A and A's Movie A Day

Watching movies until we run out.

Movie 552 – Fahrenheit 9/11

Fahrenheit 9/11 – September 3rd, 2011

I refused to watch this for the 9th 9/11/01 anniversary last year and damn sure I refuse to watch it for the 10th anniversary this year. Honestly, I believe that the people who died and the people who were injured and the lasting impact the attacks have had on our country deserve a better memorial than a sensationalist Michael Moore documentary. A week from tomorrow I plan on doing some heavy reading and thinking and I plan on watching something that has little to nothing to do with the events of ten years ago because nothing we own is really suitable and it would be cheap of us to claim that it is. This? Certainly isn’t. It’s not about 9/11. It’s about Bush. It’s all well and good to criticize the man. I’m nowhere near a fan of his. But on the anniversary, I’d rather think of the people in New York and DC and the people on the planes, not George W. Bush.

I will tell you my own experience on 9/11: We hadn’t seen the news. We hadn’t turned on the television or checked our email. We’d planned what to make for dinner and gone to the market and been confused by the huge crowds of people. Then we’d gone by our workplace and stayed there, watching the towers fall on the television in the back room. And I watched the unthinkable and felt my legs give out. I had friends who worked right there. I had friends who lived in the area. We went to my alma mater and found our friends and brought them to our apartment. We clung to each other and waited to hear from our New York and DC friends. Andy got sick. I took care of him. And one month later, when I was working in the library, I met most of my coworkers for the first time while we evacuated the building due to a bomb threat on the one month anniversary. I was not directly affected, but the long-term effects have touched me and everyone else in the country.

And that’s largely what this documentary is about. It’s not all it’s about because it’s about a whole hell of a lot of things. In fact, it’s about so many things I’m not entirely sure whether it has a single topic other than “George W. Bush sucked and 9/11 was his fault and look at all this shit that happened after!” Which is remarkably unfocused when you get down to it. It’s such a nebulous sort of concept that’s really far bigger than a two hour long movie. To be honest, I think a miniseries would have been a better forum for this sort of topic. Spend an hour on military recruiting. Spend an hour on Haliburton. Spend an hour on the ties between the Bushes and various people later shown to be inimical to the United States. Spend an hour on The War on Terror. And so on and so forth. Instead, what this movie does is hop, skip and jump from topic to topic like it’s got no solid message.

You know, this would be a far better documentary without Michael Moore’s voice. I find his delivery and his choice of words so incredibly grating it makes me want to punch him in the face. And technically speaking, he’s on my side! But within ten seconds of the start of this documentary I wanted to turn it off. Moore is a jackass and I find his ego distracting. I find the music choices grating too. They’re too self-consciously ironic. And then there are the clips of things like Dragnet. It’s the same issue I have with Moore’s script and delivery. When he’s narrating facts, he’s fine. When he’s making commentary it’s delivered in this sing-song “told you so” tone that the music echoes and then there’s lighthearted joking attitude the clips provide. It feels like he’s thumbing his nose at something. I just can’t for the life of me imagine what. It’s all just so self-satisfied, and that feels like a very strange attitude to display when talking about such a horrible event that killed so many people. And that ends up making me feel like Moore is using the tragedy without actually paying attention to it. That’s pretty gross.

And the thing is, when the documentary is showing commentary from soldiers and from people on the streets in both the US and in Iraq, when it’s interviewing people and showing news footage and the like? That tells the story Moore is aiming for far more effectively than Moore himself does. Whenever he goes adding ironic visuals or making commentary it just makes the whole thing seem like a joke. The bit where he shows horrible dated racial stereotypes for each of the “Coalition of the Willing” countries? No. Just. No. You’ve just invalidated your message. You’ve just shown your ass. Pull up your pants and walk away. Now, let’s get things straight: I hate the US PATRIOT act. I hate it professionally. The increasingly intrusive security measures at airports (by many accounts inadequately tested, ineffectual and needlessly invasive) make me more leery of flying than the hijackings did. But I was already pissed off about those. I didn’t need Michael Moore to clumsily come tell me what to think by using tactics too obnoxious for even FOX News to contemplate.

