Tanner on Tanner [2004]

The creators of Tanner '88, director Robert Altman and writer Garry Trudeau, return 16 years later to their fictional presidential candidate, Jack Tanner (Michael Murphy). Now the focus is on his controlling daughter (Cynthia Nixon), a fair-weather filmmaker trying to put together a film about her father's 1988 campaign. The mix of seemingly unscripted dialogue and heady political talk is still present, but this series (four half-hour episodes that aired on Showtime right before the 2004 presidential election) concentrate on--and lampoon--documentary films and the passion, misdirected or not, that goes into them. Does simply having a camera focused at the subject really make a film? Fans of Altman's cocktail of eavesdropping will not be disappointed. A diner at the New York gathering spot Elaine's can give us a shot of celebrity: there's Martin Scorsese and Steve Buscemi talking about film, former governor Mario Cuomo riffing on President Bush. Although there are certain joys--like Jack Tanner's return to the convention floor--the results, the insight, and even the laughs are not the same as 16 years ago. --Doug Thomas

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