Monday, June 28, 2004

Fahrenheit 911 Review

I just saw Michael Moore's latest documentary purposefully NOT in Berkeley (away from the Moore acolytes camping out to worship their Bush bashing icon). I went far, far way--all the way to Emryville's AMC where I spotted some sneaky-looking Republicans slinking into "The Chronicles of Riddick" playing next door (which I saw two nights ago when Moore's movie opened).

The film, not surprisingly for those who have seen Moore's others, is not an objective documentary. It contains many head-shaking moments of Bush bashing. My favorite is a transition as one man describes meeting Osama bin Laden and being "unimpressed" by him; he describes him as a "quiet and simple man". "Quiet and simple?" asks Moore. Then we get a picture of George with an "aw shucks" expression. It is this kind of non-sequitur that caused me discomfort through parts of the film. In his effort to be glib at Bush's expense Moore miscalculates. While he may get a laugh from those who don't like the President, the assaults can only distance smart-minded viewers who have been captivated by the very serious message this film is sending: the President and those close to him are benefiting, financially, from the destruction of others.

Why I believe this film is worth watching, and why I urge every single person in America--and in the world for that matter--to see it is that Moore is asking pointed, important questions. The questions may have logical answers. It may be that the Bush administration made some decisions with the best interests of the American people in mind. We don't know because we have not been given the answers by the government--and many have been asking.

A few of these questions:

1. Why is it that every major news-station in the nation announced that Gore was the projected winner of the Presidential campaign yet these same news-stations did an about-face once they learned FOX news had announced Bush was the projected Florida winner? And isn't it suspicious the head of FOX News is a Bush relative (or associate--I can't remember--but we've all heard this one anyways)? The answer to this question, Moore implies, is the key to unlocking Pandora's Box. If you can get this one, all the rest will be easy.

2. Moore then asks about the link of the Bush family to the Bin Ladens. And of course he answers the question for you--showing the breadth of financial ties he and his father have to this family. The breadth is actually startling--and while I have some concern with the way Moore throws around a conspiratorial "Bush-Saudi" connection rather than the more specific "Bush-bin Laden" connection, I do see what he's asking: Why aren't we looking for Osama bin Laden in Saudi Arabia? And why the hell are we in Iraq when he's obviously got more support in Saudi Arabia (many of the terrorists taking part in the 911 were Saudi)?

3. Moore then points out, quite rightly I think, that this war like all wars reaffirm and solidifies the aristocracy-hierarchy that exists in America. Poor communities like Flint, Michigan provide the fighting force while the affluent communities (like the one I grew up in) feed off the "business opportunities" which arise in the wake of such wars. One soldier realizes that he's fighting for $3,000 a month while a Texas oil-worker drives a bus to an Iraq oil site for $10,000 a month (and he can do so only because the soldier makes it safe). The soldier asks a question to the effect of "How is that fair?". You can't see him, but you know Moore is grinning off screen. That's a keeper! Another soldier who has returned from Iraq helps Moore taunt Congressmen by asking them to enlist their children to go to Iraq (only one out of the 500+ congressmen and women has a child enlisted). Moore's military adjunct claims he will not go back to Iraq to kill other poor people for "nothing" even if it means jail-time. The question Moore asks through all of this: "Who is this war benefiting?" It's not the Iraqis. It's not the soldiers. It's not Americans who live in places like Flint. Then who? He plasters another gravelly picture of Bush in front of your face just in case you're missing his point.

4. The most moving and perhaps effective piece of Moore's film is his discovery of a woman who has lost a son in Iraq. She speaks of American "ideals" (that is, the flag), she sends more than one child to the military (and to war), and she values the Bible. He would have had a better shot of using her to melt the hearts of Republicans everywhere if she hadn't been married to a black man and spoke of cultural diversity (I wonder if Moore thought about cropping out her entire family and dubbing in a Klan hat or some pictures of Rush Limbaugh or maybe even Rush Limbaugh himself). We view her as a supporter of democracy, of "liberty" and of the government's role in our lives. And then she reads the last letter her son wrote to her. He says he is so angry at Bush and that he hopes nobody votes for "the fool" (because they are fighting for nothing). Then she visits the White House and sees a woman, possibly Iraqi, sleeping in box covered with photographs of dead Iraqis. The two woman exchange simple ideas: the one that Iraqis are being slaughtered by a tyrannical American government, the other that her son is dead, that her son killed those people and now he's dead. In the midst of all this, bizarrely, another woman jumps into view announcing that this "has all been staged! It's all staged!" I'm still not sure what exactly she was referring to, but the answer came: "My son is dead. Tell me that that was not staged." After a few moments, the woman gets it. Her feeble answer: "Well, lots of people were killed".

I can't help but feel that that woman's statement, said with a slightly embarassed shrug, is the real answer to every question that Moore was asking. He doesn't paint Bush or the CEOS or anybody else as evil. Buffoons? Maybe. Out-of-touch? Certainly. Culpable? Well, that's the real dinger, isn't it? Culpable for what? For the fact the there are 8 patrolman for the entire state of Oregon? For the thousands that are dead both Iraqi and American? For the budget cuts to the veterans hospitals which serve the very soldiers who are fighting as I write this?

The mother of this lost soldier wept in front of the White House saying that everybody is ignorant, that she in fact was ignorant and that now she isn't. What a price to pay to wake up. And that's, perhaps, the question that Moore really leaves us with--and it's the reason why everybody needs to see the film. How much does each of have to pay before we wake up?

Well, lots of people get killed.


At 9:40 PM, Blogger jamie_donohoe said...

Dear Jamie,

I thought your review was dead-on. You are quite intelligent, and, I assume, good-looking. I would like to date you.



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