Saturday, October 3, 2009
Not interested any Moore?
So what's happened to Michael Moore in the last two years that makes me not very interested in seeing his latest movie?
When Sicko came out in 2007, I saw it in the theater, and was incredibly moved by it, even if Moore was certainly manipulating my emotions with that whole "taking patients to Cuba to get treatment" scene. I liked the film a lot better than Fahrenheit 9/11, which I thought gave too much ammunition to Moore's critics, and I ended up ranking it in my top 10 for the year.
If anything, Moore's profile should have only improved since then, as Sicko can probably be viewed as some kind of catalyst for the health care debate that's currently dividing the country. Certainly, the election of a progressive Democrat to the White House plays a larger role, but let it not be said that Moore's movie played no role in getting this discussion going.
But maybe I've put my finger on it in that last paragraph. Maybe the election of a progressive Democrat to the White House has reduced Moore's relevance. Maybe his primary function was as a fly in Bush's ointment, as a rallying cry on the liberal side. After all, Moore's last three films -- the period when he gained international celebrity/notoriety -- all came during the Bush administration. Now that the liberals have rallied, and elected Barack Obama, maybe there's just not as much room for Michael Moore (no size jokes please) as there once was.
Then again, today's release of Capitalism: A Love Story is also well timed, in a way. After Obama got an initial honeymoon of about three to four months, the Republican backlash has hit him hard. All those people who called him Barack Hussein Obama last fall have come back out of the woodwork, their thinly veiled racism as thinly veiled as ever. They've poured into town hall meetings to throw the world "socialism" around, and basically created the appearance that the vast majority of Americans do not want the health care reform that would benefit most of those making the protests.
So is this a deceptively appropriate moment for Moore to rise again?
Well, it's hard to say, especially when Moore himself doesn't think so. In fact, the man has gone on record recently saying he may be finished with documentaries, at least for now. Before Glenn Beck and Bill O'Reilly go doing a victory dance on their anchor desks, they should know that Moore will probably touch on his familiar liberal concerns in the fiction films he's discussed making after his documentary career ends.
And maybe that's part of why Capitalism doesn't interest me that much, either: Even the man considers himself done, and wants to leave the scene before he becomes a parody of himself, if he hasn't already. I think when I saw the first trailers for Capitalism, I thought, "Oh here we go again -- Michael Moore and his microphone doing something outrageous." And this reaction is from one of his ideological soul mates, mind you. However effective your gimmick -- and I don't really mean to insult Moore by calling it a gimmick -- is, it always gets tired eventually. Like if we see Sacha Baron Cohen haul out yet another character he wants to send out to shock and offend people, we'll probably react to it even more negatively than we reacted to Bruno (which I still haven't seen).
But then there's the part of me that worries about that Beck/O'Reilly victory dance. Any tendency to recede from the public eye on Moore's part could easily be viewed as Moore "giving up," as a victory for conservatives. The last thing I want to do is let the conservatives think they fatally wounded their target last year when the execrable An American Carol was released. You may remember me discussing it here, but if not, I'll synopsize: A thinly-veiled -- okay, not veiled -- Michael Moore clone named Michael Malone wants to boycott the 4th of July because of his rampant anti-Americanism. (See, Moore is always accused by his critics of being unAmerican). What results is a sort of Naked Gun-style, heavily conservative spoof of A Christmas Carol, in which Malone receives his comeuppance (and numerous physical pratfalls) in the course of being visited by three ghosts, all played by famous conservatives (Kelsey Grammer, Jon Voight, Trace Adkins, etc.). The movie was downright terrible -- I'd like to think I would have ranked it last for the year on execution alone, even if I hadn't disagreed with its politics. But with Moore announcing that he's getting out of the game less than a year after its release, both the filmmakers and the film's ideological supporters will probably think An American Carol had something to do with it. Conveniently ignoring, of course, the massive victory Moore scored over them when Obama was elected president.
So I'd like nothing more than to contribute to a large box office haul for Capitalism: A Love Story this weekend, the same way I wanted to stick it to the religious people who boycotted The Golden Compass by boosting that film's box office.
But I just don't think I will, and I don't think I'll be the only one of Moore's former flock to make that decision. I've got too many other movies I'd like to see first -- Zombieland, Paranormal Activity, Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, Big Fan, Whip It, The Informant! ... the list staggers me without even including Capitalism. If other liberal movie fans are in my camp, and feel barraged by a surprising number of September releases they need to see, the movie may struggle to make $5 million.
Well, I guess we'll just have to be satisfied with our Democratic president and our Democratic majorities in the House and Senate. If we're still measuring our successes by the zingers Moore scores, and are so easily agitated by the conservative windbags who try to get under our skin, then we're just dropping down to their level.
And I for one am interested to see Moore's next attempt at a fiction film. I haven't actually seen the much-maligned John Candy vehicle Canadian Bacon, but it can't be the best he has to offer, can it?