Friday, October 30, 2009

Moore returns to his roots in 'Capitalism'

Incendiary documentary filmmaker Michael Moore has become so polarizing that there almost isn’t much of a point in even reviewing his films. No matter what I say about his latest film, “Capitalism: A Love Story,” I will not sway anyone's opinion on him.

Throughout his career, Moore has been accused of being one-sided, but following “Fahrenheit 9/11,” his most controversial and slanted film, he is unable to get the opposite side of the conversation simply because they won’t talk to him. People know exactly what he stands for and what he represents.

This was not always the case. In Moore’s earlier films like “Roger and Me,” “The Big One” and even “Bowling for Columbine,” he was able to get people on camera that represented his opposing view. Unfortunately, Moore has become his own worst enemy, and his reputation precedes him.

Moore has been accused of not being a true documentary filmmaker because he doesn’t take an objective view on his subjects. There is a misconception that a documentary is a representation of life as it truly is, but all documentaries have a point of view on their subjects. Moore is just more blatant about his perspective. His films are the equivalent of an opinion page editorial.

“Capitalism,” his eighth film in 20 years, is in many ways the first true sequel to his first film, “Roger and Me,” in which he desperately tried to talk to GM CEO
Roger Smith about the harm he did to his hometown of Flint, Mich.

Many of the themes explored in that film resurface in “Capitalism,” which attempt to reveal the dangers of unchecked capitalism in the United States. Moore even quotes himself by showing footage from the earlier film.

The new film presents plenty of examples of capitalism run amok that are certainly disturbing and feel less manipulated than in his previous films. Doing your own outside research wouldn’t be a bad thing, though. Moore would probably applaud that initiative. The goals of his films are to raise issues and get people talking.

Most of the final half of the film focuses on the economic crisis that came seemingly out of nowhere this time last year. Moore offers an explanation of why it happened that is perhaps an over-simplification, but that will be helpful to those who are still confused by the whole debacle.

In getting his message across, Moore is up to a lot of his old tricks including the ironically-placed music on the soundtrack, the color commentary and stagey antics — like going to all the banks that received bailout money asking for the taxpayers’ money back.

This time around the glibness and bitterness that turned many people off in “Fahrenheit 9/11” is downplayed and the film is closer in spirit to his first films. There are plenty of cheap shots and gimmicky laughs, but it feels less mean-spirited.

It is too bad that Moore almost can’t help himself from demonizing George W. Bush and lionizing Barack Obama, as it undermines his case. Moore does a good job showing that the capitalist system in America is terribly flawed, and few would refute that, but his treatment of the former and current presidents may cause some people to dismiss him as a liberal crackpot.

No matter what your political leanings are, “Capitalism” is worth a look, if only for the discussions and debates the film will stir.

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