A Different Kind of Al Gore Movie

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Since I brought up Al Gore a few days back, I thought I may as well let you in on a cool little film that is available in Issue #1 of McSweeney's Wholphin DVD. Essentially, it's a short 15 minute movie filmed by Spike Jonze of his day spent with Vice President Al Gore (available below). What's really interesting however is the backdrop to the film.


If you read the Wholphin liner notes, you find out that the film was made for the 1999 election campaign, but was never publically aired . What's intriguing is that the Wholphin editors suggest that this one small film may have given Mr. Gore the precious few votes needed to win that election. In other words, watching the video you really come away with the realization that Mr. Gore seems like a pretty nice warm sort of person - a stark contrast to his media representation courtesy of the always effective Republican spin meisters. Anyway, I think it also beautifully illustrates the potential power and importance of small and sometimes forgotten things.

I wonder what's on his mind nowadays, since he seems to have gotten himself caught up in a very interesting predicament. I'm referring, of course, to his rise as one of the potential Democratic candidates, which could ultimately and tantalizingly lead to arguably the most powerful voice in World politics for climate change. Compared that, however, to the brutal skepticism and punditry arising if he did indeed decide to run, where the danger is that the great advocacy he has clearly provided might disappear altogether tainted by, for better or for worse, political motivation.

Anyway, enjoy:

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(LINER NOTES W/ SPIKE JONZE: reprinted from http://wholphindvd.com/issues/issue_1.html#jonze_notes)

Q: Can you tell the story of being asked to make this movie?

Spike Jonze: This campaign manager named Carter Eskew called me up and asked me if I would be interested in coming up with some campaign commercials. I'd never really been involved in politics at all, but I was starting to think about politics more and was wanting to participate. But I had a hard time deciding what kind of commercial to make because I realized, like the rest of the country, I didn't really know who Al Gore was. So I suggested that what I could offer would be to simply go down and get my impressions of Al Gore. And I just went with my video camera by myself, and just tried to gather, in a small unobtrusive way, a sort of video portrait- a day in the life, just to get to know who he is.

Q: I think that no matter what party you belong to, whether you are Republican, Democrat, anything, you look at the film and you think that this is somebody who is an honorable guy, a good guy, a guy who's obviously a family man and whose family loves him. You get this really complete picture of the guy.

SJ: Yeah. As I said, I didn't know anything about him and I went in just wanting to know who he is, and by the end of the day I felt that they were a really solid family and I really liked them. I think that Al and Tipper have to be good people and good parents to have created a family that's so solid. They look out for each other, and you can feel it. I mean, it's really obvious when you're around a dysfunctional family and it's also obvious when you're around a really functional family.

Q: So you just spent one day with them? You started in Carthage, Tennessee?

SJ: Yeah, I went down there to Tennessee and it was supposed to be just an afternoon. I guess he had liked my movie Being John Malkovich and so from that had... I don't know why he gave me this sort of access. It was very intimate and personal in terms of letting a cameraman into your home, but I guess that after the afternoon, they felt comfortable with me, so they invited me to go on their vacation. They were leaving that day to go to North Carolina, so in the middle of the afternoon the helicopters came and landed in the Tennessee farmhouse and we went to the army base and got on Air Force Two and flew to North Carolina.

Q: Is there any special clearance you need for Air Force Two?

SJ: No.

Q: No search, no cavity...

SJ: No, I guess the security guys were just like, "Oh, he's with the Vice President." And then we got into North Carolina in time to go swimming in the ocean and it was incredible. It was just supposed to be a few hours but it was this whole day.

Q: You have, I think, probably the only footage anywhere of Al Gore bodysurfing. And this movie overall presents a picture of Gore that we really didn't see anywhere else. Was the movie ever shown anywhere?

SJ: It was shown at the Democratic Convention in LA I think it was shown in the afternoon.

Q: Was it broadcast on TV? Was that part of the original plan?

SJ: It wasn't ever broadcast, no. There was some talk of broadcasting it, but that didn't get too far. Nightline asked me to come on and show it, but I didn't know if I'd be articulate talking about it.

Q: Everyone who's seen this movie thinks it humanizes Gore in precisely the way he needed to be humanized. He got tagged as being cold and robotic, and this film shows him to be warm, very genuine, passionate even. There are a lot of people who think that if this had been shown on primetime, it could have really made a difference in the election.

SJ: I wonder. I don't know, really. I like Harold and Maude.

More like this

I think Al Gore went of the deep end when he lost to Bush. Anytime I see or hear about Gore, he's either acting insane or doing something insane.

He may be a good family man, but he's crazy.

And no I don't like Bush, he's a freak all of his own.

Gotta say though, when I met him, he didn't seem crazy at all. Not at all.

I guess if you shoot several hundred hours of footage, and then edit it down to 13 minutes, you can make anyone look sane and likeable.

Rekindles my anger about the 2000 election. In so many ways, Gore would have been the perfect president for our time. Technically savvy. I remember the note he wrote to web developers hidden in his home page HTML (you had to do a View Code to see it...brilliant) But then again, we wouldn't have jokes like "The Internets" if Bush didn't get elected. Very sad. Gore has my vote if he ever runs again.

By Howard Covitz (not verified) on 17 Jul 2006 #permalink

I'm not sure why it is that whenever someone speaks truth to power and is unfettered from the necessity to remain within the opinion base of the majority of the uneducated, they're considered crazy. Personally, I think Gore was just a little ticked off that the election was hijacked right out from under him, and he realized that he needed to work as an activist to get anything done that needed to be done. He's done more good post-election than he ever did as a vice president. I challenge anyone to back up with rational discourse exactly what is 'insane' about Gore's actions now, or in the past.

