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American Movie

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Product Details

  • Actors: Mark Borchardt, Mike Schank, Tom Schimmels, Monica Borchardt, Alex Borchardt
  • Directors: Chris Smith
  • Producers: Chris Smith, Jim McKay, Michael Stipe, Sarah Price
  • Format: Closed-captioned, Color, Dolby, DVD-Video, Full Screen, Special Edition, Subtitled, NTSC
  • Language: English
  • Subtitles: English, Spanish
  • Subtitles for the Hearing Impaired: English
  • Region: Region 1 (US and Canada This DVD will probably NOT be viewable in other countries. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Canadian Home Video Rating : General Audience (G)
  • Studio: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
  • Release Date: May 23 2000
  • Run Time: 107 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (99 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: 0767846869

Product Description

Struggling filmmaker Mark Borchardt is the subject of American Movie, and he may also be the most determined man you'll ever meet. The straggly haired, fast-talking, Menomonee Falls, Wisconsin, native lists his greatest influences as Dawn of the Dead, Night of the Living Dead, and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. He began making horror movies as a gangly adolescent, and is now set on finishing Coven (which he pronounces like "woven"), the "35-minute direct market thriller" he has worked on for two years. In the process, he steadfastly battles immense debt, the threat of losing his kids, and birds chirping gleefully through scenes set in the dead of winter. His mother would rather do her shopping than be an extra, his brother contends he's best suited for factory work, and his father just wants him to "watch the language."

Standing by him through it all is Mark's childhood buddy, Mike Schank, who is the strongest weapon against drug use a task force could ever hope for, and Uncle Bill, begrudging financier of Coven, who appears to be wasting away before our very eyes. In less perceptive hands these two could easily become caricatures--the burnt-out stoner and the crotchety old coot--but through director Chris Smith's lens we see why Mark loves them, why they love Mark, and why each of these stories is uniquely compelling.

Winner of the Grand Jury Prize at the 1999 Sundance Film Festival, the film has been compared to Spinal Tap and Waiting for Guffman--two unquestionably hilarious mock-documentaries--and, indeed, American Movie has plenty of laugh-out-loud moments. But in the spoofs, we feel encouraged to point and giggle at the poor slobs trying to get a piece of the action. Smith, however, offers us a funny and overwhelmingly affectionate portrait; you may sit down expecting to laugh at Mark's pie-in-the-sky hopes, but you soon find yourself bursting with admiration. "The American dream stays with me each and every day," Mark says, and by the end, we want nothing more than for it to come true. (The DVD version includes the complete short film "Coven.") --Brangien Davis

