11/4/08 (Jeff Deutchman). The director of 11/4/08 states that he enlisted the help of friends around the world to film their experiences on Election Day in order to “see what history looks like,” but you know how the saying goes: History is written by the winners. 11/4/08 represents not what happened this past presidential election in the U.S., but rather what happened to the victors.
To Obama supporters, 11/4/08 is embarrassing in its shameless gushing, and the film comes across as ignorant fanaticism to those who opposed him. As one interviewee in the film put it, the most passionate ones on either side are usually the ones who know the least. The film doesn’t necessarily reject conflicting ideas, as we see a couple of people question certain Obama fanboy claims, but when all of the videographers are firmly on the blue side of the fence, opposing views are a rarity.
They capture the occasional inspiring moment, such as a small meeting in France where a man shares his hopes that having a black president in the U.S. will open the door for a black leader in his own country. These scenes are overwhelmed by footage of Obama campaign volunteers tearfully regurgitating what they hear everyone else say—how this special, special man will lead us into the future, how he will turn this country around, how the past eight years have been hell. Thing is, I’m pretty sure they were saying the same things at Senator McCain’s volunteer headquarters. (Now there’s something that would’ve been interesting: a comparison of speeches that morning from both volunteer camps.)
In 2007, a similar documentary, Election Day, played at SXSW, and approached its material with an objective look at a plethora of characters from both sides of the election, finding a narrative within each thread, weaving them all together like a Robert Altman film. It too featured footage from many different locations, but unlike 11/4/08, this film gave a true sense of what that Election Day (in 2004) actually felt like. Its focus was the process, while 11/4/08 concerns itself with the results—fine, except 11/4/08, claiming to represent history, arrogantly declares that only one side of the outcome matters.
Elektra Luxx (Sebastian Gutierrez). Like its prequel Women in Trouble, Elektra Luxx’s premise—a pregnant porn star reexamines her life—sounds more promising than the final product. This film is rushed and underdeveloped, and while you can blame it on the 15-day shooting schedule, these problems stem from its unfunny, meandering script.
Instead of working the count, patiently waiting for quality opportunities, Elektra Luxx swings at a high volume of jokes, connecting with very few. Adrianne Palicki’s Holly Rocket, a ditzy porn actress and call girl, misunderstands just about every sentence she hears, and her oblivious responses are meant to be a big source of comedy, but most of the jokes are cheap, rushed, and dull. Worse, they’re hurled at you every four seconds. Writer-director Sebastian Gutierrez also gets lazy with his most capable comedic actor, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, recycling old jokes for the porn blogger Bert Rodriguez. Gutierrez used the “mom interrupts podcast” gag three or four times when it was hardly funny to begin with; no jokes in Elektra Luxx are crafted or honed, merely spewed.
When the comedy’s not clicking, the film’s other flaws have nowhere to hide, such as its aimless plot. The character of Elektra (Carla Gugino) found out last film that she was with child, so she retired from porn and now spends this film doing a lot of nothing, with one scene in a bathtub (featuring Julianne Moore as the Virgin Mary) being the only time she actually reflects on the obstacles of being a mother. For being the central thread of the entire story, surprisingly little time is spent on this. Beyond that, the film follows inconsequential tangents—like Bert’s sister’s softcore aspirations or the fate of the Elektra-centric songs of a dead rock star—boosting the running time, but making the movie feel even more hollow.
Gutierrez’s gusto to take any idea and swiftly transform it into a feature film is appreciated, but he’s doing so with ideas that might be better left behind. Shooting as quickly and independently as he likes to, a sharpened, developed script is critical, as Elektra Luxx illustrates so clearly.
South by Southwest (SXSW) runs from March 12 to March 20.