Thanks to Paul Rust for nominating ELECTION this week (and by the way, I finished watching his show LOVE and I can tell you that it is terrific), and now it's up to you guys:
Do you Pick Flick? Or does ELECTION not get the student government position?
I forgot to mention that the alternate ending is the one from the book (written by Tom Perrotta (who also wrote Little Children and The Leftovers). The story was modeled, partly, on the 1992 Presidential election, as Devin and Amy point out during the episode. In any event, this is one of those rare occasions where the movie is better than the book; Payne extracts more humor from the characters and the ending just fits the story better.
Despite being one of my favorite movies of all time, I didn't think of Election as a "canon" movie before this show. But you guys convinced me. Yes.
I vote yes.
Yes. To me it is the film that actually captures high school in all it's awkward glory. I mean this what it really felt like in high school in the 1990's.
An easy YES. A perfect movie for this year. As so many have said before, the best performances out of everyone involved. And just an excellently crafted film, with exquisite framing and visual motifs. Perfectly paced and edited. My favorite part of this was Jim's denial of what he is really struggling with, trying to convince himself that he's happy where he is and that he's doing things for the right reason. Tracy and Jim are both correct about each other; Jim actually is jealous of Tracy (it seems) and Tracy probably is headed for a life of misery, but she may deny it as he does.
OK, at the risk of seeming unnecessary shrill or whatever:
What is the plot of this movie? Is it about a high school election? Is it about Matthew Broderick's character's personal life (trouble conceiving, cheating with friend's ex-wife)? And what do these plots have to do with one another? Is Broderick the main character, or is Tracy? Whose story is this? What do the two lead characters have to do with one another, ultimately? Why does he do what he does? How do her action reflect on her character, and on how we're supposed to think of her? Is this movie about two unrelated stories glued together, or is there some theme or whatever tying them together?
I knew, a long, long time ago, that this was a well-regarded film. And that it was a rare example of a film that "most people" loved, and I just didn't get, or even like, surface-wise.
Is there something to this film that I'm just not seeing? Or am I just overthinking it, and is the problem that the movie's a comedy (that I didn't find funny), and nothing about the plot or characters actually matters?
I vote yes. It was a good movie, and possibly one of my favorite Witherspoon performance. That being said, I probably wouldn't be sad if it didn't make it in, but it seems highly likely it's getting in.
We're not electing the fucking Pope here, but yes. All of the performances in this are so good, even the kids who count the votes. This movie gets a lot of the teacher stuff right right, too ("What's the difference between ethics and morals?"). Broderick's bitterness just below the surface is perfect. I agree with Amy's point about the production design, too.
I vote yes. I've submitted my vote numerous times and it never shows up....
Great movie. I vote YES.
Canon all the way!!!!
And so there's no Floridian shenanigans, that's a firm YES on Election!
RE: Insta-Hating Tracy Flick:
I think it depends on your tolerance for clean-cut, trying-too-hard preppy types, and Tracy is the UberPrep (which surely Nietzsche would've wrote about if he had attended U.S. high schools). I thought both protagonists were supposed to come off as unlikable to a degree, at least at first.
I love this movie. YES, put it in the Canon.
And about the Bush/Gore Florida stuff...I just want to digress a little bit and point out that one vote cannot make a difference. It is almost statistically impossible to win a presidential election by one vote. Why? Because counting is an estimate and it's impossible to count votes to that degree of accuracy. A candidate needs to be ahead by hundreds if not by thousands of votes to be the legitimate winner.
When you're watching the news on election day and the pundits are telling you that Candidate D has 1,267,281 votes and Candidate R has 1,211,897 votes you're being told nonsense. They're lying to you. That's why different sources give you different numbers.
Florida in 2000 was a tie. It should have been decided by a coin toss. At least then Gore wouldn't have been totally cheated.
Yes yes yes.
