Filmed over the last six months of the 2000 Presidential election, Phillip Seymour Hoffman starts documenting the campaign at the Republican and Democratic National Conventions, but spends ...
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Quinton 'Rampage' Jackson,
Filmed over the last six months of the 2000 Presidential election, Phillip Seymour Hoffman starts documenting the campaign at the Republican and Democratic National Conventions, but spends more time outside, in the street protests and police actions than in the orchestrated conventions. Hoffman shows an obvious distaste for money politics and the conservative right. He looks seedier and more disillusioned the campaign progresses. Eventually Hoffman seems most energized by the Ralph Nader campaign as an alternative to the nearly indistinguishable major parties. The high point of the film are the comments by Barney Frank who says that marches and demonstrations are largely a waste of time, and that the really effective political players such as the NRA and the AARP never bother with walk ins, sit-ins, shoot-ins or shuffles. In the interview with Jesse Jackson, Hoffman is too flustered to ask all of his questions. Written by
An unshaven, chubby American in casual clothing is trying to find out what's wrong with America, on screen. Ah, I must be talking about Bowling for Columbine? No, in fact this review is concerned with Last Party 2000, and the unshaven interviewer/narrator is Philip Seymour Hoffman, an actor regularly cast as sidekick, and not Michael Moore, the comic voice of the American Left. First of all, let's look at the themes: Last Party 2000 deals with the political disillusion of the population, by focusing on the 2000 elections. The events surrounding these elections are documented, supporters of both sides are interviewed, a sense of bewilderment seeps through the entire documentary; in short, all elements for a great and inspiring documentary appear to be there. All elements apart from entertainment and professionalism, sadly. In the end, this has to be a comparative review. This is unfair - Last Party 2000 was filmed and released years before Michael Moore's masterwork about the reasons behind America's problem with (gun-related) violence. But the visual similarities, the similar aims, the similar cast of strange Americans (including appearances by Michael Moore and Charlton Heston), ... practically force a 2003 viewer to feel a deja vu. A deja vu which painfully highlights the shortcomings. The first flaw is simply that Last Party tries to present itself as an objective documentary, the removed outsider holding up a mirror. A noble cause this may be, but there is little fun to be had that way. Worse, the objectivity is cast into doubt and eventually discarded, in favour of a decidedly partial view of the election. The hero is neither democrat nor republican, it is Ralph Nader of green fame. So while we get to see snippets of televised discussions between Gore and Bush that show the similarities between them, only Nader gets the chance to stand out in a favourable way.
One serious problem caused by the pretence impartiality is that both sides get to talk too much. Michael Moore carefully picked his subjects, filling his documentary with fanatical idiots on the one hand and carefully spoken people on the other. He never interviewed any sane person opposing his views, or any nutjob supporting them. He edited the interviews to provide the maximum scare factor and humour, or maximum content, depending on the views of the interviewee. Being openly biased helped Bowling for Columbine by allowing the film to be frightening and partially funny, convincing and fast-paced. Last Party, on the other hand, is poorly edited. Where Columbine shows Charlton Heston holding up a rifle, growling menacingly "from my cold dead hands", Last Party also shows the preceding "And to you, Gore...". No pace, little humour, and nothing to sustain interest. These flaws are most visible in two very poorly produced sequences.. First of all, there's the coverage of the two party conventions, and then there's Jesse Jackson. Republicans and Democrats held gigantic conventions preceding the elections. Both were surrounded by semi-violent protests, and both featured people making surprisingly identical statements about why they support their particular side. In the documentary, these conventions are shown in sequence, and not edited in parallel. This drags down the pace, requires the viewer to recall statements from ten minutes before and is simply not as effective as it could be. The second point, Jesse Jackson's interview, highlights another flaw rather painfully. We see the interviewers before and after the interview, sweating and remarking how nervous they are about seeing such a famous person. An interview where the interviewers are in awe of their subject? How professional is that? It highlights another problem: We get to see far too much of the documentary makers, with little justification. Bowling for Columbine may have been a one-man-show for Moore, but at least he was funny. Last Party 2000 features a group of surprisingly boring filmmakers, putting themselves into the centre far too often.
So we have a slow-paced, poorly edited, rather tedious, pretense impartial but actually biased vanity project of a documentary. Fine. I could live with that. Except, they then proceed to show the election aftermath, in the final minutes of the film. How can they justify dragging out the pre-election circus for hours if they then cut the post-election scandals into a five-minute sequence? Wouldn't that have been interesting enough to warrant a documentary all of its own? The final verdict is simple: They needed a better editor, and much more courage in presenting their views. The pre-election circus could have been cut down to a healthy 45 minutes, with another 45 minutes left for the post-election chaos. As it is, this documentary is not worth watching.
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