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Times of Israel Podcast'He is this flamboyant, anarchic, spastic Jew'

LISTEN: Borat 2 and Chicago 7 — good for the Jews? ToI’s film critic weighs in

Jordan Hoffman looks at Sacha Baron Cohen’s performances in two currently streaming counter-culture movies, timed for US election season

The Times of Israel’s film critic Jordan Hoffman joins us this week on The Times of Israel Podcast to discuss two current, very Jewy films starring Jewish comedian Sacha Baron Cohen: “Borat 2” and “Chicago 7.” The actor plays goofy title character Borat — “a retrograde in all of his beliefs,” says Hoffman — and real-life 1960s jokester-activist Abbie Hoffman.

Baron Cohen, Hoffman tells podcast host Amanda Borschel-Dan, is the “heir apparent” to Groucho Marx and has popularized the genre of cringe comedy for our era. While he’s more known for his comedic roles, these two films allow the actor to display his dramatic range, he says.

Launched ahead of the United States’ elections, the two counter-culture films spotlight a dark discriminatory underbelly that is still influential throughout the divided country.

“I think the ultimate lesson of ‘Borat’ is he comes to the West and he holds up a mirror and he says outrageous things, and increasingly people not only fail to say ‘hey buddy, shut up,’ but they agree with him, egg him on,” says Hoffman.

ToI film critic Jordan Hoffman with ToI’s Amanda Borschel-Dan in front of Katz’s Deli in New York, 2017. (courtesy)

Hoffman discusses at length the headlines that sprang from the film — especially surrounding politician Rudy Giuliani, as well as a lawsuit brought by the daughter of Judith Dim Evans, a recently deceased Holocaust survivor who appeared in the movie. The suit was thrown out and according to Dateline, Baron Cohen is working on releasing cut footage of Evans’s story.

You can catch “Borat Subsequent Moviefilm” on Amazon Prime now.

Read Jordan Hoffman’s complete review of “Borat 2” here: ‘Borat 2’: Original’s insanity and anti-Semitism, multiplied by a factor of 2020

Sacha Baron Cohen in the trailer to the Borat sequel. The trailer was released by Amazon on October 1, 2020. (Amazon Studios)

Then Hoffman discusses Aaron Sorkin’s “The Trial of the Chicago 7,” which is streaming now on Netflix. Hoffman says that initially he couldn’t see Baron Cohen in the role of a college-aged agitator. But then he had a change of heart.

“This is the perfect alignment, because who is Sacha Baron Cohen? He is this flamboyant, anarchic, spastic Jew. He’s this maniac, heir apparent to the Marx brothers, as was Abbie Hoffman!” says Hoffman.

Hoffman endorses the film, with one major proviso: “I felt deep disappointment of how blanched of Jewish content this film was.”

Read more about the de-Jewification of “Chicago 7” in Jordan Hoffman’s essay here: “Chicago 7” makes its case but trial’s Jewish history stricken from the record.

Abbie Hoffman smiles during a news conference, February 5, 1970, in Chicago. He’s among the Chicago 7 on trial for conspiracy to cause riots at the time of the Democratic National Convention. (AP Photo/Jim Palmer)

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