Hey folks, Harry here... the book selling fiend that I am... I have signed my name more in the past two weeks than I did in the previous 30 years cumulative. Very weird. Seems that Michael Moore isn't above schilling for AINT IT COOL! Hehehehe... I fully endorse the idea of getting celebrities and COOL types to hold this book and take a picture that gets sent to me. That'd be a cool collection! As for his film, Lloyd Kaufman and I were talking about BOWLING FOR COLUMBINE on a near standing room only panel during SXSW and folks... Kaufman is all for Michael Moore! So without further ado, here's the report!!!!
Michael Moore's book signing tour brought him here to Ann Arbor today for the 40th Annual Ann Arbor Film Festival, and during the book signing I happened to snap this picture of him with this book I have been reading. As soon as he saw it his face lit up and he said "Oh man, this guy's great!" He really had a lot of nice things to say about you. When I told him I was planning on sending you the picture, he said to be sure to tell you that he says "Hi"
Anyway... As a treat for the festival he premiered "Bowling for Columbine" in it's entirety. It was a rough cut but it was complete. I read on AICN that he played clips from it recently, but not the whole film. What I saw was just about an hour and a half long, he explained that it was a rough cut, taken from the avid machine, and that the stock footage still had "watermarks" on them, because he hadn't actually paid for them yet. And that the sound was a little rough in spots. It was really interesting to see a work print like this, all of the news clips had the source printed on them with white letters along the bottom, and the whole thing had the avid counter along the bottom.
That said, I have to say I was really, really impressed, quite possibly his best film to date. I have heard it described as a "anti-gun" movie, and I think labeling it as such really does an injustice to the film, Moore mentions several times that he is a member of the NRA, and showed pictures of himself as a youth, gun in one hand, NRA Marksman award in the other. No, I don't think the goal of this film is gun control, but attitude control. If we as a nation are going to have all these guns and all this ammo lying around, then maybe we all need to mellow out just a tad... And not be so quick to empty our holsters.
The main theme here seems to be violence in America, and what separates us from other countries. Why is the violent death rate so astronomically higher in America then it is anywhere else on the planet. What is it that makes us so different? What is that elusive quality that makes us so special?
That is the question at the heart of the film.
And Moore's quest eventually does give a possible reason, one that I personally feel is dead on, but, I won't spoil it for you here. But it involves two white guys walking around in South Centeral L.A. eventually making it to the intersection where Reginold Denny was dragged out of his truck, signaling the start of the LA riots, and do you know what happens to the two white guys? Well contrary to what you might expect, what you've been told... nothing happens, nothing at all...
The film was at times hilarious, and at times incredibly brutal and violent, with some of the most horrific real life "caught on tape" violence I have ever seen. Including a section of film captured by the Columbine security cameras, played to the sounds of the 911 calls from the day. And although you thankfully never see actual murder, you do see the terror and watch as shots are fired, over and over... It was really pretty hard to watch, seemed to go on forever... but, it was handled respectfully.
The film also features appearances by James Nichols, brother of Oklahoma City bomber Terry Nicholas, who was a suspect himself but was released for lack of evidence. Maryiln Manson, Charelton Heston, And indentured servant baron Dick Clark.
What? Indentured servant Baron Dick Clark? What does that mean? Come on America's Golden boy Dick Clark can't be involved with anything shady... Can he? Well it appears that here in Michigan, we have this wonderful program, referred to as the "Work for Welfare" program and what we do, is we take people on welfare and we make them pay off their debt to us, the tax payers, by busing them up to exclusively rich areas like Auburn Hills and putting them to work in Dick Clark's Resturants. Makes all the sense in the world doesn't it? It truly is a win win situation, except that for one single mother it meant a bus ride of over 80 miles a day, for a welfare check that couldn't even pay rent... And kept her away from her son for days on end. How could she know that her 6 year old son had found a gun at her brother's house, when he was asleep before she got home from "work", how could she know that he decided to take it to school, when she was on the bus to "work" before he was even awake? And what was it like for her when word made it's way from Flint to Auburn Hills that her son had just entered the Guinness book of world records as the youngest school shooter? I wonder if Dick Clark gave her a leave of absence or if he called the governor and just got a replacement welfare worker?
Okay, that was more of a rant than a film review, but it is that sort of topic that has always made Moore's work, work. For some reason this sequence brought to mind the man from "Roger and Me" whose job it was to evict people, Moore handles it with dignity as his camera shines light on the insanity of a system gone very very wrong.
