Franken's Book
Cinema Signals by Jules Brenner:
Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them:
A Fair and Balanced Look at the Right
by Al Franken


. "Al Franken: God Spoke"

At the risk of sounding illogical, I think comedians, or those associates with laugh-making, often have a quality of melancholy about them. Perhaps that's why Robin Williams' best work is what he does on the serious, dramatic side. He shows complex character and dramatic insight in films like "One Hour Photo" and his recent "The Night Listener." I say this as a prelude to my observation from this documentary diary that Al Franken is, at his core, a funnyman of melancholic proportions.

If you don't know what I mean, go to a circus and check out the clowns who paint their expressions with downturned mouths and tearing eyes. Do they command the most attention?

As we learn here, Franken has reason to be aware of the dark side of life. The disaster known as the 2000 presidential election was not something to bring joy to his heart. It was a depressing defeat for a guy who worked so hard in favor of the opposite result.

As a documentary, one has to wonder what the filmmaker's purpose or agenda was, in view of the fact that it produces such a conflicting impression of the man in the frame. Is it an expose' of a democrat's limitations when confronting such right wing monstrosities as Ann Coulter, Sean Hannity and others who seem to grind him up for dog food? Is it to show what a jerk he is for ridiculing a woman who provided him access to a Republican National Committee event where he had a chance to demonstrate his imitation of ex-Secretary of State (under Nixon) Henry Kissinger for Mr. Kissinger himself. Or, is this just an "impressions-be-damned," naked but 3-dimensional portrait of the man?

Perhaps the funnyman's biggest mistake was in giving Doob and Hegedus so much access.

This is a large slice of Franken, following him over the course of more than a year with episodes that include the various media in which he works. Some of what's included are his legal war with a somewhat hysterical Bill O'Reilly over his effective panning of the subtitle of the Fox News right wing host's book; publicity tours for his book; staged debates with political enemies; skirmishes with icons for the opposition; support for liberal talk radio's Air America; on the campaign trail deriding George W. Bush; and his forays into enemy territory like a Republican National Convention fundraiser.

In the course of all this footage, assembled by Nick Doob and Chris Hegedus, we see him at his most engaging, clever and incisive as well as frustrated, petty and off-guard. If all this were intended to be a balanced representation for a politically unbiased viewer, that demographic will have a lot to work with but impressions that conflict. What to make of the guy after seeing all this remains a challenge. On the other hand, where to come down on the likes of Mr. Franken won't be a problem at all for those with an unbendable political persuasion on either side. For them, it won't change hearts, minds or predetermined votes.

Franken cut his teeth in the comedy world as a Saturday Night Live regular back in the 70's. And, while we see glimpses of the rapier wit and natural comic take, (the ability to turn the mundane into comic material) one leaves this two-hour plus presentation wishing for more comedy and less a sense that we're seeing more than we want or need to. I didn't get what the film's subtitle meant, "God Spoke." And what I was really itching for was for Al to leave the political battlefield long enough to give us a scripted stand-up act as he'd do it for an audience at The Improv. All issues permitted.

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                                      ~~  Jules Brenner
                                         Cinema Signals 

The Truth (with jokes)
by Al Franken
"It was a cool, misty day in Boston, Massachusetts, and TeamRadioFranken was riding high..."

The O'Reilly Factor:
The Good, the Bad, and the Completely Ridiculous in American Life
"by Bill O'Reilly

Rush Limbaugh Is a Big Fat Idiot
by Al Franken

Will Al Franken and Bill O'Reilly Please Shut Up:
How to Make Millions as a Liberal or Conservative
by Paul Walsh



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Al Franken
How a Democrat can have fun
(At the Republican National Convention)
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