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…

Film Babble Blog Falls For THE FALL

Roy (Lee Pace): “He does tricks for pictures, flickers…moving pictures.”

Alexandria (Catinca Untara): “I’ve never seen one!”

Roy: “You’re not missing much.”

THE FALL (Dir. Tarsem, 2006 *) I only recently saw Tarsem’s THE CELL which looked great but was pretty stupid exactly as a friend (and many critics) warned me. Like Michel Gondry and Spike Jonze, Tarsem came to the movies from the world of music video production (he directed R.E.M.’s famous “Losing My Religion” video) so his visual mastery is his calling card. Still though I was unprepared for the absorbing and splendiferous experience that is THE FALL. With a much improved less slickly formulaic premise and screenplay (not to mention no stars in the cast) than his previous film every shot has a purpose and power that is joyous to view.

Set at a hospital at an unspecified era, most likely Los Angeles in the 20’s, the story concerns a young girl with a broken arm (Catinca Untara) who befriends a bedridden man (Lee Pace) while strolling through the wards. Pace was injured doing a stunt for a movie that involved jumping off a train bridge onto a horse. He charms her with a mythic tale about 5 bandits (he at first calls them pirates but Untara doesn’t like that) who vow revenge on an evil General who banished them to a desert isle. Pace posits himself as the masked Black Bandit and his partners are an escaped African slave (Marcus Wesley), an Italian explosives expert (Robin Smith), a soul shattered Indian mystic (Jeetu Verma), and Charles Darwin (Leo Bill) who is obviously the brain of their operation as they escape confinement and journey towards salvation or death. The grand tale overlaps with real life as it is peopled with folks from the hospital and Untara’s family WIZARD OF OZ-style.

* Though this film was originally premiered in 2006, it is only now that it is in wide theatrical release as presented by David Fincher and Spike Jonez.

It’s a film filled with incredible shots with plenty of action as well as personal drama that fill the frame too. Pace has had his heart broken along with his bones so he casts his ex-girlfriend (Justine Waddell) as the fabled Sister Evelyn in his impassioned bedtime story. There is a nice chemistry between Pace and Untara and a charm to this whole pretty package even when he uses the story as a bargaining tool to get her to break in to the hospital’s sanctuary to steal morphine for him. Yes, all this luscious euphoric beauty comes for a dark price but not one that would be too intense for most intelligent kids. That’s right, at heart this is a kids movie but an incredibly stylish and inventive kids movie. I was expecting something along the lines of the gothic tension and creepiness of PAN’S LABYRINTH but THE FALL is more colorful, infinitely more clever, and frankly a lot more fun. Reviews have been very mixed (except for Roger Ebert who gave it 4 stars and wrote that the film will most likely make his top ten of the year list) but I implore those to look for it if it comes to your area. The beautiful photography and fantastic CGI-free imagery deserves to be seen on the big screen – it would truly make a fantastic IMAX movie. A wonderful ride stocked with eye candy as well as a tribute to the power of storytelling, you will really be missing much if you miss THE FALL.

More later…