Sunday, July 02, 2006

Moore Sides

Documentary's in Review

Michael Moore is one of the most polarizing figures in America today, in fact he's right up there with the president. This weekend I took a look at Moore from two different perspectives, his own, and that of a surprisingly good tempered critic named Michael Wilson. I watched two documentaries Moores own The Big One, and Wilsons Michael Moore Hates America.

The Big One
was the last of Moores feature length documentaries that I had yet to see, it is also very representative of his work and style containing his trademark populist activism, satirical humor, and own narrative centrality to his films. The Big One chronicles Moores 1996 book tour for his New York Times best seller Down Size This, as well as the aftermath of events initated there-in. Moore hops around the country cheering a surprising number of down trodden Americans and confronting powerful figures and corporations from Leaf Candies, to Wisconsin Governor Tommy Thompson, to Nike chairman Phil Knight (one the few executives ever willing to face Mr. Moore on camera). He laments a corporate America that in its 90's heyday was making record profits and downsizing blue collar works across the country. Moore has always been good at projecting an empathy towards people who find themselves trapped in his version of Edwards America, and despite his often being characterized as a near monster by some I think he truly is sincere. In the mostly pro-Moore film This Divided State Michael is also seen as very loving to those with whom he shares common cause, but capable of being caustic and dismissive towards those with whom he disagrees (though I'd still rather spend time with him then Sean Hannity). This all brings me to that other side of Michael Moore and the other documentary here in review.

Michael Moore Hates America is a 2004 film by young director Michael Wilson, who like Moore hails form the American mid-west. The title is meant to be ironic, a commentary on how vitriolic the political debate has become in this country. It is doubtful that Wilson ever thought that Moore really hated America, he just has some political disagreements with him that seem to flow from a libertarian perspective. In fact Wilson honors Moore by copying his style, though he is not as confrontational as, and seemingly more laid back then, 'the man from Flint'. Speaking of Flint, in the course of his film Wilson is able to confirm that Moore in fact did not grow up in that town which was once named the worst city in America, but rather was raised and attended school in the neighboring, and more prosperous suburb of Davison Michigan. Wilson does visit Flint and finds its a town in slow recovery, with members of the community expressed a hopeful optimism and people starting to move back into town. The director/host does however go to pains to show things in an honest manner, admitting and apologizing on tape for several instances in which he was deceptive in landing interviews or gaining footage, perhaps realizing how easy it can be to become manipulative within the 'Moore' documentary format. Luckily he had Penn Jillette to keep him honest.

Michael Moore Hates America is essentially a follow up on many of the claims and persons presented in Moores documentary features, including Bowling for Columbine and Fahrenheit 911. It also contains a Roger & Me like quest, ultimately unsuccessful, to land an interview with Moore, an endeavor that casts the liberal film maker in the role of the 'detached bigwig' that he frequently derides. The film is also interspersed with interviews with various talking heads ranging from What's So Great About America author Dinesh D'Souza, to former congressman J. C. Watts of Oklahoma, to the well respected documentary film maker Albert Maysles (who utters one of the funniest lines in the film). The only major fault with the film I can think of is the long distance psycho-analysis of Mr. Moore offered by some lawyer, he may be correct but it would have sounded better coming from someone with real credentials in that field.

In terms of a summation of my thoughts about Mr. Moore, I must again re-state that I think he is a sincere and compassionate guy, but also one of those people who can easily justify being manipulative if he thinks he's right. Michael Moore Hates America does a good job of exposing several instances of Michaels selective editing, but Fahrenhype 911 provides a more complete picture of his techniques in regards to the mans most famous picture, although that film has its own quite obvious political agenda. While Wilson is of course trying to prove a point, it is Moore who is truly manipulative (though not particularly so in The Big One, as opposed to his later work), and I think it is his strong tendency towards deceptive editing that is the mans great sin.


At 12:19 AM, Blogger taislis said...

You Know what? I love Michael Moore! I think that he must be such an annoying person to live with, but when he is right , he proves it. There should be a Michael Moore here in Brazil...

At 12:20 AM, Blogger taislis said...

By the way: how did you find my blog? I just made it today!

At 12:44 PM, Blogger Nate Dredge said...

Some one had accessed my blog from your blog, probably via the "next blog " fucntion. I have a site meter that tracks where my vistors came from, I look at that information on occasion and found your blog through that.

At 1:29 PM, Blogger taislis said...

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