was on HBO tonight.

RECOUNT re-examines the events of the 2000 Presidential Election, and although we know what happened, director Jay Roach (the AUSTIN POWERS movies?  Really?) and writer Danny Strong (BUFFY!) made a terrific film that made legal arguments over hanging chad (chad is plural, by the way) and disenfranchised voters completely compelling, and they turned in a film that was, in my opinion, one of the best political thrillers ever made.  If this had been released in theaters I’m convinced it would have been nominated for many awards at the end of the year.

The best performances were Kevin Spacey as Ron Klain and Tom Wilkinson as James Baker.  Each were passionate for their candidate, and you can understand the reasoning behind their passion.  It’s a fascinating documentation of how events snowballed into the historical travesty that we all laid witness to in 2000.  At one point, the film goes inside a polling machine and shows just how a hanging chad could have skewed the vote in George W. Bush’s favor.  The film ends with a shot pulled straight out of RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK, where we see boxes of ballots, all uncounted, a metric ton of democratic failure.  It’s never dull or pedantic, and there’s a real drama to the proceedings that keeps the film from becoming too preachy.

I’ve often found that fictional retellings are more effective than documentaries at getting at the emotional truth of historical events.  What this film showed to me, and what I’ve felt for some time, was that the greatest aspect of the political left is the same as its greatest weakness – all viewpoints are given equal weight, and sometimes, there’s what’s right, and everything else is wrong.  Although the recount could well have given Gore the victory had it been allowed to continue, I feel that the disorganization of his election team was the chief reason that he was denied the office.  The Bush team, for all their moral failings, was completely and totally focused on the goal of the presidency, while the Gore team were constantly questioning the larger ramifications of what they were doing.  And in the end, Gore lost because of that.

To me, the film seems pretty convinced that Gore won, but I’m a leftie, and that’s just how the film played out for me.  Someone on the right could see it and feel differently.  But if I see a better film than RECOUNT this year I’ll be extremely happy.  If it had been a theatrical release Spacey, Dern (as Katherine Harris) and Wilkinson would have easily gotten nominations.  Denis Leary and John Hurt were also very good.  Make sure you see this as soon as possible.