Bowling for Columbine
October 10, 2002 1:52 PM   Subscribe

Bowling for Columbine is opening tomorrow. I know muckraking Michael Moore is a touchy subject around here, but I found his first feature since Roger & Me insightful in its stubborn search for an answer to the question: "Why is America so violent?" Other reviewers agree. Subtle he isn't, but when the news is as stark as it is today, maybe subtlety is beside the point. I hope that even some of you who aren't predisposed to agree with Moore will give this film a chance. Did I mention it's also entertaining as hell?
posted by muckster (48 comments total)
**sneaks in before the flames start a-flowing**

I'll be seeing it this weekend. I'm quite looking forward to it. For those that don't always agree with Moore, you could at least see it for his talent in producing documentaries. He's got his own unique style that is very entertaining, almost like you're just sitting and watching him tell stories, but the stories are being acted out on the screen.
posted by Ufez Jones at 1:58 PM on October 10, 2002

His first feature since Roger & Me? What about these gems?
posted by herc at 2:00 PM on October 10, 2002

I think Moore is close to being the Coulter of the left, and his simple minded "corporation = bad" mantra is tired and just plain wrong in many cases. Still, I find his film work entertaining (TV Nation was one of the most brilliant news programs ever), and I plan to see this movie.
posted by owillis at 2:10 PM on October 10, 2002

Agreed with owillis. I think Moore is a complete nutjob, but he's funny as hell, and once in a while, a good point will slip in past the "I make Upton Sinclair look like Pat Buchanan" rhetoric.

TV Nation, hilarious. Roger & Me, comic gold. I'm sure this will be the same.

posted by Kevs at 2:15 PM on October 10, 2002

"Why is America so violent?"

Er, has Moore been abroad lately? Life is innately violent most places. I give could give a million examples, but I don't have that kind of time.
posted by dhoyt at 2:19 PM on October 10, 2002

I saw it last week at the Vancouver Film Festival. I went into it a bit down on Moore, after I'd heard bad things about his last book (though I'd never read it myself).

I found it to be outstanding, though. Thought-provoking, profoundly moving, and freaking hilarious, it is absolutely worth seeing.
posted by jeffj at 2:23 PM on October 10, 2002

he doesn't expect people to pay to see this does he? that capitalist pig-dog!
posted by jbelshaw at 2:38 PM on October 10, 2002

Worldwide, America's homicide rate it not that high compared to countries like Mexico, Russia, or Brazil. However when compared to Europe it is much higher.
posted by cell divide at 2:46 PM on October 10, 2002

I think Michael Moore is hysterical and he's a fine writer too. I plan to see it this weekend.

I agree with Ufez Jones
posted by Woolcott'sKindredGal at 2:47 PM on October 10, 2002

Right, jbelshaw, and I can't stand all those doctors who heal people when they're all healthy as horses too.

Anyway, congrats muckster, you stole the post I was going to make a few hours from now. I am excited as hell to see this movie, ever since getting the honor of viewing a few advance cut reels with Moore during his book tour a few months ago.

This movie really isn't just a pro/anti-gun issue. It's about the violence of American society and the culture of violence and fear that we generate. From what I've seen of it already, this film is well on its way to becomming a landmark.

Also, owillis, I disagree with you completely on the Coulter/Moore anaolgy thing. There is a truth that Moore is preachy, but that is in fact part of his "act-" he has made his own stlye of the grassroots, T-Shirt and jeans and baseball cap guy with the camera getup. I've seen him speak numerous times, and he acts (and dresses) exactly the same way. Moore is, to a sense, a performance artist trying to deliver a news broadcast.

