Moore’s new film indicts capitalism

Friday, October 2, 2009 at 2:57am

More than two decades ago, filmmaker Michael Moore escaped the usual obscurity afforded those working in the documentary/non-fiction cinematic world with Roger & Me, a searing, highly personal indictment of General Motors and what he considered its responsibility in the fiscal demise of his hometown Flint, Mich.

Now he’s returned to slashing General Motors among other things in his new film Capitalism: A Love Story, which opens Friday. Only now, Moore has widened his scope and fired a broadside at an entire economic system, particularly its banking and financial ends, plus (on a lesser scale) its political apparatus.

Moore’s angry about the collapse of the nation’s economy over the past couple of years, and cites the widespread greed and profit-at-all-costs mentality he feels exemplified Wall Street’s behavior.

Most directors would take 120 minutes just trying to prove that contention, but that's neither Moore's sole goal nor focus.

Capitalism: A Love Story attacks, derides and criticizes everything from the privatization of prisons to corporations taking out life insurance policies on employees without notifying them, the inability of airplane pilots to earn satisfactory wages, and the conduct of mortgage companies. He provides constant examples of outrageous injustices done to ordinary citizens and juxtaposes them against the specter of executives, stockbrokers and banking employees earning bonuses and big money.

Still, that's just the backdrop buttressing Moore’s ultimate charge, that capitalism at its core is morally bankrupt. He not only gets three different religious figures (two of whom are family friends) to specifically say this, but also inserts late into the narrative select statements from Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin about the evils of unregulated banking and greed as additional evidence.

Moore indicts both Republican and Democrats for either buckling under Wall Street pressure or profiting from their questionable practices (Sen. Christopher Dodd is one of the politicians identified as getting cushy loans from Countrywide, though he was later cleared of any wrongdoing in a Congressional investigation).

Other Moore staples include the ambush interview (he tries to get the head of GM to speak to him on the phone during an impromptu visit), the visual spectacle (putting crime scene tape around a Bank of America, pulling up to AIG in an armored car asking for taxpayers money back, and trying to make a citizens’ arrest at other financial locations), and the heart-tugging interview.

He's a master at getting people to present tragic, poignant stories on camera without looking coached or prompted. The sense of outrage in the packed screening theater (that also housed a largely pro-Moore crowd) was audible and evident as a longtime Wal-mart employee described his outrage upon discovering his former workplace not only profited from his wife's death, but neither paid for her funeral or medical costs.

While Moore concludes the film with a plea for those watching it to join him in citizen action, he's wise enough to know not everyone who'll see Capitalism: A Love Story will buy its premises. Though he’s careful to say democracy is his preference to capitalism, Moore also realizes opponents will deem this film a de facto argument for adopting socialism. His lightweight treatment of the Obama campaign (which he basically leads cheers for) has earned him plenty of online scorn from the right.

Capitalism: A Love Story
is a visually superb, phenomenal combination of left-wing polemics and alternately humorous and poignant anecdotes and stories. It also contains some important historical material, most notably FDR's 1944 fireside chat that argued for the adoption of a second Bill of Rights. This measure addressed such specific economic goals as universal medical care and educational opportunity.

Roosevelt’s death a year later prevented that idea from ever gaining traction, and it's highly doubtful anything so radical could be passed in the current environment.

Moore is this era’s ideal filmmaker. He makes movies that tug at the hearts of his followers, outrage his detractors and earn lots of money and publicity for the studios.

Capitalism: A Love Story
Written and directed by Michael Moore
Appearances from a host of politicians, financial figures, priests and others, including Timothy Geithner, Alan Greenspan, Sen. Christopher Dodd and Ohio Rep. Marcy Kaptur
Time: 129 minutes
Our view: Moore tells great stories and makes no pretense at objectivity or balance. As always, those who love and agree with him will cheer this work, while those who don't will loathe it.

12 Comments on this post:

By: dnewton on 10/2/09 at 1:41

As a Catholic, Moore should know that systems of econoics are not morally bankrupt, it is the people who operate them that are morally bankrupt. Changing from one system to another can not possibly create an escape fom our depravity. The Amish do a fairly good job of making Socialism work but I suspect that he might find something wrong with that system too.

Utopian systems dating back to the early nineteenth century failed also because of individual depravity. Even when they were populated by all of the smart people and the intellectuals, they could not escape their individual short commings. Why doesn't Moore just put a video on You Boob or in the newspaper advertising for people who want to live the perfect life on a ranch somewhere that is bought with his $50 million dollar film success? He could have all kinds of Hollywood types and university professors there , They could make windmills and llive off of the grid. They could share tolet paper and save the planet. Maybe Gorbachov and Putin would come by and coach the group.

They could have universal health care within their commune and their world would be as close to human perfection as possible. The industrial revolution has gone on now for a couple of centuries and the anxiety and fear that a few people would dominate and control the means of production to the detriment of the masses has not happened except in Socialist countries.