Acting insane? How, exactly?

By David Baldwin (not verified) on 17 Jul 2006 #permalink

I think just the opposite. Whenever I see Gore, I see an intelligent, curious, and engaged man. He would have been an objectively better leader.

See also, for why we need to start selecting our leaders on a human capital basis.

By Jason Malloy (not verified) on 17 Jul 2006 #permalink

It's called passion - you've probably never seen him passionate about a subject, but he's got that side. It's not crazy. In fact, it's probably closer to being a real person than we're used to seeing in our leaders.

I remember hearing him speak on NPR once, at a rally in the south (also as VP going for the second term) and I swear, he was on fire like some kind of baptist minister. We forget that he's from that part of the country and it showed. You can't fake that, especially him - he's not that good an actor.

The simple truth is we often have only 2 choices, and we have to choose carefully. I do wish Gore didn't play by the rules of the spinmeisters - he's better than that.

And abstaining is really no choice at all; I mean, do you think the Bush's campaign - which played dirty from the start - really cared if you don't show up to vote? Of course not- you're just one less thing to worry about. Their politics was based solely on making most people sick of the process, of the politics and the noise, and then making sure their ranks came to the polls...

That's how the minority took over the majority. The majority never showed-up. It sat home, cranky, bitching at the TV and doing nothing else. And then they complain when their rights are removed, their homes are surveilled, social security dismembered...the gains of the past 50 years, erased bit by bit. And the majority still sit at home, complaining.

In a democracy, *that* behavior is being crazy.

By Jim In Holland (not verified) on 17 Jul 2006 #permalink

Al Gore should be the president. He is an intelligent man who knows what he wants and has the good of america at his heart. Can you imagine George Bush sitting down and discussing the pros and cons of the presidency with his family?

I myself am from Ireland, (a country which, the last time Bush was here launched protests of hundreds of thousands of people. that might not seem like much until you realise we only have a population of 4million.) In my country, Al Gore was given as big a greeting as Clinton (our second facourite president after kennedy).

I really think that even though he has no intention of it, he should go for the democratic ballot instead of Hillary (who very few irish people like btw). Hillary is a career politician, Gore is a family man out to do some good. End of story.

*stands up and applauds*

Gore is the president America needs. The problem is no one realises what they're missing. At least he's doing some other great stuff too.

It's painful to watch this movie and to imagine what these past years would have been like, if only we'd had an intelligent, thoughtful person in the Oval Office.

The previous comment must have been made by someone who thinks that global warming is an "insane" concept, and anyone who calls attention to it is crazy. Maybe he or she is referring to something else, but that's pretty much what Gore has turned his attention to since that awful Supreme Court decision in 2001.

I like to think that Gore will run and become our next President, and that we can begin to make amends with the rest of humanity, who have come to the conclusion that we are both insane and dangerous.

I think that's a lovely, very human portrait. It seems so authentic compared to so many similar 'documentaries' of politicians. Interesting, good people.

If you haven't seen An Inconvenient Truth, it is a must, even if you already know the science. Al Gore was supposed to be our President, not the Chimpanzee-in-Chief. For those still in love with the Chimp, you deserve what you are getting.

I don't get it. Why is everyone so concerned about Al Gore's motives? In this super-individualistic society we live in, we lose track of what people are saying and focus only on their seeming sincerity, their image, etc. The issue is: Does "An Inconvenient Truth" give us accurate information? If it does (and noone has given us any reason to think it doesn't) then let's get to it, and act on the crisis of climate change that we all face!

By Ruth Gamberg (not verified) on 21 Jul 2006 #permalink

Hear hear! Except that in this game, you have at least think about how others perceive his motives. It's unfortunate yes, but I also think it's a reality of how to get, what some folks called the "unconverted," on board. And BTW, I'm on board in a big way, but just wonder whether the Al Gore + extreme weather wave is one of those unprecedented opportunities to make some serious public headway - in many respects, it already is.

"the Wholphin editors suggest that this one small film may have given Mr. Gore the precious few votes needed to win that election."
Gore did receive the "votes necessary to win" the 1999 election. It was the Supreme Court, not the popular vote, that determined the outcome.

I kinda like the idea of a president who sings quotes from "Up on Cripple Creek." We could definitely use more of that.

Instead of that guy who sent our country up Cripple Creek.

What might have been...what might have been....

Greetings,I`am very interested in meeting or speaking to Spike Jonze about a really great movie idea that,can permently affect, in a positive way,global warming.How about a hydroge powered car that really works? Have built two,working on #3, and Spike could film it live and then we could drive it to Al Gore`s house!I am now ready to make 100 units,did I mention that I convert your car to run on hydrogen for FREE! I am not a crackpot,weirdo,jackass;just someone with the bucks and determination to put my money where my mouth is.
It`s obvious to me that this project dovetails beautifully with Al Gore`s focus on global waring.Spike can film me,building,desinging,delivering,hydrogen powered cars for free,as in zero,zip,nada,gratis,no charge,really! Now I think thats something people would pay and want to see,but what do I know? Interested?
Samuel Medina,Hydrogen Ambassador,Inventor
Marietta,Ga. Cell 941-809-7800

By Samuel Medina (not verified) on 19 Nov 2007 #permalink

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