The difference between Coulter and Moore, opinions aside, is that wheras Coulter sits at her desk and types a weekly screed of her meandering thoughts about those nasty liberals and their ilk in a tone that tries to reach the simplest of minds, Moore attempts to reach out and stmulate actual thought. Bowling for Columbine, despite what the gun nuts are ranting without even seeing the movie, is not some Coulter-style diatribe about how Republicans are bad and must be destroyed and defeated. It is an actual documentation of the questions and answers being given by numerous viewpoints, not just some bitchy one-liner. I fail to see where you got the idea that Moore's viewpoints are "simple minded."

cell divide: not sure if you're trying to go for or against gun control with your post, but if those are legitimate inquiries of yours, then go see this movie Tomorrow. Moore addresses the topic of why other countries have more/less crime with more/less guns and gun laws.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 2:53 PM on October 10, 2002

I loved "Roger and Me," but damn there are always these parts in his movie that make me squirm. There's something uncomfortable about watching someone go after a big-name interview (Roger Smith, Charlton Heston) and have to deal with all the middlemen in between who get paid to keep the riffraff away. You know they're gonna say "Mr Heston does not have time for you," and you know MM's going to protest, and it goes on and on.

That said, how funny is the scene in the preview where he opens an account at a bank that's giving out free guns to new accountholders?
posted by GaelFC at 2:55 PM on October 10, 2002

Er, has Moore been abroad lately? Life is innately violent most places.

You're only proving his point, dhoyt. Moore does go abroad in the movie, and finds Candian doors unlocked. His thesis is that America is a culture of fear, perpetuated by the media. Thus the guns, thus the paranoid & itchy trigger fingers -- and, by extension, now, the pre-emptive attacks. It's worth considering, and he makes his point quite forcefully in this, his, uhm, fifth feature since Roger & Me.
posted by muckster at 2:57 PM on October 10, 2002

the onion calls it:
"uproariously funny, even though much of its queasy power comes from its acknowledgment that some matters are too horrifying to be washed away with cheap laughter, or packaged into soundbites."
good enough for me!

also in the ABC interview RE charlton heston's conversion to conservatism:
’Well, I was in Northern California in 1964 and I was making a film, Major Dundee. I was driving down the road and there was a Barry Goldwater for President billboard and it said, ‘In Your Heart You Know He’s Right’. I looked at the billboard and it was almost a vision and suddenly in my heart I knew he was right - and at that moment I made the switch’.
i just thought that was pretty amazing, like what a weird conversion experience to have! i guess that's the power of AuH20 :D

oh and btw nardwuar vs michael moore :D
posted by kliuless at 3:01 PM on October 10, 2002

jbelshaw: he doesn't expect people to pay to see this does he? that capitalist pig-dog!

They are mutually exclusive, um... how? Who was it that raised the question as to why "limousine liberals" is such a bad thing? Why is it a millionaire like Moore pushing for social justice and being concerned for the interests of those without a fraction of his wealth is somehow a "bad" thing? Isn't that the definition of altruism? For that matter, why are liberals who are also rich (*cough* Alec Baldwin *cough*) inherently bad- their wealth alone should be enough to earn them heapings of praise from conservatives and idiotarian Randroids, since they worked the system to make money- that holiest of holies. Or to put it more succinctly: why is it you never hear the term "Corolla Conservative" to denote a lower- to- middle- class conservative who votes in favor of the political and financial interests of people who wouldn't hesitate to take a crap down his throat for a cut in the capital gains tax? The former is- whether you agree with it or not- altruism; the latter is just damn stupidity.

owillis: I think Moore is close to being the Coulter of the left

You. Are. Insane. Coulter suggests that right-wingers like herself should attack and kill liberals like Moore to intimidate them. Moore makes a film asking why our culture so worships the way of the gun and the path of violence, and what price we pay for this attitude. The similarity is.... wait there isn't one.
Or are you just pulling a Gephardt and cutting yourself off at your own knees in some wasted attempt to seem "centrist" by adopting a moral relativism when it's most convenient for Republicans? Do you think Coulter is somewhere with an accounting ledger saying "O man, I owe Oliver Willis, big time!" Coulter is dangerously psychotic; Moore might be a gasbag, but he's not violent, and love him or hate him he is personally involving himself in bettering people's lives (such as the Awful Truth episodes where he helped that guy get a life-saving kidney transplant when the HMO refused to uphold their agreement)- this is in contrast to Coulter who sits at a desk and rips of hatemongering screeds. If you can't really see a difference... well, then you deserve the world you live in. Then again, I'm talkin' 'bout a dude with an unhealthy obsession with all things Spears-ian, in detriment to any more sophisticated musings.
posted by hincandenza at 3:03 PM on October 10, 2002

See, about gun control... the thing is that "Bowling for Columbine" doesn't actually argue that gun ownership is responsible for the high rate of gun crime in the States.* He makes it clear in his lengthy comparison of American and Canadian gun culture that Canadians are also a well-armed lot; we just don't seem as willing to point them at each other and shoot.

