268 of 329 people found the following review helpful
Do not judge by the title,
This review is from: Michael Moore Hates America (DVD)
I think that for a first attempt at film making, Michael Wilson does a creditable job. Documentaries are not expected to display cinematic art to the degree of other genres. Documentaries are to film what informational books are to writing: it is the validity of the content that is of primary importance.
Wilson uses Moore's own story line from "Roger and Me", vainly following the title character around the country in search of an interview, and does it quite well. The movie is quite interesting and sometimes funny (especially his interview of Penn Jillette).
Now, let's tackle the provocative title, "Michael Moore Hates America." I believe Michael Wilson used it in order to get his movie noticed. It is clear that he is uncomfortable with it: This is shown when, at the end of his interview with the extremely ethical documentarian, Albert Maysles, he sheepishly reveals the title, apparently expecting to be rebuked. To his surprise Maysles simply responds, "Maybe he does."
The film is really about ethics in the making of documentary films. Scenes from Moore's "Bowling for Columbine" and to a lesser extent "Roger and Me" (both of which I have seen) supply the basis he and others such as Penn Jillette, Albert Maysles, and David Horowitz (as well as people whom Moore chose to interview in making "Bowling for Columbine") use as a basis for their comments pro and con.
Some reviewers have stated that all movies shade the truth or worse. That may be literally true; however, it is clearly unethical to manipulate scenes in a documentary in such a way as to create "facts" or connections (particularly to create the appearance of cause and effect or guilt by association) that are false or misleading. There is general agreement that Moore was repeatedly guilty of that in "Bowling for Columbine" and "Roger and Me". I have not seen "Fahrenheit 9/11", but most movie reviewers, even those who appear to agree with Moore's cause, seem to agree that he does the same in that movie.
Telling lies in historical movies is not new, and I would say it creates no major ethical problem when it simply fills in material that is unknown or is of no major importance. Of all the movies I have seen, Oliver Stone's movie, "JFK", is almost certainly the prime example of unethical movie-making because it is untrue in every important statement it makes. Although it is not a documentary, millions of people believe it portrays the JFK assassination accurately, which could not be further from the truth. A major point of Wilson's movie is that it is so easy to allow one's self to bend the truth for expediency's sake that he found it very difficult to avoid doing so in making his movie. This, however, is not an excuse that applies to the films of Stone and Moore.
The problem I have with Michael Moore is that his movies have gotten so much attention and praise that he has set the ethical bar for documentaries far lower than it has been in the past. This will mean that documentaries will no longer serve as credible sources of information. Since that is the primary reason documentaries exist at all, it is a serious problem.
More and more people are reluctantly coming to realize that newspapers and TV news have lost most of their credibility, so it shouldn't be too surprising that the trend would spread to other sources of information. Still, it sure is a pain in the [...] to be forced to expend time doing major research on every significant issue in order to have a reasonably accurate view of the world.
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Showing 1-9 of 9 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Jul 15, 2008 1:24:55 PM PDT
In reply to an earlier post on Jul 21, 2008 3:59:18 PM PDT
Brown Paper Sound System says:
"To expend time doing major research on every significant issue" is the only way to have a reasonably accurate view of the world!!!! To allow Michael Moore (of whom I am a big fan, owning every release he has worked on) carte blanche to direct ones opinions is not only foolish, but the man himself would tell you to do more research on your own time. I am a documentary lover, and purchase several for my personal collection every month. However, I do not assume that any film made by any entity will have the complete comprehensive information on a given topic. These are movies after all, and if the story (fiction or not) is not laid out in black and white for the viewer to somewhat easily digest, said film will not sell. thusly there will be two sides to every story. Imagine the classic graffiti documentary Stylewars told from the perspective of the New York transit authority or Graffiti abatement taskforce. A completely different story posing very different issues to the viewer. This goes for every documentary ever made. facts are facts, but perspective is everything. That said, keep studying and question everything.
In reply to an earlier post on Jul 10, 2010 5:53:44 PM PDT
Richard Fairfield says:
YES - THIS POST IS WORTH RE-READING!
