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Secrets and Lies: The Florida Project and Mark Felt, Two New Films About Two Different Americas

The Florida Project is now playing at The Flicks


A particular corner of my heart is rarely visited—perhaps this is true for you, too—because it's reserved for a song, a poem or, most likely, a movie that transcends its art form. It might be disturbing, heart-warming or profound, but it's always life-affirming. Cinema Paradiso, Brokeback Mountain, Amelie and the 2016 Academy award-winning Moonlight are a few of the films that have knocked on the door of my heart; and I'm a better person for having let them in.

The Florida Project, a stunning but never heavy-handed portrait of people living in the shadow of Disneyworld in Orlando, settled into my heart when I saw the North American premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival in September, and I don't think it will be leaving anytime soon. The focal point of The Florida Project is the unmagical Magic Castle Motel. In the light of day, the motel is a kind of bubble-gum purple. Come twilight, a more adult hue of mauve bathes the building but by sundown, it is nothing but darkness colored by the ugliness of the drug dealing, prostitution and other criminal behavior filling the hallways. Moonee, a six-year-old resident of the Castle doesn't see it that way, though. To the little urchin, played by the amazing Brooklynn Prince, the motel is an endless haven for adventure. Moonee and her pals Jancey and Scooty, fill their days by sneaking peeks at topless sunbathers, spitting on cars from second story staircase, gargling with soda and harassing tourists at the Twistee Treat, a giant cone-shaped ice cream kiosk.

"The doctor says we have asthma," Moonee tells passersby. "And we have to eat ice cream right away." Moonee also loves to give hallway tours of the Magic Castle. "The woman who lives here thinks she's married to Jesus," Monee says, pointing to one door. "And the man who lives here gets arrested a lot." Unfortunately, Moonee's mother Halley (Bria Vinaite) also runs afoul of the law, accused of prostitution, theft and child endangerment. The only person keeping Moonee, Jancey and Scooty a hair's breadth away from constant danger is motel manager Bobby (Willem Dafoe) who does his best to prevent Moonee and her mom from eviction while also scaring off a steady stream of molesters who gravitate to the abundance of children living in the Castle.This is the performance of Dafoe's life, and he's destined to pick up a Supporting Actor Oscar.

The Florida Project is an uncompromising view of a harrowing boulevard, which is home to an American subculture and you may wince or even disapprove of what you'll see. I promise, though, you won't forget this film, one of the absolute best of the year.

William Mark Felt was born in Twin Falls, Idaho, in August 1913. The son of a carpenter, Felt would go on to become one of J. Edgar Hoover's architects of an era of domestic spying in the 1940s, '50s and '60s. Felt would also become the man who would change American governance and journalism forever by orchestrating the downfall of then-President Richard Nixon in 1974: Felt was the infamous "Deep Throat."

Felt, known to his colleagues as Mark, had spent three decades with the FBI when, in 1972, director Hoover died unexpectedly. Most Washington insiders assumed Felt would be Hoover's natural successor but when Nixon appointed then-Assistant Attorney General L. Patrick Gray as Hoover's replacement, Felt bristled. Later that same year, in what would become an infamous encounter in a Washington, D.C. garage, Felt met privately with Washington Post reporter Bob Woodward and told him details of how four burglars responsible for a break-in at Republican party headquarters inside the Watergate Hotel were linked to the Central Intelligence Agency.

"There's a nickname for you in my newsroom," Woodward told Felt during one of their secret meetings. "They don't know who you are, so they're calling you 'Deep Throat.'"

Mark Felt: The Man Who Brought Down the White House, stars Liam Neeson as the Idaho native who would upend American history. It's far from a perfect film and pales in comparison to All The President's Men, the definitive 1976 Watergate film, but Neeson is in fine form, and he's supported by a crackerjack supporting cast, including Diane Lane, Tony Goldwyn and Bruce Greenwood. If, like me, you're a fan of political-intrigue, mark your calendar to see Mark Felt.

Related Film

Mark Felt: The Man Who Brought Down the White House

Official Site:

Director: Peter Landesman

Producer: Ridley Scott, Giannina Scott, Marc Butan, Anthony Katagas, Peter Landesman, Steve Richards, Jay Roach, Yale Badik, Des Carey, Colin Wilson, Peter Guber, Jeffrey Vinik, Nik Bower, Deepak Nayar and Michael Schaefer

Cast: Liam Neeson, Diane Lane, Marton Csokas, Ike Barinholtz, Tony Goldwyn, Bruce Greenwood, Michael C. Hall, Brian James, Josh Lucas, Eddie Marsan, Wendi McLendon-Covey, Maika Monroe, Tom Sizemore, Kate Walsh, Noah Wyle, Julian Morris and Wayne Pére

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