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October 1, 2012

Michael Moore Hates America

by Franz Patrick


Michael Moore Hates America (2004)
★★★★ / ★★★★

With “Roger & Me,” “Bowling for Columbine,” and “Fahrenheit 9/11″ under his belt, Michael Moore, the director of the aforementioned films, made Michael Wilson angry. As a proud American, Wilson believed that Moore had crossed the line by painting America as a country of negativity, where no one can succeed because opportunities are controlled and held firmly by the rich and the powerful. So Wilson made his own documentary, “Michael Moore Hates America,” and adopted similar techniques that Moore utilized in his own films. What he created was a funny, incisive, and fair evaluation of a man who wouldn’t return his phone calls after many attempts of getting an interview. In a lot of ways, I admired the film for what it did not want to be. While it did provide moments of interviewees censuring Moore for being cynical, hypocritical, and having a proclivity for fear mongering in order to get his points across, the picture wasn’t really about hating the filmmaker. It was about expressing disapproval of Moore’s methods which became clear when Wilson had the golden opportunity to meet the very same people that Moore interacted with in his features and ask specific questions about the accuracy of what made the final cut as opposed to what really happened. Wilson’s work had a point because some of the most powerful scenes in Moore’s repertoire–for example, “Fahrenheit 9/11″ involving the bank and the gun–were actively subverted. As someone who enjoyed the initial shock and irony of how easily one could purchase a gun in a bank, I would never see that scene the same way because we learned that the situation was manipulated so heavily to make it appear as though it were really that simple. We had a chance to play detective. Since the overarching theme involved the placement of audience’s trust, I found myself very discerning of those who could be twisting reality just enough to make something dramatic. Or worse, an attempt of somehow getting back at Moore for how unfairly one felt he or she was treated. I enjoyed that the people who were interviewed had different opinions about the filmmaker in question. While some only disapproved of the methods, like Albert Maysles, it was transparent that some of them, like Andrew Breitbart, really hated the man and what he represented. It was amusing to watch because you could feel the anger welling up in some people’s eye sockets as they discussed Moore and his movies. I had to wonder how eloquently they would have expressed themselves if the cameras weren’t on. Lastly, I admired the film because I felt it remained loyal in providing alternatives. For instance, some immigrants were questioned about their sentiment toward America as a whole. As an immigrant, I found that there is truth in their claim that even if we know coming into it that America isn’t perfect, it remains a special place because it gives us certain freedoms that we otherwise will never get in other countries. I thought that perspective was an important addition to the film because it is a message that is absent or marginalized in Moore’s work. The documentary’s title, though controversial, was brilliant because of its irony and marketability. Personally, I love Moore’s work because of his flair for the dramatic. Whenever dramatics enter the equation, however, you get the feeling that something is probably not completely accurate or representative. At least I do. Despite that, I admire that he provokes us to be angry because, like it or not, sometimes provoking someone is the only way you can get a person to care–especially if it involves something important but the person doesn’t think that it is. I don’t believe Michael Moore hates America. I think there are things about America that he dislikes or hates. But doesn’t that apply to just about everyone?

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