Friday, June 25, 2004

Celsius 488.3

Was in Dallas’s first showing of Michael Moore’s Fahrenheit 9/11 this afternoon. I was surprised that in our very conservative village, there wasn’t more hoopla on its opening day. There was no line when we bought our tickets just less than an hour before show time. However, after walking around West Village for about twenty minutes, the press was beginning to arrive, interviewing ticket buyers in the lobby. The auditorium was crowded; the show was very nearly, if not completely, sold-out.

Throughout the next two hours, Moore convincingly argued the obvious. The most damning evidence against Bush was unedited footage of Bush speaking without Moore’s commentary. Or when Moore let the soldiers or the veterans of the war speak for themselves. Their words underscored their lack of experience and insight as well as their deplorable naïveté. However, Moore, although indicting not just President Bush and his warmongering cabal but the Democratic Party, the media, and corporate America as well, expresses great sympathy for our servicemen and women who are actually carrying out this administration’s seriously flawed policy.

The cuts and shifts in narrative were very well done and worked well to advance Moore’s gadfly politicking (of which I am a fan). I, however, would have preferred a bit more cinematic touch to the scene when Bush hears of the planes slamming into the World Trade Center while Moore ponders just what was going on in the president’s mind. Instead, a more compelling scene would have been footage of Bush reading with the children in Florida with audio from New York, or even vice-versa: minute-by-minute footage of New York/Washington with the children’s voices reading My Pet Goat.

Moore showed an amazing amount of restraint in both the footage he used and well as the issues he addressed. But, of course, he had the herculean task of sifting through what must have been thousands of hours of footage that could have been used to make his case. For example, there was no mention whatsoever of the many protests against the invasion of Iraq.

The story of self-professed patriot Lila Lipscomb struck a nerve. We first meet her raising a flag on her house in Flint, Michigan, and listing the family members (daughter, father, uncles, cousins, etc.) who have served in the military of the United States. Later, she reads the last letter her son wrote from Iraq, arriving just a week before she receives a call from the Defense Department with the news of his death. At the end of the film, she has traveled to D.C., where a witless woman accosts her, complaining that the protest in front of the White House is staged. “My son,” she starts, and then in tears, “My son was killed in Iraq.” All I could think of was my own poor grandmother who suffered through the loss of her youngest son in that other illegal and immoral war in Viet Nam. My family never survived his death, so much so that when I was a child—a few years after the fact—I had nightmares about my uncle’s death, and I never even knew him. I grew up certain that I wouldn’t live to be twenty because my namesake didn’t either.

Bush has lost the war in Iraq and Afghanistan. And he has lost the war in America. My hope is that this film will help us regain the government of this great country.


  1. That was an absolutely awesome review of the movie. I have not seen it yet, but plan on going this Sunday. Tickets for today's show were sold out earlier this week here in SF. My question to you, is the movie inappropriate for children? Are there images of graphic violence? I would assume yes, since it is a movie about the true horrors of war. Plus, America needs to see it as it is and not in the highly sanitized way we have been seeing it. OK, OK, I'm rambling here....

    Thanks for sharing your analysis and your views. I enjoy reading all about it!

  2. Yes, there was quite a bit graphic violence. But it wasn't as gorey or bloody as most Hollowood films. (Yes, "hollowood" was intentional.) I wouldn't take a child to see it, but then again I wouldn't allow children to wage wars for greedy, rich white men either. The most "interesting" scene of violence was a beheading, but it wasn't the "bad" kind of beheading: it was the "good" kind done by our allies the Saudis.

  3. I felt I needed to comment a second time on this one, especially since I have now seen the movie. Overall, I agree with your assessment of the documentary and think that Moore did a good job of doing what he does best with the seriousness that such a task entails. However, I disagree with your take on the World trade Center footage. I think he handled that moment very well in the film. I thought it was courteous of him not to retraumtize us with what we have each already seen hundreds of times. Using this technique he forced us to cull the images from our memory...because we do remember them after all. The juxtaposition of Bush's ineptness and inaction was a shocking contrast for me to see. The look on his face for those 7 minutes absolutely freaked me out--I mean this is the president of our country, a country in crisis, and this is his intial reaction. Makes you wonder where all that "we-are-gonna-smoke-them-out-of-there-hole" talk came from. Well, I guess we know where he gets all of his thoughts and words from. I think Moore underscored all of this very nicely.

    Finally, I would like to share a review of the movie by one of my favorite SF contributors to the San Francisco Chronicle, Mark Morford:

    "Fahrenheit" On The Brain: Who cares if Moore's flick is flawed, shameless propaganda? At least it makes America think