Crackle is a free streaming service that works not unlike Netflix; a list of favorite movies can be setup by users, and it works on devices like Roku. Unlike Netflix, however, the occasional ad or two will play, breaking up the action here and there. Still, many popular films make up the catalog, and they are well worth sitting through some commercials. Allow me to recommend and review one such flick:
There are few movies that I would consider “go to”. What I mean is, movies that I can put on, without thinking, and will enjoy no matter what. Off the top of my head, silent comedy Safety Last! and the surreal Inland Empire are readily available for anytime viewing in my home.
American Movie is another one. Might even be at the top.
This documentary from the mid 90s – the time when modern independent cinema was coming into its own with the likes of Quentin Tarantino – follows the filmmaking exploits of Wisconsin-ian Mark Borchardt. What starts as a chronicling of a feature film production soon turns into a heartwarming story of an American dreamer, and the village it took to help make that dream come true. As someone who has thought up many a film idea, or even as someone who has dared to imagine bigger and better places, I can relate wholeheartedly to Mark. In fact, I’d be willing to bet that most people can relate to Mark.
After his feature project hits the backburner, Mark – out of financial and creative frustration – looks to complete an almost finished short called Coven (not pronounced like oven). He assembles his close and loyal friend Mike, along with family and anyone else he knows, to complete this black and white horror. Aside from his film equipment, everything is very DIY. When a shot calls for an actor’s’ head to go through a cabinet door, it takes several tries and scoring of the wood material to bust it up. “I recognize that it’s kind of Mark’s dream” the actor says prior to bruising his skull.
While some are critical of Mark for floating from crappy job to crappy job aimlessly, making movies along the way, those around him express nothing but love for the guy, and vice versa. Mark’s likability as a human shines with his touching relationship with Uncle Bill, who is begrudgingly financing his endeavor. Bill is weathered and old, sometimes even crabby, but shares a strong bond with his nephew. During Thanksgiving, Mark takes care of his Uncle, bathing him and cleaning his clothes. In a quiet moment, Mark tells Bill that he sees “great cinema” in the future. In response, Bill says “Cinnamon?”. He’s joking, and Mark chuckles softly yet deeply, with much affection.
Mark’s affection for people stands in contrast with his creative vision – movies about drunks, bleak environments and bloody violence – expressed in the doc as coming directly from the man’s soul. No matter how dark he can get, Mark’s optimism is infectious through it all. We can’t help but root for the guy. This might be the cinephile’s version of Rudy, but with less sap and more genuine sentiments. I know people like him, and am glad to call them friends. That’s what American Movie ultimately feels like; a report on one of your close friends. Despite its title, it’s less about filmmaking and more about the life and times of a straight up good guy. It makes me tear up everytime – catch it on Crackle NOW.