If only the viewers of FOX NEWS did not hate Michael Moore for his "obvious" bias, maybe they could learn to be "fair and balanced" for a change.
Posted on May 28, 2013 3:12:15 AM PDT
Great review. Helpful.
In reply to an earlier post on May 1, 2014 4:36:20 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on May 1, 2014 5:00:24 PM PDT
Ken Dunlap says:
R. Fairfield and Brown Paper
Fairfield: What is your researchable source for the implication that "viewers of FOX NEWS ... hate Michael Moore"?
Brown Paper: If expending time doing major research on every significant issue is the only way to have a reasonably accurate view of the world, then I doubt that you know anything at all about the world. You state your opinions as if that made them the truth, and state that documentaries "are movies after all." Then biographies are books after all? Documentaries are not just movies. They aren't called "movies". Documentaries are documentation recorded on film. People like you are so accustomed to documenters documenting their interpretations as so-called journalists that you would ridicule anyone who expects more.
Perspective is not everything; especially perspectives relating to things that are provably true or false. Often, perspective, in the psychological sense is nothing in the real world sense.
I have never heard of Michael Moore encouraging readers to do more research on the things he says. I am not criticizing Moore for a different interpretation of events that require interpretation - I am criticizing him for such things as reversing the chronology of events in order to suggest a cause and effect relationship that cannot possibly exist.
As far as research is concerned, I don't think you have any idea of what actual, objective research is. In order to discover the magnitude of the lies in the movie "JFK" I had to first discover who the people are who had the best first-hand access to the events. Then, I had to read them carefully and compare them, looking for consistency as well as contradictions. Also, I looked for information sources so that I could check them. Does Michael Moore provide any of those things? Does Oliver Stone?
Anyone who "Own[s] every release [Michael Moore] has worked on" is neither a discriminating reader (or viewer) nor a person who can tell me anything about research.
In reply to an earlier post on Dec 30, 2014 3:55:19 PM PST
Wet Coaster says:
In the last 10 years or so I have taken a fancy to reading non-fiction and watching documentaries. I find this genre fascinating and sometimes even inspiring. Some are just vaguely interesting, but others are significant (to me). When I view or read something significant (to me), I have never assumed that the writer included all of the facts and only the facts. I "follow up" and read other sources, view other documentaries, etal. I do that because the event or person is significant to me. Every film maker and every author has a perspective and that comes through in their books or documentaries whether they intend for it to, or not. To get a complete picture of an event or person, you must use more than one source. Don't they still teach this in high school?
If you think by watching a documentary you will know The Truth, then I doubt that you know anything at all about people.
In reply to an earlier post on Dec 31, 2014 11:13:20 AM PST
Last edited by the author on Dec 31, 2014 11:28:49 AM PST
Ken Dunlap says:
Thanks for your pedantic story of how you get at the truth of the world. Unfortunately, it is not about how the genre of movies we call "documentary movies" should be made.
First of all, I do know a lot about people, but that has nothing to do with making honest documentaries.
I will not repeat what I wrote in reply to R. Fairfield and Brown Paper, because it applies to the comments you have made above. Read it! There are far too many people in our society who believe that the answer to untrue reporting is more writing, as you say you do. Here's how that works: you read a book or watch a documentary and decide what is true (the part you agree with). Then, you may or may not watch or read a different view, if there is such a different view available, and decide what is true and what is not. Then you may or may not ponder the writings and decide what you would like to be true and call it "truth".
This is what ideological liberals call finding "your truth". They actually state that there is no Truth or Untruth. Of course, this is ignorant, stupid, and dishonest because these people accuse others of lying, not of having a Truth that is different from theirs. What they call "their Truth" is what they choose to believe even though there is nothing objective (evidence) to support it.
Michael Moore does not report what he believes is true with just a bit of bias woven into it. Michael Moore stages interviews and then edits them to reflect "his Truth". He intentionally changes the chronological sequence of events in order to establish a cause and effect relationship that does not exist. But, you probably will not believe what I just said, and you will not do any research that might prove the truth of what I say. You "know" the truth without the need for evidence.
In reply to an earlier post on Dec 31, 2014 3:30:05 PM PST
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