Friday, May 23, 2008

HBO's Recount

Every time I see the letters H, B, and O associated with a television series or a film, I get giddy. And I heart Kevin Spacey in a big, big way. So when I heard about HBO's new film, Recount, starring Kevin Spacey, well, there were no words.

The film is a re-enactment of that interminable month following the Bush/Gore presidential campaign in 2000, when the numbers were too close to call, where the Gore camp wanted a recount of the ballots following Bush's questionable win. I remember a lot of this happening on the news at the time, and watching it brought back a lot of memories (including the stunned, wow, was that really 8 years ago???) Kevin Spacey stars as Ron Klain, who is Gore's elections manager, and who spurs on the recount. John Hurt is Warren Christopher, the former Democrat Secretary of State who advised the Democrat camp on how to conduct themselves during the process. The amazing Tom Wilkinson stars as former Secretary of State James Baker, who is advising (and pretty much running) the Republican side of things. Laura Dern puts in a brilliant turn as Katherine Harris, who was the Florida Secretary of State, and unfortunately, the decision-maker in the process. As soon as she appeared on screen with her fake smile and WAY too much makeup, my husband and I were laughing out loud. I totally remembered this woman during the whole debacle, appearing on television every night in a "Hey, look at me! I'm on the TV!" kind of way. She couldn't have cared less about democratic process, and just wanted to make sure her makeup took on just the right glow on camera.

Throughout the show, you'll feel your blood boil as you watch Harris do what she wants and the Republicans stand in the way at every turn of the recount process, arguing against it, as if they knew a legitimate count of the ballots would have them lose. One asks the obvious question: Wouldn't they want to have a genuine win?? But this is George W. Bush, people... the guy who made shit up just so he could send troops into a country and devastate it. He's the sort of guy who skipped ethics class so he could go golfing instead.

I was amused and thrilled and surprised and delighted to see that Danny Strong was the screenwriter on this one -- yes, Buffy fans, THAT Danny Strong, the little guy who played Jonathan on Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Looks like he's come down out of that clock tower and done got himself a REAL job!!

That said, as far as HBO films go, I expected a little more than what this film offered. One thing I found endlessly irritating were the constant subtitles running across the screen, as if the viewers were all from Florida or something and couldn't follow a simple plot. In the dialogue, someone says they have only 8 days left, and that at this point Gore is only 300 ballots behind or something. In the very next cut, as we go to the Republican side of the action, along the bottom of the screen it says, "8 Days Left... Gore Trailing by 300." Thanks. The subtitles pretty much stated the obvious (like someone introducing Secretary James Baker, and when we see him it says "Secretary James Baker," like we were expecting the Pillsbury Dough Boy). That said, I'm sure it was some producer or distributor who insisted on it, and not the screenwriter. At least, I hope it wasn't. But I do recommend the film to get a better handle on what really happened during those tumultuous days.

Recount airs this Sunday, May 25, at 9pm, in the U.S. on HBO and in Canada on The Movie Network and Movie Central.


Anonymous said...

I think you might have some of your information wrong. I am not saying that we should have went to war in the first place, but every current or ex solider that I have herad have said how better off the people of Iraq are right now.

Anonymous said...

"But I do recommend the film get a better handle on what happened.."

Really? An HBO film written by an ex actor on a vampire show is our best accurate source of political history? In actuality it is likely a good source get a handle on your opinion of what happened...but lets not get silly. So the actors read their character's books and looked at news conferences....oh okay, that makes it historically accurate then. Actor's are so politically open minded...

"I'm studying WWII, and every time those Nazi's are on the screen in 'Raiders of the Lost Ark' my blood just boils....I feel like I have a better handle on WWII."

The Wests said...

Oh man Niki, please don't get political on me! I love to read your blog to escape from those kind of every day worries.

Nikki Stafford said...

Sheesh, guys, it's a political movie... a person is allowed an opinion every once in a while, and I have one.

Anonymous: No offense to you, and I hear what you're saying, but it would be typical of an American soldier to say the country is much better off now that the US has blown it up.

Really?: I'm talking to the people who didn't follow it at all. Perhaps they were 10 or 11, and now they're in your late teens. For me, I followed it as it happened, and I still couldn't understand what the hell was wrong with the Floridians who couldn't punch a hole in a damn card. Now I got the full explanation and it made a lot more sense.

Yes, it's recreated. I'm not naive.

The Wests: I'm glad you read my blog regularly, thanks! But I have one line of opinion in a review on a political thing, so I think I can be given some slack.

Guys, my blog is about TV, not just Lost. And the nature of a blog is to have an opinion (seriously, if y'all think this is the first time I've expressed an opinion on here, you haven't been reading me for long.) And this is a television movie. My, we all get a little antsy when I move away from my main focus, don't we? ;)

If you read my blog to get away from such things, that's cool. But I wanted to review this film. Forgive me for not talking about the outfits the actors were wearing and actually discussing the issue the movie is about.

Nikki Stafford said...

Really?: Oh, I meant to add that I didn't realize Raiders purported to be a behind-the-scenes retelling of WWII, just like Recount is a behind-the-scenes retelling of the recount. I guess I'll watch the movie differently now. ;)

Crissy Calhoun said...

hey Nikki -- thanks for posting this review. And for voicing your opinions and standing by 'em.

Anon: It's a no-brainer that the war in Iraq was entered into under false pretenses, that it's been a total disaster with inexcusable loss of life, both of civilians and soldiers. Something I've heard directly from ex U.S. soldiers (ex, because they can't bear to continue doing what they were doing).

really?: you assume that the screenwriter did no research for a high-profile film sure to be scrutinized? or that he is somehow incapable of rational, objective thought because he's a former actor ... really?