The question he keeps trying to answer is why Americans are so afraid of each other that they resort to killing, and I don't think he ever really answers it to his satisfation.

*Although, at the talk he gave at the Toronto festival, he did say something to the effect that Americans should have their guns taken away until they learn how to use them...
posted by transient at 3:04 PM on October 10, 2002

"I am become a Socialist. I love Humanity, but hate people." — Edna St. Vincent Millay

I can't argue that Roger & Me isn't hilarious, but it's often hilarious at the expense of the downtrodden-upon. You can argue that this is part of the point, but consciously or no, I think this underlying meanness is what most of Moore's detractors are reacting to.
posted by blueshammer at 3:09 PM on October 10, 2002

I see Moore as mildly more intelligent Rush Limbaugh. He's great at whipping the choir into a froth, making lefties feel all righteous and good about being lefties. Though he's funnier than Limbaugh, I think it would serve them both right to be forced to battle in pudding on pay-per-view.
posted by Ty Webb at 3:14 PM on October 10, 2002

There was a hilarious Might magazine article about a guy who followed Michael Moore around "Roger and Me" style.

TV Nation was great, and "Roger and Me" had some high points, but even though I may be on the left with him, I much prefer The Daily Show's style and wit.
posted by birgitte at 3:18 PM on October 10, 2002

Erm, moore is a moron, but I don't really think anyone is as nasty as coulter.
posted by delmoi at 3:31 PM on October 10, 2002

rash generalisation/
Conservatives have simplistic goals ["I want my gun"] and band together to get things done.
Liberals have more complex arguments and spend all their time fighting each other.
/end rash generalisation

I like Michael Moore
posted by meech at 3:33 PM on October 10, 2002

Moore's tired old schtick of blaming white-male-corporate-greed-stupidity for everything sickens me. He often uses (alleged) humor to cover his own niggling inferiority complexes, and takes the stereotypical liberal stance of blaming everyone but himself for his own inadequacies. He does nothing for the left but give the right a nice big wide target at which to aim.

And if he's so rich, how come he couldn't get a decent printing of his last book? Some kind of right-wing conspiracy, to be sure. *chuckle*

[uncomfortable admission]I really did enjoy TV Nation though[/uncomfortable admission]
posted by WolfDaddy at 3:42 PM on October 10, 2002

America is not ready for Moore.

Lady Liberty does not like it when the camera is pointed towards her darker side.
posted by at 3:52 PM on October 10, 2002

Er, has Moore been abroad lately? Life is innately violent most places

As a European who has travelled throughout the States, I must admit I find much of America to have an undercurrent of violence. Sure, there are cities and countries throughout the world rife with violence - but America's meant to be the leader of the civilised, developed world. It shouldn't be the kind of country where anyone should be scared to walk the streets, or to talk to a policeman, or to look another person in the eye - but it often is.

Conversely there are dozens of places I've visited where I felt utterly safe and at peace. Populated places where the population was tranquil and untroubled. That's when you begin to realise that parts of America's make-up are in fact violent.
posted by skylar at 3:57 PM on October 10, 2002

I noticed that Chrysler was hiring in Michigan recently. I was just wondering if Mr. Moore was going to do a movie about THAT.
posted by HTuttle at 3:58 PM on October 10, 2002

I know that Michael Moore is a publicity seeker, but organising the DC-area sniper to strike just as his film premieres is just taking it a bit too far.
posted by riviera at 4:05 PM on October 10, 2002

Yeah, we hate looking at America's darker side so much that in the weeks and months following Columbine, there was hardly anything else in the news media.
posted by kindall at 4:07 PM on October 10, 2002

hincandenza: Step away from the computer and breathe. Not all of life is an episode of Crossfire or the McLaughlin Group.

I am talking about Michael Moore the writer, who plays fast and loose with the facts as well as straw men who don't exist. This is no different from Typhoid Annie.

