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Saturday, October 03, 2009


Capitalism: A Love Story

Michael Moore's work has always walked the
line between a sort of hardcore investigative
journalism and downright entertainment. His
new film "Capitalism: A Love Story" could be
seen as either one, but it is also moving,
funny, depressing, and at times horrifying -
all the things that a good propagandist needs
to hit home his point. That is not to say
that Moore's type of propaganda is a bad
thing, but in truth he is trying to sell an
ideology. Whether it is democracy, as he
would tell you, or liberal, commie paganism
as others might, is up to the viewer, but
that doesn't detract from the fact that all
should see his films and make that
determination for themselves.

"Capitalism" sets itself up as a culmination
of all of Moore's other work. From the
beginning he states that "Roger & Me," a film
which has its twentieth birthday this year,
was all about Capitalism, and all of his
subsequent work, even "Bowling for Columbine"
arguably, revolved around this main religion
of the U.S.A. in some form or another. And to
Moore that religion is downright evil.

He goes as far as to find a couple of priests
and a bishop who support that idea. Like most
of his films "Capitalism" is a mix of stock
footage appropriated for Moore's personal
use, interviews, and antics. Calling in the
priests is a little of both of the last two.
While the theological opinions on Capitalism
of priests may not fly as journalism on
anything but the Glen Beck show, here it
finds a home in the entertainment department,
or maybe something a little more devilish.
These aren't facts, they are opinions, but
taken from the mouth of not one but two
Catholic priests it is hard not see them as
authorities on good and evil. What they say
goes when it comes to bad, right? Well maybe.

The disconnect comes when Moore then presents
PSA clips from the 1950's, the heyday of
Capitalism in America, where a clean cut
gentleman decrees our economic system as
clean, moral, and good. Who should we
believe? The propaganda from the past, or
Moore's version of the present? If this PSA
is nothing more than propaganda trying to
convince the masses that Capitalism is good,
even though it secretly oppress the poor and
middle class in favor of the ultra-rich, then
is Moore's argument something different?

The film is filled with minor inconsistencies
like this that are more moving than factual.
Since "Roger & Me" Moore has faced criticism
of his loose interpretation of "the facts."
Not to say that his facts need checking. It
would be impossible, as well as grammatically
dangerous, to say that his facts are
incorrect, but the influence he exerts on
those facts is the way in which he presents
them. In the documentary "Manufacturing
Consent" Noam Chomsky discusses how seemingly
objective news programs foster opinions just
by the juxtaposition of their stories. Like
using the color of a frame around a painting
to dull or enhance the hues within its
borders facts presented side by side or with
in a certain context take on different
meanings. Moore is well aware of this and
uses it to his advantage.

And it he does it quite skillfully too.
"Capitalism" is nothing if not scary, a kind
of horror movie for the middle class. Quoting
a "secret" Citigroup memo that was intended
for only their richest clients Moore reveals
the nefarious intentions of the rich to keep
the proletariat down, and the only thing that
these affluent masters of the universe fear
is that we peasants can vote. This idea
frames the second half of the film, outlining
how these financial dictators keep themselves
rolling in dough and moves toward an open,
impassioned plea for revolution. Particularly
unnerving are the interviews with high
ranking Treasury Department officials who are
clueless as to how the financial crisis
occurred, and Representative Marcia Kaptur
who compares the collapse to an intelligence

However as some of his past antics were funny
and poignant the ones he pulls in this
picture are a little lackluster. Backing up
an armored truck to Goldman-Saks in order to
take back the billions they got from the
bailout, or covering Wall Street in crime
scene tape kind of pale in comparison to
taking a group of World Trade Center rescue
workers to Cuba to get the same health care
that prisoners at Gitmo were receiving as he
did in "Sicko."

While this film isn't as strong as some of
his others in a strictly cinematic sense
Moore has his shtick down pat, and manages to
probe deep into the subject while keeping the
picture entirely engaging. If nothing else
the film is worth viewing because Moore
actually found a man who knows what a
derivative is - not that he can explain it
very well but knowing is half the battle.

Seeing that Moore has gotten rich making
these films about Capitalism it makes him an
easy target for criticism. Essentially he has
gotten very wealthy by exploiting the down
trodden subjects of his films, and it
wouldn't be difficult to scream "Hypocrite"
to the rafters if the man wasn't so damned
earnest. He has found celebrity as an
overweight shlub in a baseball cap fighting
for the underprivileged, but in I find it
hard to say that he doesn't truly believe in
what he is doing. While he might go about his
crusade in a slightly manipulative way the
crusade has merit, and if using entertainment
or little half-truths inspires progress then
I say a little propaganda is worth it. Viva
la revolution, Michael Moore style!

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