Monday, June 1, 2009

"No one has ever, ever paid admission to see an excuse." American Movie DOCUMENTARY MARATHON

American Movie-1999-Chris Smith


In a perfect world we would all accomplish our dreams. But in our world, oftentimes we fall short of what we originally intended. The American Dream isn't an easy thing to grasp, proof of this can be found in Chris Smith's telling documentary American Movie.

Following fledgling independent filmmaker Mark Borchardt as he makes his low budget short Coven, we see a man who has seemingly already lost everything but is still fighting for his dream. American Movie is at once hilarious, heartbreaking and infuriating. Mark isn't given a sympathetic pass due to his unrelenting and ultimately sad way of reaching his dream. He is shown for who he is. He still lives with his parents, working dead end jobs, and must constantly convince his Uncle Bill to finance his films.

With a hero like Mark to follow, it can sometimes be hard to jump on board, but when seeing his passion for filmmaking and everything he has gone through to make this movie, it's hard not to at least cheer for the film's completion. In Mark we see everything that is the "American Dream". If you try hard and persevere anything is possible is what we're always taught, and here on display is a man who is trying to do just that. This is where American Movie is able to take a basic premise and make it something tangible.

Is Mark a sad, loser or is he a down on his luck filmmaker in need of a break? We always see in American movies that hard work pays off, all of our dreams will come true as long as we try try try, but is there ever a cut off point? With four kids, an ex wife, and piles and piles of debt most people would say the logical thing is to at least put your dream on hold and take care of those things first. But is that really what the American Dream is? Something that can be paused at any moment to take care of other things and then brought back with the same amount of passion.

American Movie's success is found in it's honest portrayal of the American Dream. Dream's aren't always fully realized, but in the end Mark accomplishes a little part of that dream, and it makes a difference.

Mark's friend Mike Schank is another joy. He is a former heavy drug user who seems to barely have the capability for abstract thought, but his innocent conversation and dedication to helping his friend reflects these men's serious case of arrested development as well as their beautiful friendship.

At various points throughout the documentary Mark shows vulnerability and grows scared of the possibility of not realizing his dream. As Mike shows up, Mark sees him smiling and feels that everything will be alright. It doesn't take much to make Mike smile, he wins 50 bucks on a lottery ticket and looks like the happiest guy alive.

Mark Borchardt: I'm gonna wake up to hell tomorrow, man. Those credit cards ain't gonna look nice, man. But I'm always a man for my word. Mike Schank, you happy?
Mike Schank: Yeah, I'm happy.

Mark Borchardt: How happy are you, man?
Mike Schank: I'm very happy.
Mark Borchardt: Well good, man, cause don't drink. You're gonna set the world's record. OK, man? I'm cooled down, but... Hey I'm serious, man. If I missed somebody or anything, man, thanks a million for, uh, for helping out, man. Cause I... I couldn't of, whatever, done it

It's in little conversations like these that we get the heart of the film. Even though these guys make terrible decisions in their lives, and really don't seem to be bettering themselves too much, their friendship is a replication of what the American Dream really is:

Finding the people you love and spending time with them.

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