The best part of this documentary is at the end when Michael Moore says that he can’t keep doing this. Of course, he then appeals to his audience directly making a request to those in the theatre to help him out–because he can’t keep doing this. I assume he’s referring to help with democracy and not help with buying something. But that’s neither here nor there for an Oscar totting filmmaker. Or? As usual with Moor documentaries, I had a short self-consoling ten minutes after it ended. During those ten minutes I also gave the film a thought or three. If I were to generalise and summarise those thoughts it would be this: Now I know why I skipped watching this movie when it first came out. At the time I just didn’t feel the need to watch another Moore documentary–or I didn’t want that ten minute consoling moment. It’s not that I don’t like Moore movies–I like them very much. It’s just that I always get this lingering lump in my throat after watching a Moore documentary and I hate that. Why should I put myself through it again (and again and again)? And here I am. Here we are.
It’s now the next morning and the lump is pretty much gone. A few beers that I started drinking halfway through the film helped, I guess. Of course, thinking about the movie brings back a bit of what I felt last night. But wait. There! The lump is gone (again). Nomatter. Here are the things that stick out from this film–but in the end mean nothing:
- During the various evictions and foreclosures portrayed in the movie, Moore fails miserably to connect both sides of the transaction. I’m not wanting to be cruel here. It’s sad when a person or family is thrown out of a home. (I’ve actually seen it first hand when I worked for a property management company in the US so many years ago.) It’s just that Moore doesn’t mention the fact that the people agreed to refinance or take an equity loan on their house. Which brings me to the following question: why do so many people refinance and/or take equity loans on a house? Where is the documentary about what people did with all that refinancing and equity loan money? If, on the other hand, the farmer (in Moore’s movie) took an equity loan in order to farm, then that’s a different story. But Moore doesn’t mention why the farmer took the refinancing. He only shows the family being evicted. There is something else to be told–and Moore doesn’t tell it.
- One of the reasons I shook-off the film when it came out was because of the trailer showing Moore wrapping “crime tape” around a NY bank. Moore gets an ‘A’ for cinema-effort here but a ‘D+’ for truth-execution. Reason? As angry as I am about banking and bankers, I do not blame them for everything. Today, through years and years of conservative politics, bankers rely solely on debt in order to exist. How that debt is structured is the reason Lehman failed and Goldman didn’t. Obviously there is a connection that Goldman has with the US government that Lehman didn’t have, but that, in the end, is only part of the game. The debt these banks are fiddling with (yes fiddling) is part of everyday life in a country that can’t manage millions upon millions of consumer transactions which are based on debt. I’m sure the guy running Lehman has learned his lesson and won’t make the same mistake twice. With that in mind, the superficiality of trying to make a “citizen arrest” of NY bankers is ludicrous compared to all of the holders of debt in the US that provide bankers their fodder.
- The saddest part of this film isn’t foreclosures or the families living in vans or the sick dying because they can’t get healthcare. The saddest part is how the obvious cannot be shown–even by Moore. The way people live, the way they behave, the way they walk and talk to the gold mountains of bullshit is an awesome spectacle to see. And I see it. From my perch at thirty-thousand expat feet above gold mountains of bullshit I look down and I see. From Miami to NYC to San Fran to LA. I see Americans lingering about like zombies with smiles, clueless to anything. I mean, if Americans were less than clueless then perhaps the country wouldn’t have EARNED Donald Trump as its newest and best presidential candidate. But not only is Trump up there as a candidate but look at the people supporting him. They are the people that did and do everything that Moore features in this film and they are the (political) deciders who frequent Walmart, listen to faux newz, drink the zombie-smile kool-aid.
- There is a moment in the movie where Moore interviews Wallace Shawn (the actor) and Shawn provides a frivolous definition of “free enterprise” and Capitalism. While explaining himself, Shawn uses the word “vote” in the context of how capitalism works, as though “voting” is synonymous with consuming. He then talks about how one guy, once he starts to accumulate more things and/or wealth, is predestined to continue accumulating–at the cost of those who don’t accumulate. This is all fine & dandy when one tries to define or explain a system run-amok. But what about those who are actually doing the “voting”? In my less-than-fulfilled reading of Marx and “socialism” there is one thing that I consider always missed: choice. Not unlike free-will, choice is the thing that we all make–especially in western democracies and/or so-called free societies. Say what you will about the systems we worship and about how they influence our lives. But dangle a consumer carrot in front of the face of your donkey and off course the ass will follow. With that in mind, actor, oscar winning documentary director, say what you will about the system, present it as a mirror in front of your audience, but never never never actually show what goes in that mirror.
But I digress.
Rant on. -Tommi