Friday, March 30, 2012

Making A Mockery Of My Words, Man

From time to time, I plan to use this space to repurpose film reviews I wrote for several local independent newspapers during the previous decade:

THE OCTOPUS: 1999-2000
THE PAPER: 2003-2004
THE HUB: 2005-2006

During my tenure as a professional (re: paid) film critic, I wrote about both new releases and cult classics. The date provided below is the date the newspaper issue containing the review hit the streets.

This review has been slightly edited from the original published piece.

4 Stars
Rated R
Running Time 1:47

AMERICAN MOVIE, which won a Grand Jury Award at the Sundance Film Festival, is one of the most entertaining documentaries in recent memory. Made by former Michael Moore (FAHRENHEIT 9/11) protégés Chris Smith and Sarah Price, AMERICAN MOVIE profiles Minnesota filmmaker Mark Borchardt, a thirtyish father of three still living with his parents whose biggest dream is to finish his homemade feature, NORTHWESTERN.

With no funding and little support from his family and friends, who mostly placate his requests for assistance with rolling eyes, Borchardt, a lanky fast-talker with a tendency to drink too much, makes a horror short, COVEN (pronounced “COH-ven”), in bits and pieces over a period of two years with the idea of making enough money selling it on video to finance NORTHWESTERN. The result is a sweet, hilarious, and even inspirational study of independent moviemaking at its grass-roots best.

The DVD props up the feature with a number of neat extras, my favorite being an alternate audio track featuring Smith, Price, Borchardt, and Mark’s zonked-out pal Mike Schank talking about the film and how it was made. Alternately informative and funny, it’s one of my all-time favorite audio commentaries.

Columbia/Tri-Star also sweetens the pot with a whopping 22 (!) deleted scenes, most of which run anywhere from 45 seconds to nearly three minutes. Many of them are quite entertaining, and were probably cut because of time restraints or pacing, since, unlike most deleted scenes that pop up as DVD extras, these are worthy of being included in the film itself.

Also, after hearing so much about COVEN and being tantalized by a number of clips during the film, it’s nice that the entire short has been included on the DVD (it’s much better than you’d expect). Trailers for AMERICAN MOVIE and four other independent features round out the package, one I highly recommend for potential filmmakers everywhere.

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