100% yes on Election. This may be one of the best, most multi-faceted high school movies that I can think of. I truly do not mean to bring this up in any sort of braggadocious way but considering the Midwest context of the discussion held in this episode, I went to high school with the actor, Jessica Campbell, who plays Tammy Metzler. I was a couple years older (and didn't know her) and had heard she was going to be in this movie but it came out the month I graduated so i didn't get to see how her high school life shaped as a result of Election (or Freaks and Geeks). But I can attest that the school experience in Election was not unlike ours in St. Louis, MO. Paul Metzler would have won at our school by a mile and he would have been wearing a Dave Matthews Band shirt (and not been as nice/empathic). I love this entry into the Alexander Payne canon and feel it has an odd upbeat energy that I haven't felt in his other movies.
Yes! For two reasons: Brodericks awful looking eye and the way Alexander Payne uses the main theme from Navajo Joe!
I want a comedy in the Canon, but I don't think this is it. I vote no. I like this movie and I like it more upon rewatching it, but I can think of other Alexander Payne films and other comedies that deserve it more.
Yes to ELECTION.
Massive YES. One of my all-time favorites, with huge rewatchability. Rust echoed something I've said myself from time to time about this film - Election really is the rare perfect movie where everything works. And Flick is not the villain, Broderick definitely is, but that doesn't change the fact that she is intensely annoying. Sympathetic yes, you don't need the alternate ending to see that her home life is horrendous, but still the kind of person that makes you not want to go to class. Best thing Witherspoon ever did, next to Freeway. Now do Freeway.
Easy yes. This movie roxxxxxx
Yes. I love this movie, but I could vote it in just for the visual of Matthew Broderick squatting in the bathtub washing his genitals and the prayer sequence alone.
And I vote yes to Paul Rust coming back for Network. Best guest.
No because I don't really feel a connection with any of the characters and I think any comedy in the Canon should elicit at least one tiny giggle or be super funny.
Yes, and yes for Rust to come on and talk about SHAMPOO!
I'm not sure I see Devin's point about the succubus women taking over doofus guys. I just saw the movie for the first time, and for me it seemed like Jim was projecting a lot of his own stuff on Tracy. The final few minutes, showing Jim's NYC life and seeing Tracy in DC really showcase how delusional he is in the voiceover. Tracy is pursuing her dreams, by working in some capacity in DC and he's giving tours to disaffected kids at a museum (Which I think could be a cool job, but not presented as such). Tracy is such a good character--she's an anti-hero in the way few ladies are allowed to be on the screen.
Voting YES in a big way. Also, Paul Rust was a brilliant guest. Please have him back.
YES. Prior to re-watching for this episode, I only saw this once on VHS back in 1999. I remember loving it while my friend I was watching with didn't like it at all, and it was a confusing experience for my 13-year-old self. Re-watching now was of course more enjoyable, and it's always great to revisit something from your youth and find out it's better than you remembered, not the other way around.
Yes, with vigor.
100% yes. I don't think there is an Alexander Payne movie that doesn't belong in the canon.
FUCK NO! i like Payne quite a bit but this movie just never did anything for me.
Already voted but I have some more thoughts.
You know, I see Traci as kind of an "anti-villain." In many ways she is like a villain in this narrative, and it's easy to understand why people around her don't like her. She's cheerful and nice, but in a way that is obviously phony and very calculated. But at the same time the movie makes it so that you get why she's that way, and you feel sorry for her. That part where she thinks back on the affair with the teacher, and you realize that this is the closest thing she has had to relating to someone on a genuine, human level. She may not even get that with her mother. It's so devastating. Broderick's character may have been rationalizing his own resentment and inadequacy when he said he felt sorry for her, but he's right nonetheless. Traci is destined for a life of misery and you should feel sorry for her.
When I was listening to this episode I thought of an episode of This American Life I heard recently. This guy was talking about when he was a kid, and he got a copy of How to Win Friends and Influence People for his birthday. He then tried out the techniques at school but found that everyone else was weirded out annoyed by him. Even his teacher--he said he noticed that whenever he would talk the teacher was "tolerating" him. Interestingly enough he even used it to win a school election--after which he did a terrible job and everyone hated him.
