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Fahrenheit 9/11

Reviewed By David Cornelius
Posted 02/23/05 14:26:36

"The movie 51% of voting America still needs to see."
5 stars (Awesome)

The biggest shame about Michael Moore’s “Fahrenheit 9/11” is that it will most likely never be seen by the people who need to see it the most, namely, anyone thinking that voting to reelect President Bush is a good idea. As with nearly all books, articles, and other expressions of ideas found in the current market of political punditry, people tend to only read/watch/investigate that which will reinforce their own beliefs. There’s no meaningful debate in our society, despite the glut of political rhetoric; on both sides, there’s only preaching to the choir.

That said, I urge everyone - Republican, Democrat, Whig, whatever - to see this film. Of course, I should admit that I’m a man with the opinion that President Bush is the worst leader for our nation since Hoover and the most corrupt since Nixon. His is an administration of gross incompetence that is matched only by his disturbing disregard for the public. He’s turned the White House into the Legion of Doom, rising out of the swamp and striking fear into the hearts of citizens everywhere. (Did I mention I’ll be shamelessly sneaking left-wing political rants and ramblings into this review? Then again, how else to discuss a film of this type?) So yeah, I thinks it’s in our nation’s best interest to see Dubya taken down by a flabby unkempt heckler from Michigan.

But I loved “Fahrenheit 9/11” not only because it reaffirmed by stance on the President and his administration, but because it’s a truly amazing piece of film. This is the craftiest blend of documentary, political commentary, and humor since “The Atomic Cafe,” and the sharpest black comedy about Our Sad State of Affairs since “Dr. Strangelove.” This movie, like those, presents us with overwhelming moments of absolute terror that would leave us whimpering if they weren’t sugarcoated with big laughs.

“There’s an old saying in Tennessee, I know it’s in Texas, probably in Tennessee, that says fool me once... uh... shame on... shame on you... uh... wuh... fuh... won’t get fooled again.”
-Words of wisdom from President George W. Bush

Moore’s film isn’t pure documentary, but his films never are. They’re more like op-ed pieces or bits of investigative journalism filtered through the satire machine. While his previous triumph, “Bowling For Columbine,” had too many ideas but no real track on which to run them, “Fahrenheit 9/11” becomes a masterpiece of sorts by focusing all of Moore’s unruly political anger and energy onto one source: Bush.

The film is an angry (with good reason) portrait of the President’s term in office, painted in shocking detail. We’re presented with facts known well to any anti-Bushie; this is the Case Against Bush Greatest Hits, if you will. We start with the classic of Bush lies, the stealing of the White House in 2000. Here Moore takes all the facts - that Bush’s cousin was the Fox News honcho who prematurely called the race for Dubya, that his campaign co-chair was also the person in charge of counting the votes, that thousands of potential Gore supporters were “accidentally” barred from voting - and runs through them as quickly and as comically as he can, setting up a disastrous first eight months in office (throughout most of which the President spent on vacation!). That Moore is able to run down all the major points of ineptitude and wrongdoing in a limited amount of time and make it a great watch (the wicked use of the Go-Go’s “Vacation” sets up the mood of the whole picture) proves how clever a filmmaker Moore can be when he’s on. Granted, he spins by this a little too quickly for the average Joe who’s not up on all his anti-Bush facts and figures, but that’s OK: it gives Joe an excuse to read for a change.

Anyway. Then comes the too-familiar sounds of September 11, 2001, and Moore gets the best effect by giving us only the sounds, while the screen goes pitch black. Not once do we see the Twin Towers (and only much later do we see the Pentagon in flames). We do, however, see familiar images of a debris-covered city and its citizens desperately looking for loved ones lost. The memories hit the viewer hard in this scene - the best way to set up the anger to follow.

