The Sound of Silence

Yes, Buster, I loathe   Borat  , too.
Yes, Buster, I loathe Borat , too.

I watched a brief segment of the Golden Globes the other night. It happened to be the preamble to the announcement for Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture--Musical or Comedy, presented by some celebrity (one keeps blurring into the next these days).

Johnny Depp (Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest), Aaron Eckhart (Thank You For Smoking), Chiwetel Ejiofor (Kinky Boots), Will Ferrell (Stranger Than Fiction) and Sacha Baron Cohen (Borat) were the nominees. The only movie I hadn't seen was Kinky Boots, so I felt fairly invested in the outcome.

I had been mixing dough for corn muffins when I heard what's-his-face announce the names of the nominees, so I put down my whisk and walked to the living room, crossing my fingers for Will Ferrell. Stranger Than Fiction was genius--an original, intellectual and thoroughly surprising comedy I'd actually gone to the theaters three times to see. If Ferrell didn't win, I knew I'd be disappointed but still happy for whatever deserving actor did get the Globe ... as long as it wasn't Sacha Baron Cohen.

A former fan of Da Ali G Show, I despised Borat. Watching that putrescence (yes, I said putrescence) made me want to kick something. It was just infuriatingly bad. The day after seeing it I returned to the theater to watch Stranger Than Fiction again ... just to erase Borat from my memory.

The presenter ripped the envelope. And the winner was ... Sacha Baron Cohen.

I cursed the TV, turned it off and returned to my muffins.

As I spooned dough into tins, I thought about what separated good movies from the utterly intolerable. The classics from the the forgettable. The Stranger Than Fictions from the Borats. The biggest difference was talent, surely, on the part of actors, directors, writers, etc. Another was a simple matter of taste.

The night before I'd been blessed by my first silent movie experience. I still can't believe I'd never seen a full-length silent film before, especially because this one was so good. It was Buster Keaton in The General. My uncle, back from Iraq, was in town and my family had gathered for curry. My grandma brought The General and suggested we watch it after dinner.

I was shocked by how much I enjoyed it. Even a classic silent film, I figured, would be only moderately stimulating. But Keaton ... well, now I know why Keaton is Keaton. I will never again doubt the power of silence. I wonder how well Borat would have fared if Cohen had to make do without sound. Hell, it probably would have been better.

I never lighted upon The Secret for making a timeless movie--I was distracted by baking times. So for the moral of this story I leave you with a suggestion, and in some ways a plea: Don't watch Borat; it will suck out your soul. Watch Stranger Than Fiction instead, and go rent The General.