Tuesday, December 18, 2012

CANON OF FILM: "BOWLING FOR COLUMBINE"

BOWLING FOR COLUMBINE (2002)
Director/Screenplay: Michael Moore




A lot of you guys know that the majority of these “Canon of Film” blog entries I write are pre-written, many of them, I wrote years ago. This was the opening of my Canon of Film entry for “Bowling for Columbine” when I first wrote it:   

Earlier this year, one of the strangest moments in the history of the country occurred when V.P. Dick Chaney while quail-hunting, accidentally shot a man, a friend of his, in the face. The man luckily survived. Then, a few days later, a moment that was even stranger occurred, when the victim held a press conference where he apologized to the Vice-President, and his family, for having put them through so much trouble. Did anybody else just catch that? The man who was shot apologizes to the man who shot him! (I have to thank the comedienne Paula Poundstone for pointing out this absurdity on her last stand-up special) Sounds like the perfect moment to go back to take another look at “Bowling for Columbine,” arguably Michael Moore’s best film. Maybe not his most important, which belongs to “Fahrenheit 9/11,” but I’d argue his best, and the one which earned him the Oscar for Best Documentary.

Obviously, with the current social environment going on now, I am posting my blog for “Bowling for Columbine” for very different reasons, and no, it isn’t coincidental. It’s not just the Newton Massacre either. I actually had drafted an outline to discuss gun control in light of Bob Costas’s statements, where he quoted Kansas City Star Columnist Jason Whitlock, on the murder-suicide of NFL player Jevon Belcher and his girlfriend. Not only because I agreed with him, but also because the media, particularly Fox News, no surprise, was lambasting him, for daring to state any kind of remotely political opinion in the middle of a sports program, as though it’s some fricking travesty that sports fans would have to sit through a political lecture, which Costas’s statements weren’t, to begin with, and that how dare we discuss gun control, right after a high-profile murder-suicide, where guns were used?

To continue with my original Canon of Film entry:

Mainly because unlike “Fahrenheit…” and “Roger & Me,” Moore doesn’t quite know who the true villain is, and therefore there’s no pointed blame, none that can be completely pointed towards at least. There are villains in the films, like James Nichols, the northern Michigan farmer who was arrested but released in connection with the Oklahoma City Bombings, his brother was Terry Nichols, and the Michigan Militia with which Nichols and Timothy McVeigh were at one point members of. And then of course, there’s the film’s famous ending where Moore talks to NRA President Charleton Heston about his need to carry firearms in the house when he’s never himself felt victimized or threatened and lives in a gated community so peaceful it could be confused for Mr. Rogers Neighborhood. There are also funny and absurd moments in the film. Such as when he visits Littleton, Colorado, the home of Columbine High School. Now I knew that Littleton was a suburb of Denver, but I didn’t know it was home of the largest weapons producing plant in the world, and nuclear weapons at that. (A B-22 bomber stands outside the city as a work of honor). I also didn’t know that the NRA formed the same year the KKK were named a terrorist organization. Or that Littleton, Colorado was the city that influenced former Columbine High Schoolers Trey Parker and Matt Stone to create “South Park.” I think Moore blames the media most for all of the violence, especially when compared to how murders are covered in the United States compared to the news in Canada, where as one breaking news reports, “New speedbumps!” despite the fact that Canadians own as many guns per household as the United States, they have at least one-tenth the handgun crimes. In a stunt at the end of the film, Moore and two Columbine victims go to K-Mart, where the bullets Clebolt & Harris used were bought, and went to K-Mart executives to ask for a refund, and to everybody’s surprise, including and especially Moore’s they promised to end the selling of ammunition and handguns. A victory that actually leaves Moore speechless. However, it still doesn’t solve the greater question of why do Americans keep killing Americans with guns? Moore searches far and wide, but for once, he doesn’t have an answer, because it’s the culture of America. I’m reminded of a famous speech Laurence Fishburne gives in “Boyz N the Hood,” that would be a good compliment to Chris Rock’s argument for bullet control. 

(For those who don’t know the scene from “Boyz…” I’m referring to, the link is below.)


I still agree with everything I wrote there, including the part about not knowing who the true villain is, and the answer isn’t as simple, as get rid of the 2nd Amendment, or let every gun be available to everyone. We’ve ostracized cigarette smokers, drunk drivers, hate crimes, simply because it was for the overall public good, and I agree with doing it, but why are we reluctant to do it with guns? If you will all permit me, a brief moment, to do what Costas did, and allow me some time on my bully pulpit to say that, I don’t know whether a ban on assault weapons, or tighter gun laws would’ve stopped the Newton killer, or any of these other mass murderers from what they did, but I know damn well, it would’ve been harder for them to do it. We might have stopped him, or caught him beforehand or not, but either way, the one thing it shouldn’t be for the guy is, easy. The guy took assault weapons from his mother’s house, which she bought legally, shot up a kindergarten and didn’t have to reload. At least if there was every tight restrictions on guns you can think of, and they were enforced to the letter, and he still pulled it off, at least I’d credit his ingenuity, but no, that’s not what happened. That’s not what happened in any of these shootings, and irrelevant of the media, which Moore is still right on, we need to refocus it away from sensationalism, but, if nothing else, making it hard as humanly possible to make anything like this happen again. One more thing, if the NRA has any sense at all, they should be in favor of tough gun control legislation, for that specific reason, and also so that only the so-called “responsible” gun owners, are actually the ones who possess guns, and not these people.

One more observation: Watching the film again, it's amazing how many videos Moore includes of people, actually getting killed, and how they're far more disturbing than I ever see in regular films.
Post a Comment