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Recount (The Best TV Movie I've seen since Wit)


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#1 of 19 Nicholas Vargo

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Posted May 27 2008 - 01:27 PM

This is my review, which I published on my blog after seeing the movie on HBO this past Sunday night:

In a time when summer movies are coming out in theatres left and right, this HBO original movie, which just premiered this evening was the one I was most looking forward to outside of Indiana Janes and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull this summer. Now I'm glad it was. Recount is easily the best film I've seen so far this year. The true story of the 2000 Presidential election is one that is astonishing, shocking, and manages to keep you on the edge of your seat, all at once.

Before hearing about this movie, my original belief of what happened during that election was that the whole confusion and everything only lasted two days. I was only 15 at the time, and I didn't understand a lot of thing about our Democracy. But the real truth was this: The determination lasted 36 days, with campaign memebers from both camps fighting and clawing their way to get what they wanted, and as fun as it was watching it all happen before our eyes, it also represents what really happened in how George W. Bush became our president (and by the way, that is not giving away anything. You all know that he became president. How is what this movie is about).

The movie opens with an example of how this whole mess really began. An old lady is looking at the ballot and deciding who to vote for. If you look at the way that the ballot was created, you would probably be as confused as she was. This opening moment sets the right tone for everything that follows. It is November 7, 2000. Then we meet our key players, starting with Ron Klain (played briliantly by Kevin Spacey), who was Gore's top aide and former chief of staff who promises his whole campaign staff, including Gore's chief field operative Michael Whouley (Denis Leary) that Gore will win the election, but it will be very close. Their headquarters are in Nashville, Tenessee. Over in Austin, Texas is Bush's campaign headquarters, where our main key player there is Bob Ginsberg (Bob Balaban), who is the man who promises that "by tomorrow morning, the stains that Clinton's administration left will be gone, and hope and faith will be restored to the White House." As soon as the news channels report that Bush won the election and that Gore called Bush and conceded was when the wholestory really began.

Ron receives a call by both the press and Michael that the networks have the wrong election result numbers and the desperation to stop Gorefrom making the speech becomes top priority. The scene where Gore does call Bush to recind his concession has the perfect sense of humor, and it was here that everything began. Klain and Whouley appiont former secretary of state Warren Christopher (John Hurt) to join their fight for a machine recount. At that point, the race was close (Bush led by 1,741 votes in Florida). A machine recount is called, and when it goes through, the numbers have changed considerabley. Bush now leads Gore by only 327 in Florida. Klain and Whouley are ready to make their move on Secretary of State Katherine Harris (Laura Dern), but before they can, Christopher bails out due to a family issue. Now they have real lawyers and one more power player: appelite lawyer David Boies (Ed Begley, Jr.). On the republican side, they have hired another former secretary of state: James Baker (Tom Wilkinson) who wants their own side to win just as much as Klain's side does. They also have another addition with Mac Stipanovitch (Bruce McGill) who is better known as "Mac the Knife." When hand recounts are called, the real problems begin.

To even hint at any of these problems is to give away way too much. Sure, we all know who won, but there is still more tension in this movie than most action or horro movies I've seen. In fact, the most astonishing and shocking things this movie presents was how something called a "chad" was keeping the election from being properly recounted. Basically, it's the area of aballot you're supposed to punch when doing an election. Man of the ballots were not punched through proper, so that was one of the many problems stopping the Democrats from having the ballots recounted.

In fact, there were so many that it's impossible to say them all here, but in all fairness, the film tells the truth of the movie as perfectly as I've ever seen in a movie. As the film ended, I even wondered, "Is that all there was?" It's amazing that very few people knew what really happened mainly because I have no idea how much of this ever ended up on the news or not. Before this movie came out, the only other thing I knew about the Florida recount was the footage that I saw at the beginning of Michael Moore's Fahrenheit 9/11, where we witnessed the balck voters being turned away in the Surpreme Court, I believe. Having spoken with most of the real people who were involved in this situation helps a lot since most of it is told exactly as it happened.

