Archive for the ‘Film’ Category
It’s hard to speak of Paul Newman’s entire life. There were too many parts to it. He drove race cars and sponsored Newman-Haas, one of the most successful Indy-league teams in sports history. He began Newman’s Own out of a few jars of salad dressing whipped up as Christmas gifts and turned it into a multi-million-dollar corporation that has provided satisfying work and healthy working conditions for thousands of employees, and turned $250M over to charities. He started out as an actor but rapidly grew into a director of some ability, a producer, and even a writer.
But it was as an actor that I knew him first, and it’s as an actor that he’ll be remembered by most us.
If Marlon was the Giant, the pioneer, the trendsetter, the larger-than-life prototype for all who followed, Paul was the one he opened the door for. If Brando was an earth-shattering explosion, Paul was the guy who came later and used the hole as the foundation for a hospital.
Newman always claimed he was a character actor in a leading man’s body, and over the years, especially his later career, he proved it. He was as dedicated to his craft as any artisan, and it was Newman who proved to the doubters of The Method, the ones who said Brando and Dean were exceptions, that Stanlislovski’s technique could bring depth and desire to even the 2-dimensional illusion of film. Brando may have finally given acting the cachet of art, but it was Newman who gave it the stability and honor of craft.
Ingmar Bergman, Swedish Film genius (no relation to Ingrid), died on Monday.
I grew up in a small town in New Hampshire. The nearest movie theater was 10 miles away in Exeter – the Ioka. It showed things like Beach Blanket Bingo and Jerry Lewis movies in b&w. Foreign films and “art films” were little more than rumors. In high school, boys whispered with bright eyes and drooling lips that foreign movies had naked girls in them – lots and lots of naked girls. It was a powerful draw at 16. The closest we could get in the puritanical US, still reeling from the sexually suppressed and frightened 50′s, was Ursula Andress in a skimpy bikini (Dr No).
We made the most of it.
Then I graduated high school and got a scholarship as a day student at UNH for a year. At the time I wasn’t exactly a film buff. I liked movies and watched them on tv but I didn’t know anything about them. I thought they were fun but that was as far as it went.
The first week I was at the university and scoping out my new territory, I discovered, just off-campus and down a side street that wasn’t much more than an alley, a marquee. A movie house! And within walking distance of the campus (which isn’t really saying much – Durham is so small practically everything is in walking distance). Cool.
I remember being about to walk away when it dawned on me to actually read the marquee to see what was playing. To my surprise, it wasn’t Beach Party or the latest James Bond. It was Duck Soup, my favorite Marx Bros movie, and it was playing with The Maltese Falcon. Groucho and Bogart on a big screen with no commercial interruptions? That was something I’d never hoped to see. I’d never heard of movie houses that showed old films. I was supposed to be on my way home but as you can probably imagine, I dumped that plan and went inside.
From that point on, I was hooked. I went every time they changed the program, and sometimes I went to the same program several times. It wasn’t until January, I think, that they showed their first foreign film, Bergman’s Through a Glass Darkly. The title intrigued me – American films didn’t go in for obscure Biblical references or, indeed, have any panache about them whatever – though I didn’t recognize it (I quit going to church several years before and had never bothered to read the Bible), so I went on the chance there would be naked women in it.
Some startling numbers are emerging from polls done in connection with Michael Moore’s Fahrenheit 9/11, according to Moore himself. In his latest newsletter, Moore cites marketing research showing that hardly anyone going into F9/11 a Bush voter is coming out one.
I had dinner recently with a well-known pollster who had often worked for Republicans. He told me that when he went to see “Fahrenheit 9/11″ he got so distraught he twice had to go out in the lobby and pace during the movie.
“The Bush White House left open a huge void when it came to explaining the war to the American people,” he told me. “And your film has filled that void — and now there is no way to defeat it. It is the atomic bomb of this campaign.”
He told me how he had conducted an informal poll with “Fahrenheit 9/11″ audiences in three different cities and the results were all the same. “Essentially, 80% of the people going IN to see your movie are already likely Kerry voters and the movie has galvanized them in a way you rarely see Democrats galvanized.
“But, here’s the bad news for Bush: Though 80% going IN to your movie are Kerry voters, 100% of those COMING OUT of your movie are Kerry voters. You can’t come out of this movie and say, ‘I am absolutely and enthusiastically voting for George W. Bush.’”
His findings are similar to those in other polls conducted around the country. In Pennsylvania, a Keystone poll showed that 4% of Kerry’s support has come from people who decided to vote for him AFTER seeing “Fahrenheit 9/11″ — and in an election that will be very close, 4% is a landslide. A Harris poll found that 44% of Republicans who see the film give it a “positive” rating. Another poll, to be released this week, shows a 21-point shift in Bush’s approval rating, after just one viewing of the movie, among audiences of undecideds who were shown “Fahrenheit 9/11″ in Ohio.
My pollster friend told me that he believes if Kerry wins, “Fahrenheit 9/11″ will be one of the top three reasons for his election. Kerry’s only problem, he said, is how many people will actually be able to see it before election day. The less that see it, the better for Bush.
But 20 million people have already seen it — and the Gallup poll said that 56% of the American public has seen or plans to see “Fahrenheit 9/11″ either in the theater or on home video. The DVD and home video of our film, thanks to our distributors listening to our pleas to release it before November, will be in the stores on October 5. This is very good news.
These polls galvanized him to try to get F9/11 aired on television before the election. The DVD distributor so far has said No, fearing its profits on the DVD sales would be hurt. Moore is currently trying to talk them into considering a single, one-night-only showing right before the election–preferably the night before.
There’s a price, though–if the film is shown on TV then, less than 9 months after its theatrical release, Academy rules make it ineligible for a run at Best Documentary. Moore responds to that this way:
I have decided not to submit “Fahrenheit 9/11″ for consideration for the Best Documentary Oscar. If there is even the remotest of chances that I can get this film seen by a few million more Americans before election day, then that is more important to me than winning another documentary Oscar. I have already won a Best Documentary statue. Having a second one would be nice, but not as nice as getting this country back in the hands of the majority.
His enemies in the corporate press, however, have come up with another reason–they’re suggesting he’s just angling for Best Picture.