The quest for the answer to why America is #1 in the violent death department takes Moore to Canada, where the American and Canadian cultures are compared side by side... We learn that Canada has plenty of guns, plenty of poverty, plenty of different races, plenty of violent movies... And yet not a whole lot of violent crime. How can this be? Canada has all of the things the media and politicians blame our "culture of violence" on, but yet they can go to sleep without locking (or triple locking) their doors at night. It is a thing of beauty to watch Moore tear down the myths of pop cultures influence on violence in America. At one point he says "Heck! Most of the violent video games are created in Japan, a country which suffered 17 gun related deaths last year"
Moore also travels to Windsor, the Canadian city directly across the water from Detroit (They are seriously a stones throw away from each other) where we learn that last year they had one gun related homicide, and that was committed by someone from Detroit who came across the bridge! One of the film's highlights has two of the survivors of the Columbine shooting going to K-Mart corporate headquarters here in Michigan, to "return" the K-Mart bullets that are still stuck inside their bodies from the shooting. The students beg the representative to stop selling hand gun ammunition, but there is the usual, "I'm sorry Mr. So and So is out of town for the week" blow off that we have all seen Moore suffer in the past, but the next day they return, and this time with an army of news crews, and this time are very quickly meet by a Marketing Vice President who informs them that they K-Mart will stop selling handgun ammunition within 90 days... Of course Moore then points out that K-Mart went bankrupt almost immediately following this decision.
There was a lot more to this film, including a fantastic "stick it to 'em" ending surprise... but I'll save it for you to see. In short, the documentary is definitely worth watching, it's heartfelt, witty and thought provoking.
Here's another look at Michael's new documentary!!!
Hi there AICN,
Michael Moore, the director of the acclaimed "Roger and Me" and not so acclaimed "Canadian Bacon," author of "Downsize This," star of "TV Nation", and persistent advocate of the American blue collar worker and generally liberal social agenda, was in Ann Arbor, Michigan today purportedly to give a brief talk and promote his new book "Stupid White Men" which is currently selling like hotcakes according to the various publishing charts. Instead of simply giving what must by now be his well practiced critique of the hierarchical hypocrisies of American life, however, (and he was really preaching to the choir in Ann Arbor, e.g., people cheered when the suggestion of an anarchy club came up,) he surprised us all by showing us a rough cut of his next documentary which he said should be coming out sometime in the next year. Moore said that screening one of his films for an Ann Arbor audience was a sort of coming full circle for him, as growing up in Flint he used to come down to film festivals thrown in the city and had some of his earliest and most positive film experiences in the theaters surrounding the university. Moore had the stage presence of a natural born performer, combining humor, humility, articulateness, and a passion for his views in what amounted to an outstanding presentation. His only faux pas of the evening was wearing a bright green Michigan State ball cap which elicited a handful of boos and hisses from the audience.
But onto the documentary. Currently entitled "Bowling for Columbine," the roughly two hour film features Moore essentially asking the question "Why is there such an inordinately high level of gun violence in the United States?" Sequences include interviews with members of the Michigan militia, community members of Littleton, Colorado (site of the Columbine shootings,) and Terry Nicols' (convicted for his participation in the Oklahoma City bombing) brother just to name a few. Moore explores all facets of the question and intelligently avoids easy answers; is it movies and music that are causing the high level of casualties? In asking this question Moore interviews Marilyn Manson (a frequent scapegoat for rogue teenager activity) and deftly points out that the same movies, video games, and music is seen and heard in places like Germany, Japan, and Canada, all countries with significantly lower rates of gun violence. Is it simply access to guns that make violence more prevalent? While Moore clearly shows an implied sympathy to this argument, he acquiesces that guns aren't too hard to get in Canada either so there has to be more to the problem than simply easy access to guns. Again, Moore deserves applause for refusing to put forward an oversimplified answer to a truly complex question.
"Bowling for Columbine" exudes an informed sense of humor that is prevalent in Moore's earlier documentaries. The film appreciates the ironies of the situations it presents, and allows the audience in on the joke without slamming it in our face with an obnoxious punch line. Instead, Moore tends to allow his subjects to dig their own graves, so to speak. By this I mean that he has an real talent for asking innocent and open ended questions to his interviewees who in turn give bizarre and incriminating replies that tend to make the filmmaker's point for him. The film follows an arc similar to that of "Roger and Me," including a climatic confrontation between Moore and exactly who you'd hope to see in a movie dealing with issues of gun control and gun violence.
Although the version we saw was not the final one, it was close enough to completion to make it clear that Moore has another outstanding feature on his hands. After all of the drivel turned out by most of the studios these days, I'm hoping this will get a wide enough release to make it possible for fans of smart, curious, and well executed movies to get to see it.
Call me Wolvesq.