CAPITALISM: A LOVE STORY: The Film Babble Blog Review

CAPITALISM: A LOVE STORY (Dir. Michael Moore, 2009)

This time out filmmaker/muckraker Michael Moore brings his tried and trusty methods (idyllic 50’s stock footage, Baby Boomer-era hit songs, a megaphone, stern evil unemotional old white men, and bringing it all back home to Flint, Michigan) to the financial crises of the last few years. “There’s gotta be some kind of a rebellion between the people that have nothing and the people that’s got it all” says Randy Hacker as he and his family are getting evicted from his home early in the film and it’s impossible not to get emotional. Trouble is as much as my eyes teared up, they rolled more at Moore’s antiquated antics throughout the movie.

“This is capitalism – a system of taking and giving, mostly taking.” Moore’s voice-over tells us as he sets up his thesis. He darts around from heartfelt salt of the Earth stories to scolding exposés of corporate practices like “dead peasant insurance” which has companies profiting from employee’s deaths. This is all almost entirely aimed at the banking system – Moore even at one point unrolls a long strip of yellow police tape around the entrances of the towers in Wall Street’s banking district. It’s a crime scene you see? Yeah, you get it.

I’ve long thought Moore was fighting the good fight with his heart in the right place, however here he’s again preaching to the choir and will doubtfully earn many new converts with this piece of pop doc polemic. There was a smattering of applause at the end at the theater I saw this film in but the folks who would go to an art theater to see a Michael Moore movie these days are certainly already on his side. A number of effective points and a definite worthwhile discussion can be provoked by Moore’s material but his shtick of accosting security guards and senators (as well as dubbing stock footage for his purposes) has gotten beyond old at this late date.

Of course, just a discussion among likeminded folks is not what Moore wants. He wants that full on rebellion that Hacker spoke of above just like he wanted FAHRENHEIT 9/11 to deny George W. Bush another Presidential term (it didn’t) and SiCKO to help change the U.S. Health Care situation (it hasn’t). (Possible Spoiler! Wait, can there really be a spoiler in a film like this?) Moore makes this plea at the very end of the film: “You know I can’t do this anymore – unless those of you who are watching this in the theater want to join me. I hope you will, and please speed it up.” Well, I just have to say: good luck with that!

More later…

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…