Tuesday, January 20, 2004

Michael Moore and his work

Michael Moore (http://www.michaelmoore.com/), the guy who conceived of and did Roger and Me, has gone on to become a liberal political commentator, actor, author, activist, and standup comic. His trademark tactic is intrusive butting into the affairs of the rich and mighty, in the guise of a normal guy with normal guy concerns.

Will they ever trust us again? Is a book reprinting the letters Michael Moore has received from thousands of U.S. soldiers and their families. They talk of rage and disgust, betrayal, hating the job they're doing, and more. The question Michael Moore asks through this book is, after this betrayal by the government, who will trust us?

Fahrenheit 9/11: The most controversial movie you could imagine being unveiled during a Presidential campaign. It recounts the fiasco of the last Presidential election, including discussing the highly probable outright fraud that disenfranchised tens of thousands of black Floridians in a flawed purging of "felons" from the voter rolls. It shows gutwrenching footage of the September 11, 2001 attacks, and then later more gutwrenching footage of our soldiers fighting in Iraq. He lays the case very well that the war in Iraq is a fallacy, that it is a huge distraction from the real "enemy" and more. See this movie!

Bowling For Columbine: Set in the time shortly after the Columbine "massacre" (in case you've forgotten, two high school kids went a little gun-nutty and shot up their high school killing a bunch of students), he uses the movie to explore the culture of gun violence in America.

For example, Littleton Colorado is also the home of a Lockheed Martin plant which makes guidance systems for nuclear missiles. Interesting contrast that is, to put side by side high school kids massacring each other next to the construction of nuclear missiles.

Most of the movie is spent considering why Americans kill each other at a higher rate than any other democracy in the world. Other countries have the same level of gun ownership, but not the same murder rate. Why?

Awful Truth-Complete Seasons 1 and 2: This is a TV series which Michael called The Peoples Republic Of Television. Through the TV show he covered various current events in his signature guerrilla video style, always staying close to humanity all the way. The result is hilarious and at the same time thought provoking.

In the beginning there was a free press. Well, not really, but it sounded good. By the end of the millennium five men who controlled the worlds media, and we ate their crap up with a spoon. Yet there was one man who operated outside their control. He and his crew were known as the Peoples Democratic Republic of Television (PDRTV). Their mission: to bring the people The Awful Truth.

For example, during the impeachment proceedings against President Clinton, he hired a bunch of actors to dress up in Puritan costume and lead fake witch trials on the streets of Washington DC. In another show he interviewed a young man who was being denied a life-saving operation (pancreas transplant) by Humana, and otherwise he was at risk of dieing every day. In covering the interview he gave a brief overview of Humana's financial and profit status, executive compensation, bonus plans for employees that deny health coverage, and then proceeded to stage a fake funeral outside Humana's headquarters in Louisville, KY.

To honor the murder of Matthew Shepard, he got a Winnebego, painted it pink, called it the Sodomomobile, and with a crew of gay and lesbian cohorts took a road trip through states where "sodomy" is against the law aiming to break as many laws as they could in every one of the states.

Roger and Me: Michael Moore's seminal movie released in 1989, during the height of the Reaganomics disaster. The movie covers Michael's attempts to get an interview with Roger Smith, the Chairman of General Motors, to explain why they chose to close 11 assembly plants in the Flint Michigan area.

Stupid White Men Michael Moore's screed against "Thief-in-Chief" George Bush's power elite, hit No. 1 at Amazon.com within days of publication. Why? It's as fulminating and crammed with infuriating facts as any right-wing bestseller, as irreverent as The Onion, and as noisily entertaining as a wrestling smackdown. Moore offers a more interesting critique of the 2000 election than Ralph Nader's Crashing the Party (he argued with Nader, his old boss, who sacked him), and he's serious when he advocates ousting Bush. But Moore's rage is outrageous, couched in shameless gags and madcap comedy: "Old white men wielding martinis and wearing dickies have occupied our nation's capital.... Launch the SCUD missiles! Bring us the head of Antonin Scalia!... We are no longer [able] to hold free and fair elections. We need U.N. observers, U.N. troops." Moore's ideas range from on-the-money (Arafat should beat Sharon with Gandhi's nonviolent shame tactics) to over-the-top: blacks should put inflatable white dolls in their cars so racist cops will think they're chauffeurs; the ever-more-Republicanesque Democratic Party should be sued for fraud; "no contributions toward advancing our civilization ever came out of the South [except Faulkner, Hellman, and R.J. Reynolds]," because it's too hot to think straight there; Korean dictator Kim Jong-il "has got to broaden himself beyond porn and John Wayne" by watching better movies, like Dude, Where's My Car? (which contains "all you need to know about America"). Whatever your politics, Stupid White Men should make you blow your stack. --Tim Appelo

Dude, Where's My Country? The people of the United States, according to author and filmmaker Michael Moore (Bowling for Columbine, Stupid White Men), have been hoodwinked. Tricked, he says, by Republican lawmakers and their wealthy corporate pals who use a combination of concocted bogeymen and lies to stay rich and in control. But while plenty of liberal scholars, entertainers, and pundits have made similar arguments in book form, Moore's Dude, Where's My Country? stands out for its thoroughly positive perspective. Granted, Moore is angry and has harsh words for George W. Bush and his fellow conservatives concerning the reasoning behind going to war in Iraq, the collapse of Enron and other companies, and the relationship between the Bushes, the Saudi Arabian government, and Osama bin Laden. But his book is intended to serve as a handbook for how people with liberal opinions (which is most of America, Moore contends, whether they call themselves "liberals" or not) can take back their country from the conservative forces in power. Moore uses his trademark brand of confrontational, exasperated humor skillfully as he offers a primer on how to change the worldview of one's annoying conservative blowhard brother-in-law, and he crafts a surprisingly thorough "Draft Oprah for President" movement. Refreshingly, Dude, Where's My Country? avoids being completely one-sided, offering up areas where Moore believes Republicans get it right as well as some cutting criticisms of his fellow lefties. Such allowances, brief though they may be, make one long for a political climate where the shouting polemicists on both sides would see a few more shades of gray. Dude, Where's My Country? is a little bit scattered, as Moore tries to cram opinions on Iraq, tax cuts, corporate welfare, Wesley Clark, and the Patriot Act into one slim volume--and the penchant to go for a laugh sometimes gets in the way of clear arguments. But such variety also gives the reader more Moore, providing a broader range of his bewildered, enraged, yet stalwartly upbeat point of view. --John Moe

Downsize This! Who says the left wing doesn't have a sense of humor? Maybe it doesn't, but documentarian Michael Moore sure does--Exhibit A was Roger & Me; B was the ill-fated TV Nation; and C is 1997's print skirmish Downsize This! Moore's politics are rabidly liberal, populist, and anti-big business--about what you'd expect from the former editor of Mother Jones. While this restricts his audience to Americans on the left side of the aisle, for them Downsize This! will be a chance to point and laugh hysterically (if ruefully) at the clique of rich white guys who run everything. Moore is at his best as a prankster, whether it's trying to see if Pat Buchanan will take a campaign donation from the John Wayne Gacy Fan Club (yes) or whether he can have Bob Dornan committed to an insane asylum based on his bizarre behavior (no, but it was close). Moore is one of our sharpest satirists, and Downsize This! makes one wish he would write a "Sorry State of the Union" every year. But only if it doesn't cut into his moviemaking--that's too big a price to pay. --Michael Gerber

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