Thursday, September 1, 2016

CANON OF FILM: "CAPITALISM: A LOVE STORY"

CAPITALISM: A LOVE STORY (2009)


Director/Screenplay: Michael Moore



What’s striking about Michael Moore’s “Capitalism: A Love Story,” is that he doesn’t go into this subject matter lightly. In fact, in many ways, he’d been making this movie for about two decades now. From “Roger & Me,” which he made as an analysis of what happened to his hometown of Flint, Michigan in the ‘80s. In that film, he narrowed his attacks to the then-Chairman of General Motors Roger Smith. In “Fahrenheit 9/11,” he narrowed his focus on President Bush. In other films, he’s attacked the practice of downsizing in ‘The Big One,” the gun culture of America in “Bowling for Columbine,” and the American health care system in “Sicko”.  He’s clearly bounced around the practices in capitalism for years, but suddenly, GM declared bankruptcy. He was still not let in to GM headquarters. Michael Moore has always tried to be timely, but even as he tries to make citizen’s arrest of AIG, and wraps police tape around Wall Street, it’s clear that this isn’t the same Michael Moore that made those earlier films. He’s older, he’s tired, and even when he’s telling a joke, he loss any humor he sees in the joke. 

This doesn’t feel like the great analytical humor-filled films he used to make. The satires he used to make, out of anger, and out of disgust, and out of disbelief about what was happening around him. No, even though he does narrow in on certain practices, dead peasant insurance for instance, where companies buy insurance on their employees, making millions if their employees die, or the fact that pilots now make less per year than Taco Bell managers, this doesn’t play like a movie Michael Moore wanted to make. I think, and yes, I’m placing more into this film than may actual be on the surface, but it seems that Moore’s long struggle with the practices of capitalism, and finally, he has simply ran out of patience and excuses. It’s not a film about Moore giving up his fight, but he’s now convinced that the greater enemy is the system himself. This is probably why this film more than his others isn’t as narrowly-focused on an issue or an idea or even person, it's him going after capitalism itself, and the movie is as messy as that actually sounds. He switches from such subjects as his early dream of becoming a childhood priest, to the co-op companies that have thrived even in this recession. He criticizes both political parties, nearly dismantling Sen. Chris Dodd for all he’s taken from the banking industry while being the head of the Senate Banking Committee, yet, as Election Day nears, he notices how even though Obama accepted even more money from the Banking industry than McCain, it became clear to them that he wasn’t able to be bought by them. He shows the great scene of Obama holding his own from Joe “the Plumber” Wertzelbacher’s campaign attack, and showing how the more the GOP attacked Obama as a socialist, the more the younger voters suddenly identified themselves as Socialist, and when President-Elect Obama supported Chicago Windows & Doors former employees who had begun a sit-in strike to get their wages after Bank of America refused to offer the company a loan to stay in business, Bank of America finally gave in to their demands. Suddenly, Moore was seeing what he had long thought impossible, and what the bank CEO and stockholders had feared, the people were voicing up and rebelling. 

Even those teapartiers, as misguided as they place their hopes in anti-government rhetoric, are suddenly standing up to the upper 1%. Moore made a movie about the 1980s in ”Roger & Me.” With “Capitalism: A Love Story,” Moore has made an overview of this last decade. Strangely enough, I actually found myself disagreeing with certain parts of this film. I think he’s simplified his position on the bailout by not discussing how all the companies on Wall Street were so interconnected that everything would’ve been worst without it. But, I think Moore’s has basically stopped trying to cause controversy and get his voice heard. He knows his voice is heard and has basically outgrown all his other tricks and satires. Everybody knows his name now, so he’s just turning his camera on the people and subjects. He’s now just the muckraker, who’s building a strategic argument. Because his medium is film and is not an essayist, he can get people upset by how he combines visuals, but in reality, he isn’t any different than Ralph Nader when he railed against the auto industry. But, I think we have to look at this film through Moore’s eyes. Why has he suddenly decided now as the time to decree capitalism as the enemy? I think it took him as long as anybody who’s changed their economic belief system of seeing all that had been unjust to finally declare the system broken. At the end of the movie, Moore shows previously never-seen footage of FDR’s final State of the Union address, where he proposed a new Bill of Rights to the Constitution, none of them have been enacted in America, although they’re in the Constitutions of Italy, Germany and Japan, the countries whose Constitutions we helped rewrite after WWII. Moore announces at the end, that he’s done doing this alone, and that others need to join him for anything to get done. This isn’t the film Moore wanted to make. This is the one he had to make.



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