2004-07-16 / Columnists

MovieScope By Robert Snyder

MovieScope By Robert Snyder

‘Fahrenheit 9/11’ – Hot Doc

Filmmaker Michael Moore must be doing something right. His decidedly anti-Bush diatribe, "Fahrenheit 9/11," has broken records as the highest grossing documentary ever. Since its June 23 release, the movie has made more than Moore’s Oscar-winning "Bowling for Columbine" on that film’s entire run.

Why is the public flocking to "Fahrenheit" even in traditionally Bushite areas? Could it be the Cannes Palme d’Or win? Not likely. It will help with the urbane, highbrow audiences, but most Americans aren’t impressed by a film festival in France.

"Fahrenheit" is attracting crowds because of  the man who should hate it most: George W. Bush, the film’s center-piece. As the Presidential election approaches, the public is growing increasingly impatient with the Iraqi war. Moore is more than happy to fuel the ballooning opposition.

He does so in his comically one-sided, mean-spirited way. Like "Candid Camera’s" Allen Funt, Moore makes funny, sarcastic behavioral interpretations of his victims in off-moments, who happen to be the President and his cabinet members (although sometimes Bush and his buddies make fools of themselves without Moore’s help).

Still, it’s a cheap shot.

Most people look foolish when they’re messing around supposedly off-camera (see Will Ferrell in "Anchorman"). One of Moore’s big putdowns is when the President is sitting in an elementary school classroom listening to students read when the second Twin Tower is struck. Bush doesn’t jump about like Chicken Little. He keeps cool and lets the children finish their exercise. To Moore, this is unconscionable. I guess he expected the leader of free world to take charge, John Wayne-style. Maybe, Moore has seen too many movies.

Because "Fahrenheit 9/11" isn’t serious, objective journalism, it must be judged as entertainment.

On those terms, the filmmaker has a few funny moments, as when he drives around Washington, D.C., in an ice cream truck broadcasting segments of the "Patriot Act" in hopes that congressmen, who didn’t read it, will hear it.

But much of the movie is spent expressing outrage over the Bush family connection to the Saudis.…in particular, the bin Ladens. While many of the revelations were designed to shock, the relentless exposé of the paper trials put much of the audience at the Green Acres Cinema to sleep at a Saturday night screening. Also, a montage of photo ops with Bush senior and Bush junior courting Arab sheiks is somewhat meaningless, because the same could be shown of all recent U.S. Presidents.

Moore goes for the jugular, when he personally approaches congressmen and asks them to recruit their sons to fight in Iraq. He may be unwittingly lobbying for a draft, because Moore’s rationale that an all-volunteer military targets the lower class is the identical one used by Rep. Charles Rangel and Senator Fritz Hollings in proposing  current conscription legislation. Oops!

The saddest segments show the brutal impact of the war. Limbless hospitalized soldiers try to keep their spirits up and find justification for Operation Iraqi Freedom.

A once-optimistic Marine mother, Lila Lipscomb, is overcome with grief over the news of her son’s death in Iraq.

Moore milks Ms. Libscomb for every emotional moment as she rails with outrage outside the White House. At that point, Moore lets the entertainment level evaporate.

We’re looking at a reality, which is beyond picking on politicians.

"Fahrenheit 9/11" is a hot documentary, which tends to make fun of an issue that is no laughing matter.

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