Published at: June 24, 2004, 2:08 a.m. CST by staff
Ahoy, squirts! Quint here with one seaman's opinion of Michael Moore's FAHRENHEIT 9/11 which has been stirring up the shit for quite some time and comes out this weekend. You folks already know what the film is about, so I'll spare you the press kit synopsis.
I am liberal, having grown up in a house where I could choose my own religion, not bred to believe one over another, where reading books and watching movies were never censored. My mother grew up in the hippy days and wanted for nothing more than to go to Woodstock and protest for peace while listening to Jefferson Airplane, but her parents were as conservative as they come and wouldn't let any daughter of theirs join such un-American activities. She is one of the kindest people I know, unfortunately that makes her a target for some people and she's constantly being taken advantage of and screwed over.
I mention all of this only to give you folks an understanding of my personal life. One of the reasons I respect Michael Moore is because before he put on the political hat, he was going after the very people that have fucked over my mom her entire working life. I didn't grow up in the gutter or on Skid Row, but we were always one step away from that life. My mom was a single mother raising me and held down 2 or more jobs at a time to keep us from poverty. Michael Moore in ROGER AND ME and THE BIG ONE was going after the super-rich who have no compunction about laying off long-time employees in order to get that millions plus raise.
I have been looking forward to FAHRENHEIT 9/11 since I first heard its announcement and yes, the movie is preaching to the choir in my case. I didn't vote for Bush last election and I will not vote for him this one. This is the first presidency in my life time that has me scared. They are giving themselves more power and giving us less all in the name of protection.
Some of the criticism of the documentary that I've read so far is that Moore will bring up stuff like the Bush ties to Bin Laden's family or the thousands of election deciding votes that were thrown out in Florida and then drop it to move onto the actual war or the family of a lost soldier or more of Bush being a supreme douche. I think that some reviewers are missing that this documentary isn't about dwelling on a particular shitty thing Bush has done, rather it's a package of why this is an untrustworthy administration.
Moore could have easily focused only on the Florida debacle, digging into the Fox News employee who first called Florida for Bush that also happened to work for Bush or why the other networks who all had counted Florida for Gore didn't question this different take on it, but instead he made a film that is essentially an A to B to C of why Bush needs to be removed from office, with a strong focus on the administration's real motives for war and who has to pay for this war in both taxes and lives.
The tone of the film is darker than Moore is known for, but I must give him credit for not filling the first quarter with images of the flaming World Trade Center. He could have easily done so, but he instead settled on touching upon the disaster with a black screen and audio of people reacting. It reminds us of the feelings of disbelief and horror that we all felt that morning in September 2001 without rubbing our faces in it.
That being said, the film does have its light moments if one is so inclined to laugh at Bush's Bushisms. Some will be old hat to those like me who watch The Daily Show religiously (my favorite being the "Fool me once... shame... uh... shame on you. Fool me twice... uh... foolmeahwontgetfooledagain," and some are new. My favorite of the funny stuff is the MAGNIFICENT SEVEN theme montage showing the Bush Administration's views as being strangely akin to vintage westerns' black and white depiction of good and evil.
In honesty, the tone of the documentary shouldn't be any lighter than it is. Any lighter and it might seem a mockery of the near 1,000 dead and those fighting the war overseas right now. Also, the argument that this film was made as an ego boost for Moore is ludicrous. He's in, perhaps, 20% of the film, opting to stay off camera during his interviews, unlike in BOWLING FOR COLUMBINE or any of his films before this. If he was this image crazy madman that people make him out to be, I can't imagine he'd choose to keep his face out of the documentary to the degree he does in this film.
The heart of the documentary lies in Lila Lipscomb, a woman from Moore's hometown of Flynt. She's a conservative democrat and came from a strong military family. She sent a daughter to the Gulf War and suggested to both her other sons that enlisting after 9/11 was their best shot out of that town. Her son was killed in action. The most heartbreaking scene in the film is her reading his last letter, where he was condemning the war and Bush for sending him there. The overall feel among the soldiers, according to this dead boy, is anger at the powers that be. They don't want to be there and don't see a reason for them being there.
Once again, it seems that war is being ordered by safe, rich white men while it's up to the minorities and the lower classes to step up and make the real sacrifices. By all accounts, a draft is going to have to go into effect to finish this war. Being against this war and being within draft age, that gives me every right in the world to be angry at this administration. Moore goes to congressmen to try to get their children to enlist. Of course none of them want to send their children to war. I have one better for Mr. Moore. How about making the upcoming draft multi-tiered, with all the people who voted for Bush put in the first pool for the draft and only dip into those Americans that didn't vote for the one who ordered the war when all the supporters are enlisted?
From about half-way through the doc 'till the end Mrs. Lipscomb pops up, culminating with her in Washington, D.C. where she's verbally attacked by a right winger for being a liar and staging this whole thing for the cameras. The pain and justified anger in Lila's eyes is enough to make you want to physically attack that right winger for being such a crass, cynical asshole to a grieving mother.
The war is getting dirty. There's footage of civilians taking the burning bodies of soldiers and hanging them, limbless from bridges and dragging them behind cars. The soldiers over there right now know it and seem to be falling into two groups. Those that want to get out and those that get an "adrenaline rush" when murdering their enemy. Moore makes it easy to see why we're hated so much after invading. There's a scene with an Iraqi woman standing amidst the rubble of a civilian neighborhood screaming for God to avenge the injustice America has brought upon them. She states that they've had 5 funerals in her family due to American "mistakes." And we wonder why they want us out of there?
No one's saying that civilian casualties can be avoided in war. That's a part of war. That's why you only go to war as A LAST RESORT. Moore compliments this graphic footage of death and destruction by showing who is benefiting from this war. Once again, you can't fault companies like Microsoft for trying to make money in these times. It might be a little shitty, but this is a capitalist country whether or not we're at peace or at war. What you can fault, however, are the direct ties and direct profiting of these companies to the ones who decide to go to war. Halliburton is one of the big boys that the government paid for their bombs and then paid to "rebuild" what their bombs blew up. Isn't it funny that Dick Cheney was once CEO of this company? What a strange coincidence?!?
Like I said above, the movie already had me on its side. Some think that this film doesn't matter one way or the other because those that need to see it and take it seriously will not or can not. I disagree. The mere publicity this movie has gotten up to this point is enough. It's yet one more thing among the 9/11 reports and various small time scandals this administration keeps facing. There's a reason why Bush's approval rating is so low right now. I won't go so far as to say that FAHRENHEIT 9/11 is that reason, but it certainly doesn't help the Bush Administration.
At the end of the day, if one person sees this film and has it all in mind while watching the upcoming debates... if this film even just influences people to consider what kind of person is in charge of the country right now and question his decisions then it wasn't made in vain. I'm proud to be an American. I love the idea of this country, that someone can come from nothing and through determination and a strong work ethic can become whatever they want to be. I love that Michael Moore is free to make this film and you folks below are free to voice your opinions on it. I love it so much I'm scared of losing it and am weary of those that want to take it. It's a good system, but through corruption and greed it's starting to unravel. The rich are becoming richer and the separation between the classes is widening. I, for one, am happy that Moore and people like him are out there to call bullshit on those who need to hear it, be it the President of the United States or the CEO of a greedy company.