Moore Is Way Less This Time Out – Free Download Notwithstanding.

SLACKER UPRISING (Dir. Michael Moore, 2008)

“Stream it, download it, burn it now. It’s the first time a major feature-length film is being released for free on the internet. You can be part of this historic moment by logging on now!” – Michael Moore (from an email you’ll get when you sign up for the free download of SLACKER UPRISING).

Watching this new documentary sure doesn’t feel like I’m taking part in an historic moment. It’s a self indulgent infomercial centering on Moore’s tour of colleges in battleground states in the last weeks of the 2004 Bush Vs. Kerry election. Since we all know how that turned out this is supposed to show Moore and fellow liberal Democrats’ failed but noble attempts as inspirational grass roots measures to encourage voters for the current campaign. It doesn’t quite come off that way though as despite some background to the swiftboating of Kerry and touching testimonials from the families of soldiers in Iraq (as well as some by soldiers themselves) this mainly shows what Moore credits as “a cast of millions” screaming and applauding him on stage like a rock star over and over as he does his usual schtick. You know the routine – Bush lied, the war is corrupt, get out and vote, etc. which is all fine but he covered it better, of course, in FAHRENHEIT 9/11 which this film ought to be just a bonus feature on a future Special Edition DVD of.


That’s not to say there aren’t good bits though and not coincidentely they don’t contain Moore’s visage but instead showcase the music on the tour. Steve Earle passionately plays “Rich Man’s War” to a rapt audience, Joan Baez does an acapella version of “Finlandia” and Eddie Vedder, who considers Moore one of “the wonders of the Patriot Act; Michael is a patriot who acts”, does an invigorated solo acoustic version of Cat Steven’s “Don’t Be Shy” *. There is also R.E.M., Tom Morello (of Rage Against the Machine), and singer songwriter Robert Orrall doing his catchy crowd pleaser “Al Gore Lives On My Street”. It’s Moore’s show though and it is commendable that he spends some time dealing with his detractors. Bush supporting students (in small numbers) come to his rallies and even try to get him barred from speaking but Moore has the mike and can yell down any opponent. To examine the valid criticisms and anger of the anti-Michael Moore population would have made the movie worthwhile but we just get the same slogans that by now even the choir is tired of.

* This appears to be what inspired Moore to use Steven’s original version (written for HAROLD AND MAUDE) as the end credits music for SiCKO.

Shortly after the results of the 2004 election were in a headline in the satirical newspaper the Onion said it best: “Poll: Youth Totally Meant To Vote In Record Numbers”. This sums up whats wrong and ultimately very depressing about this exercise. This film would only be vital and necessary if the Slacker Uprising strategy worked. Instead we see 99 minutes of a man drunk on his own applause. Patting himself on the back and believing his own hype even when it turns out to be drastically ineffective. It is encouraging that polls are showing that more folks may be getting out and voting in what is likely the most severely important Presidential race in my lifetime but a film like this is hardly going to matter in the grand scheme. SLACKER UPRISING is for Michael Moore completists only (if there are such people) and it should have remained with its original title “Captain Mike Across America” as a sideline film, like I said before, only added as an extra on a future DVD re-release. It seems though, as smart and savvy as he is, that he knows this hence its asking price. Yep, that’s right – at least it’s free.

Postnote #1: Actually it’s not completely free – just the download for American and Canadians. DVDs are being sold for $9.95 at Moores website.

Postnote #2: For a worthwhile look at criticisms from Moore detractors check out Rick Caine & Debbie Melnyk’s MANUFACTURING DISSENT (Reviewed here November 13th, 2007)

More later…

A Slew Of Reviews…

“I don’t really care for movies; they make everything seem so close up. “
– Macon Leary THE ACCIDENTAL TOURIST (Dir. Lawrence Kasdan, 1988)

Well Summer is officially here and it looks like its going to be an especially lame movie season – I mean except for SNAKES ON A PLANE, right? Don’t get me wrong – I’m gonna give SUPERMAN RETURNS a chance and I’m pysched like crazy about A SCANNER DARKLY but otherwise we’re wading in crap like MIAMI VICE, pointless sequels like FAST AND THE FURIOUS : TOYKO DRIFT and CLERKS II (why is Kevin Smith going back to that particular well now?!!?) – I mean last summer I thought we all learned something from fiascos like THE DUKES OF HAZZARD and BEWITCHED. Aren’t you glad I linked all those titles to their IMDB webpage in case you didn’t know what movie I was talking about?

