Tuesday, January 13, 2004

Reading Michael Moore

Over the Christmas holiday, I read his book Stupid White Men. Wanting to profit from a rare moment of child-free time, I found it lying around my in-laws' house. My first introduction to Michael Moore was his his acceptance speech at the Oscars. This was the first time I'd heard about "Bowling for Columbine" and long before I got around to renting it at Blockbuster. At the time, I was not impressed with Moore's antics. Granted, there's a high probability that documentary film makers get far less opportunity to express their opinions before large audiences, than say Rob Lowe, but I still felt his performance was a little over the top.

Some context here: I was definitely not watching the Oscars in anticipation of the best movie, best actor, best actress nomination. No, I was not in the mood to be distracted by the best documentary speech. I was eagerly awaiting my own little personal orgy of bad taste: the E "Entertainment" Television Oscar sideshow featuring Joan Rivers, well actually Joan Rivers, her gay male sidekick and her daughter, Melissa. For the unitiated, Joan Rivers is a sort of harpy caricature, bringing to mind memories of the meanest girl from your high school, fifty years and many face-lifts later. Kudos to Joan for being on the forefront of political correctness, the gay guy can definitely hold his own. He looks like he could bring a tear to some red carpet habitue's eyes based on some imprudently chosen accessory. After all, why should men be excluded from getting in touch with their inner harridan? The only one who doesn't fit in is Joan's daughter, Melissa. As horrid as Joan is, after years of banishing the rich and famous to fashion hell, she has definitely earned her place. Melissa has not. She evokes a cackling hyena, the sort that subsists on the carrion felled by more worthy predators.

Well, before I could get to the smackdown moment of the Joan Rivers Oscars fashion vetting: Joan vs. Cher--Cher in some outfit that is little more than a calculated visual affront, and wouldn't be a shame if there was nobody to affront, and Joan who'd be out of a job if we all had good taste, so they really form a symbiotic pair and then there's me, who would love to be attending the Oscars amid all the pomp and circumstance and all the beautiful people, but I'm sitting on my ass in Atlanta, and the probability of me ever going to the Oscars is close to nil, so I'm waiting for Joan Rivers...and Michael Moore has to come along with his speech about phony elections, phony presidents and phony wars. Not that I disagreed with him, but he did kill the mood. Hey, could somebody bring my entertainment back, 'cause I'm not in the mood to think depressing thoughts or deep thoughts at all for that matter. And then, just who does Michael Moore think he is anyway?

In a country where there's no love lost when it comes to authenticity, the Oscars represent the triumph of the gaudy and the fake--America's annual coronation ritual for its disposable royalty. "I'd like to thank the Academy" smack, smack, air kiss, air kiss. They get to reign for some time and then, when we and the tabloids are bored with them, off with their heads. The closest we get to political nobility is the Kennedys, with the family fortune rooted in historical crime, the drug-addicted third generation, the murdering cousins, secretaries drowned under suspicious circumstances, teenage babysitter seductions--they've exhibited some staying power. Personally, I think the British royal family could use an infusion of fresh blood, then they wouldn't have to be buggering valets (the real reason Dubya's life could have been in danger--they obviously look for other qualifications when hiring help over there). Prince William seems promising, they could find him some nice red-blooded American girl, somebody like Paris Hilton, for example. She's been table dancing since age twelve, starred in a porn video before she was twenty. For all those who claim that money is all you need to make it in America, I beg to differ. Clearly 28 million dollars is not enough. You haven't made it in this country until you're making the rounds of the Internet in the altogether.

And then there's Michael Moore with his documentary about guns and gun-related deaths in America. He doesn't really answer the question of how if other countries have violent pasts and their kids like the same violent movies, video games and music that ours do, and we're not the only ones with guns (apparently gun ownership is rather high in Canada too), why is it that our country is unequaled in its gun-related deaths? I think his in-your-face style, while successful at getting people's attention in that one documentary and in the one book I read, also undermines his message to some degree. His negativity can be a little overwhelming and when he does propose solutions they are rather facile, so at the end you might say "What the hell, we're fucked, so what's the use anyway?" What is refreshing about Moore is that he is far less partisan than most social critics and he actually has some personal connection to the phenomena he writes about.

To be continued.

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