Flashback
A look back at this day in film history
December 21
November 5, 1999
American Cinema Shoots Itself

Several days after Halloween in 1999, sophisticated New York cineastes were treated to a real horror film, American Movie, a documentary about two would-be filmmakers stumbling after the American cinematic dream. Director Chris Smith had spend the last years following the progress of aspiring Milwaukee director Mark Borchardt and his best friend Mike Schank as they worked on a horror film, Coven. Though some accused Smith of treating the two men as figures of fun, American Movie captures their passion for film and depicts their sometimes inept low budget methods, offbeat views and mispronunciations (such as Coven, which Borchardt pronounces “coh-ven”) with genuine affection. The film catapulted Borchardt and Schank to unlikely star status as they traveled the world with the film giving highly entertaining Q&A sessions, appearing on talk shows and, in the case of Schank, even playing a version of himself in a movie (Todd Solondz’s Storytelling.) American Movie was a cult hit for Smith and his producing partner Sarah Price, and the pair followed it up by co-directing another humorous doc The Yes Men (2004), about two political pranksters.


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Working Girl Dec. 21, 1988
Working Girl Opens

With Carly Simon's anthemic "Let the River Run" scoring Melanie Griffith's Monday-morning commute from Staten Island to Wall Street, Mike Nichols' Working Girl, which opened December 21, 1988, is an upbeat fantasia celebrating female empowerment, class mobility, and the underlying soundness of our financial system.

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December 21, 1988
Working Girl, a fable of money

Just days before Christmas, director Mike Nichols delivered Working Girl, a new brightly wrapped present of the American dream. If Oliver Stone’s 1987 Wall Street showed the greed and cruelty behind that fueled America’s financial professionals, Nichols' Working Girl gave that same capitalist dream a positive––and feminist––spin. A downtown secretary (Melanie Griffith) steals the identity of her investment banker boss (Sigourney Weaver) in order to sell a sure-fire marketing idea. But rather than being a political fable of the Man––er, Woman––keeping the hero down, like the 1980 feminist comedy Nine to Five, Working Girl was a fable of class mobility. In her New York Times review, Janet Maslin commented, "One of the many things that mark Working Girl as an 80's creation is its way of regarding business and sex as almost interchangeable pursuits and suggesting that life's greatest happiness can be achieved by combining the two," In some ways, the film serves as a counterpoint to Pretty Woman, the 1990 film that should have perhaps switched titles with Nichols' comedy. The film proved a feelgood hit, with the Carly Simon anthem "Let the River Run" going on to win the Academy Award for Best Song in 1989. Significantly, the original title to this stirring track was “The Wall Street Hymn.” While the big hair to big money story hit box office gold, the 1990 TV sitcom spun from the story was fired soon after its broadcast premiere.

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