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January 23, 2007
By: Kevin Drum

BORAT....Borat has won an Oscar nomination in the category of Best Adapted Screenplay. I'm confused. What was it adapted from?

UPDATE: In comments, several people suggest it's adapted from the Ali G Show. OK, but where does the screenplay come from? Answer: according to FMguru, "About half the movie is material from the TV show." Really? I never saw the show, so I don't know. But it's a different character and I thought the movie bits were unscripted anyway. I'm still confused, but I guess slightly less confused than before.

Kevin Drum 6:40 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (32)

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from the Ali G TV show

Posted by: Eric on January 23, 2007 at 8:14 PM | PERMALINK

The T.V. show Ali G, I'd guess.

Posted by: Boronx on January 23, 2007 at 8:14 PM | PERMALINK

Academy = Borat^2.

Posted by: gregor on January 23, 2007 at 8:14 PM | PERMALINK

It was adapted from "reality."

Posted by: gmoke on January 23, 2007 at 8:16 PM | PERMALINK

Ali G interviews Buzz Aldrin

Posted by: Boronx on January 23, 2007 at 8:18 PM | PERMALINK

Also, Wikipedia says "Letters From Iwo Jima" was adapted from two books, including one by the guy Ken Watanabe played, but it's nominated for original screenplay.

Posted by: Aaron S. Veenstra on January 23, 2007 at 8:23 PM | PERMALINK

If this continues I'm sure 'Ass' to win next year for Best Screenplay. Hooray for the dumbing down of Uhmerica. Ugg.

Posted by: Adventuregeek on January 23, 2007 at 8:25 PM | PERMALINK

Definitely from the show, one of the scenes came directly from episodes of the show (The scene where he sings in the bar is in one of the second season shows, I believe)

Posted by: david on January 23, 2007 at 8:26 PM | PERMALINK

It's adapted from Homer's Odyssey (with less naked hairy wrestling).

Posted by: Rip Tatermen on January 23, 2007 at 8:27 PM | PERMALINK

It's from "The Protocols of the Elders of Zion."

Posted by: calling all toasters on January 23, 2007 at 8:28 PM | PERMALINK

About half the movie is material from the TV show.

Posted by: FMguru on January 23, 2007 at 8:29 PM | PERMALINK

Umm, the bar singing scene wasn't in the movie.

But the adapted from is probably from the TV show. There was doubtless some desire to get some sort of nomination for Cohen in this year, although I'm thinking that it's by far the weakest entry in that category. My pick would be Children of Men. I'll be blogging all the films that are nominated for the big 8 at L.A. Stories, doing a film a day (I think that'll get me through them enough for Oscar voters to be influenced by me) There are 12 films I still need to see.

Posted by: don Hosek on January 23, 2007 at 8:53 PM | PERMALINK

Borat was a bit character in The Ali G Show.

While part of it is obviously unscripted (especially the public's reactions), Borat obviously knows what he is trying to achieve, and follows a script.

Some scenes were very similar to the TV show. For instance, singing the national anthem at the rodeo -- on the TV show he did the same thing but at a baseball match, and the lyrics were different. Likewise, being taught manners and going to a dinner party was a skit from the TV show.

Posted by: Robert on January 23, 2007 at 9:05 PM | PERMALINK

FYI, Da Ali-G show had 3 main characters that the segments were based on (all played by Cohen). There was Ali-G, Borat, and another, Bruno. Much of the film does seem to be a replay of some of Borat's sketches from the show... whether or not that makes the screenplay for the film "adapted" is another issue.

Posted by: Walrus on January 23, 2007 at 9:05 PM | PERMALINK

Actually, here's an article you might want to read, which explains the nature of the "script".

Posted by: Robert on January 23, 2007 at 9:10 PM | PERMALINK

Hey, Mike Leigh won best screenplay for Topsy Turvy even though he is well known for not writing screenplays. It's the Academy, it doesn't have to make sense.

Posted by: Martin on January 23, 2007 at 9:22 PM | PERMALINK

Walrus has it right. Ali G was the host/emcee of the show, and the Bruno and Borat characters provided a type of structural support. (FWIW Borat was my least favorite character on the show.) He adapted scenes from the show's history and used those as a platform to explore the interesting boundaries of human behavior.

I haven't bothered to see the movie because I always thought Borat was a bit tedious, but I applaud the depth of his 'performance' that blended the lines between film and reality.

Bring on the Bruno film!

Posted by: Tuna on January 23, 2007 at 9:39 PM | PERMALINK

Billy Bob Thornton won an Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay for Sling Blade. It was adapted from a short film titled Sling Blade.

Posted by: Randy Paul on January 23, 2007 at 10:05 PM | PERMALINK

Yikes, a front page call-out. As others have pointed out, Borat is one of the three characters that Baron-Cohen plays on the show (Ali G and Bruno are the other two). Ali G was his first one - I think he did shorts with Ali G that were so popular it was made into a show (hence, it's "The Ali G Show"); the other two characters came along later, after Ali G got too recognizable and a little stale.

The movie includes a lot of material that was reworked/restaged from the TV show. I've not seen all of the TV shows, but I think some of the actual footage in the movie had been used before in the TV show (the butchered Star Spangled Banner rendition at the rodeo, perhaps).