Now I'm getting all riled up. :) Mainly I just wanted to say: Nik, post on whatever you want to post on. You have loads of readers who are eager to hear your opinions on things outside of Lost. Politics included.

Anonymous said...

I'd like to see it. Maybe it would help me understand the US method of electing officials (but most likely not - I don't know that it makes sense).

So proud of our Danny.

Anonymous said...

Nikki - you are so right. This is YOUR blog and that is the only thing that matters. You can express your opinions on whatever you want to. I'm sure that you would welcome any differing opinions that anyone would want to express and have a mature discussion but there is no need for people to say that your opinion is wrong.

I hope that I speak for your regular readers when I say to keep up the good work and continue to write on whatever you choose. We may disagree with you but we'll always keep reading!

Marie said...

Since several major news organizations did a re-count and all came up with the news that Bush won, I don't understand how people can still be questioning that fact. Granted, it was very close. But remember, FL was called for Gore while the panhandle still had an hour to vote. The panhandle historically votes Republican. Who is to say how much greater Bush's margin in FL would have been had not many panhandle Floridians skipped voting on their way home because "Gore had won it anyway?"

Had the reverse been true - FL called for Bush an hour before an historically Democratic area of FL finished voting - I'll bet there would have been a re-vote!

As for Iraq, no one but psychopaths like war. But to say no good has been done is painfully untrue. The end of the Taliban, the dearth of terrorist attacks on the US, the closing of the rape rooms, a democratic election in two former dictatorships complete with plastic shredders for enemies of the state, education for women and girls, health care for women and girls - obviously these are huge advances and great good.

Some don't think the loss in American/Iraqi/Afghani lives are worth that great good - but to say there has been nothing of importance or value accomplished is really not true.

As women, would you or I prefer to live in Afghanistan/Iraq ten years ago, or now? Now for me, hands down!

Anonymous said...

I recently read an interview with one of the actresses from recount...she talked about the freedom she felt on set to add moments and suggest changes based on her interpretation of the character. Yeehaw! Lets chuck the history books! And people from BOTH sides of the aisle are starting to speak out about the inaccuracies in this show.

"Recount" is based on a true story. That is all that can be said. History used to be written by the powerful and the "winners." Now its by hollywood.(shudder) For those interested in studying the political history of this country, there much more solid ways to do so.

Anonymous said...

I thought you might find writer Denis McGrath's take on Recount interesting.

As someone who has been an actor, the attitude towards by some of the posters here to Danny's screenplay because he has been an actor disturbs me. I've met him a few times, he's an intelligent young man, and the film is getting many thoughtful and positive reviews in American publications.

K J Gillenwater said...

I remember what happened in 2000 because I remember going to work, getting online, and reading the latest drama. Gore never would have won. Period. Bush won Florida hands down. The only way Gore could have taken the state was to manipulate the ballot count, which is exactly what he was trying to do when Bush had to go to the Supreme Court.

HBO is not my source for accurate historical information.

As for Iraq, I worked in the government for several years right before 9/11. Trust me, information IS wrong. People in one agency interpret things one way, people in another agency interpret differently. They hoard information, don't share, get the idea that *they* are the ultimate source of info. It was rather disturbing actually.

We did not enter Iraq under 'false pretenses.' We entered Iraq based on the information we thought was factual at the time. We trusted our intelligence sources to be accurate when they weren't. And if everyone else forgets, I don't. The whole thing started when Hussein refused to let the UN do their inspections. MANY MANY times. They did NOT live up to their agreement and thus created suspicions about what was going on there in the first place.

Who knows what Hussein moved out of the country in the months that the UN did nothing?

Ugh. Can we go back to talking about TV shows now..?

Anonymous said...

"Ugh. Can we go back to talking about TV shows now..?"

Far as I know, Recount is a TV show. TV movie, anyway.

And my political opinion on it is... Kevin Spacey is hot.

Nikki Stafford said...

Yeah, I'm with redeem. I reviewed a TV show, made one comment about Bush that wasn't speculation or opinion, just fact (and certainly wasn't trying to be political, even though certain people took me that way), and people acted like I was writing a column on Republicans vs. Democrats. And then complained that I was taking HBO as historical fact, when I was reviewing it for what it was -- a pretty good TV movie.

I will admit, however, that I'm finding this comments board endlessly fascinating. And I don't mean that facetiously in the least: I'm truly stunned and impressed and shocked by some of the thoughts of the people on here. Something I thought had pretty much been taken as fact is still being debated? Wow. I don't think I'm the one who should be called the naif here. ;)

But I'm also with Kristin: Let's get back to talking about TV. I thought I was, but people wanted to use this as their forum to vent their political beliefs and then blame me for doing it, when I thought I was talking about my love for Kevin Spacey.

Anonymous said...

marie, you are right that several major news organizations did do a full recount but it actually showed that if all the ballots were counted, Gore would have won. Not Bush. Ironically, the report showed that Bush would have won if they went ahead with the recounts that the Gore campaign asked for. But if all the votes were counted by either the strictest or the most lax both cases, Al Gore received more votes in Florida than George W. Bush. And of course thats not counting all the voter disenfranchisement. But Al Gore did receive more votes in Florida. That was established by the media consortium. Unfortunately, the report wasnt released until November 2001, and therefore the news that Gore should have won was suppressed due to the country being in the aftermath of 9/11.