Everyone is well aware of Michael Moore's politics - he's a liberal to the bone and hates President George W. Bush. Bowling for Columbine, his Oscar-winning documentary that looked at guns in America, flared with his politics - his latest movie, the Cannes-winning film Fahrenheit 9/11, is filled with napalm.
There is no denying that Fahrenheit 9/11 is one-sided, that it shows only one side of Bush and the government below him. There is no denying that this movie looks very little at the good and a lot at the bad. Some have argued that this film is more of an editorial than a documentary - puh-lease! So what? Call it what you will, but Fahrenheit 9/11, regardless of how accurate it truly is, offers up a side of the last four years that is rarely seen in America. It is a contradiction to what the so-called "free press" has been shoveling into our mouths for four years. The press is supposed to be bipartisan - or neutral, if you will - yet it rarely criticizes the Bush administration to any extreme. On the other hand, it often times presents everything that the government says as if everything were fact - the press never suggests that the government issues threat alerts just to scare us, or that Bush has lied to us, or that maybe Bush is an incapable president with way too much power...
By now, it is probably clear that I am a liberal. I have no respect for our current president or his underlings, and I feel that the world is a worse place not due to terrorists but due to him. Terrorists, including al Qaeda and Usama bin Laden, were around before September 11, and they are still around. September 11 was a tragic event, but did it really change how safe we are - or did it just open up our eyes to the fact that America isn't as secure as we once thought. Nonetheless, for the last three years we have been warned about terrorist attacks - attacks that have never come - almost weekly. We have been forced to take off our shoes at airports because one man out of millions of travelers thought of putting a bomb in his (couldn't you just as easily put C4 in your jacket, your hat or your camera?). These issues and more are raised in Fahrenheit 9/11, but that is only the tip of the iceberg.
The controversy behind Michael Moore's film lies in his elaborate network of blame surrounding the 9/11 attack. He charges that Bush and his administration were lazy about handling terrorists before September - of course, did Clinton pay them much more interest? More so, he charges that the Bush family, the Saudi Royal family, the bin Laden family and the various corporations that linked them together have resulted in the situation we have today, where Usama bin Laden is still on the loose and we are losing soldiers daily in a country that really was no threat to us and where there is no evidence that there are weapons of mass destruction nor al Qaeda terrorists. His accusations of all of the families' interlocking relationships ring similar and with the same tension to the movie JFK, and are very, very thought provoking. In the end, the accusations are perhaps more theory than anything else, but they are a theory that is no more proven false than true. Thought-provoking, to repeat myself...
Everything else in Fahrenheit 9/11 stems from this conspiracy theory, leading directly to a scathing review of the war in Iraq. While Moore's attack on the justification of war is sound and effective - and something that I agree with wholeheartedly - his attempt to discredit the war is a little lackluster at times, his methods questionable. First, there is the portrayal of Baghdad as a happy and thriving place, a vision that is deliberately and overwhelmingly one-sided. Second, Moore takes time to show the negative effects of war, something that we all know and do not necessarily need to be reminded of. Obviously, Moore is trying to contradict the positive speeches of our top politicians by showing burned bodies of American soldiers, but I didn't feel that he was all too effective. He shows some soldiers that have become disenchanted with their leaders, but others as idiots that get a kick out of fighting the war. Here he seems as though he is attacking the troops more than the administration, and while I feel that this is not what was intended, it still is what he is saying.
To cap the Iraq story off, Moore goes into an overly lengthy story about a woman in his home town of Flint, Michigan named Lila Lipscomb, who has lost a son in the war. His look at the human side of war, that of the families that have to mourn and perhaps have changed their views on the government, is good, but then he drags the story on and on - it gets tiring watching a woman cry on the streets of Washington. We all know that the loss of a loved one is devastating, but it is hard to truly relate the way Moore wants us to.
On the plus side, Moore is fairly successful in suggesting that we have the poor fighting for crude oil in Iraq; while having numbers to back up his claim would have been very nice, his portrayal of military recruiters is top notch.
Regardless of the various topics in the movie, there is one underlying theme in Fahrenheit 9/11, and that is that Bush is a manipulative simpleton and that his handlers are equally seedy. Moore has collected a staggering amount of footage to back up his claim, and he has edited the video footage with extreme preciseness. The most memorable scene is probably the footage of Bush in that Florida elementary school when he is notified that the World Trade Center has been attacked; he sits there for seven minutes, looking as befuddled as ever. Some will argue the relevance of this - some people may think that he has the right to be in shock for that amount of time, and others may believe that he should have acted instantaneously, or that at least one of his assistants should have pulled him away.
And when things are said and done, Fahrenheit 9/11 is a love-it-or-hate-it film. Clearly, the movie is aimed at liberals, and most conservatives will never place their eyes on such a film. In this respect, Moore perhaps fails - had he been a little more two-sided at times, he maybe could have reached just a little farther into Bush's conservative base and changed a few voters' minds. As it stands now, and as many conservative talk show hosts have pointed out, this movie may not be very effective at changing people's minds, as the minds that he is trying to change will probably never watch it. At the same time, Moore succeeds defiantly in being one of the few people that has successfully scolded the President in a way that many of us liberals want to. Fahrenheit 9/11, though not perfect, is a movie made by a liberal for a liberal, and takes a calculated and thought-provoking stab at an administration that has made the world a worse place.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.
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