I think these people miss slavery. Not the old timey slavery but they want to see a class of tax slaves punished for their work ethic. They are not satisfied with managing their own life, they want to manage other peoples life or to become the new masters.

By: frank brown on 10/2/09 at 2:51

I agree with dnewton that the system of capitalism is not as tarnished as Moore would have you believe. Moore and dnewton are 100% on target as far as pointing out morally bankrupt people who run corporate and financial America.

I however do not see one thing being done by the directors of large corporations and the US government to weed out this immoral "scum" on Wall Street and Corporate America.

By: pandabear on 10/2/09 at 7:09

Moore's film is a weak, commercialized version of what's happening
in America. There were 2 doc/films presented on this subject at
the Toronto Film Festival.

Michael Moores' and this one:

Collapse is getting all the rave reviews.

By: sidneyames on 10/2/09 at 1:14

Have not seen it, but guessed he was "bashing capitalism". GEE, Capitalism? The very type of gov'ment that even ALLOWS THE IDIOT TO PRODUCE THIS DEFAMING TYPE OF MATERIAL, SPREAD IT AROUND AND MAKE MONEY DOING IT! Hmmmmmm. Wonder if he lived in Cuba, China, Vennniezuella-la or some other communist, socialist country, if he'd be so free to bash that gov'ment? He spits i the face of the very country that fled England to escape socialist or whatever theyhad (kings/queens) and our forefathers set us up so that the smart, hardworking people could build businessess to employ the likes of me. Gee, I can't wait to see Michael's bashing moving.

The Amish do a fairly good job of making Socialism work but I suspect that he might find something wrong with that system too. Dnewton, you are right that the Amish do a good job of making something work. I think it's preservation of their faith and their simple way of life. I commend them. I love them. They are such special people. BUT, I don't want to follow their path. I love capitalism. Means that if I get a good idea, one no one else has, patent it, market it, sell it for 99 cents to about 10 million people, I can be a millionaire. What's wrong with that? Then I can hire people in my factory who don't want to be entreaprenuers and give them jobs. YOu know, sort of like the world as we know it.

By: sidneyames on 10/2/09 at 1:16

By the way, newton, I agree with your concepts in the ensuing paragraphs. I hope I didn't come across as bashing you.

By: Magnum on 10/2/09 at 1:54

Sidney, I can't stand these Moore types any more than the next person, but the fact that he bashes the fundamental systems we live under (capitalism, democracy, etc.) is not a point of discord for me. Our system was set up so that he and others would have the ability, opportunity and freedom to do exactly that. Of course, his particular form of bashing comes in a very one-sided package. I tend to be annoyed by extremists of any kind so if he were arguing the other side as passionately, he would still get on my nerves.

By: sidneyames on 10/2/09 at 2:49

Well said Magnum. I am glad I live in a country where we can bash the president without having our heads bashed in. I would love to look up to all those who give their lives to run the country, but it's hard to do with the likes of Pelosi, Edwards, and others (republicans and democrats alike), who make a mockery of the office they were elected to. Moore is getting fat cat just like "mamma cass" and he's laughing all the way to the bank. If he said, I live in poverty and I donate 100% of my movie proceeds to the poor, I might have a hair of respect for him. But he's probably spending it like there is no tomorrow.

By: shinestx on 10/5/09 at 5:56

Moore is a hypocritical "capitalist pig".

By: Funditto on 10/5/09 at 6:05

Everyone seems to be totally confused here. While, I'm not a fan myself, I'm just curious:

I'm wondering how many of the folks who are bashing Moore, caught "The Truth About Acorn" this weekend on FOX NEWS Channel? Was that entertainment, or was it news (as they claim to portray)? What's the difference here?

If you don't care for Mr. Moore, why not just avoid his films like those of us who avoid FOX News because we aren't fans. Moore isn't trying to indoctrinate anyone or claiming to report fair and balanced news, he's simply making a movie for entertainment and doesn't make any claims to the contrary.

Therein lies a huge problem in our country: idiots who can't distinguish real news from sensational entertainment.

By: sidneyames on 10/5/09 at 6:54

Moore isn't trying to indoctrinate anyone or claiming to report fair and balanced news, he's simply making a movie for entertainment and doesn't make any claims to the contrary

And Funditto, he's using the same capitalist system to make millions of dollars -- you know, the capitalist system he's bashing. I think that's why people are tired of his rantings.

By: Kosh III on 10/5/09 at 8:56

To say capitalism is inherently bad is incorrect. It is correct to say that it currently is in need of more control to minimize abuses done by the greedy.
IIRC, even Adam Smith felt that unbridled capitalism was wrong.

By: Funditto on 10/5/09 at 10:46

He isn't saying it's bad (I somehow doubt you've seen the film). He say's it has changed. Big, huge difference.