The film also has strong writing and direction. The director of the film is Jay Roach, repsonsible for the Austin Powers trilogy and Meet the Parents, and it's surprisingly strong. Being a comedy veteran, this is his first stap at a drama, and boy, he gets the pace and timing spot on in the way he tells this story. If this had been a comedy, it would be a natural of his hiring, but instead, it's a surprise that he has pulled off such ana mazing feet. The writer of the film is Danny Strong, and talking to most of the real key players has served him well, because his accuracy to detail has paid off in spades. What's even more surprising, this is his first time writing a movie (He's actually an actor who has appeared on shows like Buffy The Vampire Slayer). He's a natural writer, and I wouldn't be surprised if he gets many offers after this film has hit the mainstream. This is an amazing piece of work on his first time out.

The performances by all of the actors, including Spacey, Leary, Dern, Hurt, Balaban, and Wilkinson are all amazing. There is not a single dead performance in the entire movie. It's a remarkable feat because many ensemble movies usually have one performance that misses the mark. Recount is one of those movies that does not have that problem. Do not be surprised if most if not all of these performaces are remembered when the Emmy nominations are announced.

As a whole, this movie actually reminded me of another great HBO original movie: The Late Shift which was about the true story of what happened after Johnny Carson announced his retirement from 'The Tonight Show' and how Jay Leno and David Letterman were in a fight for the spot. Recount has the same kind of tension and suspence that that film had, and as the film ended, I was surprised and shocked by what I just saw. The ending is as unbeleivable as you could imagine. Recount is absolutely worth your time. It will probably be on my year-end Top 10 list as it is an amazing film with amazing performaces and a true story told without screwing up the best parts of it. It is truly an amazing film!

Rating: **** out of ****
Rated R, 117 minutes. Now playing only on HBO. It will be shown again on:
Thursday 5/29 at 9am & 7pm
Saturday 5/31 at 9:30am & 8pm
Wednesday 6/4 at 2pm & 10pm
Sunday 6/8 at 2pm & 11pm
Saturday 6/14 at 4pm & 12:05am
Friday 6/20 at 12:05am (All times are eastern if you have Dish Network or Direct TV)

And I just would like to mention in the wake of the death of Sydney Pollack that he co-executive produced this film. He went out with a bang with Recount and he will be sorely missed.

RIP Sydney Pollack
"...so here we go." --"Punch-Drunk Love"

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#2 of 19 Holadem

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Posted May 27 2008 - 03:01 PM

Thanks for the review.

Quote:
Before hearing about this movie, my original belief of what happened during that election was that the whole confusion and everything only lasted two days. I was only 15 at the time, and I didn't understand a lot of thing about our Democracy.
I was the age you are now and glued to the news every step of the way -- then, before and since. I doubt there is anything I could learn from a movie on this matter. But a cursory search reveals mostly positive reviews, so now I am mildly curious.

Quote:
Having spoken with most of the real people who were involved in this situation helps a lot since most of it is told exactly as it happened.
How do you know this? Posted Image

--
H

#3 of 19 Nicholas Vargo

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Posted May 27 2008 - 08:28 PM

Quote:
Originally Posted by Holadem
How do you know this? Posted Image

--
H

I heard about it before the film premiered. The only people I know who they didn't talk to were Warren Christopher and Katherine Harris (Christopher even went so far to denounce the film, saying it was an inaccurate portrayal of himself). Michael Whouley wasn't consulted either, but he did consult with Denis Leary on what was false and what was true when Leary was hired. But they consulted Ron Klain, Bob Ginsberg, and most of the other key players. (Klain and Ginsberg are confirmed. You can actually see interviews between the real person and the actor on HBO's official site).
"...so here we go." --"Punch-Drunk Love"

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#4 of 19 Joseph DeMartino

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Posted May 27 2008 - 10:55 PM

Several of the people who cooperated with the film - on both sides - have since dennounced it because it distorted their roles in events. Like any docudrama, Recount is a work of fiction. It adheres to the rules of drama (there must be protagonists and antagonists, character arcs, every scene must be built on conflict) and fits such facts as it is based on into that dramatic form - not the other way around.

