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'Fahrenheit 9/11'
Moore Puts the Heat on Bush

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Weight-Gain Nightmare Makes for Disturbing 'Super Size' Treat

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Cuaron Brings More Magic to Potter Series

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  There’s nothing wrong with having a point of view... and Moore’s documentary is clearly meant as an opinion piece  
     
     
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Moore Puts the Heat on Bush
 
by Jeremy Mathews

“Fahrenheit 9/11”
Lions Gate Films
Written and directed by Michael Moore
Produced by Jim Czarnecki, Kathleen Glynn and Michael Moore
Featuring Michael Moore and George W. Bush
Rated R

(out of four)

For all of the skillful editing and informed interviews in “Fahrenheit 9/11,” Michael Moore’s true genius lies in his observation of ordinary people. Moore realizes that it’s better to visit the one part-time officer guarding Oregon’s coast than simply show someone saying that the border is under-protected, or talk to the mother of a soldier stationed in Iraq in one of the most poignant moments instead of simply saying we should look out for the safety of the troops. If the documentary accomplishes anything in its assault on George W. Bush, it’s showing that his administration’s policies aren’t good for the average Americans that Bush likes to pretend he resembles.

   
   
   
   

Moore’s angry attack against Bush marks the first time that a major documentary has been released during an election year with the goal of unseating the president. And in what looks to be a close election, Moore just might make an impact (although some could argue that his support of Ralph Nader last election had the impact of putting Bush in the White House). There’s nothing wrong with having a point of view if you make your opinion clear, and Moore’s documentary is clearly meant as an opinion piece in which he argues for the points he feels have been overlooked or underemphasized by other news outlets.

It begins with a skillfully edited summary of many of the news items that have called the Bush White House’s conflicts of interest and legitimacy into question. He wonders if it was all a dream and Al Gore is really president. We see Bush and his family’s ties to Saudi oil, his golfing and ignoring of terrorist threats before Sept. 11, 2001.

The truly effective part of the first half, however, examines the fear that Bush took advantage of after the tragic events in September. Moore visits a peace group full of smiling middle-aged cookie eaters who discovered one of their members was an undercover sheriff’s deputy, watching them thanks to the Patriot Act.

Looking at the way fear has manipulated the country’s citizens, he visits a small town that a report claimed could be a target of terrorist attack—a townsman reckons that the Walmart would be a likely target. People in other small towns consider themselves in danger because they’re in the vicinity of relatively larger cities.

Moore follows military recruiters in his hometown of Flint, Mich., where, some high school students observe, parts of town resemble those destroyed by war. A mother who describes her family as part of the “backbone of America” has a son in the war, and her daughter served in the last Iraq war. The military is one of the few options these kids have to get a job and a college education, and Moore’s best case against Bush is that he sent them into harm’s way when it wasn’t necessary.

Moore’s embedded cameramen in Iraq talk to troops who are confused as to why they’re in Iraq and don’t know how to handle the country’s citizens. A Christmas Eve raid in which the soldiers try to take a young college student into custody while his family members—whom most of the troops can’t understand—shout that he’s innocent, recalls the confusion of the boat interrogation scene in “Apocalypse Now.”

While Moore is still a prominent part of the film, with his tongue-in-cheek voiceover, he has taken himself out of the frame much of the time, focusing the film more on its serious subject matter than himself. There are a few brief stunts, featuring Moore driving around the capital in an ice cream truck to read members of congress the Patriot Act and harassing congress to sign their children up to go to Iraq if they support the war.

While stunts like this aren’t as convincing as simply spending time with the troops, Moore’s facts seem to be in order and well-documented in the news or public records. After some sloppy parts of Moore’s last film, “Bowling for Columbine,” discredited him, he has apparently employed several more fact checkers. This is good to know, as it would be a shame if Moore’s talent as a filmmaker was wasted because he didn’t have his facts straight. The only footage that seems to be a bit out of context is the material showing kids and other jolly people running around in Saddam Hussein’s Iraq. The case that Hussein’s dictatorship is no worse than many others could have been made, but everyone knows that the country wasn’t exactly a barrel of laughs for everyone in it.

But the most persuasive tools Moore uses are the human lives that the war has affected. And the confusion of soldiers and tragedies of ordinary American families are more poignant and convincing than the most alarming oil ties.

jeremy@red-mag.com

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