My little local hometown theater the Varsity and its sister theater the Chelsea now has a webpage :

http://www.chelseavarsity.com/

I work there part time mainly for the free movies and of course am happiest when we have movies playing that I like. Now playing at the Varsity are 2 movies I like :

AN INCONVENIENT TRUTH
(Dir. Davis Guggenheim) Al Gore’s well honed powerpoint global warming lecture spiffed up a bit with dazzling graphics and swift editing has amazingly become a sure-fire summer hit and a definite must see on the big screen. It is compelling and completely convincing material even living up to the movie poster’s tag-line “by far the most terrifying film you will ever see”. Funnily enough on the same poster the movie’s rating PG-13 is given for “mild thematic elements”. The only thing that sucks about this movie is the God awful Melissa Etheridge song that plays over the end credits.

A PRAIRIE HOME COMPANION (Dir. Robert Altman) Garrison Keillor’s long running old timey radio show is embroidered with Altman (MASH, THE LONG GOODBYE, SHORT CUTS , THE PLAYER, GOSFORD PARK, countless other masterpieces) trademarks – an always moving camera even in simple close-up shots and everybody talking at once – that’s right overlapping dialogue city! Good performances by the likes of Kevin Kline, Meryl Streep, Lily Tomlin, Virginia Madsen, John C. Reilly, Woody Harrelson, Tommy Lee Jones, Maya Rudolph, etc. all make up for the blank spot on the screen that is Lindsay Lohan’s appearance. I never listened to the Lake Wobegon deal on the radio and was very cynical going in but this somehow worked for me.

Now some DVDS I’ve seen lately :

THE NEW WORLD
(Dir. Terrence Mallick) Mallick is a film director legend despite having only made like 4 or 5 pictures in like 40 years. This re-telling (or more accurately re-imagining) of the Pocahontas/John Smith romance circa 1607 is beautifully shot. Mallick’s camera appears to be in love with Q’Orianka Kilcher (never named outloud in the movie as Pocahontas) whose sunbathed dances make for some mighty fine visuals. As for the men in her life – Colin Ferell does his arrogant angst thing while Christian Bale puts in a nice accepting guy appeal in the third act. Looking on the message boards on the IMDb I’m aware that many many people hate this film – comments like “This film was also terribly edited, bizarrely cast, and just generally pathetic. People say they like this film in a simple attempt to feel elite.” Man! I think it is worthwhile to see. The fight scene when the Powhatan attack Jamestown has a greater realism and artfullness to it than similiar multi-party fight scenes in Scorsese’s GANGS OF NEW YORK and Oliver Stone’s Colin Ferell atrocity ALEXANDER. And it doesn’t make me feel elite to say so.

TRANSAMERICA (Dir. Duncan Tucker) A transexual road comedy! Move over Crosby and Hope! Sorry – this is earnest acted and presented just a bit too conventional for my tastes. Felicity Huffman moves respectedly away from TV work (Desperate Housewives, Frasier, West Wing, etc.) to give a finely tuned portrayal of a pre-operative transsexual who finds out he/she fathered a son (Kevin Zegers). If only this wasn’t drenched in will-they-bond /won’t-they road movie cliches – one can see the ending coming less than a third in.

“When God gives you AIDS – and God does give you AIDS, by the way – make lemonAIDS.”
– Sarah Silverman

SARAH SILVERMAN : JESUS IS MAGIC (Dir. Liam Lynch) After toiling on the sidelines the last decade (appearances on Seinfeld, SNL, Mr. Show, and notably unfunny unrepresentive movie appearances like SCHOOL OF ROCK) Sarah Silverman makes good on stealing the ARISTOCRATS from everyone in comedy to be the star attraction in this part stand-up / part musical sketch film. I really wished they stayed with the straight-on stand up performance. The other bits – unfortunately including a cringing Bob Odenkirk as manager bit – don’t work and disrupt and distract from the many funny lines like :

“The best time to have a baby is when you’re a black teenager.”

and

“I love you more than my after show monster bong hit”

That’s right – shes far from PC. Reminds me of Letterman years ago repeatedly saying “know my theory on Madonna? She loves to shock.” Silverman’s take on done-to-death stereotypes is almost too obvious at times – I mean singing a plucky “you’re gonna die soon” song to a room full of old people, come on! – but still very funny.

More later…