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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
Straight away, I'll disclose that I'm fascinated by politics and my views are probably to the left of most Nader voters, yet I've given over 5% of my income to the Democratic Party, Democratic candidates and pressure groups traditionally allied with the Democratic Party in recent years.
This documentary takes the same cynical view of American politics most people use as an excuse to not involve themselves in the democratic process: Republicans and Democrats are the same. I think that this has been refuted by past five years--and it was simplistic and naive, at best, to think so before then. We get side-tracked by tactics of the LA and Philadelphia police departments, which would be good grounds for a POV documentary on PBS, and a number of other dead-end subtopics. Then, we get to see a few things C-SPAN and the networks failed to show, like the shadow convention--one of the reasons I give this a low average rating, rather than a poor rating.
What this documentary and so many others fail to disclose is that we do live in a multi-party democracy within a two party system. The different factions within the Democratic and Republican Parties essentially give us the same choices one sees in the advanced multi-party democracies of Europe and elsewhere. We get to vote in primaries, they don't. Very briefly, Hoffman allows Barney Frank (always wise, witty and worthy of one's attention) to tell it like it is: Those on the left have abandoned the Democratic Party, if not the democratic process entirely, allowing it all to drift to the right. Simply put, most of those on the far right vote Republican. Most of those on the left don't vote, or waste their votes on people like Nader. Hence, Republicans win, Democrats lose. Unfortunately, Congressman Frank's wisdom (two minutes?) is almost wasted among the garbage here. I don't mean to split hairs here, but Rep. Frank was incorrectly identified with (R-MA) rather than (D-MA). Evidence of careless fact-checking? A thoughtful discussion with William Baldwin was the only other redeeming factor here. Unfortunately it was edited out, presumably because his was a progressive voice somewhat favoring the Democratic Party. It's among the extras on the DVD. Interestingly, among the predictions asserted by those being interviewed in this film, his are most eerily true.
All in all, I would praise this if it were an effort by high school students. However this was done by people who should know better. Hopefully now they do.
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