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Sacha Baron Cohen has attended the Oscars before, when Borat was nominated for Best Adapted Screenplay in 2007. And he's caused a notable ruckus at a televised awards show before, when he attended the MTV Movie Awards in 2009 in character as the gay fashion reporter Bruno, was lowered from the ceiling and promptly landed on Eminem's face. With a new movie coming this May, Cohen has his eyes on combining the two, pulling off a slightly more restrained but still attention-grabbing stunt at this Sunday's Oscars. The question is, will the Academy let him?
According to THR, Cohen is hoping to attend the awards in costume as Admiral General Aladeen, the character he plays in The Dictator as a ruthless third-world leader who finds himself stranded in New York after a coup overthrows him back home. Though Aladeen isn't a character from Cohen's Da Ali G Show, he pushes similar buttons and steps over the bounds of what you might call good taste, as evidenced plenty in the first trailer. The nomination for Borat aside, Cohen's comedy seems like the exact opposite of what the Academy would want, especially in a year where they ditched Brett Ratner and Eddie Murphy for fear of being too controversial. And according to THR, the Academy has the ability to veto Cohen's idea to attend in costume-- though at this point, neither they or The Dictator's distributor Paramount have made any official statements about the plan.
There are strict Academy rules forbidding the advertising of any specific movies during the broadcast-- they only started allowing trailers during the commercial breaks last year, after all-- so if General Aladeen is to take control of the cameras, it'll likely happen during the pre-show. But it's unclear if Cohen can show up in aviator glasses, a giant beard and a general's coat and just claim it's his fashion choice, as valid as a swan dress. No doubt he'd still get plenty of attention, but the Academy could play dumb about it, which might help it feel like less of an obnoxious stunt.
And yet, I get the feeling that no matter what, it'll read as obnoxious anyway. Listen, the Oscars are no holy shrine of movie magic and quality trumping all publicity-- Harvey Weinstein wouldn't dominate them if they were. But Cohen will be at the Oscars reaping the genuinely lovely Hugo, and to take attention away from that film-- and all the other actual nominees-- to promote something a few months off just seems disrespectful. Am I being a stodgy old Academy member about this? Would General Aladeen liven up the show in a way nothing else could? Have at it in the comments.