XIXAX Film Forum

Film Discussion => The Small Screen => Topic started by: Sleepless on July 09, 2018, 09:33:51 AM

Title: Who Is America?
Post by: Sleepless on July 09, 2018, 09:33:51 AM
Figure we're going to be talking about this one.

‘Who Is America?’: Sacha Baron Cohen’s New Trump-Themed Show Revealed (https://www.indiewire.com/2018/07/who-is-america-sacha-baron-cohen-trump-showtime-1201981965/)

Sacha Baron Cohen Got Dick Cheney to Sign a Waterboarding Kit in Undercover Interview for New TV Show — Watch (https://www.indiewire.com/2018/07/sacha-baron-cohen-dick-cheney-sign-waterboarding-kit-who-is-america-1201982124/)
Title: Re: Who Is America?
Post by: Jeremy Blackman on July 18, 2018, 03:36:41 PM

He's still got it.
Title: Re: Who Is America?
Post by: Jeremy Blackman on July 19, 2018, 06:48:14 PM
Watched Episode 1. It is exactly in line with previous Sacha Baron Cohen shows and films. The final segment (posted above) is an absolute masterpiece.

In the lead-up, I heard a lot of hand-wringing about SBC's methodology. These criticisms are nothing new, but they started to gain a new resonance with me. In a time when our grip on the truth is so tenuous, do we really need Sacha Baron Cohen weaponizing out-of-context moments and distorting reality even further? Maybe his type of art is now too destructive. Maybe it's not worth it anymore.

Then I watched the episode, and I had a new reaction: Actually this is great and I love it. And it's fine.

There's a lot of prime satire here. Does SBC reveal what's in these people's hearts? In some cases, yes. In other cases, no—he just reveals that they're willing to say anything when they believe some Israeli organization is honoring them. In the actual episode, the production team's deceptive tactics are not some closely-held secret. They are in full view. In the gun segment, SBC is perhaps more transparently deceptive than ever before. At one point, the show even basically deconstructs its own methodology (at 8 min in the clip above).

In the final stretch of the gun segment, it is made 100% clear to viewers that the participants are reading a script to the camera. That's the whole point of that part—that they're willing to pimp themselves and say literally anything for the sake of Israel and/or gun advocacy. The deception there is mostly done for the purposes of comedy and humiliation.

The other segments are essentially at the expense of SBC's character. The Bernie interview is actually kind of great for that reason. The dinner segment is basically prank comedy.

I wasn't entirely comfortable with the art segment until I read this (https://slate.com/culture/2018/07/who-is-america-art-gallery-consultant-christy-cones-on-sacha-baron-cohens-trick-interview.html).
Title: Re: Who Is America?
Post by: Jeremy Blackman on July 23, 2018, 01:11:48 PM
Episode 2 is also glorious. This time two of the segments are 100% gold: the craziness with Rep. Jason Spencer (posted below) and the lovely prank where SBC's ultra-liberal character proposes to build a mosque in a racist town. In both cases, it's like shooting fish in a barrel, and he absolutely reveals these people's rotten souls with very minimal manipulation.

I was not thrilled with the Corinne Olympios (former Bachelor contestant) bit. She claims that they wouldn't let her leave until she said those things. Judging by the final product, I would not be surprised if that's true. Although she does have a distinct vacuous quality and does not appear to be particularly bothered.

And by the way, of course:

Nathan Fielder Wrote and Directed a Who Is America? Prank (http://www.vulture.com/2018/07/nathan-fielder-who-is-america.html)

Title: Re: Who Is America?
Post by: Jeremy Blackman on July 23, 2018, 05:49:22 PM
Spencer's reaction is absolutely delicious. He confirms that he was overcome by fear at the time, not goofing:

"In posing as an Israeli agent, (Cohen) pretended to offer self-defense exercises. As uncomfortable as I was to participate, I agreed to, understanding that these 'techniques' were meant to help me and others fend off what I believed was an inevitable attack.

"My fears were so heightened at that time, I was not thinking clearly nor could I appreciate what I was agreeing to when I participated in his 'class.' I was told I would be filmed as a 'demonstration video' to teach others the same skills in Israel. Sacha and his crew further lied to me, stating that I would be able to review and have final approval over any footage used.

"I deeply regret the language I used at (Cohen's) request as well as my participation in the 'class' in general. If I had not been so distracted by my fears, I never would have agreed to participate in the first place.

"I apologize to my family, friends, and the people of my district for this ridiculously ugly episode," Spencer said.
Title: Re: Who Is America?
Post by: Jeremy Blackman on July 25, 2018, 12:19:08 PM
Update: Jason Spencer has (finally) agreed to resign.
Title: Re: Who Is America?
Post by: Jeremy Blackman on August 21, 2018, 11:43:43 AM
The subsequent episodes have not quite lived up to the first two. This is a widely-held opinion. I feel like it's sort of unfair, though, because those were two instantly legendary episodes of television.

I'm still enjoying the show quite a bit. Some segments are underwhelming, but I kind of appreciate that they're including the ones that didn't turn out quite as expected. Makes the whole operation feel unpredictable. I will say I'm not thrilled with the prison rape jokes (a category of humor I just flat-out don't find funny). Other than that, it's good.

I've noticed that people are a bit thrown off when segments flip their formula, turning the guest into the straight man and making SBC's character the object of ridicule. A lot of the audience, including TV critics (!), is just not getting that. Which is odd, because that has been one of SBC's things since the beginning.

I think every episode still has a prank that's transcendently great. Recent examples: food critic, quinceañera, how to survive a beheading.

One of which is on Youtube (NSFW)...

Title: Re: Who Is America?
Post by: Jeremy Blackman on September 01, 2018, 03:25:39 PM

Beware of spoilers if you intend to see the show.