Friday, June 25, 2004

MY LAST WORD ON MICHAEL MOORE (FOR AWHILE)

Saw the first showing of Fahrenheit 9/11 at noon today (an extended lunch hour on a rainy day). Reality check -- this movie isn't a documentary. Even Moore himself has described Fahrenheit 9/11 as an "op/ed" piece -- it is not unbiased journalism. If you insist this a documentary, then I will agree with you provided you agree that Ron Popeil is the single greatest documentarian in US history. Let's just call Fahrenheit 9/11 an infomercial for Moore's political viewpoints.

I had seen Roger and Me years ago, a clever "gotcha" piece. It was an expanded version of what 60 Minutes was in the early days, when Mike Wallace would show up after they got somebody to do or say something bad on hidden camera and then try to get that oh-my-God-deer-in-headlights look that the bad guys always had when they got caught with their hands in the cookie jar. Clever, but also a bit dated these days as a tactic.

Fahrenheit 9/11 is more sophisticated, but at the same time pretty transparent in its overwhelming desire to make Bush look like a moron. There were no surprises, probably because a tremendous amount of what's in the movie has been "out there" on the Internet for months. If we didn't have Iraq and Afghanistan 24/7 on many cable channels for months and another couple of months of hype about this movie, maybe it would have had more impact on me, but I wound up being quite bored.

As for his editing style, I'd bet (as he was accused of doing in Bowling for Columbine) Moore did a bit of rearranging of footage to make certain people look foolish -- some things seemed disconnected, though you were led to believe they were all part of one continuous flow. As one journalist said, the difference between a credible journalist and Michael Moore is Moore just rearranges things to suit his purposes -- a credible journalist will insert an ellipsis (. . .) between words to indicate they've edited for brevity, not content. With Moore, you don't get the ellipsis.

So, Moore gets two thumbs up for being clever, again. But just being clever isn't enough anymore. I suspect this movie will do well financially. It can't have cost much to make. Those who hate Bush will line up to pay their admission to see Bush look like a bumbling hick and they won't be disappointed. Those who subscribe to various and sundry right wing conspiracy theories will also be thorough entertained.

Here comes the tough critique:

Others have written books or produced news stories that have unseated politicians, even Presidents. Moore's use of his films hasn't caused a single material change in the World. I think it's because he's too hung up on making people look foolish and less interested in using his considerable skills to investigate and report on real stories. But that sort of work won't make you quite as wealthy as Moore has become. He's created his own genre and is becoming ever more wealthy with each project. In that regard, you have to admire him as a financial success. But if his true motive is to change the world, he's an abject failure.

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