“I believe the title of the report was Bin Laden Determined to Attack Inside the United States.”
-Dr. Condoleeza Rice reminds us that the Bush team never got a single warning about 9/11

I’ve always felt the most effective ad campaign against Bush would consist of nothing more than that eight-minute home video of the President just sitting there in that classroom in Florida, doing nothing - nothing!! - after being told the nation was under attack. For eight minutes. Despite all the bravado he’s shown ever since, here’s this image of Our Wartime President doing the one thing a Wartime President should never do for that long following such an important message. If only more people would see this video, Bush’s days would surely be numbered.

And yes, Moore shows it, albeit edited for time. Here Bush sits, paralyzed by... fear? incompetence? or, as Moore suggests as he shows us this footage of our inactive leader, the knowledge that he knows that he just might have to account for being in business with the Bin Laden family, who have not cut ties as they claim with the guy who just orchestrated a mass murder of thousands of Americans?

Argh. You see what talking about such subjects do to me, so you can imagine how riled I got of having all these facts presented in digest form. This movie is made to piss you off, and dammit, it works perfectly.

However angry it is, “Fahrenheit 9/11” never loses its cool (it leaves that to the audience), even gaining in snarkiness as it details bungle after bungle of the Bush administration (and even those of Congress members of both parties). Moore mixes important journalism that uncovers various cover-ups with a great sense of humor - just watch for Moore’s handling of the Bush-Saudi ties (“who’s your daddy?” he jokes) or his take on the selling of fear (we see real sales videos meant to capitalize on the growing terrorist threat). And I’d be remiss in not mentioning the royal whipping he gives poor John Ashcroft, a man who, lest we forget, once lost a Senate re-election bid to a dead guy. Moore’s film is like twenty “Daily Shows” smushed into one, and that’s not just a good thing, it’s a great thing.

And then we come to Iraq, and Moore settles down into more serious territory. Is this nation, the subject of so much obsession from the Bush camp, better off without Hussein? Granted, Hussein’s no Santa Clause, but it turns out that an Iraq with Bush’s team in charge isn’t much of an improvement. And, quite frankly, neither is our nation, either. Moore returns to Flint to meet the mother of a soldier who died knowing the war he was fighting was utter bullcrap, and in between moments with this wonderful, pained woman, we get some of the best arguments ever made on film against war. Images of violence flood the screen, bloodshed we’d never see on CNN (let alone Fox). Corpses of children are carried away by Iraqi citizens who had nothing to do with a single attack on American soil. Soldiers both for and against the war are interviewed. Footage of soldiers in action are revealed (most disturbingly that of an American taunting an Iraqi corpse, whom he’s nicknamed “Ali Baba”). And, in pure Moore style, we see the filmmaker ambush various members of Congress in hopes of getting their children enlisted into the Armed Forces, which, of course, they’d rather not do.

Which leads to Moore’s final point, that armies are comprised of, and wars are fought by, the poorest members of society, those with no other career choice. We follow two Marine recruiters as they skip the local upscale mall and hit Flint’s cruddier, “poorer” shopping center, where results are guaranteed. These men and women, who “serve so we don’t have to,” are being used and discarded by rich white men. It’s an unjust war made all the more unjust by that age-old fact that wars are fought for the rich by the poor.

It’s a fact that gives Moore’s argument a more personal edge, and even if you’re not convinced by the mountains of evidence against Bush presented here, surely you’ll realize that Bush’s war is killing thousands who do not deserve to die, and for what?

“They're not happy they're occupied. I wouldn't be happy if I were occupied either.”
-Bush feels the Iraqi’s pain.

Leave it to Moore, of course, to punctuate this not with anger but with comedy. The final shot of the film is of our President once more bungling the English language. He may be, as Helen Thomas once claimed, the worst President ever, but hey, at least his incompetence is hee-larious. Moore’s film brings us the terror of reality through the eye of a humorist, and being afraid of where this nation is headed has rarely been so much fun.

This is Moore’s masterpiece, one of the best - and most important - documentaries I have ever seen. Don’t miss it.

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