There is nothing wrong with historical dramas - they often bring aspects of the past to life in ways that books can't, and they can pique peoples' interest enough to make them read some actual history. But they should never be confused with history. They are dramas first, last and always, and only "history" in the loosest sense.

If you want to know something about the 2000 election read a few books - preferably by people arguing from the point-of-view of both parties - and try to come to your own conclusions about what happened.

(I was - well, let's just say older than 15 - at the time, out of work, and living in Palm Beach County. I sat and watched some of the recount in progress at the county court house. And I voted using the so-called "butterfly" ballot. Like every ballot in every election sample versions of it were distributed weeks in advance, blow-ups and clear instructions were posted in the polling places and poll-workers were available to explain it. Any voter who thought they'd made a mistake could remain in the booth and call a poll worker over to request another ballot. Every single ballot that I've used in a Florida election also has instructions printed on it that say to turn the ballot over and inspect the back to make sure that none of the choices were incompletely punched and to brush the ticket to dislodge any "hanging chads". Finally it warned that any incompletely punched selection or multiple punches for the same office would not be counted. Evidently I'm the only one in the state who read and followed these directions. Posted Image I apologize to the rest of the country on behalf of my fellow Floridians .)

Regards,

Joe

Full disclosure: I don't subscribe to HBO and therefore haven't seen - and don't expect to see - Recount. My comments above reflect the reality of historical/docu- drama and statements in news articles I've seen. P.S. - Good luck keeping this thread non-political. Posted Image

#5 of 19 Jon Martin

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Posted May 28 2008 - 05:03 AM

Forget one of the best TV movies, this is the best film so far this year.

Joe, I urge you to try to see the film. I also am older and followed everything very closely and the film is extremely accurate. The film even ends with real life clips of what is featured in the film. It gets it mostly right. And yes, I have read the accounts of those depicted in the film's reactions to it.

BTW, for any GILMORE GIRLS fans out there, the writer of the film was actually Doyle, Paris' boyfriend!!! As I wrote in my review, I wonder if Paris worked on the research.

#6 of 19 todd s

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Posted May 28 2008 - 05:16 AM

I haven't seen it. Saw enough when it was occuring live. But, do they mention that even recounts done after the Supreme Court decision by the media show Bush still won?

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Bring back John Doe! Or at least resolve the cliff-hanger with a 2hr movie or as an extra on a dvd release.

#7 of 19 Joe_H

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Posted May 28 2008 - 07:29 AM

Quote:
Originally Posted by Joseph DeMartino
(I was - well, let's just say older than 15 - at the time, out of work, and living in Palm Beach County. I sat and watched some of the recount in progress at the county court house. And I voted using the so-called "butterfly" ballot. Like every ballot in every election sample versions of it were distributed weeks in advance, blow-ups and clear instructions were posted in the polling places and poll-workers were available to explain it. Any voter who thought they'd made a mistake could remain in the booth and call a poll worker over to request another ballot. Every single ballot that I've used in a Florida election also has instructions printed on it that say to turn the ballot over and inspect the back to make sure that none of the choices were incompletely punched and to brush the ticket to dislodge any "hanging chads". Finally it warned that any incompletely punched selection or multiple punches for the same office would not be counted. Evidently I'm the only one in the state who read and followed these directions. Posted Image I apologize to the rest of the country on behalf of my fellow Floridians .)

I just wanted to say that I recently saw this video, of a Dan Rather Reports episode... you might want to check it out about 40 minutes in to about 60, basically says that the paper used on those ballots went from high quality, to having quality ignored and that the workers in the factory knew that the 2000 election would have major issues, so its not entirely just the fault of voters not dislodging the hanging chads. HDNet Original Programming - Dan Rather Reports

I don't get HBO, otherwise I'd definitely watch this myself, even if its not entirely accurate.

#8 of 19 Martino

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Posted May 28 2008 - 09:13 AM

"Dan Rather Reports"

Is this the same Dan Rather that lost his job on 60-minutes for a bogus National Guard story about George Bush?

