Tuesday, July 20, 2004

I'll be out of town for most of this week, but I'll make the obligatory comments on Farenheit 9/11 before I go.  Every other blogger has weighed in, so I might as well.

First, let me make a disclaimer.  I'm a San Francisco latte lovin' liberal.  I've voted Democratic or Green in every election I've ever voted.  Although I'm not a card-carrying member of the ACLU, my wife is, so that probably covers our household.  Bush's cowboy-inspired attitude towards the war in Iraq has always scared me as does the Bush Doctrine in general.  I don't necessarily think that Bush is an evil idiot, but I'd appreciate it if he spent less time trying to prove me wrong on that point.
So I didn't go into the theater looking to pick a fight with Michael Moore, yet as the movie went on, I found myself more and more annoyed with it.  How can a movie that fundamentally expresses my point of view do such a crappy job of making me agree with it?  Here's how:

1) The movie constantly attempts to make Bush look stupid by finding footage where he has a befuddled expression on his face.  Man, that's like shooting fish in a barrel.  How about instead showing how his policies have bankrupted our nation?  Or maybe show how he changes his mind on every important topic.

2) Michael Moore constantly intercuts serious scenes with scenes of Bush making jokes.  As someone who has often gotten in trouble for making jokes at an inappropriate time, I'm inclined to cut Bush a little slack here.  Obviously being President takes a little decorum (it's hard to fathom that his ambassadorial-puking father gets higher decorum marks than Dubya does), but having a sense of humor is not an impeachable offense.

3) Moore shows us dozens of scenes of the armed forces in Iraq being irreverant about their job.  They play music in their tanks and seem to ignore the gravity of the war.  Mr. Moore, I've never been in a war, but I suspect that if the armed forces were filled with grief-ridden soldiers who carefully weighed the consequences of each bullet they fired, we would not have an effective fighting force.  The low-level troops need to obey their orders.  They have been trained to be an army, not grief counselors.  The careful contemplation is what's missing at the higher levels of authority.

4) The emotional center of the movie is a woman whose family has had a proud tradition of serving in the armed forces.  Consequently she is pleased and proud that her children have done the same.  By the end of the movie, her son has died in Iraq and she feels cheated by a government that sent her son into an unnecessary war.  Her sorrow brought tears to many members of the audience and her anger left a lasting impression.  This type of footage tear-jerking footage works for many people, but personally, I get swayed by more analytical arguments.  Her story, however, was undeniably moving.

5) Much is made of the Bush family's relationship with various influential Saudis, including members of the Bin Laden family.  Moore documents several instances where the Bush family was financially tied to the Saudis and he implies that the Saudis were merely investing in the Bush's to ensure their access to powerful political forces in the U.S..  This is not a crime, nor is it surprising.  Moore shows us how the Saudis have gotten special treatment in recent years, but there's no evidence that the Saudis have done anything wrong.  This appears to me to be just one example of money buying influence in Washington.  It's unfortunate, but there are a million of these stories in our government.  Moore closes this chapter by showing us a dozen pieces of footage where Bush and Bush Sr. shake hands with various Saudis.  Scandalous.  Hands must not be shook!

6) Moore mocks the Coalition of the Willing and lists the members of the Coalition.  For humor's sake, he leaves out every single country that actually has an army and focuses entirely on militarily insignificant countries like the Republic of Palau.  The Coalition was already small enough and mock-worthy enough that he didn't have to leave out the major players.  That type of omission just makes the film look EVEN MORE biased.  You see that scene and you think to yourself, "Well, if he left out England, what is he leaving out in all the other parts of the documentary?".

Note that not everything in the movie disappointed me.  The scenes showing how Bush was unable to figure if he should excuse himself from an elementary school after the World Trade Center got bombed were priceless.  Moore's comments about Bush being confused when his handlers and advisors weren't around were compelling.  Bush clearly comes across as a lightweight in this movie.

I was just disappointed that Moore so often took the easy route.  We got a smattering of facts and some funny footage, but I wanted a more analytical movie.  I wanted an appeal to logic and common sense instead of tear-jerking and pot shots. 

I realize, of course, that a documentary mired in the details of policy and low-level documents isn't going to make $100,000,000 at the box office.  This one probably will.

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