‘Borat’ Sequel’s Oscar Buzz Spells Doom For Academy

Sequels rarely lap the original, a maxim that’s especially true for comedies.

Think “Another 48 Hours,” “Zoolander 2” or, gasp, possibly the worst comedy sequel of all time – “Caddyshack II.”

So it’s not a shock that “Borat Subsequent Moviefilm,” the surprise sequel to Sacha Baron Cohen’s 2006 blockbuster, can’t measure up to the original.

What comedy could?

The “Borat” sequel starts strong but quickly sinks, replacing gut-busting moments with partisan attacks on all things GOP.

What’s striking about the reaction to the second “Borat” is two-fold. The sequel holds an inexplicable 86% “fresh” rating at RottenTomatoes.com, a barometer of the nation’s premier film critics. General audiences gave it a more measured 70 percent “fresh” score.

And, as a semblance of awards season kicks in during our pandemic age, “Borat Subsequent Moviefilm” is building serious Oscar buzz.

To quote Borat himself, “Whhhhaaaat?”

The first “Borat” nabbed a single Oscar nomination for Best Adapted Screenplay, a coup in and of itself for that era. Comedies rarely shine during Oscar season, let alone films where naked men wrestle in and out of hotel rooms.

So, any Oscar talk for “Subsequent Moviefilm,” even during a diminished film year, would seem foolish. After all, the positive RottenTomatoes.com reviews admit the film isn’t as fresh, or funny, as the original.

Think again.

Variety: “Previous Oscar nominee Baron Cohen could find himself with up to five nominations across multiple categories on nomination morning.”

IndieWire: “When pundits were taking the temperature on awards season earlier this year, nobody expected a ‘Borat’ sequel to be a part of it … But ‘Borat Subsequent Moviefilm’ landed on Amazon last week in the midst of an anxious election season with more than just good reviews. The movie has stirred up Oscar talk in a number of categories…”

Vanity Fair: “It’s not a traditional star-making performance by any means, but it does make [‘Borat Subsequent Moviefilm’ co-star Maria] Bakalova an overnight sensation—and Cohen himself has been lobbying the Academy on her behalf, saying ‘If she doesn’t get nominated for an Oscar then that’s a travesty.’”

Vulture: “…the task of revealing the perverse underbelly of Donald Trump’s America fell to the 24-year-old newcomer — sometimes literally, as in the case of the film’s most famous sequence. She knocks it out of the park.”

Vulture goes on, though, and in doing so gives the game away:

Ultimately, the thing that will determine Bakalova’s bona fides probably won’t happen at the movies; it’ll happen in Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and Michigan. In conversations with Oscar strategists this week, one offered up an incredibly plausible and incredibly depressing theory: “If the election goes the wrong way, I think she gets nominated.” The reasoning? If Biden wins, voters won’t have much stomach for reliving the darkest depths of the Trump era. But if the president pulls off reelection by hook or by court-ordered crook, Bakalova’s awards campaign might suddenly become a standard-bearer for anti-Trump sentiment.

There it is.

The Oscars have been officially transformed into a combination of woke signaling and progressive rallying. We’ve known this for some time, but 2020 is making it official in two critical ways.

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences changed the rules for Best Picture nominees earlier this year to make them more inclusive – by Hollywood’s far-left standards.

Conservatives, ridiculed if not outright blacklisted within the industry, didn’t make the “preferred status” cut, alas.

And, just as disturbing, a film’s artistic worth now takes a back seat to its progressive bona fides. Cohen’s rising Oscar hopes all but scream that reality.

Imagine all the filmmakers hoping their labors of love stand a chance at Oscar glory. Even a nomination can change someone’s career.

All that work and sweat may be meaningless given the new status quo.

The factors that should matter to Oscar voters no longer count like they once did. Think acting, directing, and pure emotion.

They still rank in voters’ minds, but they aren’t the critical factors. Does your film have a robustly diverse cast? Are you arguing on behalf of a progressive cause? Did your film have an impact, even a tiny one, on a local or national election?

Did it at least try to do that?

We’ve seen glimpses of this sad state of affairs before. Consider Oscar winners Michael Moore and Al Gore, both of whom hit the progressive zeitgeist with the documentaries “Bowling for Columbine” and “An Inconvenient Truth,” respectively.

Yet there were always Oscar curveballs – the kind that made watching the increasingly divisive show worth the bother.

Even as recently as two years ago, “Green Book,” a film savaged by the woke Left for depicting racial reconciliation, shocked Hollywood with its Best Picture victory.

Those kind of upsets may no longer be possible in future Oscar races. Mediocrities like “Borat Subsequent Moviefilm” could be the new, depressing normal on Oscar night.

The views expressed in this opinion piece are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent those of The Daily Wire.

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