If you don't think Ann Coulter is also an act, you aren't watching your tv critically enough.

Conversely there are dozens of places I've visited where I felt utterly safe and at peace
I too, have enjoyed The Magic Kingdom.
posted by owillis at 4:11 PM on October 10, 2002

[opinion without detail so you can't reason with me]
posted by holloway at 4:17 PM on October 10, 2002

simple minded "corporation = bad"
owillis, after being subjected to 49 years of pervasive "corporation = good" propoganda, from pre-school tv days to the advertising-soaked present, i don't understand why anyone would criticize an artist for using the same approach to rebut the premise.
posted by quonsar at 4:50 PM on October 10, 2002

i don't understand why anyone would criticize an artist for using the same approach to rebut the premise.

Well, if he was just an artist it might be easier to forgive his sweaty hyperbole. But Moore wants to taken seriously as a pundit, too, and his seeming inability to make distinctions between good and bad capitalism tends to delegitimize his better points.
posted by Ty Webb at 4:54 PM on October 10, 2002

I'm going to place my autograph from mike to me on my user page sometime soon. It is signed: 'To Karl, Thanks.' Mikes alright, he is a master of irony and can pack a Torch burger away like I've seen no other. He was well respected when he started the Flint Voice later called the Michigan Voice. His Mother Jones tenure was ugly though, kinda proving Mike can't handle big kids politics. What is funny is that he wrote a play in high school with some religious theme. at the end of the play, the characters took down jesus from the cross, other characters nailed him right back up. (what would father Andy say) Plus he received an eagle scout award for his slide-show on the counties worst polluters. In Davison, there is nothing, I mean Zip on mike. He is not well liked here.

i don't care to see the movie. (or at least pay for it)
posted by clavdivs at 4:58 PM on October 10, 2002

XQUZYPHYR, hincandenza:
I guess that didn't come across as funny as it sounded when i thought of it. I was only half-serious.
posted by jbelshaw at 5:07 PM on October 10, 2002

If the movie is half as good as Roger and Me it will be worth at least the price of a matinee, if not full price. Moore has his zing down; I saw (and heard) him speak for two hours to a standing room audience sans any prepared notes. He had 3,000 people enthralled well past 11:00. The guy is a marketeer, but I loved his message: Get out and start being a part of the democratic process rather than bitching all the time. Run for office! Volunteer to campaign for someone running for office. Work an issue. Work for change that you believe in.

You may not agree w/ his politics, but it's hard to argue his point on this topic.
posted by barrista at 5:20 PM on October 10, 2002

I heard he came over the bridge and used my town as an example of worry free Canadian living. Filmed the mayor. Suppose it would undermine his thesis to let the world know that we actually do lock our doors here, sometimes more than once on the same door. A couple weeks ago one of the high schools was emptied because a passing schoolbus driver thought he saw a couple kids carrying guns into the school (rumour says it was actually a tripod). Early the next week the same school had another scare when someone left threatening graffiti in the washroom.

I'm glad we don't have the reverent attitudes toward firearms that some subcultures in the States have, and I'm glad we have more strigent regulations. Still, although Moore seems to want to caricature Canada as some innocent, nobler place Americans should aspire towards, nastiness happens here too. Lock your doors.
posted by TimTypeZed at 5:31 PM on October 10, 2002

9 years of pervasive "corporation = good" propoganda, from pre-school tv days to the advertising-soaked present

You must have been in the Magic Kingdom too, if that's been your reality.
posted by owillis at 5:53 PM on October 10, 2002

Yes, I'm sure you're right. I really hate all those 30 second spots filling the airwaves with unproven slander about the dark side of corporations.

And speaking of the Magic Corporation....the big ears go on your head, not over your eyes.
posted by fold_and_mutilate at 6:32 PM on October 10, 2002

when compared to Europe it is much higher (homocide rate in USA)

However there is an interesting relation between suicide. The suicide rate in Europe is much higher than America. The total violent death rate (suicide/homocide) is about equal in Europe and America. Americans just prefer homocide to suicide.
posted by stbalbach at 7:14 PM on October 10, 2002

I really hate all those 30 second spots filling the airwaves with unproven slander about the dark side of corporations

Yes. <clango>I am an - unthinking - unspeaking - robot. Unable to - think for myself. Open your mind.</clango>
posted by owillis at 7:23 PM on October 10, 2002

I know that Michael Moore is a publicity seeker, but organising the DC-area sniper to strike just as his film premieres is just taking it a bit too far.