What happens when pugnacious filmmaker Michael Moore, incendiary documentary “Fahrenheit 9/11″ and Oscar gunslinger Harvey Weinstein team up for an Academy Award run? An explosive, and extremely risky, decision to pull “Fahrenheit” out of the documentary race to fight for consideration as best picture.
Moore said he got the idea — it represents a first in Academy Awards history — from veteran Oscar campaigner Weinstein, the Miramax co-chairman who is also an executive producer on the documentary.
Bruce Davis, the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences’ executive director, confirmed that no documentary has ever been nominated for best picture.
And there’s a reason for that:
An Oscar strategist for another studio who asked not to be identified criticized the move, saying “Fahrenheit 9/11″ might be popular with some writers and directors who want to make a political statement, but no actors will vote for it because there are no actors in the film, likewise, the crafts unions.
No one who knows more about the movie business than your average 12-yr-old could possibly take this theory seriously. This has Harvey ‘Mad Max’ Weinstein written all over it–a pure press play aimed at getting plenty of ink for Miramax–and a much longer run for the film. Harvey has proved to be a genius at manipulating Academy voters (he’s the guy who got Oscars for The English Patient and Shakespeare in Love when everybody said it was impossible), but even he doesn’t really expect to pull this off in the face of the rock-ribbed Academy prejudices against non-fiction film.
The Academy Award is worth millions of dollars in extra tickets to the winner and a bigger jackpot in video and DVD sales, and F9/11 had a good chance of winning Best Documentary again. It must have hurt Harvey like a hernia when Moore said he was giving it up. Both Miramax and Moore himself are giving up $$millions$$ by doing it. In my book, that makes them heroes–especially since there’s no guarantee the film will even be shown on tv and they may be giving up all that money for nothing. That Moore is doing this for no more than a wing-and-a-prayer hope that the film might be shown on a mass media outlet before the election says a lot about his commitment.
The ‘Best Picture’ ploy is just a gambit to take up some of the slack and renew interest in the film. Anybody who says otherwise is talking through his tinfoil hat.
As I said to someone recently, Michael Moore has never been a real documentary film-maker; he is a satirist who uses the documentary style as the tool of his trade. There is a vast difference between the two, and Fahrenheit 9/11 demonstrates just how wide that yawning gap is.
A good documentary builds its case from the inside out, like the construction of a house–showing us the foundations of its subject and then what was built on top of them–or from the outside in, like peeling an onion–showing us what’s on top and then slowly removing layer after layer to reveal what the surface was hiding. Moore’s film does neither. Fahrenheit 9/11 is structured like one of those grab-bags you get at a carnival: it’s got a little bit of everything in it that happened to be lying around loose when it got put together.
There is no attempt here to make any sense of what happened on 9/11 or of what it led to. This isn’t a documentary, it’s a polemic designed to pick out the most startling images and/or facts it can find and then throw them all in the same bag. The only thing that holds it together is that it all has something to do with 9/11 or Iraq. It doesn’t make clear the connection between them and it doesn’t show how one led to the other in any substantive way, in fact it barely gets around to suggesting that there is a connection.
And yet Moore clearly had more on his mind than a simple polemic. One of the longest and most connected sections of the film deals with the business relationship between the bin Laden family and the Bushes, including the relatively minor conspiracy around getting them out of the country after 9/11 so that potential investigations wouldn’t inconvenience them in any way. Compared to some of the other issues Moore raises–the oil imperative, the Halliburton-Cheney conspiracy, the Israeli Army-derived tactics against the civilians of Iraq practiced by our military, and most importantly perhaps in this context, the power of the Saudi Royal Family to influence the decisions of the Bush Administration–the ‘planes’ incident tends to pale into insignificance, yet he spends more time on it than on all those other issues combined.
Worse, he never finishes what he starts. The connection between the bin Ladens and the Saudi Royals is never made; he doesn’t detail any of the disturbing proof of the Saudi govt’s support for terrorists, including Al Qaeda; he shows that Iraqi oil was clearly a large part of the motivation for the Second Gulf War and brings the Afghanistan pipeline into the equation for what may be the first time, but he doesn’t connect those dots to the larger strategy the neocons have had for the Middle East since the late 80′s. Where is PNAC? Where is Richard Perle? Where, for god’s-sake, is Israel? No genuine documentary would ever have left out such key parts of the puzzle that is 9/11.
He follows a similar pattern throughout the film, lingering over insubstantial or less substantial aspects of the 9/11 fall-out while rushing through or brushing past far more lethal topics, a tack no self-respecting documentarian would take after his first student effort had been roundly criticized. How else would you explain that Paul Wolfowitz–a chief architect of the neocon strategy that led straight to Iraq–makes his only appearance combing his hair with his own spit? or that John Ashcroft’s only appearance involves a singular, not to say peculiar, instance when he sings a song–badly; there is nothing as sad as listening to somebody who thinks he can sing and can’t, unless it’s listening to somebody who thinks he’s funny and isn’t–of his own composition about an eagle soaring, soaring, soaring… OK already, I get it, John: eagles soar. Got anything else to say? Not in this film, he doesn’t, and that’s a problem.
Part political invective, part satire, part self-righteous polemic, Fahrenheit 9/11 stands or falls on the strength of its images and its ability to ridicule public figures who deserve it, and on that score it’s much more successful. Nobody who sees it is ever going to forget the image of the President of the US sitting in that second-grade classroom, immobile, for almost ten minutes after he’s been told that a second plane has hit the WTC, his face a mass of confusion and doubt. Moore speculates on what he might have been thinking, but if you look at his face it’s pretty clear that what’s running through his mind is one simple question: ‘What should I do?’ It’s equally and shockingly clear that he doesn’t know the answer.
The footage from Iraq is as stunning and as uncomfortable as anything from Titicut Follies. Iraqi children mutilated by American bombs, what the BA and the Pentagon would call ‘collateral damage’, are juxtaposed with Donald Rumsfeld cheerfully and with great pride and firmness explaining that such things could never happen because of the precision of our technology and the ‘great care’ we take to avoid them. Moore unceremoniously rips away the fantasy that the iraq war–that all modern war–is somehow cleaner and more humane than it used to be. It isn’t. War is still hell and the innocent are still its worst victims and anybody who doesn’t understand that should never be allowed to occupy a position in which they have the responsibility of either starting one or maintaining one.