Anyway I think Traci is a lot like that except instead of seeing that this way of seeing the world is bad if you take it too far, she probably had her mother say things like "they're just mean because they're jealous of your intelligence and popularity" or "just ignore them because you will be the happy and successful one." So she goes through life only able to see the world and other people in this one way. She will probably never understand other people on a fundamental level.
The alternate ending is interesting. I think it does fit the characters in a certain way. It's giving the best ending that is possible. If the two of them could ever get past their self-denial, setting themselves and each other the way they really are, they could relate to each other on a human level and be happy. But the chances of them actually doing this are slim to none. The ending we got is a far more likely one. But I like that the alternate ending exists as a sort of "What if?" scenario.
Big YES. One of my favorite comedies of all time.
Yes (but I vote for Tammi, not Flick)
This was a lot of fun to watch and Paul Rust is a delight. I really liked how the locations mirrored the bleakness of the plot, from the brutalist high school and crummy motel to Paul & Tammi's neighborhood full of half-built McMansions. ELECTION satirizes not only the myth of a noble American politics, but also the corresponding myth of a prosperous and morally righteous 'Middle America'.
Yes. I agree with Paul - it's really good and funny and I'm all for more comedians being inducted into the Canon.
I am a NO. This movie is ok, but I always felt it never quite got to its destination...Also, I am a die hard lover of Sideways and I feel that would be better put in the Canon.
YES, of course...I enjoyed the discussion with Paul Rust, but nothing anybody could have said during the podcast would have talked me out of it! A semi-modern classic...
Absolutely yes, so great to see this movie get the attention it has always deserved. My friends were never as into this movie as me but when it was on HBO I watched it on loop and it's great to finally get some validation.
Man, Alexander Payne has a very Canon-worthy filmography.
Definitely Yes! Alexander Payne is one of those rare directors with a flawless filmography. All 6 movies are at least good to outstanding. The only I am not as enthused about as the others is Sideways but Election ranks probably 3rd behind The Descendants and Nebraska.
It's Alexander Payne's best movie. It's Chris Klein's best movie. It's probably Reese Witherspoon's best movie (although I do love her in Pleasantville). It's Matthew Broderick's best movie.
Of all of the 1999 films Election is one of the four best and has aged really well. I think they said it all in the podcast. It is one of those few perfect movies. I like almost everything Payne has done since, but nothing in his filmography reaches the same dark, playful, scathingly funny depths of Election. Sideways comes closest and is in my personal canon, but it may have a hard time getting into THE Canon.
I joined because BROADCAST NEWS lost last week. Like the general election of 2000, I now know that every vote counts.
YES on ELECTION.
I was a pretty big champion for this movie when it first released. Glad to hear people are still talking about it.
My personal reading of the film falls somewhere between Devin and Amy's: I don't, like Devin, believe the movie paints the women as succubi draining the life force of poor, well-meaning men. By my recollection, the men seem to be the agents of their own undoings. I don't know if anyone comes out looking pretty by the end of this thing. But I also disagree with Amy about Traci being a wholly sympathetic character. I think she's meant to be somewhat unlikable, her perkiness and seemingly unflappability grating, and her willingness to do whatever it takes to win a sort of villainy. I don't, however, believe she's the "villain" of the movie. I don't think there is an outright villain.
This may be too much of a confession, but one of the things I really like about "Election" is how identifiable individual elements of the characters are. Broderick is playing a total skunk, but I definitely understand some of his frustrations. I think anyone who spends a significant amount of time among do-or-die, change-the-world teens can easily slip into cynicism. Hopefully, I'm not alone in my assumption that the unbridled optimism of others tends to magnify the dissatisfying elements in our own lives. I know I'm guilty of feeling that way; I just don't let it run my life the way Jim McAllister does.