As for what was scripted, what was improvised on the spot, what was actual man-on-the-street getting fooled, and what was pre-arranged to look like a man-on-the-street getting fooled - that's a matter of considerable conjecture and ongoing argument.

Posted by: FMguru on January 23, 2007 at 10:29 PM | PERMALINK

Answer: according to FMguru, "About half the movie is material from the TV show." Really? I never saw the show, so I don't know.

The Ali G show was on TV for at least several years in the United Kingdom and elsewhere in Europe before it was brought to HBO. I've seen it in Germany (in English). I haven't seen the movie, but the basic joke is about the same--a foreigner feigning ignorance of the locals and getting them to act silly. The movie's screenplay--such as it is--would probably be about as "adapted" as any other adapted screenplay.

Posted by: raj on January 23, 2007 at 10:31 PM | PERMALINK

Sorry,

I haven't seen the movie, but the basic joke is about the same...

The basic joke of the Borat character on the Ali G show (the show included 3 or 4 characters) is about the same as in the movie, as I understand the movie.

Posted by: raj on January 23, 2007 at 10:33 PM | PERMALINK

If you thought the movie was unscripted, or if you're curious about the writers, you should read this.

http://www.wga.org/writtenby/writtenbysub.aspx?id=2274

Posted by: tomboy on January 23, 2007 at 10:38 PM | PERMALINK


Shameless plug -- My friend Amy Berg's documentary, "Deliver Us From Evil," was nominated in the Documentary category. See it if you can! It's an absolutely withering expose of the Catholic Church's complicity in the protection of Oliver O'Grady, the most vile Cathlic Priest of all time, who molested over 100 children in California in the 70s and 80s.

Posted by: Jason M on January 24, 2007 at 3:25 AM | PERMALINK

Borat the film is the same as the Borat the segment of the Ali G show but they adapted it so it fit a full-length film format...giving us some background on Borat, what his story was, what his mission was, how it concluded, and so on. Otherwise, the bit stuff is largely the same (like the manners clubs in the South, dating tutoring and national anthems), while also adding some new stuff I hadn't seen before like the driving lessons. Even the bit stuff that had been done before appears to have been redone with different folks and different settings.

Certainly the Borat movie is 10x the movie that the Ali G movie is, but even the largely unknown Ali G movie has moments of fun stupidity.

Posted by: Jimm on January 24, 2007 at 4:14 AM | PERMALINK

According to Ken Levine, by adaptation they mean it was written after they filmed the movie.

Posted by: Janefinch on January 24, 2007 at 7:59 AM | PERMALINK

This Slate piece points out that not only Borat, but also United 93 were script-free films that were nominated for WGA Best Screenplay awards.

The author attributes this, in part, to the WGA trying to get payment for writers for types of production for which producers would prefer not to pay writers -- reality shows being an example.

Posted by: Alex R on January 24, 2007 at 9:06 AM | PERMALINK

maybe there wasn't a formal script, but they had to outline what they did. consider the movie jackass, which is similar in its contstruction. johnny knoxville makes a great comment on the dvd to one of his guys that if he wants to go to japan with them, he has "to write something." the guy comes back two days later and says simply: "night pandas." knoxville says, "get him a ticket." and the night pandas bit--five guys dressed as pandas and wearing roller blades bombing down crowded city streets and banging in confused japanese people--is one of the funniest in the movie. it's not much of a script, "night pandas," but it gets you where you need to go. so does "fight naked in a hotel room, then borat chases his manager with a huge dildo through the hotel until they end up in one of of the big conference rooms."

Posted by: angry young man on January 24, 2007 at 10:11 AM | PERMALINK

I'm pissed off that 'Flushed Away' didn't get an animation nomination.

And, as usual, about half of the films ('Babel' for instance, like 'Crash' last year.) never played out here in the multiplex world where we never get to see indy or 'limited distribution' films.

I did get to see 'Little Miss Sunshine' and 'The Queen'. Whoop-de-do.

Posted by: MsNThrope on January 24, 2007 at 11:06 AM | PERMALINK

You're right Kevin. It is about as adapted as the "Jackass" movies.

Posted by: Percy on January 24, 2007 at 11:32 AM | PERMALINK

...on the TV show he did the same thing but at a baseball match

Or as we 'murricans call it, a "baseball game." ;)

Posted by: Tom on January 24, 2007 at 1:06 PM | PERMALINK

Cohen wrote a 30 page outline, but according to well-founded rumor showed Fox only a 4 page version - that longer outline is the script

As for adaptation, the premise was developed in another media prior to production - not that I agree, but AMPAS considers TV another media, which is strange considering that nearly all films make more $ from TV (incl DVD, cable, etc.) than they do from initial theatrical exhibition

Posted by: fatbear on January 24, 2007 at 6:40 PM | PERMALINK

Jason M.--I second your endorsement of "Deliver Us From Evil." It was the most powerful documentary I've ever seen and deserves to win the Oscar. "An Inconvenient Truth" may trump it because of its hot-button subject and wider audience--and it was certainly a worthy film--but "Deliver Us From Evil" deserves to win. Give Amy a hug for me. She's my hero!

Posted by: Filmlover on January 24, 2007 at 7:00 PM | PERMALINK




 

 

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