But the most moving and devasting section of the film doesn’t come from Iraq but from Flint, Michigan. Anybody who can watch Lila Lipscomb trying to come to terms with the death of her son without his heart imploding in his chest is walking around dead and doesn’t know it. Anybody who can listen to her husband’s soft yet deeply angry question–’And for what? For what?’–without questioning the motives of the leaders who sent his son to his death is either a robot or an alien pod-person, not a human being. You might still decide that Lila’s overwhelming grief is part of the price we must pay for a greater good, but if you don’t at least ask the question and re-examine the supposed reasons, everything from your toes up is no more than petrified wood masquerading as living tissue.
For in the end, Moore’s film isn’t trying to make or prove any particular case. It is aimed toward only one goal–taking you to that moment with Lila and her husband after having put into your head and your hands just enough information to make you question the govt’s quasi-justifications for this couple’s enormous sacrifice. For that achievement alone, it should be honored.
Harold Meyerson in the Washington Post notes that unlike Ray Charles, Brando’s death seemed to go largely unnoticed–or at least unremarked. He thinks he knows why.
Brando’s effect was never confined to the realm of dramatic representation. By virtue of the roles he played and the figure he cut in the first half of the ’50s, he became an icon of the social rebellion of that decade — hipster, beat, at times delinquent, at all times sexual — that evolved into something much bigger and more political in the ’60s and has been part of our national DNA ever since (however much other strains in our national DNA fiercely oppose it). The onscreen biker who, when asked what he was rebelling against, answered “Whattaya got?” was also the off-screen star who rebelled against stardom and the studio system, who shunned premieres, didn’t dress up, and dared to do what half of Hollywood had always wanted to do but lacked the guts: blow off Hedda and Louella. A system that had at its apex Louis B. Mayer, Brando was saying, was somebody’s idea of a joke, and damned if he’d take it seriously.
Brando’s icon had legs. You can see it in the young Bob Dylan, in Bruce Springsteen, even in Eminem — young men whose quest for authenticity is defined against old social mores. Brando added sexual menace and working-class violence, a touch of the outlaw, to the instinctual social criticism of Huck Finn, and young American males — and females — have never gotten over it (even the most establishment among them, or haven’t you seen John Kerry on his Harley?). When the generation of Vietnam War protesters broadened their critique to the whole damn society, they were building, though not consciously and by no means exclusively, on Brando.James Dean joined Brando in shaping this icon; but Dean died just as he was starting out, ever a rebel without a cause. Brando went on, eventually to depict in Don Corleone the most seductive, cunning and deadly patriarch in our national canon. In a sense, “The Godfather” is ’50s Brando stood on its head — a film about the catastrophic failure to escape the confines of family, neighborhood, business and the whole traditional authority against which the ’50s hipsters had raged. Either challenging authority or depicting its rot, Brando remains beyond the pale of official canonization.
America has a long line of artists with whom officialdom has never felt comfortable, of course — from Theodore Dreiser to Allen Ginsberg, from vaudevillians to rappers — but it was Brando who brought rage and rebellion, however unfocused, to the center of the culture. States don’t honor rage and rebellion, and states that engender rage, as America has under George W. Bush, apparently don’t honor the representation of rage, either. That Brando’s death went unmarked by power is a testament not to his failings but to his success; not to his failings but to ours.
Because we believe in being fair and balanced around here (HAH!), we herewith offer a potent criticism of F 9/11 by the San Francisco Chronicle‘s Mark Morford, who is fun to read even when he’s dead wrong and completely round the bend, as he is here (he must be; he doesn’t agree with me). Morford, as ever, doesn’t mince words.
Oh my God but Michael Moore is infuriating.He has made a massively flawed quasi-documentary that treads dangerously close to excessive propaganda, a movie that never lets BushCo have the slightest hint of breathing space (not that they really deserve it) and he zooms his camera in on the distraught faces of weeping mothers and tormented soldiers and holds the lens there far too long, making you go, OK OK, enough already with the misery porn and the emo-manipulation.
Moore takes numerous cheap shots and finds far too many easy targets among the political elite, and he cleverly edits his footage to make the various politicians he skewers appear even more vacuous and slithery and alien and sad than they normally might, which is already quite a lot, I mean would you just look at Dick Cheney because wow the man is sinister subterfuge incarnate. Shudder.
“Fahrenheit 9/11″ is packed with missed opportunities. It argues obvious points far too weakly and never really digs very deeply, or very coherently, into the sinister underbelly of How It All Really Works.
Personally I think Morford is expecting an awful lot from today’s multiplex audience; you gotta remember, thanks to our yellow-belly corporate media this is the first time a lot of them have been exposed to this stuff. An in-depth whack at explaining ‘How It All Really Works’ would have left them utterly mystified.
Still, he makes some good points about how Moore basically let Dems off the hook for ‘roll[ing] over and begg[ing] for scraps when the GOP war machine steamrolled in and demanded the nation cower in fear so they could attack a wimpy volatile hate-filled pipsqueak nation that dared to threaten its global petrochemical interests.’
PS: I just found out, much to my shock and awe, that F 9/11 opened in my town this weekend. I will get a chance to see it after all, though not til next weekend–if it lasts that long…. Keep your fingers crossed.
Ever since Marlon’s death I have been struggling to find a way to express what his life and work meant to actors of every generation since Stanley Kowalski walked onstage at the Vivian Beaumont Theater and let go that howl of rage and need in Tennessee Williams’ A Streetcar Named Desire. Or the way he transformed both film acting and film itself with Rod Steiger and Eva Marie Saint in On the Waterfront. Whatever his personal problems–and they were legion–this was a giant, the kind of talent who comes along once a generation if you’re lucky and influences everything everybody does after them. How do you sum up a man like that?
July 4th, 2004
Where do I begin? This past week has knocked me for a loop. “Fahrenheit 9/11,” the #1 movie in the country, the largest grossing documentary ever. My head is spinning. Didn’t we just lose our distributor 8 weeks ago? Did Karl Rove really fail to stop this? Is Bush packing?
Each day this week I was given a new piece of information from the press that covers Hollywood, and I barely had time to recover from the last tidbit before the next one smacked me upside the head:
** More people saw “Fahrenheit 9/11″ in one weekend than all the people who saw “Bowling for Columbine” in 9 months.
** “Fahrenheit 9/11″ broke “Rocky III’s” record for the biggest box office opening weekend ever for any film that opened in less than a thousand theaters.