I vote yes. And I have to quibble with Devin's point about women initiating all the sex in the movie - it's pretty clear that Dave initiates sex, not to mention the entire relationship, with Tracy. It's a significant and illuminating plot point.
Sorry for the double posts. Please count them as one vote, of course.
Strong yes. Great performances all around, ESPECIALLY Reese Witherspoon. I think what makes the movie great is all the subtle little touches.
Strong yes. Great performances all around. ESPECIALLY Reese Witherspoon.
No. Like a couple of others have mentioned the plot is a bit of a mess. It never felt very focused. You could almost be forgiven for forgetting that it was a movie about an student body election at some points.
I also didn't find the satire to be as biting as the hosts did. It just seemed very "blah". What it did though, was highlight Gen-X cynicism. That "it's cool not to care, only lame people care" attitude. Perhaps coming from where I am that makes it seem surprisingly dated. Gen-X culture has yet to hit the point where we are far enough away to view with curiosity like 60's and 70's culture (even 80's now), but no longer new enough to really feel super relevant or ground breaking.
This was the second week in a row where a good but not great movie was nominated. Again it's fine, but not in a "I must see this" sort of way. It gave me a better appreciation for last weeks Broadcast News, which was way better. But neither deserve to be in the Canon.
New No No, saying this film doesn't belong in The Canon. Of course it does.
Yes, of course, it's so fucking good.
Yes! There are few perfect comedies but Election is one of them.
I have to agree with Paul when he says this is a perfect movie. Definite yes for the canon.
I have to agree with Paul when he says 'Election' is a perfect movie. Definite yes for the canon.
YES. I have no idea how I missed this 1999.
So usually I try not to listen to the show before seeing the movie, but this time I did and I am really glad I did. Rust mentioned the use of shapes and near the end, McAllister is trying to get some toothpaste, razor, etc, out of a vending machine and when it doesn't come out, he is surrounded by right angles and squares. That made me laugh out loud.
(Ha-hah! So there IS still a character limit)
Traci had all these connections from all the clubs she was in and the jobs she did, even after hours. But all that leads to is Traci tearing down the posters after she accidentally ruins hers. So she's incredibly petty and dishonest. What a great professional politician, no? So some think she's the villain of the movie? I get it. She vandalizes posters from the other campaigns (hers was accidental, theirs were deliberate), disposes of the evidence, and lies. Sure, Tammy bailed her out, but what does that say about Traci? Or Paul? Or...Bueller? Nothing, that's just Tammy's own, unrelated, story. Big missed opportunity to actually satirize the darker sides of elections.
Near as I can tell, the movie as a whole is just an angry, cynical anti-everything take on elections and why they're dumb, and why all the people involved in them are dumb, and why you're dumb for thinking they aren't dumb. Except that it's also half the story of a really petty guy who's doing OK in his life but has some problems, somehow gets it in his head to screw over Traci (because...again, why?), and that leads to his getting fired and his life ruined. Also, in a completely unrelated story, he cheats on his wife, which leads to his getting divorced and his life ruined. Really, either one of those on its own might have led to his getting fired and divorced. That neither story has anything to do with one another shows that he would have been screwed either way. So is the movie ultimately about how he was doomed no matter what? I don't know.
So, with a plot based around an election, which is never really explored in detail, a man who ruins his life twice over, partly because he becomes incredibly petty for no good reason, and partly because the woman he cheats with throws him under the bus, a third-party candidate with an entirely separate C-plot that almost never touches on the others, a female lead who's alternatingly cynical and idealistic, driven and petty, professional and dishonest. And with D-plots based around one character's trouble conceiving, and a tryst between the female lead and a teacher that goes nowhere and leads into nothing....
The plot's a mess, is what I'm trying to get across.
So, with that out of the way, how's the rest of the movie?
It's well-directed. I liked the framing of a lot of the scenes. The visual humor's pretty good. I'll give Payne lots of credit for the film. I'll go so far as to say that it's a very well-directed movie.
