Wednesday, June 30, 2004

Re: Fahrenheit 911

We also caught the film this past weekend. We went on Sunday night, and even then every showing was selling out an hour beforehand. I take that as a good sign.

I thought the film was fairly well done, and was certainly Moore's best effort to date. Bowling For Columbine was a fun film, but I've read much of the criticism of it, and I feel that it was less intellectually honest that I'd like. I've also seen the criticism for F:911, and found it to be relatively toothless (additionally I was familiar with most of the content presented in the film and didn't feel that Moore misrepresented it). F:911, despite occasional cheap shots felt like a more mature film, both in its content and its editing. The humor was used effectively, the emotional content powerful and memorable. I don't know where Moore digs up some of the clips he uses, but I'd love to see what got left on the editing room floor. He gets his hands on some amazing material.

The scenes of the invasion of Iraq (the Fire Water Burn sequence) will definitely be the most polarizing part of the film. I can see a lot of people being very off put by the way he portrays the US military there. I'm not sure it was really necessary, and having done it, I'm not sure he used it as well as he could have. He sort of left it hanging there as a general indictment of the US military. I don't think the US military is any worse in that regard than any other military. But the point is that shit happens when you give a bunch of 18 year olds the most advanced weapons in the world and send them off to another country to kill people. Warfare is not now, and never will be, clean and surgical. It's brutal and ugly and a lot of innocent people get hurt. And we should never allow our leaders to convince us otherwise. This part of the film should have been clearly designated as a counterpoint to the sanitized war porn and rah rah embedded reporter segments that ran 24x7 on the news during the war. In any case, the footage was devastating and was some of the most memorable of the film.

Also, I wasn't thrilled with the sections about the election and the Saudi connection, as I felt he was wasting time there. Both of those have already been hashed out in public quite a bit, and both come off as conspiracy and can be written off by detractors as circumstantial. They also give the film a scattershot feel as he jumps through so many topics. I think he could have made a tighter and more powerful film if he stuck to Iraq. Spend more time on what the administration said about the WMD's before the war, and the reality we found after, more about what they said about the Al Qaeda connection, and what we found after, more about what they said about how the aftermath would unfold, and the reality we found after. Point out how aggressively the administration silenced all of the people in the legislature, the military, the state department, and the intelligence agencies who were trying to blow the whistle on the administration's claims before the war, and how those critics were proven right and the administration proven wrong. There was a lot of material out there that he never touched that could have been far more damning than the election and the Saudi stuff were.

But then, you have to take the good with the bad with Moore. Crafting cogent and cohesive arguments that would hold up in intellectual debate has never been his gig. In fact, it is precisely his pudgy, working-class, unintellectual, average Joe demeanor that allows him to appeal to the vast audience that doesn't want to read the Washington Post or the Wall Street Journal or watch c-span. He is able to serve up politics to an audience that tunes out high-brow political discussion. It's an audience that conservatives have learned to communicate effectively with, but that is underserved by liberals. Hopefully this film, fueled by its attendant controversy and press coverage, will make some inroads there. In all, it was enjoyable to sit there and finally see someone punch back. I'm glad Moore made the film, and I'm glad I went to see it. I guess now we'll just have to wait and see if anything comes of it.

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