The next obvious question is this: what about it just being a good movie worth seeing? Of course, the critical standards for all films should be the same, whether its film as entertainment, film as art, film as educational tool, or film as propaganda. Fahrenheit 9/11 is informative and enjoyable, but its hardly engrossing. If you enjoy seeing a doofy, churlish, snot-nosed, rich boy frat punk getting his comeuppance, you will find the movie wildly entertaining.
The truth of the matter is that I found the movie markedly sad.
What struck me as sad is not Moore or his work hes very good at what he does and he deserves a lot of credit for sticking to his anti-Bush guns. Hes got guts thats for sure. I like Moore and am glad hes making movies. Whats sad is the films subtext. Its underpinnings. The very reason for its existence.
Moore implies that George W. Bush and his henchmen (and henchwomen) stole the 2000 election. Like some banana republic, the United States Of America lost its soul. George, his brother Jeb, and others knew they were going to win Florida.
Moore also implies that on September 11, 2001, George W. Bush and his henchmen (and henchwomen) were clueless as to how to react. The White House has long stated that Bush stayed less than 30 seconds in the Florida grade school classroom where he was reading a book entitled My Pet Goat to children. Moore has footage that shows Bush sitting and sitting and sitting in front of the class, a dumb look on his face. What Moore also does is to plop a clock in the corner of the screen and you see time go by. Then Moore sticks in the knife. He asks, what was the president thinking? Moore then answers his own question. His answer? That Bush was worried about his familys ties to the Bin Laden family, and whether he could go on vacation again. There are points made, points still in contention, as to whether or not the Bushies allowed the Bin Laden clan and other Saudis (142 people in all) to flee America after 9-11 without having been questioned by the FBI. Of course, a possible answer is that Bush couldnt have been thinking about the Bin Ladens because at that point in time, he didnt know who flew the jetliners into the Twin Towers or the Pentagon. Or, did he? And, it seems that Bush had been on vacation 42 % of the time during the first eight months of his term. By the way, the events of September 11th are heard not shown. The screen goes to black and you hear the roar of the jet engines, explosions, and people screaming. Its very dramatic.
All of this saddened me. I was also struck by the chaos in Iraq. Moore has tough footage of shattered and maimed children. He also lobs in lots of footage of killed and injured American military personnel in Iraq. And he tosses in a Saudi beheading to stress his point that a police state like Saudi Arabia was more dangerous than Iraq under Saddam Hussein. You cant help but watch all of this and start thinking about the fact that a year ago so many innocent citizens of Iraq and so many young Americans were alive, and now they are dead. And why? For what? Is it because, as George II says in the movie, Saddam tried to kill my daddy. Sad, sad, sad.
Moore plays the oil card a lot during Fahrenheit 9/11, and this is where he starts to get bogged down. He wallows into conspiracy theory terrain a bit too much. The connections between Papa Bush (George I) and Vice President Dick Cheney and the Saudis and President Harmid Karzai of Afghanistan and Halliburton and the Defense Industry are thrown at the audience like darts at a bulls-eye in a bar. Its all too glib, too slick. Maybe its all true, but more facts are needed than are revealed in the film. Moores point is that Bush The Second is nothing more than putty in the hands of these folks, a mere puppet, and a not very bright one at that. Ive got news for Moore; Bush is bright enough to get the war he wanted. Never underestimate the village idiot.
Moore also takes on the Patriot Act and makes mincemeat of Attorney General John Ashcroft. If Ashcroft had any self-respect, hed crawl into a hole and pull a cover over it. Moore chastises the gullible mainstream media (both print and broadcast) for swallowing the Bushies own propaganda about Iraq hook, line, and sinker. He looks at Bushs National Guard record. Do any of you know who James Bath is, and why hes important? You will after seeing the movie. And Moore also tries to get Congressmen to enroll their children in the military. The sight of members of the House Of Representatives scurrying like rats away from Moore is hilarious.
But through it all is the cloak of darkness that Moore depicts as having spread across the country. Moore wants Bushs term to seem a like a bad dream. A sad part about the dream is the number of young Americans who went to war for a Texas ego and are returning maimed or wont return at all. Moore wants Americans to wake up this November 3rd having sent Bush back to his Crawford ranch the day before. His mission, which he has accepted, is to help make that happen. Fahrenheit 9/11 is one point-of-view. Fortunately, despite bumps in the road, the American way is to allow that point-of-view to be heard. How the undecided reacts is their inalienable right to choose. By Michael Calleri ALT Movie Editor
I consider myself a well-informed person. I subscribe to a number of newsmagazines and political journals, as well as entertainment publications and highbrow movie journals. I read three newspapers a day, The New York Times, USA Today, and The Buffalo News. I watch some of the cable news channels, But as well-informed as I consider myself, I never knew that during his inauguration motorcade, demonstrators pelted George W. Bushs limousine with eggs and he had to forego any short stroll to the White House. Not even The Nation mentioned this fact. It certainly never aired on television. That footage shows up in Michael Moores hard-edged documentary, Fahrenheit 9/11
After seeing the film at the private press screening here in Buffalo, the studio rep contacted me and wanted to know my reaction. The studio isnt asking for your full review; it wants a succinct one-sentence response. I informed her that I thought the movie covered all the S bases, that it was satirical, stunning, sarcastic, shocking, serious, and sad. One problem I do have with Fahrenheit 9/11 is that this information-filled documentary about President George W. Bush (George II or # 42) runs on for nearly two hours. Very early-on, Moore makes a case that the current occupant of the White House is a blithering idiot, unsure of himself, not very bright, intellectually uncurious, and joined at the hip to the world of defense contractors and Saudi Arabian oil. By the 60-minute mark, Moore has made all the points hes going to make, but he pounds them into your head until youre overwhelmed.