Wednesday, June 30, 2004

"Martin and Me"?

Ok, as promised, a quick assessment of the Moore film. I liked it, quite a bit; there were some points that were a little overstated and alarmist (like the Saudi oil connections), but even they were still immensely interesting and generally "on". Much ofthe film was actually quite haunting, the "blank" 9-11 scene and the scenes with the soldier's mother brilliantly so. There wasn't a dry eye in the house when the mother read her dead son's letter of outrage at the Bush administration, and the structure of the opening part of the film detailing Bush's weak early presidency was a cogent reminder that prior to 9/11, he was already an embarrassment.

What truly struck me was that Moore proved the vital importance of documentaries. Crimes and mistakes that I had read and intellectually understood were far more powerful when brought to the the big screen, and Moore did an excellent job of looking backwards and showing us what led us to this point. Considering that the biggest asset that the Bush administration has had is its ability to brazen its way through controversy with the confidence that all old scandals will be forgotten, this role of dredging up the past has become vital, and Moore has ably played that role. Even the opening invocation of the 2000 Supreme Court decision and disenfranchisement of black Floridians is vital to understanding just how bad the situation truly is, and I don't think the movie would have been so effective had Moore's opening of "was it all just a dream" not raised the question of whether Florida stuck us a living nightmare. (And when I say "us", I mean the planet, not just the American people.) It also sets the stage for Moore's most important achievement with this movie, which is framing and coloring the historical assessment of the Bush administration before it even ends. No future examination of Bush will be able to avoid Fahrenheit 9/11. Even disputing it acknowledges its importance.

Everybody who hasn't gone to see it should. Everybody who has gone to see it should think about what it means. Everybody who gets fixated on whether or not Moore was an "objective documentarian" doesn't know what a documentary is, and is missing the more important question of whether Moore's subjectivity is closer to the mark than you have let yourself believe.

As for the Canadian election, the most able analysis I heard was encapsulated in a simple sentence: "Ontario got to the polls, looked down, said 'Prime Minister Stephen Harper?' and said no". This was a massive win for the left, oddly enough, with center-left to far-left candidates receiving over 70% of the vote- left-wing parties now serve as the "balance of power" in Canada. Conservatives in Canada just had a very bad night; they're actually worse off than if they had been facing another Liberal majority. The last time there was a Liberal party leader that needed NDP support to pass bills, the (currently sacrosanct) public health insurance system was born. Who knows what will appear in the next few years or so.

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