Dan Rather to Step Down at CBS (washingtonpost.com)

I thought so...

From the above article:

"Brent Bozell, who runs the conservative Media Research Center, attributed Rather's departure to "the loss of credibility" over the National Guard story. "What made it worse was the 10 days of denial by Dan Rather. He was starting to look bizarre toward the end." While the anchor was flagrantly biased against conservatives, Bozell said, "Dan Rather is a fierce patriot who loves his country, and no one can take that away from him."

It is impossible to get un-partisan reporting these days, so take these reports and stories with a grain of salt and take a look at the sources...

I would have to disagree with your initial assumption of:

"The true story of the 2000 Presidential election is one that is astonishing, shocking, and manages to keep you on the edge of your seat, all at once"

#9 of 19 Joe_H

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Posted May 28 2008 - 09:58 AM

Quote:
Originally Posted by Martino
"Dan Rather Reports"

Is this the same Dan Rather that lost his job on 60-minutes for a bogus National Guard story about George Bush?

Dan Rather to Step Down at CBS (washingtonpost.com)

I thought so...

From the above article:

"Brent Bozell, who runs the conservative Media Research Center, attributed Rather's departure to "the loss of credibility" over the National Guard story. "What made it worse was the 10 days of denial by Dan Rather. He was starting to look bizarre toward the end." While the anchor was flagrantly biased against conservatives, Bozell said, "Dan Rather is a fierce patriot who loves his country, and no one can take that away from him."

It is impossible to get un-partisan reporting these days, so take these reports and stories with a grain of salt and take a look at the sources...

I would have to disagree with your initial assumption of:

"The true story of the 2000 Presidential election is one that is astonishing, shocking, and manages to keep you on the edge of your seat, all at once"

Well, I don't want to get too political or anything here, I just wanted to point out that it was demonstrated in the video that with the actual ballots the paper didn't pass the former quality control inspection techniques of the company who produced them. But yes, that Dan Rather.

#10 of 19 TravisR

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Posted May 28 2008 - 10:19 AM

I'd bet that this thread gets ugly or closed in less than 10 more posts.

#11 of 19 Chris Lockwood

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Posted May 28 2008 - 11:10 AM

Was it pointed out that the bulk of the voting issues were just in 3 counties in the southern part of the state? That's where the butterfly ballots were used.

As a Florida resident who had no trouble understanding the ballot, I got tired of the rest of the country acting as if the whole state was unable to figure things out.

It also needs to be pointed out that the parties and candidates are shown the ballots long before election day, so if the ballot in some counties was too confusing, nobody objected until after people voted.

I also wonder how many people know that after 2000, the state banned those punchcard ballots, replacing them in many areas with touchscreens, which don't leave a paper trail, can't be recounted at all, and can theoretically be rigged by an evil programmer or precinct worker.

#12 of 19 Joe_H

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Posted May 28 2008 - 11:23 AM

Quote:
Originally Posted by Chris Lockwood
Was it pointed out that the bulk of the voting issues were just in 3 counties in the southern part of the state? That's where the butterfly ballots were used.

As a Florida resident who had no trouble understanding the ballot, I got tired of the rest of the country acting as if the whole state was unable to figure things out.

It also needs to be pointed out that the parties and candidates are shown the ballots long before election day, so if the ballot in some counties was too confusing, nobody objected until after people voted.

I also wonder how many people know that after 2000, the state banned those punchcard ballots, replacing them in many areas with touchscreens, which don't leave a paper trail, can't be recounted at all, and can theoretically be rigged by an evil programmer or precinct worker.

The Dan Rather thing I mentioned showed how not only that, they're unreliable. Florida since has moved to optical scanners, still made by the same company producing the unreliable touchscreen voting machines.

#13 of 19 Bob_S.

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Posted May 28 2008 - 11:58 AM

Todd, from what I heard, no it doesn't mention about Bush winning if a recount was done. I could be wrong on this as I haven't watched this so someone might be correcting me.

