The Dictator was a little weird, pretty funny, definitely inappropriate and more scripted than I probably would have preferred. Though that may apply to the movie review as well (you'll have to wait until Friday to find out), I'm actually referring to Sacha Baron Cohen performing as General Aladeen in the mock press conference at the Paramount junket this week promoting his latest comedy.
The Waldorf-Astoria was decked out and draped in the colors of the non-existent nation of Wadiya, and as one E! TV personality continuously said (enthusiastic take after enthusiastic take after enthusiastic take): "Us journalists have NEVER been to a press conference quite like this one!"
A swarm of maybe 30 men of let's call it middle-eastern (?) descent stormed in the doors holding signs in support of General Aladeen to set the tone for the beloved Dictator. OK, maybe "stormed in" the wrong phrase. They kind of sheepishly meandered in. But still, it was a nice touch. I would have liked to read that casting call though -- I'm sure it was horribly racist, yet effective. And "beloved" is probably too strong as well, since, you know – the character is portrayed as a horrible tyrant. As chants of "Al-a-deen! Al-a-deen!" filled the room, beautiful women with machine guns led their leader to the podium. And there, in all his very hairy but non-mustachioed glory, stood before us -- General Aladeen.
Once it began it became a pretty typical press conference. A journalist would ask a question and the speaker would address it. I guess the only differences were that the questions were (mostly) pre-selected and the answers were (mostly) scripted. Oh and pretty much everything else about it as well.
Spoiler alert! (It's not) – in the movie, Sacha Baron Cohen plays a misogynistic, racist character who has no concept of Western political correctness (a stretch for him, no doubt). And if you like very funny sexism and ironic anti-Semitic content (and who doesn't), the press conference did not disappoint either. Here's a publishable sample of some of the safer Q & A:
Q: How do you respond to accusations that you are the world's most wise glorious leader?
A: You've got me, I have no response. Thank you for that fair and unbiased question.
Q: What do you think of the American film industry?
A: I love American films, particularly their fantasy films like Lord Of The Rings and Schindler's List.
Q: What are your pop culture guilty pleasures?
A: I am glued to my couch watching the satellite television. We have our own version of Two & A Half Men, it used to be called Three Men, but one of them tried to steal a grapefruit. Also I love the TV program 24, only we play it backwards so it has a happy ending.
Q: Which U.S. Presidential candidate would you endorse?
A: I would say Santorum, despite his liberal views.