** “Fahrenheit 9/11″ beat the opening weekend of “Return of the Jedi.”
** “Fahrenheit 9/11″ instantly went to #2 on the all-time list for largest per-theater average ever for a film that opened in wide-release.
How can I ever thank all of you who went to see it? These records are mind-blowing. They have sent shock waves through Hollywood – and, more importantly, through the White House.
But it didn’t just stop there. The response to the movie then went into the Twilight Zone. Surfing through the dial I landed on the Fox broadcasting network which was airing the NASCAR race live last Sunday to an audience of millions of Americans — and suddenly the announcers were talking about how NASCAR champ Dale Earnhardt, Jr. took his crew to see “Fahrenheit 9/11” the night before. FOX sportscaster Chris Myers delivered Earnhardt’s review straight out of his mouth and into the heartland of America: “He said hey, it’ll be a good bonding experience no matter what your political belief. It’s a good thing as an American to go see.” Whoa! NASCAR fans – you can’t go deeper into George Bush territory than that! White House moving vans – START YOUR ENGINES!
Then there was Roger Friedman from the Fox News Channel giving our film an absolutely glowing review, calling it “a really brilliant piece of work, and a film that members of all political parties should see without fail.” Richard Goldstein of the Village Voice surmised that Bush is already considered a goner so Rupert Murdoch might be starting to curry favor with the new administration. I don’t know about that, but I’ve never heard a decent word toward me from Fox. So, after I was revived, I wondered if a love note to me from Sean Hannity was next.
How about Letterman’s Top Ten List: “Top Ten George W. Bush Complaints About “Fahrenheit 9/11″:
10. That actor who played the President was totally unconvincing
9. It oversimplified the way I stole the election
8. Too many of them fancy college-boy words
7. If Michael Moore had waited a few months, he could have included the part where I get him deported
6. Didn’t have one of them hilarious monkeys who smoke cigarettes and gives people the finger
5. Of all Michael Moore’s accusations, only 97% are true
4. Not sure – - I passed out after a piece of popcorn lodged in my windpipe
3. Where the hell was Spider-man?
2. Couldn’t hear most of the movie over Cheney’s foul mouth
1. I thought this was supposed to be about dodgeball
But it was the reactions and reports we received from theaters around the country that really sent me over the edge. One theatre manager after another phoned in to say that the movie was getting standing ovations as the credits rolled – in places like Greensboro, NC and Oklahoma City — and that they were having a hard time clearing the theater afterwards because people were either too stunned or they wanted to sit and talk to their neighbors about what they had just seen. In Trumbull, CT, one woman got up on her seat after the movie and shouted “Let’s go have a meeting!” A man in San Francisco took his shoe off and threw it at the screen when Bush appeared at the end. Ladies’ church groups in Tulsa were going to see it, and weeping afterwards.
It was this last group that gave lie to all the yakking pundits who, before the movie opened, declared that only the hard-core “choir” would go to see “Fahrenheit 9/11.” They couldn’t have been more wrong. Theaters in the Deep South and the Midwest set house records for any film they’d ever shown. Yes, it even sold out in Peoria. And Lubbock, Texas. And Anchorage, Alaska!
Newspaper after newspaper wrote stories in tones of breathless disbelief about people who called themselves “Independents” and “Republicans” walking out of the movie theater shaken and in tears, proclaiming that they could not, in good conscience, vote for George W. Bush. The New York Times wrote of a conservative Republican woman in her 20s in Pensacola, Florida who cried through the film, and told the reporter: “It really makes me question what I feel about the president… it makes me question his motives…”
Newsday reported on a self-described “ardent Bush/Cheney supporter” who went to see the film on Long Island, and his quiet reaction afterwards. He said, “It’s really given me pause to think about what’s really going on. There was just too much – too much to discount.” The man then bought three more tickets for another showing of the film.
The Los Angeles Times found a mother who had “supported [Bush] fiercely” at a theater in Des Peres, Missouri: “Emerging from Michael Moore’s ‘Fahrenheit 9/11,’ her eyes wet, Leslie Hanser said she at last understood…. ‘My emotions are just….’ She trailed off, waving her hands to show confusion. ‘I feel like we haven’t seen the whole truth before.’”
All of this had to be the absolute worst news for the White House to wake up to on Monday morning. I guess they were in such a stupor, they “gave” Iraq back to, um, Iraq two days early!
News editors told us that they were being “bombarded” with e-mails and calls from the White House (read: Karl Rove), trying to spin their way out of this mess by attacking it and attacking me. Bush spokesman Dan Bartlett had told the White House press corps that the movie was “outrageously false” — even though he said he hadn’t seen the movie. He later told CNN that “This is a film that doesn’t require us to actually view it to know that it’s filled with factual inaccuracies.” At least they’re consistent. They never needed to see a single weapon of mass destruction before sending our kids off to die.
Many news shows were more than eager to buy the White House spin. After all, that is a big part of what “Fahrenheit” is about — how the lazy, compliant media bought all the lies from the Bush administration about the need to invade Iraq. They took the Kool-Aid offered by the White House and rarely, if ever, did our media ask the hard questions that needed to be asked before the war started.
Because the movie “outs” the mainstream media for their failures and their complicity with the Bush administration — who can ever forget their incessant, embarrassing cheerleading as the troops went off to war, as though it was all just a game — the media was not about to let me get away with anything now resembling a cultural phenomenon. On show after show, they went after me with the kind of viciousness you would have hoped they had had for those who were lying about the necessity for invading a sovereign nation that was no threat to us. I don’t blame our well-paid celebrity journalists — they look like a bunch of ass-kissing dopes in my movie, and I guess I’d be pretty mad at me, too. After all, once the NASCAR fans see “Fahrenheit 9/11,” will they ever believe a single thing they see on ABC/NBC/CBS news again?
