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Fri June 25, 2004
We're better for all these points of view.
By John DeSando, WCBE's "It's Movie Time"
"Fahrenheit 9/11" is a political "Candid Camera," hilarious in capturing outtakes of flawed leaders and yet serious in purpose to bring down a president. If you are a reader of "The New York Times," you know liberal columnist Maureen Dowd will bash the Bushies most of the time, so you should know that Michael Moore's ("Bowling for Columbine") "Fahrenheit 9/11" is from the Dowd school of satire--witty and expositional, not objective but larded with facts not heard or seen spun in a humorous way.
What do you then learn from Moore's new diatribe? That big oil of the kind supported by oil-related Bushes, even if its roots are dug deep in the ancient Saudi soil and reach to the bin-Laden family, is and has been given breaks and connections not allowed to others. That these relationships shaped President Bush's decision to enter Iraq is not conclusive but at least provocative. And therein lies Moore's hook as a provocateur par excellence: A shabby Columbo gets attention regardless of his shabby journalism.
Who can deny that Bush continuing to read "My Pet Goat" in a classroom on 9/11 even after he hears the second plane has hit a tower is either amusing or horrifying, depending on your political or humanistic orientation? Who can deny the highly entertaining sequence of Attorney General John Ashcroft singing his own composition called "Let the Eagle Soar"? Who can't enjoy watching congressmen scurry away from Moore's camera, much as Charlton Heston ambled away in "Columbine"? The Cannes Palm D'OR may have been awarded to Moore for "Fahrenheit" because of his sense of humor and not his objectivity.
Whether Moore gets the end of Dubya's reign in November 2004 is not as sure as his making money on this heavily hyped pseudo-documentary (He will never be an Errol "Capturing the Friedmans" Morris). After all, the fact that President Bush spent 42 percent of his first 2 quarters of the year in office on vacation may be arguable but is certain to draw smiles from intelligent viewers.
"Fahrenheit 9/11" is muckraking journalism that keeps a citizenry informed but does not offer the defining argument in an endless debate between fundamentalist political organizations. Similarly, "The Control Room" reveals a more sympathetic and reasonable Al-Jazeera Satellite Network than previously thought; "Saved" shows rabid Christians to be fools for love; "Fahrenheit's" Flint, Michigan, mother Lila Lipscomb, whose son died in Iraq, is a sobering testimony to those who deserve to criticize a conflicted administration. We're better for all these points of view.
Mark Twain could have been describing Moore's polemic when he said, "I like criticism, but it must be my way."
John DeSando teaches film at Franklin University and co-hosts WCBE's "It's Movie Time," which can be heard streaming at www.wcbe.org Fridays at 3:01 pm and 8:01 pm. Contact him at JDeSando@Columbus.RR.com.