Tag Archives: Michael Moore

We Call BS

Fahrenheit 11/9

by George Wolf

Michael Moore may set up his latest film by asking “How the F did we get here?”, but thankfully Fahrenheit 11/9 isn’t just another empty load of hand-wringing on the perils of ignoring the “economic anxiety” of the heartland.

Moore has much more legitimate axes to grind, and not just about Donald Trump.

In fact, after a compelling open that reminds us how sure we were that Trump was never going to win in the first place, Moore shifts his focus entirely.

From the water crisis in Moore’s hometown of Flint, Michigan, to striking teachers in West Virginia to the school shooting in Parkland, Florida to a history professor at Yale and beyond, the provocateur filmmaker is after the converging forces that made Trump possible, and the dangers of continued complacency.

The film is at turns enraging, funny, chilling and inspirational, a rallying cry for a populace that may still be interested in maintaining any “aspirations of democracy.”

At his worst, Moore can be self-aggrandizing and overly eager to connect certain dots. Here, outside of one needless stunt at the Michigan governor’s mansion, he’s at his most forthright and committed.

Beyond the question of how we got here lies the bigger problem of how we get out. Moore presents a wide-ranging and compelling argument that the answer starts with, in the words of the Parkland student activists, “calling BS.”

He calls it on the myth of “real America,” and unveils his film’s true target is not Trump, but a government that can rule by minority.

Plutocratic cronyism, unabashed appeals to bigotry, and spineless capitulation from the “opposition party” have led to a voter apathy rooted in hopelessness. Amid flashbacks from Roger & Me, Moore’s 1989 debut, we see the counter lies in “mobilizing for freedom, not safety.”

And if we don’t?

History points to some very unsettling answers.

Accuse him of preaching to the choir if you want, but that’s not who Moore is most interested in reaching. Pairing lessons from the past with hope for the future, Fahrenheit 11/9 is his plea to get invested and mobilize.


Barr and/or Bust

Roseanne for President!

by Matt Weiner

You can’t argue that Roseanne Barr has lost her timing. As we enter what political scientists call the “Holy mother of God there isn’t enough whiskey in the world” phase of the election season, Roseanne for President! looks back at the comedian’s 2012 attempt to run for president as the Green Party nominee.

Spoiler alert: Roseanne Barr did not win the 2012 presidential election. What’s frustrating though is how Barr — and the film, directed by Eric Weinrib — never really settle on what the point of it all was. She claims it’s a serious run at the presidency, which quickly turns into a half-hearted battle for the Green Party nomination, which finally becomes a successful attempt to qualify as the nominee of yet another third party. In three states. Yes, three. (The surest sign that even Barr gave up on everything has to be when she freely admits to voting for Barack Obama due to convoluted write-in rules.)

And yet all of this could have still been fertile material for a comedian as gifted as Barr. Instead, we see her literally phoning in her efforts throughout the race: Barr might be the first presidential nominee to campaign almost entirely via Skype. Be prepared for lots of awkward video conferences from a computer in her Hawaii home, peppered with anti-capitalism rants that sound genuine but disjointed.

While short on introspection, the film allows some moments of inspiration. It’s hard not to want to reach out and hug Farheen Hakeem, Barr’s campaign manager keeping things running in the Mainland. Hakeem is comically undaunted by the challenges of running a third party campaign with no staff and a candidate who doesn’t campaign in person.

Hakeem is also Exhibit A for anyone trying to argue that Barr’s run had merit. The documentary constantly undercuts its own seriousness, though, by landing way more in Christopher Guest territory than Michael Moore. (This is especially odd because director Weinrib has worked on multiple Moore films, but here deploys none of Moore’s visual diversions that could have helped add some context around the nomination process instead of more Skype rants.)

The real tragedy is that talking heads like Sandra Bernhard, Rosie O’Donnell and Tom Smothers aren’t being used for a documentary about Roseanne herself. Barr’s brother, Ben-David, also talks movingly about the family’s outsider upbringing as Jews in Salt Lake City. These all-too-brief scenes show how Barr’s subversive and genuinely radical comedy career deserves a better showcase than this.