In the next week or so, I will recount my adventures through the media this past month (I will also be posting a full FAQ on my website soon so that you can have all the necessary backup and evidence from the film when you find yourself in heated debate with your conservative brother-in-law!). For now, please know the following: Every single fact I state in “Fahrenheit 9/11″ is the absolute and irrefutable truth. This movie is perhaps the most thoroughly researched and vetted documentary of our time. No fewer than a dozen people, including three teams of lawyers and the venerable one-time fact-checkers from The New Yorker went through this movie with a fine-tooth comb so that we can make this guarantee to you. Do not let anyone say this or that isn’t true. If they say that, they are lying. Let them know that the OPINIONS in the film are mine, and anyone certainly has a right to disagree with them. And the questions I pose in the movie, based on these irrefutable facts, are also mine. And I have a right to ask them. And I will continue to ask them until they are answered.
In closing, let me say that the most heartening response to the film has come from our soldiers and their families. Theaters in military towns across the country reported packed houses. Our troops know the truth. They have seen it first-hand. And many of them could not believe that here was a movie that was TRULY on their side — the side of bringing them home alive and never sending them into harms way again unless it’s the absolute last resort. Please take a moment to read this wonderful story from the daily paper in Fayetteville, NC, where Fort Bragg is located. It broke my heart to read this, the reactions of military families and the comments of an infantryman’s wife publicly backing my movie — and it gave me the resolve to make sure as many Americans as possible see this film in the coming weeks.
Thank you again, all of you, for your support. Together we did something for the history books. My apologies to “Return of the Jedi.” We’ll make it up by producing “Return of the Texan to Crawford” in November.
May the farce be with you, but not for long,
P.S. You can read letters from people around the country recounting their own experiences at the theater, and their reactions to the film by going here.
In a snarky NYT piece that avoids sliding into snide mockery by the hair on its chinny-chin-chin, reporter Bill Werde notes that Disney, which refused to distribute F 9/11 for fear Jeb Bush would misuse the power of his office as the Gov of Florida to extract revenge by scotching their plans for Disneyworld, is distributing a documentary after all.
The film is called America’s Heart and Soul and was desxcribed in the NYT (I won’t call it a review because it wasn’t) as ‘an effort to showcase not just the beauty of the land, but the very soul of the United States — its people.’ The writer doesn’t say how well it did with its effort but that may perhaps be judged by the fact that the only way Disney can get people to watch it is to pay them.
In Sacramento the conservative group Move America Forward, whose Web site criticizes “Fahrenheit 9/11,” organized an advance screening of the Disney documentary “America’s Heart and Soul,” due in theaters on July 2. That film, directed by Louis Schwartzberg, celebrates ordinary Americans and, Disney says, their extraordinary stories. “Disney brought the movie, rented the theater and even paid for the popcorn,” Howard Kaloogian, the chairman of Move America Forward, said.
Dennis Rice, Disney Head of PR, told Werde that the company had done likewise ‘close to 100 times’, including screenings for the Sierra Club and the AARP.
Sounds like you got a real winner there, Denny. Send a limo for me and remember–I like lots of butter on my popcorn. Let’s not be frugal. After all, it’s on The Mouse.
Trust the conservatives to answer the specific charges Moore makes with a mindless ‘patriotic’ film that runs up the flag and salutes it while ignoring them. I want to see the head-to-head numbers on this one.
Pulled from Comments:
Review of Fahrenheit 9/11 by KrytonMy wife and I and our 13 year old niece went to see it Sunday afternoon.
I knew much of what was in this movie, but not all. I didn’t realize, for instance, that only one member of Congress has a child serving today. But seeing it all pulled together made for an unforgettable experience. I thought Moore could’ve added even more, but the film as it is lasts 2 1/2 hours. He couldn’t possibly put in everything
We’ve all seen the replays of 9-11 a thousand times. That’s what makes Moore’s extraordinarily respectful treatment of it all the more powerful. I could hear people literally choking back tears during that scene.
It’s a stunning documentary. My niece and wife both cried several times. Even I must admit to tears.
As a general rule, I thought that the movie was at its most scathing when it showed us raw footage: Bush sitting in the classroom (yes, it really was that long; Bush telling a roomful of billionaires, “Some call you the elite. I call you my base;” the Republican Stepford Wife attacking the mother of a dead soldier.
Bush and Jeb together, smirking aboard a plane. Bush smirking to a reporter that he’ll win Florida. “Count on it,” he smirks. “Write it down,” he smirks. His cousin John at FOXNEWS declaring him the Florida winner. The other networks retract their earlier call for Gore and go along with FOX. Bush with Kathryn Harris, his Florida campaign manager who just happened to also work for Jeb, who also just happened to be the person in charge of Florida’s vote.
Bush’s Arbusto/Harken ties to Saudis. Bush’s black-lined National Guard records. Bush practicing facial expressions before a televised speech; Bush sitting in that 9-11 classroom, eyes darting this way and that, searching vainly for brain matter. (I’d hoped Moore would’ve included the t.v. image of Bush’s vacuous terrified face the evening of 9-11 when he returned to Washington).
Bush grinning with Saudis. Cheney grinning with Saudis. Bush 40 grinning with Saudies. James Baker grinning with Saudis. Rumsfeld grinning with Saudis. Repeat. Repeat. Prince Bandar perched on the edge of a sofa with Bush 40. Ashcroft singing his soaring eagle song. (Anyone remember that eagles are carnivorous predators?)
Huge bombs bursting over Iraq, lighting up the night sky like the end of the world; Iraqi women and children screaming and crying, terrified. American GIs with limbs blown off. Bush smirking “Bring ‘em on.” Bush smirking. Bush smirking. Bush smirking.
A Flint MI woman who in earlier years as a counsellor encouraged young people to join the military as a way to escape Flint’s poverty, is devastated when her own son is killed in Iraq. She sits on a sofa with her husband and large family around her, reading the last letter she received from her son. Her voice breaks. She reads on. Her voice breaks again and again. She can barely finish the letter. She finally does. She’s completely emptied. She sits silent, washed in grief, tapping the letter against its envelope, expressing extreme anguish by wordlessly hitting paper with paper…
Take kleenex with you. And vote Bush and his demonic crew out of office in November.
I was listening to Randi yesterday and people were calling in from all over the country (AA is on 14 stations now and has a large internet audience) about their experiences. I haven’t heard stories like that since Star Wars–lines around the block in small towns; theaters adding one or two showings and, in the multiplexes, putting it on a couple more screens; one guy, I can’t remember where he said he was from but it was a Red State, said he figured that, in his highly conservative area, he might be the only one at the showing but when he got there, the multiplex had put F9/11 on 8 screens and every single showing was sold out; another one said he saw it first with a university crowd, sort of leftish, and when he decided he wanted to see it again, he ended up in a conservative area (the only place he could find a ticket, apparently) and even there it was on 4 screens and the houses were packed; one woman heard what was going on and showed up 3 hoiurs early to get her tickets–she got the last two…for the day.
