Yet another review of “that movie”

A commenter told me a few days ago that I shouldn’t paste entire articles here, and I rarely do. But this is going to be my second exception in a week, as this review of Fahrenheit 9/11 is very special and I want every visitor here to see it. I want them to realize just how powerful Moore’s depiction of our government in action, of our tax dollars at work, actually are. I want them to get that it is almost impossible to walk out of the the theater the same person you were when you walked in.

Those with small minds who refuse to see the movie and who take comfort in their pre-conceived notions and hearsay-based prejudices may be unreachable. But because of the type of person I am, I won’t stop trying. I apologize in advance if it is redundant, tiresome, and annoying. But people have to wake up to what is going on here. They have to know what forces were at work to get us into this war. They have to know why their children are dying. They have to know who their president is. And Moore doesn’t need to tell them — his clips of Bush do all the talking. In other words, Bush himself tells you just who he is, in a way you’ve never seen him before.

Here is the review I just read, that I found more powerful than any other because it does not review the movie — it reviews how people reacted to the movie. What it did to them, and to their belief systems. And that is a powerful story indeed.

Before the movie started, Leslie Hanser prayed.

“I prayed the Lord would open my eyes,” she said.

For months, her son, Joshua, a college student, had been drawing her into political debate. He’d tell her she shouldn’t trust President Bush. He’d tell her the Iraq war was wrong. Hanser, a 41-year-old homemaker, pushed back. She defended the president, supported him fiercely.

But Joshua kept at her, until she prayed for help understanding her son’s fervor.

Emerging from Michael Moore’s Fahrenheit 9/11, her eyes wet, Hanser said she at last understood. “My emotions are just… ” She trailed off, waving her hands to show confusion. “I feel like we haven’t seen the whole truth before.”

That’s the reaction Moore hopes to provoke with his film, which explores the ties between the Bush family and Osama bin Laden’s relatives, the president’s response to the Sept. 11 attacks and the war in Iraq. Moore has said he aims to shake the apathetic, move the undecided — and inspire voters to deny Bush a second term.

Even teens ‘glued to screen’

Riding a week of enormous publicity, and controversy, Fahrenheit 9/11 was a hit at the box office, taking in $8.2 million to $8.4 million in its first day, positioning it as the weekend’s No. 1 film. Opening Friday on 868 screens, the movie grossed more than the farces White Chicks and DodgeBall, even though those films showed on far more screens.

Industry sources estimated that the weekend gross for Fahrenheit 9/11 could top the $21 million that Moore’s Bowling for Columbine — until now, the highest-grossing documentary ever — took in during its entire run.

Fahrenheit 9/11 got a shot of free publicity when Walt Disney Co., concerned about the movie’s partisan edge, barred a subsidiary from releasing it. The buzz only grew last month when the film won the top prize at the Cannes Film Festival.

Yet its appeal seemed to take some by surprise: In the heavily Hispanic and Asian community of Downey, Calif., southeast of Los Angeles, theater manager William Vasquez was a bit astonished at the line, which was so long that he decided to show the film on two screens simultaneously Friday night.

“I don’t know of any documentary that has created this kind of stir,” he said, noting that even teenagers seemed “glued to the screen.”

In many cities, and even in conservative suburbs, the crowds were predictably (and loudly) liberal, hissing and hooting their reactions to Bush on-screen.

In suburban St. Louis, in a multiplex catering to well-off neighborhoods that were flocked with Bush/Cheney signs in 2000, the rowdy throng cheered when a man in back stood to shout an appeal for Democratic Party volunteers. “Anyone here for Nader?” another man called out. He was soundly booed.

In another conservative neighborhood, the audience at an Orange County, Calif., multiplex chanted: “Throw Bush out, throw Bush out” as the lights came on.

College student Jebodiah Beard, 25, characterized the crowd this way: “I think we’re preaching to the choir.”

Moore has acknowledged as much but sees no need to apologize.

“It’s good to give the choir something to sing,” he said at a politician-packed premiere in Washington last week. “The choir has been demoralized.”

If so, the movie was an electric wake-up call.

Outside a sold-out screening Friday in Santa Monica, Calif., activists stamped hands with peace signs and passed around petitions calling for universal health care, gay rights and the repeal of the Patriot Act.

“I can’t imagine anyone coming out of (the movie) and not working their brains out to get rid of this administration,” said Mimi Adams, 70, who was holding a sign that said: “No One Died When Clinton Lied.”