I thought that it was publicity for Phone Booth.
posted by MegoSteve at 7:44 PM on October 10, 2002

I read somewhere that there are 6 times as many muggings in London than in New York city. Just thought you'd like to know.
posted by davidgentle at 7:53 PM on October 10, 2002

Moore makes dramatic, important points with a moving, poignant style to those that already agree with those points. Nobody else really pays much attention to him anymore. He's great as a preacher to the converted, but largely dismissed as a harmless buffoon outside of those circles.
posted by MidasMulligan at 7:55 PM on October 10, 2002

I saw him speak down here in Athens last year. Faked illness to get out of work, i was so pumped to see him. he came late, due to the pipeline explosion in new york city, which happened to be across the street from him. we watched 'Roger and Me' while we waited, and he came out triumph as the credits rolled.

He's a damn good performer, I'll give him that. He's been the only speaker I've heard to really get me fired up, to really make me feel part of a crowd. His ancedotal stories were funny, and had some real relevance. And then I heard one he'd told before, on the one episode of 'TV Nation' that I'd seen. Later on, as I read 'Stupid White Men' (autographed, of course) I noticed that the stories he told on stage were all in the book, nearly verbatim. Then I read the MeFi story about Moore calling a police visit to a signing a "raid". My opinion dropped a little more. I still think he's funny, but he's lost all credibility to me.

Well, not all credibility. The last shred of it will be when I sit in the movie theatre and watch the credits. He showed us a clip of the movie when he came. Had us decide which cartoon voiceover was better. He said he'd thank us in the credits. We called ourselves "Mike's Militia, Athens Branch". If we're not there, I'm getting pissed ;)
posted by Be'lal at 10:40 PM on October 10, 2002

Can someone post where the statistics are from when you quote them please?

For me, the trouble with Moore is that he still seems to believe the hulking behemoth that is global capitilisim can still be made to work to most peoples advantage. Dreamer!
posted by lerrup at 11:41 PM on October 10, 2002

"Nobody else really pays much attention to him anymore. He's great as a preacher to the converted, but largely dismissed as a harmless buffoon outside of those circles"

MidasMulligan, your point might make sense were it not for the fact that Michael Moore's audience of converted is a raidly expanding one. Not only has Moore's latest book sold well in excess of his previous ones, but here in the UK he's about to appear in person at the Roundhouse (a fairly large London theatre) for four weeks - something which would have been impossible to imagine at the time of his last film.

Perhaps he's preaching to the converted, but still I doubt that many of those who dismiss him as a harmless buffoon could draw a crowd as big as Moore's.
posted by skylar at 2:07 AM on October 11, 2002

FWIW, I've never thought Moore was all that great, but I was really impressed with "Bowling for Columbine." It's certainly the best thing he's ever done (that I've seen).
posted by transient at 5:00 AM on October 11, 2002

Loved Roger and Me. Best quote:
Rabbits for Sale. For pets or meat.
posted by dr_dank at 7:14 AM on October 11, 2002

Coulter is dangerously psychotic; Moore might be a gasbag, but he's not violent

I don't recall Coulter actually doing a thing in favour of her infamous remark to kill Muslims other than publish it in a few major newspapers, so calling her 'dangerously psychotic' is a bit much. She's a gasbag too, plain and simple.

While not a leftist, I was originally interested in Michael Moore as a filmmaker. Sadly, I lost most of my respect for him when I learnt of his penchant for 'bending' the truth of some of his experiences to suit his political viewpoints.
posted by Pseudoephedrine at 1:12 PM on October 13, 2002

Saw "Bowling for Columbine" on Saturday - It was impressive, and completely revised my view of Michael Moore.

Much, much better than "Roger & Me" and his television show.

Wonderful documentary, really makes you think about uniqueness of American culture, our relationship to guns in particular.
posted by birgitte at 4:53 PM on October 14, 2002

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