That last woman said, ‘There’s a hunger in this country for somebody to tell the truth about what’s been happening the past three years.’ From the sound of it, they’re not hungry, they’re starving.
Not that there hasn’t been criticism. charlie at BiteSoundBite has reservations after reading Juan Cole’s review.
My argument is that the Iraq connection to 9/11 is specious and that connections of the same type can be made between al Quaeda and governments of the region whom we call friends and do not invade. I thought that Moore was doing the same thing, but now I don’t think he was. I still enjoyed the movie, and would reccomend it. But read Juan Cole’s remarks first, go in with a cool head.
Cole took Moore to task for his ‘illogic’ and ‘Saudi-bashing’.
The Saudi bashing in the Moore film makes no sense. It is true that some of the hijackers were Saudis, but that is only because Bin Laden hand-picked some Saudi muscle at the last minute to help the brains of the operation, who were Egyptians, Lebanese, Yemenis, etc. Bin Laden did that deliberately, in hopes of souring US/Saudi relations so that he could the better overthrow the Saudi government.The implication one often hears from Democrats that the US should have invaded Saudi Arabia and Pakistan after the Afghan war rather than Iraq is just another kind of warmongering and illogical. There is no evidence that either the Saudi or the Pakistani government was complicit in 9/11.
I respect Cole a great deal, but he’s being very legalistic here. There’s no hard evidence that the Saudi govt or Musharraff personally were involved in or supported specifically the AQ action against the US, but there’s plenty of evidence that Saudi businessmen with close ties to the Royal Family (which is the govt) and even certain members of that family have been giving tacit financial support to fundamentalist Islamic terrorist groups like AQ, Hamas and Hezbollah for years all during the time they were promising to do something just like this. The israeli govt has been protesting that support for more than a decade, and for more than a decade the Saudis have been denying it.
Pakistan has a military govt, and while Musharraf himself hasn’t been proven to have terrorist ties, certain of his high-ranking military officers, especially those in charge of the areas around the Afghanistan border, have been up to their necks protecting and supporting the Taliban and the AQ since the early 90′s. During the Afghan War, Israeli intelligence–and most of the other intelkligence services, including our own–were reasonably certain that bin Laden was hiding out in the mountains across the border in Pakistan, shielded by the Pakistani military; some of them think that’s where he is now, most of the time.
The relationship between the Saudi Royals, the Pakistani military, and AQ is way too complicated to go into here (part of the Saudi support is pure baksheesh, for example); suffice it to say that the connections are undeniable and decades long, and during all that time powerful elements of both entities have been supporting terrorist groups promising to do something just like the 9/11 massacre. If they weren’t directly involved in the planning and execution of 9/11, they certainly were parties to everything that led up to it. Like Moore, I think that makes them as guilty as if they flew those planes themselves. Cole is splitting hairs here, and while he’s technically accurate, it’s a distinction that’s hardly worth making to anybody except a lawyer.
As for Cole’s contention that the Saudis were picked ‘at the last minute’, I’d like to know where he’s getting this. All the information I’ve seen says that those cells were smuggled into the US over the course of two years; a year before the attacks took place, the pilots were getting flight training. Here. The pilots were mostly Saudi. Two years is not ‘the last minute’.
Some of Cole’s other comments seem uncharacteristically simplistic, as well.
The story Moore tells about the Turkmenistan gas pipeline project through Afghanistan and Pakistan also makes no sense. First, why would it be bad for the Turkmenistanis to be able to export their natural gas? What is wicked about all that? It is true that some forces wanted the pipeline so badly that they even were willing to deal with the Taliban, but this was before Bin Laden started serious operations against the US from Afghan soil, beginning in 1998 with the East Africa embassy bombings.
If Cole thinks dickering with the Taliban over the pipeline stopped in ’98, he’s misinformed. It went on through intermediaries in Turkmenistan right up until the Afghan War. Again, Cole seems unaccountably willing to accept the narrow notion that working through other people makes you innocent. I don’t. It doesn’t.
I still cannot understand why the pipeline is evil. Afghanistans would collect $2 bn. a year on tolls, and the Turkmen would be lifted out of poverty, and Pakistan and India might have a new reason to cooperate rather than fighting. I personally wish it could be built immediately.
This is startlingly naive. The pipeline is evil because the Turkmen would NOT be lifted out of poverty; they’d never see a nickel of the money. They’d be rooted out of their homes as they were in Burma and forcibly moved out of the way of the pipe to new villages where they’d be resented for taking up some of the village’s increasingly scarce resources–land, food, water–while individuals in the Turkmen govt got richer and richer.
That is the way it works and has worked for decades: Burma, Brazil, Sierra Leone, Sri Lanka, Venezuela, Uzbekistan, the list winds ever on. Mr Cole has taken the view of investors that the pipeline will be of value; Mr Moore has taken the people’s view that the pipeline will be of value…to investors. Perhaps Mr Cole should look at the history of Halliburton/KBR’s pipeline in Burma and show us some evidence that it lifted the Burmese ‘out of poverty’. If he can do that, I may take him more seriously.
1. Michael Moore is a life-member of the National Rifle Association of America. (He joined in a bid to challenge Charlton Heston for its presidency and disband it from within, obviously).2. He lives with his wife and his daughter in a $1.2m home in New York City.
3. While at school, he won a merit badge as an Eagle Scout for putting on a slide show that exposed environmentally unfriendly businesses in Flint.
4. He directed the Rage Against The Machine video Sleep Now In The Fire, which was filmed outside the New York Stock Exchange. At the end of the shoot, which had turned into a chaotic, impromptu concert, he was arrested and the Stock Exchange was forced to close down.
5. The New York Times has never reviewed Moore’s controversial book, Stupid White Men – even though it was on their bestseller list for 59 weeks.
