed that the character isn't an easy sell. "Surveys showed, essentially, that a chunk of the potential audience doesn't get it. They can't be bothered to tune in to this odd-looking fellow (on Letterman, CNN or elsewhere) long enough to figure out where his schtick is going," he wrote. "Borat's" studio, 20th Century Fox (which cut the initial opening from 2,000 theaters) hopes word of mouth helps build business.

I remember when "This Is Spinal Tap" came out in 1984. Though the film is now revered (and much quoted), it did only $4.2 million in business when it came out -- allegedly because too many people didn't get the joke.

Meanwhile, there's an equally cheeky movement to "Stop Borat." Some people do get the joke.

Other movies opening this weekend include "Flushed Away," an animated adventure from DreamWorks Animation and the geniuses at Aardman ("Wallace & Gromit"), with Hugh Jackman, Ian McKellen and Kate Winslet providing voices for a tale of a spoiled mouse who ends up in the sewer system; and "The Santa Clause 3: The Escape Clause," the latest in the series starring Tim Allen. Pedro Almodovar's "Volver," starring Penelope Cruz, gets a limited opening.

* * * * *

The obituaries for William Styron, who died yesterday at 81, justifiably focus on his status as a great American literary figure, one of the "young, muscular writers who lived hard, worshipped the craft and believed that through the Great American Novel, they could capture the world," as The Associated Press' Hillel Italie wrote in an appreciation.

But many readers -- even those who know Styron for his novels "Lie Down in Darkness," "The Confessions of Nat Turner" and "Sophie's Choice" -- are appreciating Styron for something beyond his storytelling talent.

In his 1990 memoir, "Darkness Visible: A Memoir of Madness," Styron wrote about his battle with depression, a battle that almost cost him his life. It is a powerful document, one of the best descriptions of the "storm of murk" (in Styron's words) that afflicts so many.

"The man who saved my life has left this earth," wrote one blogger. "What a gift," another said of "Darkness Visible."

A worthy testament.
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