Thursday, July 08, 2004

Fondly(?), Fahrenheit

I saw "Fahrenheit 9/11" in Millburn last night. I can't say I loved it, or that it changed me in any way. I certainly didn't need any convincing of Moore's fundamental point - that George Bush must go. But it was impressive that, even several weeks into its run, on a Wednesday night, the theater was full.

In the first half of F 9/11, Moore is on familiar ground - mugging and capering in his "look at me, I'm a populist" way. He goes on too long about Saudi influence on the Bush family. This is not unimportant to know, and pretty accurate as far as it goes, but there's just too much of it, in that Michael Moore raised-eyebrow "can you believe this stuff?" way. The most useful/interesting segments were the intercut Iraq videos - mostly because the pictures of the dead and wounded - Iraqis and allied soldiers both - and of the destruction on the ground in Iraq - are precisely those that Big Media ought to have been showing us all along - but haven't.

The film is at its best in its second half, when Moore shuts up for a while and moves into real cinema-verité territory. Moore's camera follows a pair of USMC recruiters around, shows us bright, opportunity-poor potential cannon-fodder in Flint's high schools, and lets us see and hear Lila Lipscomb and her family, and that's when the movie really takes off. He shows, with little or no editorializing, how U.S. economic policies leave poor teenagers with few choices other than the military. We clearly see how disingenuous recruiter promises of education and careers put the lie to the concept of a true "volunteer" army.

At the tail end, Fahrenheit 9/11 lets down again, when Moore moves on to waylaying members of Congress on the street - back to his "Roger and Me" style. It seemed like Moore was trying to get himself back into the story - and it was a distraction.

I think it's a movie worth seeing - Moore has a compelling point of view, an instinct for getting people riled-up, and can very entertaining, but don't expect great cinema, or even great propaganda. But if he gets people curious to know more, to do a bit of reading, and then to tell their friends what they've learned, he will have succeeded better than a thousand lefty blogs like this one.

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