Three Candidates, Two blind Politicians, One Race. Anytown USA follows a tightly run race in the small town of Bogota, New Jersey and resonates as an all-too-familiar look at partisan politics in our increasingly polarized nation.

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
Steve Lonegan ...
Himself
Fred Pesce ...
Himself
Dave Musikant ...
Himself
Doug Friedline ...
Himself
Bill Palatucci ...
Himself
George Shaloub ...
Himself
Joe Noto ...
Himself
Melissa Schnipp ...
Herself
Tom Layson ...
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Janine Strafaci ...
Herself
Drew Speier ...
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Alan Bookspan ...
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Allison Bookspan ...
Herself
Eileen Karpoff ...
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Tom Dematrakis ...
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Storyline

All politics is local in this hilarious burlesque of a documentary following a tightly-run mayoral race in the small town of Bogota, New Jersey. When the much-reviled--and legally blind--Republican incumbent Steven Lonegan boldly announces he will run for re-election, the citizens of Bogota go on the offensive to unseat him. Enter Democrat Fred Pesce, coaxed from retirement to share the ticket. With his health in question, and his politics compared to those of Tony Soprano, the field is wide open for sight-challenged town booster and former local football hero Dave Musikant to step in as a long-shot write-in independent candidate--officially making it the only mayoral race in the nation where two of the three candidates are legally blind! Add to the mix the machinations of Jesse "The Body" Ventura's campaign manager, and Anytown USA resonates as an all-too-familiar look at the charade of partisan politics in our increasingly polarized nation. Written by Jamie Hook

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All Politics is Local

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9 December 2005 (USA)  »

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Special Thanks... Indiana Jones See more »

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Edited from News 12 New Jersey (1996) See more »

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the documentary sleeper of the year...and it hits personal ground for me
25 December 2005 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

I wouldn't rank Anytown USA with the all-time great documentaries, but I know not only will I watch this again when it comes out on DVD, I'll likely buy it. For myself, going slightly past the film criticism for a moment, there is initial interest right off the bat with the location of the film. Bogota, New Jersey, is literally the town next over to mine (they even say Teaneck a couple of times in the film; the high school in their town is literally what makes my street a Dead-End), and while I have walked or driven through it countless times, I really only had a vague idea of who the people in the town were before the film. I have no friends from the town, and my only real conception of them (this is before the film) is that the cops love to give out tickets (in such a small town, what can you do with your spare time). Seeing the film, and seeing the townsfolk and those running for its Mayoral office (aka the 'Bogotian's', a name I laughed at when I first heard), I get a whole other picture.

Once getting over the initial feeling of 'ah, places I know up on the screen, and directed by a local no less', settling into the film is no trouble. The filmmakers have here crafted a work a little in the tradition of Michael Moore- totally for the entertainment value, very funny a lot of times, some heart put in for good measure- though this time the politics of the main subjects are kept a little vague at times (though if you know who Steve Lonegan is outside of what's shown here you'll know what to expect). The film is sort of divided up among its three subjects- the Republican incumbent (Lonegan), the democratic hopeful (Fred Pesce), and the wild-card, who (like Lonegan oddly enough) is legally blind, Dave Musikant. We see how they're campaigns take off, how the cards are stacked against the under-dogs, but how they fight back by way of the people.

The Bogotians (also the name of the town newsletter, often with propaganda by Lonegan's campaign people) get to know the candidates they don't, and of course have initial frustration with the incumbent. There's some nasty humor from Lonegan's side, some aloof-ness by way of the pleasant but poorly navigated Pesce, and as a main component to the film, the quirky, bittersweet saga of Musikant as a write-in candidate with the odds very much against him. But that the film shows all three's trials and tribulations in the couple of months up to the election with such a variety and timing is rather remarkable. It's a little too slick for its own good at times, yet the people are the ones that come through, either by way of cheering them on, laughing at them (or with them even), and soaking up the small-town pathos (and believe you-me, Bogota is a small town).

I do recommend the film to people who may have never even been to the east coast much less New Jersey or Bogota, because the filmmaker(s) are smart in not showing too much (oddly enough I never quite figured out what Musikant's politics were, except against Lonegan's stalwart incompetence and Pesce's shortcomings). And at the same time, in some ways, the film is even more of a comedy (perhaps unintentionally, or not) than a serious look at an election cycle coming to a climax. For one who has been alongside the Bogotians all his life, this film holds even more resonance, and taken aside from that perspective, it's still quite a little nifty look at the slings and arrows of local NJ power. As it seems though, many may have to wait for DVD, if at all, as it only got the most limited release in New Jersey (oddly enough at the Teaneck movie theater, where Bogota residents could walk half a mile to see it)


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