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Capitalism: A Love Story the Culmination of Michael Moore’s Decade of Angst

Capitalism: A Love Story
Written and directed by Michael Moore
Overture, 2009

Michael Moore, if you haven’t made the connection, is what Sacha Baron Cohen and Tom Green and the jackasses of Jackass are, and perhaps are their very inspiration.  Moore began criticism of Big Corporations in 1989 with Roger & Me, a film that placed him as the star crusader, the investigative reporter who ambushes his subjects and offers pointed barbs that not many have the balls to siege their targets with.  Moore later fathered what I’ll term as the Audacity Movement with his summer 1994 TV show “TV Nation,” a show that in one episode memorably had Moore park a bunch of cars with alarms on the front lawn of the guy who created the car alarm, and then set them off at an outrageous hour of the morning.  Tom Green’s tomfoolery followed in September of that same year.

Because Michael Moore has been the “star” of his own documentaries, he has brought an uneasy criticism of his methods.  He throws high propaganda into his films, no more so than in Fahrenheit 9/11, where he shows George W. Bush in the awkward position of…getting ready for a news conference…in slo-mo.  He shows the Republican power of the time shaking hands with Saudi Arabian royalty, people who might have financed the 9/11 attacks, while playing R.E.M.’s “Shiny Happy People.”  He ambushes Charlton Heston in his Oscar-winning Bowling for Columbine, an ambush for which I’m not sure Michael Moore has ever been forgiven.  The problem with his tactics is that he actually makes people feel sorry for the people we’re supposed to despise for their horrible actions.  I’ll echo Deep Throat’s comments to Bob Woodward in All the President’s Men: You’ve done worse than let Haldeman slip away: you’ve got people feeling sorry for him. I didn’t think that was possible.

Moore has, in some ways, backed off of his ambush style, although not for a lack of trying.  Over the years, Moore has become a very recognizable face, his tactics are pretty old hat and are easily thwarted, which is actually good for him, because we don’t have the same issue of Charlton Heston to pick on in his movies anymore.  We don’t see CEOs like Roger Smith on camera anymore because they know what they’re getting into and refuse to be interviewed.  Just as well, they can remain faceless evildoers. Now, we can focus mainly on the content, even though the propaganda machine still hums smartly.

Here are the main issues Michael Moore wants to bring up in Capitalism: A Love Story: corporations that secretly buy life insurance policies on their workers and profit in the event of their death, the interest rates on homes that forced people into the streets when payments became impossible, the bailout in which taxpayers were expected to save corporations like AIG and gave tons of money to Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson with no questions asked, the easing of Wall Street regulation with the ushering in of Ronald Reagan, the lobbyists that power the political machine, credit default swaps and their complicated, nearly impossible math, and the people who practice socialism at work and everything’s peachy.

I say…if Michael Moore is even 5% right about what he shows in this film, you probably should be angry.  He does it in his usual entertaining way, offering very good points, and as always, showing you the people who are affected by the unchecked financial practices of our capitalist society.  Here’s my personal take: I think captalism can work if it is regulated in a responsible way, although Moore clearly thinks it’s capitalism is the problem.  He argues that capitalism is the means by which corporations do evil things.  One interesting pro-socialist segment of the film shows a company where everybody has an equal say, and the CEO makes the same money as one of the factory workers, and they all make $65,000 a year.  That sounds great, only, it can’t possibly be the norm…and it doesn’t really ask the question of what happens when you have a worker who doesn’t do as much as another worker.

I’ve always felt that there should be a hierarchy and you get paid accordingly to your rank, and try to work harder to stand out and make more money.  The problem arises when companies start to lose money and feel the best way to get back to normal is fire a bunch of people, which is the only way they can please their stockholders.  I think that’s the screwed-up part of the system that is the most evil.

For the first time, Michael Moore at least hints at a solution, that people have already begun to put it into place.  He argues that the election of Barack Obama was the first salvo (although he reserves the right to have a “let’s see” attitude about him), he shows the company that pays everybody the same…but this is the first time I’ve heard Moore use the word revolt.  For years, Moore has shown us the evils of guns, government, corporations, and health care, without giving anyone his solution, although in Sicko he’s plainly saying we should go to socialized medicine, but I guess blindly hopes that people watching his film will call their congressman and everything will be OK…which is not a solution but some sort of strange hope that seems impossible considering we’re facing off against what Moore has shown as a damaged system where the people don’t have power.

That, if anything, would be my main criticism of his work.  I’m on board with the ideas that big corporations can and usually do screw us, but when the idea comes up that we should do something about it, we’ve already been given a class on how we’re probably powerless to do anything about it.  Since politicians are in bed with the corporations, then our complaints won’t get anywhere, and thus, you watch a Michael Moore film thinking that everybody needs to gather up guns and attack Washington D.C. or else nothing will change.  I’d like to see Michael Moore make a movie with nothing but solutions, with his usual plain-language narration, and show why his ideas, or ideas he’s seen work, will work.  We might never see that.  I think Moore is content that we’re just angry after watching his movie.

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