6. He hosted bingo games in his house to raise the money to finish his first film, Roger and Me.
7. Stupid White Men was due to be released on September 12, 2001. In the light of the terrorist attacks, publishers HarperCollins got cold feet and asked Moore to re-write 50% of the book. He refused. Five months later, the book was released unchanged.
8. Aged 18, he became one of the youngest people in the US to be elected to public office when he won a seat on his local school board.
9. When Bowling For Columbine was screened at Cannes in May 2002, it received a record 13-minute standing ovation.
10. He is an honorary Canadian.
They’re close–I only knew three of them, 7, 8 & 9. About #8: he ran for the express purpose of getting his high school principal fired. A year later, the principal was gone. He calls it ‘every kid’s fantasy’ and says he’ll never go into politics because he’ll never be able to equal that high.
By the way, as predicted, Fahrenheit 9/11 isn’t playing within 50 miles of me (40 actually but who’s counting?). I guess I’ll have to wait for the video.
PS. Is #10 a slur?
(Thanks to lovedonnaz of An American Parrothead in Canada)
The right-wing attempt to stop theaters from showing Michael Moore’s Fahrenheit 9/11 has run into a snag: $22Mil at the box office its opening weekend, making it the highest-grossing opening for a documentary ever. The Associated Press, with its typical “objectivity” claims without evidence of any kind that F9/11‘s success was the fault of “left-wing groups, which mobilized members to see it during the opening weekend.” Sure, that must be it. Phaedrus, with his usual keen eye for patently absurd right-wing memes, takes heart from this one.
If this blockbuster debut is a result of left wing groups mobilizing their members to see it, then the left in this country is a lot bigger than Americans have been led to believe. Notice the subtle bias in the article, though. “Left-wing groups” vs. “conservative groups.” If they’re really conservatives, and not right wing authoritarians, why did they try to keep people from seeing the movie?
This is a question that answers itself. Phaedrus was actually one of those weekend warriors, and you can read his review here.
I felt so sorry for Lila Lipscomb. She went to D.C. to aim her anger and hatred at the White House. Another woman told her to blame Al Qaeda. She walked away, and said to Moore something like, “People are so ignorant. They don’t know. I didn’t know.” And she dissolves into tears. In that moment I felt sorry even for the right wingers. People don’t know what they don’t know.
The promise of this movie–and the opening week shows it has one–is that it has the capacity to cut through the Murdock/Malone/Mighty Wutlitzer-induced national ignorance-quotient. They’ll see here what they haven’t read in their papers or seen on TV or heard on the radio, and it’s going to have an effect. Phaedrus gets the last word (at least until I finagle a way to see it).
I have seen the movie and you must see it. Like most Moore films it is absolutely hilarious at times. However, I spent much of the movie with tears rolling down my cheeks. Honey Punkin’, who’s as tough as raw brisket, said she turned her head to wipe her cheek because she was crying, and she saw that the guy next to her was wiping his cheeks as well.
Now that’s the power of truth.
Update: Rue the Day Dept–The LA Times reports a curious stat. Remember how Disney violated its contract to distribute F9/11 because it was afraid Jeb would use the govt to get back at them for handling a movie critical of his bro? Miramax’s Harvey Weinstein, who cut the deal with Disney, found another distributor in less than a week (Britain’s Lion’s Gate Films) because the buzz was that this doc was going to make a ton of money. Well, it seems that feeling was right.
“Fahrenheit 9/11″ had a better opening than any of the nine feature films Disney has released this year.
In fact, almost better than three of the nine put together. Another bad business decision, Mr Eisner. They’re starting to mount up, aren’t they? And the AP slur gets a little reality-check, too:
Informal surveys of theaters and rival studios also indicated that the film was attracting crowds wherever it played in the GOP-leaning “red states” as well as the Democrat blue. Much of the audience was predictably left of center, but in addition to places like the liberal enclave of Santa Monica it was doing well even in several cities in the president’s home state of Texas.
I love it when right-wing fantasy slams into hard-core reality.
In a blast of hypocritical irony–or ironic hypocrisy–A Republican National Committee surrogate known as ‘Citizens United’, a hypocritical irony of its own, has filed a complaint with the FEC (Federal Elections Commission) claiming that the ads for Moore’s film, Fahrenheit 9/11, violate campaign laws because–and I’ve been laughing so hard I can hardly type this–they use Junior’s voice and show his face. That, they claim, makes the ads ‘political’.
“My goal is to have Michael Moore’s advertisements, as they are, taken off the air,” said David N. Bossie, president of Citizens United. “If he changes his advertising … if he takes the president’s likeness off the ads, then he can run the ads until he’s blue in the face.”But Bossie faces an uphill battle. For one thing, the FEC normally takes months to process complaints. For another, it appears highly unlikely that the bipartisan six-member panel would rule against Moore, an Oscar-winning producer.
Moore issued a statement Thursday indicating he wasn’t concerned about Bossie’s complaint. “I am deeply concerned about whether or not the FEC will think I paid Citizens United to raise these issues regarding ‘Fahrenheit 9/11,’ ” he said. “How else can you explain the millions of dollars of free publicity this right-wing group has given the movie? I plan on sending them a nice holiday card this year.”
So what has their dry, brittle panties twisted in knots? Simple: Moore has put on-screen all the evidence of Bush’s incompetence, mismanagement, lies, cowardice, stupidity and cronyism that the mainstream media has been ignoring since Junior announced his candidacy and Texan Molly Ivins started trying to tell us what we were in for if we elected this chump. Turns out it–literally–isn’t a pretty picture.
Although Moore’s narration ranges from outrage to sarcasm, the most devastating passage in the film speaks for itself. That’s when Bush, who was reading My Pet Goat to a classroom of Florida children, is notified of the second attack on the World Trade Center, and yet lingers with the kids for almost seven minutes before finally leaving the room. His inexplicable paralysis wasn’t underlined in news reports at the time, and only Moore thought to contact the teacher in that schoolroom — who, as it turned out, had made her own video of the visit. The expression on Bush’s face as he sits there is odd indeed.Bush, here and elsewhere in the film, is characterized as a man who owes a lot to his friends, including those who helped bail him out of business ventures. Moore places particular emphasis on what he sees as a long-term friendship between the Bush family (including both presidents) and powerful Saudi Arabians. More than $1.4 billion in Saudi money has flowed into the coffers of Bush family enterprises, he says, and after 9/11 the White House helped expedite flights out of the country carrying, among others, members of the bin Laden family (which disowns its most famous member).
