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copyright ©1999-2000

flick pick | American Movie 1999
Directed by:
Chris Smith and Sarah Price
Mark Borchardt, Mike Schank
Language: English
Look for it at the video store under:
documentary, new release

Watch it when you’re in the mood for something:
true?!?, whimsical

Plot synopsis Mark Borchardt is a small-town American filmmaker with a big American dream: to make his feature film, Northwestern, this despite the fact that his home-base of Menomonee Falls, Wisconsin is about as far away from Hollywood, existentially speaking, as you can get before falling off the face of the earth. His mother, with whom he still lives, admits that while she wishes Mark all the best, she doesn’t really believe he’ll ever make those grand dreams come true. His brother thinks he’s best suited to factory work. But what Mark may lack in talent, he certainly makes up for in conviction and drive, as he pursues friends to join his cast and crew, then hounds reluctant family members – notably his elderly uncle Bill -- into funding his venture. When he fails to raise enough capital to begin production on Northwestern, he resigns himself to completing his horror short, "Coven," instead. (Note: That’s "coh-ven," with a long "o", because, as Mark will tell you, "coven" sounds too much like "oven." Duh.) During the two years that follow, personal crises and financial difficulties plague Mark and his film, leaving all but the ever-confident Mark himself wondering whether they’ll ever see the end of "Coven."

Review The most horrifying thing about American Movie has nothing to do with the cheesy-gory clips from Borchardt’s vast body of horror movie work. Nope, what scared the bejeezus out of me was this inescapable truth: Mark Borchardt is a real person. Yikes. His own brother confesses that he wouldn’t be surprised to find out Mark was a stalker. And yet, other people saw this movie and walked away admiring the guy! Thank the filmmakers, who do an admirable job of withholding judgment, and letting the audience come to their own conclusions. What could have easily turned into a mean-spirited, make-fun-of-the-dumb-hick-with -the-bad-hair  documentary is, in fact, something far more funny, subtle and interesting: a look at how a true eccentric can, in his own curious way, fit right into his small-town America environment. Mark’s indisputably a loser – for god’s sake, he’s got three kids and still lives with mom, and those glasses! whose grandma did he steal those from? – but he’s a loser that's loved. There’s something oddly heartwarming about the fact that despite their utter lack of faith in Mark’s so-called "vision," his friends and family still go to great lengths to do whatever they can to support him in his endeavors. Particularly endearing is Mark’s faithful sidekick Mike, whose laidback, I’ve-done-too-many-drugs-in-the-past spaciness – and surprisingly not-sucky guitar playing -- are a pleasant relief from Mark’s high-strung ramblings.o

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