But I felt it was far more cynical and nihilistic than it was satirical. Worse still, there weren't a lot of moments I felt were very funny. A dramady wouldn't need to rely on this so much. But with stuff like the bee sting, it's clear they were going for something broader. And, for the most part, it just rarely worked for me.
Overall, it's a decent movie. Maybe even slightly above-average, given the direction.
But it's a hard NO for The Canon. For a comedy, it was only intermittently funny. It wasn't really meaningful artistically, just rather competent. I don't think it's a meaningful slice of its time. I don't see how it's remotely influential on later films. And I don't think it's a film that any serious film buff needs to see to really understand movies. It doesn't meet a single criterion for me.
I will now cede the floor back to the room. I fully expect to lose this 65-3, or something similarly lopsided.
I saw "Election" when it came out, and rewatched it three days ago. I don't see a single reason for me to vote it in The Canon.
For starters, it's a really unfocused plot. OK, the Traci/Paul/Tammi election part, with....Bueller's manipulations. Got it. Makes sense.
What the hell is up with the rest of the movie?
What is the significance of...Bueller having an affair with his friend's ex-wife? And the irrecoverable rift it creates with his wife? Nothing. Does it, in any way, impact how...Bueller approaches the main plot? Is it just supposed to make his fall from grace all the worse? Is it to make him less sympathetic? Or more, considering that the ex-wife throws him under the bus and his wife apparently is ready to believe her story 100% and not even listen to...Bueller's take on it. Were things THAT bad between them before that? Why would she be trying to have kids with him, then? You guys pointed out that the author of the book probably based the character somewhat on himself, and the theory that...Bueller getting so royally screwed (even if he did cheat on his wife, the fact that he's depicted as getting all the blame, without the wife even getting to voice her opinion, we only hear about it from...Bueller, clearly means we're supposed to think of him as either sympathetic or just pathetic. And, again, what does this have to do with the main plot?
What is the significance of Traci's affair with her teacher? Nothing. Is it a major motivation for...Bueller to hatch his manipulations. Apparently not. He wasn't "avenging" his friend. I actually like the idea of having Traci's manipulative nature be played up more, especially early in the movie. At least give us a reason for...Bueller to have it in for her, if we think (he thinks) that she wasn't such an innocent that (he thinks) she should be taken down a peg in retribution. All we're given is that he's annoyed at what an over-achiever she is. Play up that scene where she arguably tries to flirt with him, with the ledger and the car. Come back to it in the scene where she throws his fertility issues at him. And speaking of which...
What's the significance of his and his wife's difficulties conceiving? What does that have to do with the main plot? It's just there. It could be dismissed as meaningless character stuff, right up until Tracy reveals that she knows about it and uses it as a cudgel against...Bueller. How did she know that? Was she investigating his life? Digging up dirt on the election people, for leverage? Did she suspect...Bueller put Paul up to running? It just comes out of nowhere.
What is the purpose of the bee sting? It's not just a throwaway joke, it's a major...thing of some sort in the last 30 minutes. It's impossible not to notice, characters comment on it multiple times. Is the film supposed to be about everything going wrong for this guy? I thought it was about a school election.
Why was Tammy in the movie? She didn't need to be. Third party candidate? Not really, she was disqualified. She deliberately disqualified herself, because she wanted out of the school. Because...she wanted to be surrounded by more girls? Because she hated public schools? Because she was adopted and feels in her brother's shadow, the lesser-loved sibling, and wants to lash out at her parents and the whole "establishment"? Why did she join the race if she was so willing to get herself kicked out almost right away? She doesn't really fit into the plot at all. What does her desire to attend the all-girls' school have to do with the main plot?
There are three plots here, and none of them really have anything to do with the others. Traci and Tammy have basically nothing to do with one another. Tammy and...Bueller as well. Tammy basically disappears halfway into the movie anyway, to come back only in an epilogue that, again, has nothing to do with the other characters.