Moore examines the military records released by Bush to explain his disappearance from the Texas Air National Guard, and finds that the name of another pilot has been blacked out. This pilot, he learns, was Bush’s close friend James R. Bath, who became Texas money manager for the billionaire bin Ladens. Another indication of the closeness of the Bushes and the Saudis: The law firm of James Baker, the secretary of State for Bush’s father, was hired by the Saudis to defend them against a suit by a group of 9/11 victims and survivors, who charged that the Saudis had financed al-Qaida.
Moore–who learned his lesson when he was raked over the coals for inaccuracies in Bowling for Columbine–has warned that he has evidence for every single charge he has made and that if the right-wing’s Mighty Wurlitzer goes into attack mode on his film, he will fight back–with facts.
In a way, I hope they do. Ebert writes in his review, ‘The charges in the film will not come as news to those who pay attention to politics’, but that number is, of course, a fraction of the number of people who will see the film. Most of its eventual audience will be getting exposed to this material for the first time thanks to our boot-licking corporate media; show trials they would be forced to cover because of their high profile would open the material up to millions more who haven’t seen the film. And that could do for Bush’s actual record as President what Moore’s casual ‘deserter’ joke did for his military record: open it to wide scrutiny for the first time.
If this travesty of a ‘president’ is finally humiliated in November, we could have Michael Moore to thank for our release.
June 17, 2004
We’re a week away from the nationwide opening of “Fahrenheit 9/11″ and not a day goes by where we don’t have some new battle to fight thanks to those who are still working overtime to keep people from seeing this film. What’s their problem? Are they worried about something?
A Republican PR firm has formed a fake grassroots front group called “Move America Forward” to harass and intimidate theater owners into not showing “Fahrenheit 9/11.” These are the same people who successfully badgered CBS into canceling the Reagan mini-series a few months ago. And they are spending a ton of money this week to threaten movie theaters who even think about showing our movie.
As of this morning, a little over 500 theaters have agreed to show the movie beginning next Friday, June 25. There are three national/regional theater chains who, as of today, have not booked the movie in their theaters. One theater owner in Illinois has reported receiving death threats.
The right wing usually wins these battles. Their basic belief system is built on censorship, repression, and keeping people ignorant. They want to limit or snuff out any debate or dissension. They also don’t like pets and are mean to small children. Too many of them are named “Fred.”
This new nut group is the Right’s last hope in limiting how many people can see this movie. All of their other efforts have failed.. Let’s recap:
1. Roger Friedman at FOX News reported that the head of the company which first agreed to fund our film “got calls from Republican friends” pressuring them to back out. And they did. But… Miramax immediately picked up the film! Except…
2. Michael Eisner, the chairman of Disney, then blocked Miramax (a company owned by Disney) from releasing the film once it was finished. But… public attention and embarrassment forced Disney to let the Weinstein brothers of Miramax find another distributor! But…
3. Instead of a new distributor stepping right in — as all the media predicted would happen — it took another month to find distributors who would take on this movie. A number of other distributors, thanks to various pressures, were afraid to get involved. It looked for a while that we would be distributing this ourselves. But then Lions Gate and IFC Films rode in to the rescue!
So, we have beaten back all attempts to kill this movie, and the only thing in the way of you now seeing “Fahrenheit 9/11″ is this Republican big-money front group trying to force theaters not to show the movie.
Please, contact your local theaters and let them know you want to see “Fahrenheit 9/11.” Tell them that some people don’t know that this is America and that we believe in freedom of speech and the importance of ALL voices being heard. (The members of MoveOn.org—an ACTUAL grassroots organization—have done a very cool thing. They are pledging to send a message to theater owners and are planning to attend a showing of the film on its opening weekend.)
I appreciate their efforts, but you don’t have to be a member of MoveOn to help stop this effort to keep “Fahrenheit 9/11” from making it to screens across the country. If a theater in your area is planning to show the film, just give them a call and thank them for standing up for the freedom of speech. If your local theater isn’t showing the film, call them and let them know that you would like to see it and you’d like them to show it.
The White House and their minions in our media have presented one distorted version of the truth after another for the past four years. All we are asking for is the right to show what they HAVEN’T shown us, the real truth. The truth that ain’t pretty (and is, sadly, damningly hilarious).
On top of all this, the MPAA gave the film an “R” rating. I want all teenagers to see this film. There is nothing in the film in terms of violence that we didn’t see on TV every night at the dinner hour during the Vietnam War. Of course, that’s the point, isn’t it? The media have given the real footage from Iraq a “cleansing” — made it look nice, easy to digest. Mario Cuomo has offered to be our lawyer in appealing this ruling by the MPAA. Frankly, I would like to think the MPAA is saying that the actions by the Bush administration are so abhorrent and revolting, we need to protect our children from seeing what they have done. In that case, the film should be rated NC-17!
However it turns out, I trust all of you teenagers out there will find your way into a theater to see this movie. If the government believes it is OK to send slightly older teenagers to their deaths in Iraq, I think at the very least you should be allowed to see what they are going to draft you for in a couple of years.
Finally, some very sophisticated individuals have been hacking into and shutting down our website. It is an hourly fight to keep it up. We are going to find out who is doing this and we are going to pursue a criminal prosecution. I’m preparing lots of cool stuff for the site so watch for new items on it next week (www.fahrenheit911.com and http://www.michaelmoore.com).
Thanks again for your support and I hope to see you at the movies on opening night, June 25.
PS. I am sponsoring a number of benefits around the country next week for local and national peace and justice groups, including Military Families Speak Out and September 11th Families for Peaceful Tomorrows. Please check your local papers and my website next week for further details.
PPS. Also, I am going to be on the “Late Show with David Letterman” on Friday night. It’s on CBS at 11:35 PM Eastern and Pacific. And on Monday morning (June 21) I will be on “The Today Show” on NBC. Next week, Jon Stewart and Conan. I’d go on O’Reilly but, like a coward, he walked out on a screening we invited him to (with Al Franken just a few rows away!). I personally caught him sneaking out. Embarrassed, he tried to change the subject. He said, “When are you coming on my show?” and I said, “Turn around and watch the rest of the movie and I will come on your show.” He walked out. Fair and balanced.