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Free Movie Monday: American Movie

Because we’re all too broke to go to the theater or afford gold-plated rental services, FSR is offering free movies every Monday for the month of September. If this title doesn’t strike your fancy, head to Crackle.com to see what else they have for your viewing pleasure. The selection is great, and even better – the price is right.

American Movie is the kind of documentary that sneaks by most and gets embedded permanently on the memory of the lucky few who watch it. Mark Borchardt is an incredibly compelling person because he’s a lot like you and me. He owns a huge pile of published scripts that creep like vines up his bookcase shelves, he’s struggling to sift through the paper ocean of bills threatening to drown him, and he’s getting a team together to make a horror film called Coven. He’s also not at all like us, because he might possibly be insane. What results is an incredible instant classic that’s a sympathetic version of People of Wal-Mart meets Quentin Tarantino’s Film School.

If you’ve ever tried to make a movie, or if you’re just a huge fan of the artform, you owe it to yourself to check this movie out. You can either read me ramble on about it, or you can go watch it for yourself.

So what happens when a half-Satanist/half-Christian with a mullet tries to make a horror film? A movie probably more compelling than the Dawn of the Dead-style horror film he’s trying to make.

For every production going on in the backyards of America, there are probably few that look like the ones championed by Mark Borchardt – the gangly genius who doesn’t know how to pronounce the word “Coven.” It’s clear from the beginning that he’s troubled by the life around him. He’s obsessed with film, but he is stuck spinning his wheels in a small town, unable to be taken seriously. He’s got child support to pay, he owes everyone money, and he’s overcoming an addiction problem. That depression is juxtaposed by the highly professional nature of all of the pre-production meetings and the technical talk from Borchardt. It’s clear that he knows a lot even though he doesn’t know what he’s doing.

Coming straight out of the mid-90s, it’s still a somber view of American life amidst all the film fascination. It’s a small town portrait of some who only have the scratch off lottery to look forward to and others who have it all truly pulled together. The making of the movie takes a backseat to what’s really a documentary about a handful of people with real problems who become an odd, dysfunctional family.

At points hilarious. At points heart-breaking. At all points an engrossing documentary that will stick with you well beyond the credits.

Watch American Movie or check out the other films that Crackle has to offer. For free.

A veteran of writing about movies for nearly a decade, Scott Beggs has been the Managing Editor of Film School Rejects since 2009. Despite speculation, he is not actually Walter Mathau's grandson. See? He can't even spell his name right.

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