Weiner: You Can’t Look Away

Many of my friends have said of the current Presidential election follies, “You couldn’t make this stuff up.” The same is true of former New York Congressman Anthony Weiner’s career—before, during and after his notorious sexting scandal. When Weiner decided to run for Mayor of New York City in 2013 he allowed documentary filmmakers Josh Kriegman and Elyse Steinberg extraordinary access to his public—and even private—life. The results are utterly fascinating.

Some might call them grimly fascinating, as there is a poignancy to Weiner’s saga: here is a respected public official, dedicated to serving the people, who threw it all away by texting photos of his penis—and making a lame attempt to deny it, at first. His mayoral race two years later was an attempt to gain redemption and credibility, with his high-profile, long-suffering wife (Hillary Clinton aide Huma Abedin) at his side.

We’ve seen cinema verité profiles before, but this one is almost meta-cinema-verité because its subject is so aware of the process. Toward the end of the documentary he is asked why he allowed the filmmakers to chronicle his story, a question that nags at us in the audience throughout. I won’t reveal his answer, but it ties into his need for validation—as well as his cluelessness.

Weiner is downright uncomfortable to watch at times but, like the proverbial train wreck, it’s hard to look away.

Leonard Maltin is one of the world’s most respected film critics and historians. He is best known for his widely-used reference work Leonard Maltin’s Movie Guide and its companion volume Leonard Maltin’s Classic Movie Guide, now in its third edition, as well as his thirty-year run on television’s Entertainment Tonight. He teaches at the USC School of Cinematic Arts and appears regularly on Reelz Channel and Turner Classic Movies. His books include The 151 Best Movies You’ve Never Seen, Of Mice and Magic: A History of American Animated Cartoons, The Great Movie Comedians, The Disney Films, The Art of the Cinematographer, Movie Comedy Teams, The Great American Broadcast, and Leonard Maltin’s Movie Encyclopedia. He served two terms as President of the Los Angeles Film Critics Association, is a voting member of the National Film Registry, and was appointed by the Librarian of Congress to sit on the Board of Directors of the National Film Preservation Foundation. He hosted and co-produced the popular Walt Disney Treasures DVD series and has appeared on innumerable television programs and documentaries. He has been the recipient of awards from the American Society of Cinematographers, the Telluride Film Festival, Anthology Film Archives, and San Diego’s Comic-Con International. Perhaps the pinnacle of his career was his appearance in a now-classic episode of South Park. (Or was it Carmela consulting his Movie Guide on an episode of The Sopranos?) He holds court at Follow him on Twitter and Facebook; you can also listen to him on his weekly podcast: Maltin on Movies. — [Artwork by Drew Friedman]

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April 2024