#14 of 19 todd s

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Posted May 28 2008 - 12:37 PM

Quote:
Originally Posted by Chris Lockwood
and can theoretically be rigged by an evil programmer or precinct worker.

I'll do it for...One Milllliioonnnn Dolllaarrrsss....
Posted Image

Sorry I couldn't resist. Posted Image
Bring back John Doe! Or at least resolve the cliff-hanger with a 2hr movie or as an extra on a dvd release.

#15 of 19 Joseph DeMartino

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Posted May 28 2008 - 01:28 PM

Quote:
Was it pointed out that the bulk of the voting issues were just in 3 counties in the southern part of the state? That's where the butterfly ballots were used.

The "butterfly" ballot was used in only one of those three counties (Palm Beach.) As noted, that ballot was inspected and approved by the parties, the canvassing board and various other officials. And there were essentially no complaints about the ballot on election night. Few requests for new ballots, few requests for help. It was only after the election, when someone noticed that Pat Buchanan got a surprisingly high number of votes, that people started making the assumption that this had to be a mistake and started soliciting anecdotal evidence to support their conclusion.

BTW, all three of those counties had canvassing boards controlled by Democrats and all three are heavily Democratic areas. (Not that this stopped the Gore campaign legal team from threatening to sue Broward County election officials when they resisted pressure to adopt a looser standard for "discerning" "voter intentions" on ballots that had no clear vote.)

Regards,

Joe

#16 of 19 Michael Reuben

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Posted May 28 2008 - 02:47 PM

Quote:
Originally Posted by TravisR
I'd bet that this thread gets ugly or closed in less than 10 more posts.
I'll take that bet, but I'll make you another. I'll bet that someone gets warned for a rule violation within the first dozen posts of the thread.

OK, it's fixed bet, because the rule violation has already occurred, by multiple people, and this is the warning. Here's the rule. All of you who have made substantive comments about the 2000 election without seeing the film have violated it and should consider yourselves warned:

Quote:
4. No politics or religion. We do not permit the discussion of politics or religion at HTF. However, there is a narrow exception to this rule. If the subject matter of a movie or television show includes politics and/or religion, then they may be discussed insofar as they pertain to that specific movie or television show. We stress, however, that such discussions are carefully monitored and will be moderated if it appears that any participant is using this narrow exception to introduce a broader political or religious discussion than is warranted by the movie or television show under discussion. Also, anyone who has not seen a particular movie or television show is disqualified from discussing its political and/or religious content under this rule. (Emphasis added.)
Free pass for all posts preceding this one. First, last and only warning.

If you haven't seen the film, don't post in this thread.

M.
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#17 of 19 Jon Martin

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Posted May 29 2008 - 05:55 AM

Quote:
Originally Posted by Bob_S.
Todd, from what I heard, no it doesn't mention about Bush winning if a recount was done. I could be wrong on this as I haven't watched this so someone might be correcting me.

Actually, it does.

Tom Wilkinson's James Baker has a line at the end that, in all the counties, in all the recounts, Bush still won every one of them.

The film is about WHAT happened, not if it should have happened.

#18 of 19 Quentin

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Posted May 29 2008 - 12:34 PM

The best TV show/movie of the year so far is, hands down, JOHN ADAMS. Nothing comes close.

That said, I watched RECOUNT last night and thought it was ok. Pretty snappy dialogue, some fun acting from a strong cast, and it kept a brisk pace. But, it wasn't nearly as suspenseful or interesting as I'd hoped it would be. My favorite HBO film of this sort is still BARBARIANS AT THE GATE. As far as fascinating/interesting/suspenseful contemporary docu-dramas go, it is king (LATE SHIFT is probably a distant second).

And, yes, from what I know/have researched about the true events of RECOUNT, there is a lot of fictionalization/dramatization going on here.

#19 of 19 Scott Hanson

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Posted May 29 2008 - 04:21 PM

I thought it was okay, somewhat interesting...ran out of steam in the last 40 minutes or so. Good performances all around (other than the two playing Bush and Gore - what was that all about?).


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