It’s a mess of a documentary and I honestly believe the only reason it got the accolades that it got was because Moore is loud and has made a name for himself and that makes his stuff easy to sell to people who don’t want to go saying things themselves. But volume and attitude do not a good documentarian make. And I always feel like by criticizing him I’m betraying my own side, but I’m not. I feel he is a poor mouthpiece for the well-earned criticism of Bush and the war and the effects it’s all had. He’s alienating and smug and then when people don’t want to engage with him he can argue that they’re hiding from the truth, when really, they might as well just be hiding from him because he’s obnoxious and clearly looking for a gotcha moment. That doesn’t make for a convincing argument. That just makes for a morass of frustration.

September 3, 2011 Posted by | daily reviews | , , | Leave a comment

Fahrenheit 9/11

September 3, 2011

Fahrenheit 9/11

It’s a little early, yes, but we wanted to watch this movie before September 11th so that we could quickly wash the bad taste from out mouths and go back to forgetting Michael Moore exists. I think it’s safe to say that Amanda and I have both been dreading watching this movie. It’s in our collection, so we have to watch it, but that doesn’t mean we like it. It’s sensationalist hate-mongering, and I say that from my position as one of the most politically liberal people I know. I bought it because, well, it’s the big documentary that purported to expose Bush’s incompetence in the face of the events of September 11th and I wanted to see what its argument was. Sadly it doesn’t really have an argument – it’s just speculation and hearsay that is given some gravitas from an association with one of the most dreadful events to occur in my lifetime.

As with everyone who was around ten years ago I have vivid and painful memories of September 11th 2001. My very first reaction when I heard about the attacks on the World Trade Center was to comment to Amanda and our friend Gary “Well, Bush got his war.” My feeling has always been that the events of September 11th saved the Bush presidency and were the best possible thing to happen to him and his allies in the Republican party. I have always felt, and this is purely speculation on my part, that if Bush and company had known about the September 11th attacks beforehand they would have every reason to allow them to go forward.

George W. Bush was a joke as a president. He desperately needed an excuse to go to war, and I’ve always known that. I very much doubt that there will ever be anything approaching hard evidence to show complicity in those attacks, though. Certainly this “documentary” is not damning evidence of any kind.

Michael Moore is not in the habit of carefully crafting a well reasoned argument or presenting evidence to support his point of view. Instead his shtick is to combine tangentially related human interest stories (such as the Oregon state trooper who works part time to monitor the coastline and is not trained to stop terrorist attacks) with sensationalist stunts (like reading the Patriot Act through a megaphone while riding through the streets of Washington in an ice cream truck.)

What frustrated me most about this movie the first time I watched it was how scattershot it is. Moore has no attention span as a film maker. He edits drunkenly from war torn Iraq to Marine recruiting in poor Chicago neighborhoods to wounded soldiers at Walter Reed – but he never stays anywhere long enough to actually build any coherent picture from these little stories. There are a lot of powerful human moments here, but they’re overshadowed by Moore’s ham-fisted attempts to wedge them into his poorly reasoned attempts to link Bush to all these atrocities. It sickens me because it’s not just manipulative – it’s using the stories of these innocent people to further Moore’s manipulations.

The infuriating thing is that I actually believe that Moore is right. George W. Bush was a terrible President with an agenda that resulted in thousands of deaths. He drove our country into the ground and lined the pockets of the ultra-rich who put him in power. This movie doesn’t do a very good job of building a case for that though, although I can tell that this is what Moore is trying to say. God dammit, Michael Moore you obnoxious self-satisfied rabble-rouser: stop agreeing with me!

September 3, 2011 Posted by | daily reviews | , , | Leave a comment