In theaters nationwide, many viewers said they couldn’t imagine loyal Republicans coming to see a movie the Bush administration has dismissed as a twisted montage of misleading innuendo and outright falsehoods. But for all the partisan hooting, the movie did appear to draw at least a strong smattering of the Republican and the undecided voters that Moore most desperately hopes to reach.

And some of them said they were deeply moved.

Moved enough, perhaps, to consider voting for Kerry in November.

For Richard Hagen, 56, it was the footage from Iraq: The raw cries of bombed civilians, the clenched-teeth agony of wounded American troops. A retired insurance agent from the wealthy River Oaks neighborhood in central Houston, Hagen described himself as a lifelong Republican. But then, standing by his silver Mercedes, he amended that: A former lifelong Republican.

“Seeing (the war) brings it home in a way you don’t get from reading about it,” he said. “I won’t be voting for a Republican presidential candidate this time.”

Mary Butler, too, may not bring herself to punch the ballot for Bush.

She didn’t vote for him in 2000, but Butler, 48, said that until this weekend, she was leaning strongly toward supporting him this year. “In a war situation, I figured it was too hard to switch horses midstream. I thought the country would be too vulnerable,” she said.

Butler, a librarian from suburban St. Louis, said one sentence in Moore’s film made her rethink.

After showing faces of the men and women of America’s military, Moore reminds his audience that they have volunteered to sacrifice their futures for our country. We owe them just one obligation, he says: To send them into harm’s way only when we absolutely must.

That got Butler. She doesn’t feel the war in Iraq fits into that category. And that one sentence — a filmmaker’s accusing voice-over — might cost Bush her vote in the pivotal swing state of Missouri: “This is probably the strongest I’ve ever felt about voting against him,” she said.

‘An impact of some sort’

Many viewers seemed especially moved by the story of Lila Lipscomb, the mother at the heart of Fahrenheit 9/11. When Moore first encounters her in Flint, Mich., she speaks with pride of her children’s military service, of all the opportunities the armed forces can give them. Then her son is killed in Iraq.

Appearing with Moore at the film’s premiere in Washington, Lipscomb received a standing ovation.

“President Bush said he was a president of war,” Lipscomb said. “Well, I stand before you tonight as a mother that is now a mother of war. I urge all of America to stop being ignorant. Open your eyes to see. Open your ears to hear. Open your mouth to speak.”

Many who watched Fahrenheit 9/11 over the weekend vowed the movie would spur them to do just that — to look deeper, listen closer, to speak out with conviction.

In the end, however, some doubted whether a summer movie, however pointed, could really affect the outcome of November’s election.

“It will have an impact of some sort,” said Rep. Jim McDermott, D-Wash., who is interviewed by Moore in the film, “but I’m not sure what.”

Of course, the long-term effect has yet to be seen. It should be out on DVD before the election, so those who may have forgotten can enjoy a healthy reminder.

As for myself: After seeing it yesterday, I drove to the Kerry volunteer office and got my Kerry bumper stickers and tickets to see him here in town next week. And I gave money — a sizable sum for me while I’m trying to get on my feet. Looking at the effect the film had on people in the above article, I expect that by the time the weekend’s over, millions of others will have done the same or more than I did.

The Discussion: 5 Comments

Yes, but what is it like as a piece of cinema, is it well directed, is the “plot” progressive, what is the editing like, would it win an oscar for best factual piece?

Come on, I’m not shelling out to see this unless somebody tells me if it looks like the blair witch or fellowship of the rings.

If anybody knows about a review that actually describes the technical aspects of this documentry, could the please tell me. Is this the new walking with dinosours, or two guys with a handicam walking around Iraq?

June 27, 2004 @ 1:42 am | Comment

There are trillions of reviews out there, many of which I’ve linked to in earlier post. As cinema, it is first-rate. This isone thing that I haven’t seen diusputed in even the most hostile review — Moores is a master film maker, and that’s simply a fact. He knows exactly how to manipulate the audience, to pull on their emotional heartstrings through vivid juxtapositions, subtle but forceful buildup, and many, many surprises. His films have won the world’s most prized awards not for their political messages (although I’m sure the prize givers appreciated them) but for his genius in creating a very taut, very tight, very memorable cinematic experience.

June 27, 2004 @ 11:33 am | Comment

Just saw the movie. I was reminded of the The Simpsons Comic Book Guy.

June 27, 2004 @ 7:35 pm | Comment

Here’s a review for ya:

June 27, 2004 @ 8:14 pm | Comment

We’ve already discussed the Hitchens review here. Quite amusing and beautifully written. It is, unfortunately one of the most easily fiskable articles I’ve ever read. Hitch is above such generalitites and such weak arguments.

June 27, 2004 @ 8:25 pm | Comment

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