Saw Fahrenheit 9/11
Don't read if you don't want to be spoiled.
I had an idea that I would sit down and write everything in the movie that was an indisputable fact and blog them, so that liberals who buy into the conservative myth that one exaggeration or misstep disqualifies an entire argument might be wowed.
To me, it was simple. The facts of what BushCo has done since 9/11 to consolidate power, enrich the rich on the backs of working people, and destroy dissent are not in dispute, not really. The amount of information regarding the situation is overwhelming. If Moore could gather it up, streamline it, and present it in an engaging way, I was ready to hand him his laurels.
A lot of people say that no one will see this movie that isn't already educated in all the crap and already against Bush, but I don't buy that. The fact is that movies reach way more people than any other medium other than TV can. Also, as the movie progressed, it became apparent that even someone who reads the papers every day, hell, even someone who reads the papers, the journals, the blogs, the editorials, and watches the news as well as the Daily Show might get so lost in the bullshit and minutiae that the big picture is hard to grasp. This movie could serve us very well, by presenting some kind of unified version of what's going on, an big picture to get people thinking. That does not mean that it's coercive or simplistic. But a big picture view is necessary, if only to bounce ideas off of.
Well, Moore accomplished what I hoped and a whole lot more. Some friends saw it earlier in the day and called me up and gushed and practically cried. (Beware, pretentious language ahead.) Moore had a lot of information to cram into his movie, but he did so with ease and elegance because he is a genuine auteur. He functions as a great auteur does, with an unwavering vision. And his vision was more clear at the end of this movie than any other of his I've seen--Moore believes in democracy. He believes in it thoroughly, that if we really could achieve a one man one vote society, justice would be possible. He also grasps the uncomfortable concept that in a democracy, what our government does reflects on all of us and effects all of us. We all say it, but Moore really believes it. I really don't get the whole idea that he's a "faux populist"--there was nothing in his behavior or ideas that discredits ordinary Americans at all. And he's the only white media figure I can think of that really understands that race is still a massive problem. You can dispute all sorts of small things with him on race, but he looks at two facts that most white media people won't acknowledge and he does so unflinchingly--that black Americans are disproportionately poor and that black Americans are painted unfavorable as much as possible by the media. Just the fact that he allows black Americans to speak for themselves without some kind of "urban" framing device is so different from most media that you immediately realize how racist most media really is.
Well, I filled out 3 pages, back and front, with notes on what is indisputable fact in the film. That's too much to blog here. Anyway, you watch it and you realize he didn't have to puff up his film with lies, since the truth is overwhelming as it is. So, just a few notes I took that have some bearing on the zeitgeist:
*Few stories are as under-reported as the disenfranchisement of black voters in the 2000 election. Tellingly, a number of representatives stood up and protested that if nothing else, stopping the recount in Florida was racist. Al Gore was a model of fairness, forcing the representatives to obey the rules while betraying sympathy to their cause, which was voter enfranchisement as much as anything. His voice cracked but he never wavered. The representatives uniformly insisted on addressing V.P. Gore as Mr. President. This was the first time I cried, and it was 2 minutes in. I cried, because I know how fond Republicans are saying that if the black vote didn't count....
*The protests at the inauguration were really ugly. Some shots reminded me of the 1968 Democratic convention. The Republican convention in New York is going to be a disaster. I hope that anyone who plans on going takes lots and lots of pictures.
*I didn't know that Bandar and Bush were having dinner on the same day that the Bin Laden family was flown out. I didn't know that Bandar defended this action on TV. There's no denying it.
*He drew on Bowling for Columbine beautifully, taking his theory that we are kept cowed by fear and applying it elegantly to the shop-fear-shop-fear messages that come from BushCo.
*We've all heard the horror stories of how the PATRIOT Act has been used to intimidate ordinary people. Well, you get to see them, and it brings it home how ordinary they are.
*I remembered that we amazed over being allowed to bring a lighter on board months ago at the airport, even though my mother had a nail file confiscated. He addresses this disparity and resolves tons of research in one, very accurate shot to explain why that would be.
*He shows shots of ordinary people in Baghdad. I've read critics who complain that he was arguing that they were free people with these shots. I disagree. It reminded me of an incident a week before we invaded. We were at a happy hour visiting with a friend and he told us that his wife was expecting in 6 months. After a round of congrats, he dug into his backpack and pulled out a bunch of fliers. He handed me one--it was a woman with her hair covered holding a smiling boy no more than 3 in her lap. "These are the people they are going to kill. Please hand out these fliers," he said. I sympathized but felt like no one in my neighborhood was really pro-war so it might be a waste. Make of that what you will.
*Someone needed to do a really good montage of the assertions that Iraq has WMD's juxtaposed with assertions that they never said such a thing. That part of the movie should be excerpted and shown ad nauseum.
*The audience laughed when a guy said the President should know that his policies are killing people, as he personally, dude from Flint, had written an email.
*The people he interviews are rock solid, ordinary American types. The 2nd half of the movie is a love letter to ordinary people. Soliders are given free range to speak their minds. So are their families. The real pain of trying to do the right thing and do your job while knowing that shit is seriously fucked up is explored well and sympathetically. I realize some will disagree, since we actually see what happens when soliders shoot civilians. But I say that this unflinching willness to show the violence in Iraq is the only way to give the soliders credit; otherwise it's easy to discount how miserable we're really making their lives.
Impressions. Go see the movie!