* (out of 5)
June 25, 2004
Michael Moore as HIMSELF
George W. Bush as HIMSELF
Studio: Lion’s Gate Films
Directed by: Michael Moore
BY KEVIN CARR
What can I say about “Fahrenheit 9/11” that you can’t already guess? If you are in line with Michael Moore’s politics, you’re gonna love this movie. But if you disagree with him – or maybe even find yourself somewhere in the middle – you just might find this the most grossly speculative, obnoxious, racist, obscured and hate-filled movie yet.
The movie opens with a temper tantrum about the 2000 election, where Moore accuses George W. Bush of having his brother and other buddies fix the results by locking out African American voters. However, he commits some pretty major sins of omission. I remember election night 2000 well, and my memory doesn’t quite jive with what Moore says.
All the networks had a neck-and-neck race between Gore and Bush. Then, everyone but FOX declared that Gore won Florida too early. Only after FOX declared Bush the winner did the other networks take the time to put Florida back in the air. As Moore portrays it, Gore was winning hands-down before Bush undermined the victory with some help from FOX News.
With this sloppy presentation of the facts – even before the credits roll – on something we should all remember, I can’t help but wonder how accurate or truthful the rest of the film is. Case in point, Moore shows footage reportedly shot on March 19, 2003 in Baghdad, right before the American invasion. It shows kids playing, women smiling and families eating together. Apparently Moore didn’t have any footage of torture chambers, rape rooms or mass Kurdish graves to throw in as well.
Oh yeah, I forgot. That doesn’t fit in his agenda. So, let’s not “document” those facts.
Most people forget that Michael Moore has had a problem with accuracy, dating all the way back to “Roger & Me.” In fact, he’s come under fire more than once in the film community for playing fast and loose with the unwritten rules of documentary filmmaking. (After all, can you really claim you “wrote” a documentary?) But with “Fahrenheit 9/11,” he takes it to a new level.
Scenes are taken out of context to deliberately make soldiers look like murderous psychopaths or irate malcontents. Most of the film itself is spent showing clips of Bush and company that make them look foolish. Here’s a news flash for you: it doesn’t take a genius to make a public official look like a boob. With thousands of hours of press coverage and archival footage, there’s plenty of stammering to go around.
At times, Moore completely abandons any pretext of a documentary and slips into fiction by literally putting words into Bush’s mouth and thoughts into the man’s head. Moore skewers Bush for reading a book to elementary school kids while planes were flying into the World Trade Center. He even goes as far to narrate a voice over for the President while he sits for seven minutes, letting the news sink in. Moore criticizes Bush for not reacting, but I don’t know what Moore was expecting? Did he want to see Bush rocket away from the school, terrifying teachers and kids, with no more information than what was on CNN? Personally, I prefer a President that would collect his thoughts before taking rash action.
The bottom line is that “Fahrenheit 9/11” is nothing short of yellow journalism. In fact, it’s worse. It’s yellow journalism masquerading as a investigative reporting. It is Michael Moore’s desperate attempt to justify his Oscar speech. The film itself bogs down in many places and weaves a conspiracy theory that Art Bell would be proud of. Moore is on his way to be this decade’s Barbra Streisand.
In order to keep the mood light in the wake of such heavy subject matter, Moore tries to recreate the whimsical magic he had in “Roger & Me” by following Marine recruiters, asking Congressmen to enlist their kids in the war effort and conduct an interview in front of the Saudi embassy before the Secret Service sends him on his way. These moments actually slow the film down and should have been left on the cutting room floor, but they appear to be left in because it’s the only source of levity in the movie.
Much of this film shows the ugly side of war. But remember that the purpose of the military is to kill people and break things. War is an ugly business. So maybe Michael Moore simply wanted to lash out against war. Well, where was he during Clinton’s administration when he was lobbing missiles into Sudanese aspirin factories and sending our soldiers to die in Somalia? Oh yeah, he was writing books about stupid white men who hate America.
“Fahrenheit 9/11” is a film full of hate. Hate for Bush. Hate for the war on terror. Hate for pretty much everyone but Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden. Moore blames George W. Bush and his father for everything from the lack of state troopers in Oregon to the miserable economy in Flint, Michigan. I’ll bet Roger Smith is glad that the Bush boys can now take the blame for this.
But, this film won the Palm d’Or at Cannes and received a twenty minute standing ovation. Well, I’m stunned that a group of elite liberal Hollywood art house fans at a French film festival loved this movie.
The absolute worst part of the film is Moore’s vampiric treatment of Lili, a woman from Moore’s home town of Flint, whose son served in Iraq. Through the first part of the film, Moore presents her as the proud soldier’s mom. Sure, she’s a bit of a flake, but she’s a loveable flake. However, after her son is killed in combat, Moore keeps the camera jammed in her face and forces the audience through her grief. In one scene where she visits the White House after her son’s death, she breaks down into an emotional mess. To me, this was more sickening to watch than the “horrors of war” footage showing death and mutilations.
I have two kids, and I cannot imagine the amount of grief a parent can feel at the loss of a child for any reason. And I do not belittle the pain the parents of our country’s fallen soldiers go through. But to use their raw, unfettered emotion as a blatant commercial for the Democratic party is just plain crass.
Shame on you, Mr. Moore. Shame on you.