Customer Reviews

4.5 out of 5 stars

Most helpful customer reviews

By Trevor Jones on March 10 2004
Format: DVD
American Movie is an absolutely enjoyable and strangely fascinating documentary by the filmmaking team of director CHRIS SMITH and producer SARAH PRICE. It's a story about following your dream. The subject of the film is a young, fiercely dedicated, self-defined filmmaker Mark Borchardt. Borchardt, who was born and lives in Menomonee Falls, Wisconsin and who has, since the age of 14, been trying to fulfill his dream of becoming a successful Hollywood feature film director . . . in Menomonee Falls, Wisconsin, is one of the most genuine and interesting documentary subjects you could imagine. "But I've never heard of him," you say. I know. He's not yet famous but he's still fascinating. In this delightful and thoroughly honest film, you'll see how this young man, now 30-something, continues to pursue his "impossible dream" despite his parents' wishes that he get a job in a factory, his lack of any serious financial backing, and many years of dreaming and drinking when, as he says himself, he should've been working on his films.
In this very intimate film you'll see some of his work and follow very closely as he pursues capital investment ($3,000) from his very tight-fisted and colorful uncle, enlists his mother to be an extra as she explains that she really needs to go shopping instead, and shoots and edits his film with the constant and loyal support of his long-time friend, Mike Schank. Mike has been his friend since childhood. He's a musician, a guitarist, and admitted drug abuser (though he's been clean for the last four years.) He's a kind of real-life "Reverend Jim" from TV's Taxi. He has definitely been affected by all the various drugs and alcohol he's drunk, sniffed, swallowed, and whatever over the years.
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By tvtv3 on Jan. 24 2004
Format: VHS Tape
It's amazing how much non-fiction films have changed. There were documentaries which spawned the popular mockumentaries, fictional movies filmed like a documentary. AMERICAN MOVIE is a strange hybrid of the two: it is a documentary that feels like a mockumentary. The film revolves around Mark Borchardt, a thirty-year-old man who has been making cheap 8 MM films since childhood. The film revolves around a 2-plus year journey to finish his horror masterpiece, COVEN (pronounced like woven). Connected through this story are several interesting people: such as Mark's best friend Mike Schank (a former drug addict), Mark's Uncle Bill (who has a fortune of around $250,000 and literally whithers away as the movie progresses), and Mark's Mom (a fiesty, yet supportive woman). Mark wants to finish COVEN so that he can finish his true film opus, a semi-autobiographical movie called NORTHWESTERN. Along the way, there are tons of challenges from the mundane (trying to pay off his phone bill) to the unusual (slicing together a missing frame in his movie hours before its public premiere).
The film is both funny and heartwarming. I found it funny because real life is often funny and many of the people in AMERICAN MOVIE reminded me of people in my own life I have known and met. It's heartwarming because despite all that Mark goes through (huge amounts of debt, custody battles, etc.) he still keeps plodding away until his movie gets finished. AMERICAN MOVIE is one of the best and most enjoyable documentaries I have ever seen.
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Format: DVD
In the amazon review, this movie was compared to the excellent Christopher Guest mocumentaries Waiting for Guffman and Spinal Tap. However, unlike the latter featuring our dim-witted though endearing British heroes, this is not a top-notch film. What we see here is a depressing reel trying to capture the forever elusive "American Dream," whatever that is today. While watching the characters, you may get the sense that our 'dream' is simply an aggressive way of grabbing success by its expensive tie and feeding its insides to the public. The central character, Mark Borchardt (and central seems to be a fitting word, seeing as how the entire making of Coven revolves around him, and sometimes his stoner buddy) is not merely a character but an accurate portrayal of self-indulgent American wrecks. There is scarcely anything redeemable about this film, save a few amusing moments. Even the most likable person involved, Mark's tolerant-beyond-necessary mother, can't save this waste that is the American Movie. Save your time, and money, for the Tap.
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Format: DVD
This is one of those films you can watch many, many times and not get bored with.
Mark Borchardt is a regular Joe who likes to make horror films, unfortunately events always seem to transpire against and he barely gets by on stubborn determination. There are some very funny scenes in this movie and yet you never feel that you are laughing at these characters, its hard to know why that is, I am laughing at anothers misfortune and this is REAL misfortune, not something made up yet you never feel slack torwards these wonderful people.
This movie is ultimately about everyones right to tell a story, regardless of natural ability or resources, and this is reflected in the title, the American Dream is egalatarian, anyone and everyone can achieve the American Dream with lots of hard work and a little luck, and this film is about everyday people struggling to tell their stories, this is reflected when Bill, Mark's Uncle, recites his poem right at the end of the film, his swan song, technically its no great piece of writing but its real and delivered with such utter conviction as to make it moving as any great piece of literature.
Mark Borchardt doesn't finish making Northwestern but does get to realise his American Movie by making a 30 minute film called Coven (featuring a brilliant cameo by Bill), and the filmmakers themselves get to realise this as well by making this respectful and brilliant film.
I would recommend this film to absolutely anybody, it has all the elements of a great movie, a beginning middle and end (which alot of documentaries I've seen lately haven't had), it's funny, it's sad, it's a wonderful journey, it's uplifting and it's just plain great.
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