The movie's supposed to be a satire on politics? OK. There's a class thing there. Driven workaholic professional politician versus popular, upper-class heir apparent (whose family apparently owns the town....kinda like Paul Rudd in Parks and Rec). Abrasive and type A versus dim but nice. Experience versus...want-to-have-a-beer-with. OK, THAT part is pretty prescient of 2000, I'll grant. But 1992 was, among other things, about the effects a major third-party candidate could have on an election. Tammy's candidacy has, apparently, zero effect on the race (and yes, I've heard that Perot's voters are believed to have been split pretty evenly between Clinton and Bush, but that wasn't the narrative at the time).
What insight does this movie have about how elections work? Shadowy figures picking candidates to run? Lazy cash-ins on name recognition, slogans, running on popularity alone? K. Where were the underhanded tactics? Bribes? Threats? Smears? Manipulate student media. Traci had all these connections from
Paul Metzler You Betzler
100% Yes. My favorite high school movie and one of my favorite movies in general.
Yes I pick this Flick
Like this is even up for serious debate. Plus, it'll be nice to get this in after Broadcast News was shut out. I mean, what the actual fcuk?
YES, when are we getting the network show? Dave Itzkoff was on the Bonnie and Maude podcast talking about Network, it was quite entertaining and he would make a great guest.
No. Paul Rust's story about Paul Thomas Anderson was funnier than anything in Election.
Citizen Ruth and Election are a great 1-2 punch of mean 90s satires.
Looking unanimous so far and for good reason. Election is a brilliant satire by focusing on a major issues in a simpler setting. It's the best role from a lot of actors I don't often love and Tracy Flick is absolutely one of the smartest characters in the last three decades of film. Also it maintains a perfectly dark tone that it never drops throughout and betrays itself.
This is an absolute YES from me. I've wondered if this movie might be up for Canon-status at some point. There's so much to admire about ELECTION--Its humor, characters and themes are so thoughtfully constructed and arranged. Broderick's entire existential crisis never fails to put me in stitches! "WHO THE FUCK DOES SHE THINK SHE IS?"
By the way, I want to thank you guys for turning me on to De Palma's BLOW OUT in one of your early episodes. I probably never would have made the time to see it otherwise, and I was absolutely floored by it. The Criterion restoration is a thing of beauty, and I loved the way sound was used as a motif throughout the whole film, culminating in Travolta having to identify audio clues through his wire during the final chase through the subway. Too freaking cool!
Also, just an aside: Amy, you have one of the best radio voices I've ever heard. Pure silk! <3 And I swear I'm not just trying to butter you up to plug my own Canon nominee: 1977's SORCERER. I watched the 2014 remaster a few weeks ago and couldn't believe how much of this gorgeous film has been lifted, referenced, and paid homage in other movies across the years. The whole sequence in the rain had me flashing explicitly back to Nedri's attempted island escape in Jurassic Park.
Thanks for the great show. You guys are the best.
Not voting because I haven't seen the movie since it came out and won't have time in the next week.
I will say, however, that this was a great episode of the podcast and made me (as the best episodes do) want to watch the film again.
Yes, this is a great movie. One of my favorites to re-watch. Paul did a fantastic job arguing why it's such a great movie.
Yes. This was a great conversation to listen to.
Unquestionably YES. One of my favorite comedies of all time - just a perfect work filled with so many great moments, big and small, and richly drawn characters. 1999 keeps getting brought up, for good reason, and this is one of my two or three very favrorites of that year.
HELL YEAH! (also please have Paul back for Network)
Sure Yes. This might be my favorite guest episode up to now.... And, it finally gave me something to thank The Phantom Menace for. Great discussion, guys.
YES. I was ambivalent about its Canon status before listening to the podcast and all of the great points made. I need to develop a better habit of paying attention to the context and time period in which a film is released. Good points were made about Election's political precience, and the significance of certain characters. A great discussion this week!
I vote yes