Monthly Archives: June 2004

More on Moore

The comments and discussions related to Fahrenheit 9/11 are flying all over the place, and I had a few random thoughts I just thought Id toss out there- and some of them may surprise you. Here we go:
– A few of you commented and e-mailed that I spent my entire review commenting on the political aspects of the film, while not concentrating enough on the film cinematically. I have no big complaints about it aesthetically, and it certainly dealt with subjects about which I care, so I wasnt bored. But I found the factual distortions and moral vacuity so troublesome that I had trouble seeing past it. Just one mans opinion, I suppose.
– Some have called F-9/11 anti-American. While I would certainly ascribe that label to Moore himself- based on this David Brooks column, especially- I give Moore a pass in that regard in relation to Fahrenheit, as he was pretty careful to confine his hatred to Bush, his cronies, and their corporate/Saudi allies. He also, as far as we know, didnt stage any scenes this time. This is more than I can say for Bowling For Columbine, which concluded with the generally offensive notion that the problem with America is all those damn Americans.
However, I have more trouble forgiving Moores essential neutrality in regards to Bin Laden, Saddam, etc- a pretty indefensible position, if you ask me.
– That said, Fahrenheit, for the most part, avoids some of the more loathsome tactics of the anti-War on Terror left. For instance, Moore doesnt use words like fascist or police state or Hitler. In fact, I could actually picture a left-wing critique of F 9/11, accusing Moore of not being vigilant enough- by paying next to no attention to post-9/11 Muslim detainees, and by confining his anti-Patriot Act section to that story about the guy at the gym who was questioned and released by the FBI.
Sullivan, and others at TNR, have already written about the moral bankruptcy of the general center-left consensus on Fahrenheit, i.e., Moore may be full of shit on many things, but hes right overall, so well let it slide. This is, oddly enough, the defense many center-righties have for Bush himself, but thats not my point.
I had a discussion with Jeremy yesterday in which he compared Moore to a liberal Rush Limbaugh. I replied that yes, the comparison is valid, but comparing Moore to Limbaugh is no defense of the filmmaker- really, its more of an indictment. My problem is that Moore by using facts selectively only when they stick up for his side- is basically a pundit, yet the reception to his films has elevated him, undeservedly, to something far above that. Because really, Moore deserves an Oscar and Palme dOr about as much as Sean Hannity deserves a National Book Award.
And then there’s the whole “it’s not a documentary if it’s biased” argument, which I also don’t buy. I’m more partial to the “it’s not a documentary if facts are made up” line.
– Heres a side-by-side comparison of various critics who praised Fahrenheit to the skies but bashed The Passion. Of course, it includes just one line of each review, so we dont always know the contexts. And besides, some critics (like Roger Ebert) loved both, while others (such as myself) hated both.
– Bush’s approval rating is down to an all-time low of 42 percent, just a few days after the release of a virulently anti-Bush movie. Moore’s influence is reaching uncharted territory- he may soon have to register as a 527. (And no, that’s not a crack about his weight).
– One other surprisingly nice thing I have to say about Fahrenheit: it wasnt even the worst liberal-leaning political documentary I saw last weekend. That (dis)honor goes to Nickolas Perry and Harry Thomason’s Clinton apologia The Hunting of the President- and I even agreed with its assertions more than I did Moores.
THOTP is just about the most unsubtle documentary Ive ever seen- utilizing the laughably awful device of repeatedly cutting to old stock footage, so that when an interviewee refers to Ken Starrs fishing expedition, were treated to shots of a guy in a boat, fishing. Whenever Clintons womanizing is discussed, we get footage of Bettie Page-style 40s strippers. Just two hours of that sort of nonsense.
Theres nothing new in the movie that wont be familiar to anyone who followed the news throughout the 90s, and Hunting also makes extensive use of conservative-turned-liberal writer David Brock, making me realize that a documentary about Brocks life would be about a thousand times more interesting than this one. Thumbs down.
– Anyway, enough about Mike. I’m about ready to go see “Spider-man,” how ’bout you?

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Disrespecting Hitch

New York Press columnist Matt Taibbi goes after Christopher Hitchens’ instant-classic smackdown of “Fahrenheit 9/11”- except he doesn’t really, because Taibbi’s piece doesn’t really address what Hitchens wrote it all.
Instead, he rips Hitch for “hypocrisy,” because he called Moore cowardly. which has to be wrong, because you see, all journalists are cowardly, especially those who accept their paychecks from corporations- and since Hitchens wrote the piece for Slate, which is owned by Microsoft, he’s somehow compromised.
Say what? First of all, has Taibbi ever seen Slate before? If his thesis is that Hitchens was somehow pressured by conservative Microsoft overlords, he’ll have a tough time explaining away the rest of Slate’s political content, nearly all of which is anti-Bush. And while I don’t disagree with Taibbi’s point that many journalists are cowardly, Hitchens, clearly, is not- he’s reported from war zones all over the world, something I certainly can’t say for Matt.
But just when we expect Taibbi to defend Moore and his film, we get this:

“Michael Moore may be an ass, and impossible to like as a public figure, and a little loose with the facts, and greedy, and a shameless panderer. But he wouldn’t be necessary if even one percent of the rest of us had any balls at all.”

Taibbi can be good- he’s done some funny work for NYP, and I count myself a big fan of his “Sports Crime Blotter” comedy column in sister paper New York Sports Express. But too often his political writing falls into either self-righteous pontificating or Maureen Dowd-style imaginery dialogue. I would’ve liked to have seen a legitimate rebuttal to the Hitchens rant, but this sure isn’t it.

Selig Sucks, Contd

The Washington Post series concludes with a look at how Beelzebud and Orioles owner Peter Angelos are conspiring to keep our national pastime out of our nations capital. Will baseball do the right thing and put the Expos where they belong (in DC)?
Maybe they will, if Peter Gammons is to believed;

[Expos general manager ] Omar Minaya had inquiries on Brad Wilkerson, and refused to talk, figuring he wants every possible good player in Washington next season.

Is Petey trying to tell us something?

Film Critic Quote of the Day

“Yet director Irwin Winkler, who proved with Guilty by Suspicion, Night and the City, The Net and Life as a House that he has no business directing movies, thinks he’s being hip by imitating the travesty style of Baz Luhrmann’s Moulin Rouge!… He might be the worst director working today. (Actually, no one’s worse than Luhrmann, but a Luhrmann clone deserves jail time.)”

-Armond White, reviewing “De-Lovely” in New York Press.