I don’t know how many others have placed Nanette Burstein‘s American Teen on their short list of Best Feature Doc Oscar contenders. I did for a while because I mostly liked this Paramount Vantage-released doc. I called it a “full meal movie” that “takes us on a rewind tour of our own high-school experiences,” and that it cuts through cliches by “immersing us in the essentials..” And yet I’ve taken it off my short list for two reasons.

One, I just can’t shake the suspicion that the doc was “vaguely rigged” on some level, as I put it last summer. I realize that the Teen people denied this up and down, but I just don’t believe them. “There’s something about American Teen that just feels too polished,” I wrote last July. “Some of the dramatic scenes unfold so concisely and with such emotional clarity that it almost feels scripted.” I presume it wasn’t scripted, but rehearsed, re-shot, acted with directorial suggestions, etc.?
And two, I just can’t abide those declarations from American Teen “costars” Colin Clemens and Jake Tusing that they have no interest in voting. I can’t live with that or suppport anyone who says it. It’s wrong, irresponsible, uncondonable.
An excerpt from the 7.21 article: “It was just me, Colin and Jake (everyone else was outside) when I asked, ‘So where is everyone politically? Is anyone…you know, a Ron Paul fan? Or Nader? Anything out of the ordinary? Or are you all for Obama or…?’
Nobody, they both said. Nada, zip, no interest. Jake said he hasn’t paid any attention at all to the candidates or the election. I asked if he might want to think it over sometime between now and election day in November so he could vote for somebody — Obama, the Libertarian guy, McCain, whomever. ‘No,’ he said. Doesn’t pay attention, doesn’t want to know, TV off.
“Colin said the same thing. I didn’t record him or take notes, but he basically said that ‘politics and politicians are a game…it never changes…it’s not something I care about…maybe when I get older but…I don’t know, but not now.'”
So no offense, guys, but words have meanings and actions have consequences.