Americathon – Film Review #johnlone

Starring: Harvey KormanFred WillardPeter Riegert
Writers (screenplay): Neal Israel, Michael Mislove, Monica Mcgowan Johnson
Director: Neal Israel
IMDb ranking & storyline: 4.2/10

In a story told in narrative flashbacks, a young TV consultant is hired by the President of a bankrupt USA to organize a telethon in order to prevent the country from being repossessed by wealthy Native Americans.

The last few films I am reviewing are at the start of John’s career – I wanted to leave his first appearance in King Kong till last.

For this film, Americathon, I had quite high expectations at the start, I really liked John Ritter as an actor and was also quite keen to see Meat Leaf and Elvis Costello in acting roles. Like with any of the films I review I ensure to check through the cast list and character names and this was the moment I started seeing red.

Looking through this list John is mentioned with just ‘Chinese’ against his name. This is typical of what he has mentioned in his *past interviews of the limitations of the roles he was getting in the US at the time when he was starting out.  As I watched him in this movie, released in 1979, I felt so much sadness for him even though these were some of the first big steps onto the screen for him and everyone has to start somewhere.

I watched his interview video (below) before the film and couldn’t help feel anger for him, but also appreciate that these experiences must’be been a driver for him to succeed even more and prove his worth as an actor.

Only 8 minutes into the film I cringed at the depiction of the Chinese tourists, even within this ‘farcical’ comedy, this feels embarrassing and just downright cruel.  Here we can see John, the man who would go on to play The Last Emperor, M. Butterfly and so much more, that so many couldn’t, be a part of that tourist crowd. The disappointment of these early roles such as this one much have been immense (and probably hard to come by). The fact that people would have been laughing at their screens at this too makes me sick.

This movie is just one example to me of how the comedy genre ages – there are many 1970’s comedy that I still enjoy (Monty Python, Animal House) but I struggled through this, the dialogue especially and didn’t laugh at any of the jokes.  Was I uninspired before the start of the movie, most probably yes.

The movie is set 20 years from the time it was released and I think the story itself had a lot of potential – as one reviewer noted quite a few of the forecasts of the ‘future’ can come true.. I have listed them below if you’re interested!  The telethon itself I skipped through, and must admit wish I could’ve spent my £3.49 on YT Video on something else.

To sum up this film, its a look into the future we want to forget and a look in the past that we can’t forget.  Moving onto King Kong with higher expectations for my John Lone film review – coming soon.

John’s interview – Brazilian TV

  • go to 14:14 in the video below where touches upon his experience

FORECASTS ON AMERICATHON – as provided by juancarlosadex (IMDb)

From WIKI: Since the storyline was set 20 years into the future, several satirical forecasts were made, nearly all of which, amazingly, have since come true:

The People’s Republic of China embracing capitalism and becoming a global economic superpower.

Cliques of Native Americans becoming wealthy (although in reality much of their wealth would come from the gaming industry, mostly from tribal casinos).

Nike becoming a huge multinational conglomerate (In 1979, their “Tailwind” running shoe was just starting to gain popularity).

Vietnam becoming a major tourist attraction among Asia’s wealthy and powerful (this was also predicted in Back To The Future Part II, as seen on billboards and on TV commercials, with the airline that takes most Americans there being US Air).

The continued existence and popularity of The Beach Boys in 1998.

The collapse of the USSR.

The depletion of US crude oil production, which, according to Hubbert’s Peak theory, was already underway for several years at the time the film was made (Hubbert estimated in 1956 that the year of peak oil extraction in the United States would be 1970.).

Jogging suits becoming fashionable as “casual wear”.

Reality television reaching absurd limits. (The telethon includes a boxing match between a mother and son. The son is played by Jay Leno.).

An America with a devalued dollar and heavily in debt to foreign lenders.

Network television dealing with previously taboo subjects accepted as normal. (Monty Rushmore stars in the sit-com, “Both Father and Mother”, and plays a cross-dressing single father in the titular role. The film’s narrative also mentions “The Schlong Show”, a game show where contestants are judged by their reproductive organs.)

Smoking being banned.

A great increase in homelessness (Homelessness began to greatly increase in major U.S. cities during the recession of 1982 and the simultaneous cutting of the Section 8 program by the Reagan Administration).









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