Yeah, I know Crap politics all too well... So now I live in California. Um... no comments from the peanut gallery, please!
Who knew that Politics outside of the "Boot State" could also be this corrupt? Not Me! I mean that... I was reading The Family Circus, and that imaginary character "Not Me" told me to watch the 2005 Academy Award-nominated documentary known as Street Fight! Yeah, man, that's where I get most of my comedy from... that crazy Family Circus! Except all the Sex Jokes! Well, you know, they're implied!
But Street Fight doesn't have a whole lot that's implicit within it! First time director Marshall Curry is essentially taken on a political rollercoaster ride of New Jersey Politics as he follows the challenger, Democrat Cory Booker, contender to dethrone the current Newark Mayor, our villain... Sharpe James... also a Democrat in the 2002 mayoral election.
Let me tell you... if you think Democrats and Republicans are nasty when they race against each other... you have to see what happens when a Newark Democrat goes after a Newark Democrat! Further, you have to see what happens when a Newark Democrat goes after a Newark Democrat's resident Documentarian. Curry begins simply out of curiosity, his camera eye touching everything he can find (not unlike that of 1993's The War Room). However, as Curry begins to film both sides (for a truer definition of "fair and balanced"), he finds his camera eye touching something else... the palm of some cop's hand.
You see, much like Bil Keane, Sharpe James has been popular for years, which has kept him in office for term after term which, in turn, has given him an almost omnipotent control of Tony Soprano's home town. That includes the cops, the council, the city officials, Walt the Postman, Janice the Janitor and just about every heart and mind in town (presumably even Tony Soprano's). So where does that leave our hero, the classy Cory Booker?
The James machine is a paranoid monster, ready to steamroll over every pawn on the chess board. Both men are black... the James campaign makes racial slurs against Booker because he's lighter skinned. Both men are Democrats... the James campaign paints Booker as a closet Elephant while reaching out to such Donkey heavy-hitters like Bill Clinton and Al Sharpton. The list goes on and on... and that's not even mentioning the hypocrisy of the Strip Club. Ah, yes.
Street Fight is almost surreal in its depiction of the most bizarre televised vote since that Ruben guy ate that Clay guy on that one show with the singing. While Curry originally intended this film to be a narration-free, fly-on-the-wall story (like The War Room), that proved to be difficult to accomplish with a hand over his lens. Curry's voice adds an interesting, if often indignant, everyman commentary on the events we see, most of which are too weird to be true, yet so weird that you couldn't make them up. The tricks the James camp pulls out of its old silk hat could curl my hair if I hadn't just flat-ironed it. Hey, lots of men do that!
Does that sound a bit biased on Marshall Curry's part? Well... yes, it does as a matter of fact. To be fair, much of what Curry captures on film is hard to polish, even for the supporters who really want to make Sharpe James look good. Further, Curry is prevented from getting all that much inside access (or even an outside peek) at Team James, so he may be a little dull on Sharpe. One more thing... with what Curry goes through (his camera ends up being less a "fly on the wall" than a "guy kicked in the balls"), it's hard to imagine he wouldn't be more than a little pissed off! That said, it's pretty amazing how balanced Curry does try to be! For one thing, as affable and genuine as Cory Booker appears to be, he's never painted as perfect or saintly. The originally intended warts-and-all approach is intact here, even as Booker is endeared to the audience. Curry falls just short of fully demonizing Sharpe James. He presents the good things James has managed to do in during his long tenure of many terms. It's easy to guess that you can smell a "but" at the beginning of each of Curry's following sentences. However, James' actions speak a lot louder than Curry's words, and it's hard not to feel at least a little bit biased just watching this damned movie.
But hey, aren't Documentaries supposed to be completely unbiased? Maybe, but shouldn't all film critics be serious and not talk about Lesbians and Vampires and Lesbian Vampires all the time? TouchÚ, Captain Howdy, TouchÚ! Regardless, the film is interesting, surprising and realistically surreal up until the bitter end and spicy epilogue. You may be able to guess where it's going (not that the film isn't fascinating and emotionally engrossing), but where things go from there... now that's something to check out. So, like the Paparazzi who tried to snap a picture of a quintet featuring Frankenstein on Bass and Keyboards, Dracula on Lead Guitar, The Wolf Man on Drums, The Mummy on Rhythm Guitar and the Invisible Man on Lead Vocals, Street Fight manages to capture Four Stars out of Five! Elections can be real monsters, and elections can be won and lost on the Street... But when Push comes to Shove I've still got no love for those rotten bananas who run for office in Louisiana. Newark is nasty, but hell hath no fury like Pelican State Politics! Street Fight... great movie... could have used some Zombies, though. Well... more Zombies.
See you in the next reel.
This is the movie for all of you
Who are sick and tired of the Two Party System!
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