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Entries in Michael Moore (3)


NYFF: Michael Moore's Where to Invade Next

Manuel here reporting from the New York Film Festival, where Michael Moore’s latest documentary had its first American screening after a bow at TIFF last month.

Moore’s Where to Invade Next is born out of the same sense of anger and despair that characterizes his earlier docs, but as he noted himself in yesterday’s press conference, he found a way to funnel that anger in a more productive way. Indeed, while the opening images (which juxtapose anti-terrorism presidential sound-bites with horrific national images from Ferguson and Sandy Hook) feel driven by an unwavering anger at the current state of US affairs, what follows is a rather optimistic portrait of the potential for change, presented, of course, with the irreverent wit that Moore epitomizes.

Tasked with “invading” countries by himself, Moore visits various European countries in hopes of, as he says, being able to “pick the flowers, not the weeds”: finding, that is, the best ideas about public policy that are thriving in other countries in hopes to steal them, bring them back to America, and watch them be implemented. The entire premise was a way, Moore explained, to make a documentary about the United States without shooting a single frame in the United States. Every hot button issue you can think of, from police brutality to women’s reproductive health, from the industrial prison complex to school lunches, from labor regulations to women’s equality, is tackled head on from the outside in. He travels to Italy to learn about their paid vacation policy (8 weeks!). He travels to Norway to visit their maximum security prison (where inmates carry the keys to their cells which come equipped with TVs, and who can use the state of the art recording studio or the expansive library at their leisure). He travels to Tunisia (an Islamic state, let’s remember) to visit their women’s health centers where abortions have been legal since the 1970s and learn how riots by women toppled a conservative government that hoped to repeal those female rights and protections. And so on, and so forth, talking to school cafeteria chefs, factory workers, multinational CEOs, and policemen, from Portugal, Iceland, France, Germany and Norway.

“I am American. I live in a great country, built on genocide and grown on the backs of slaves.” - Moore, candidly summing up what he sees so few jingoistic Americans acknowledging.

Each “idea” he hopes to take back after his invasion is at its core, both impossibly simple and also similarly absurd: five months paid maternity leave? sex-ed that isn’t based on abstinence? school lunches that value health over pizza and fries? teachers who value their students’ happiness over standardized tests? a prison where guards carry no guns and inmates have access to kitchen knives? a policy that decriminalizes drug possession? But the ultimate message is utopian in its simplicity: every one of these “flowers” he picked began with small gestures that, like the hammers and chisels that led to the physical dismantling of the Berlin Wall (which Moore witnessed first-hand in 1989 and which alongside the Mandela election helped cement his idea that things can change seemingly overnight), can make all the difference. They also continually hint at words and values that seldom find themselves in American political rhetoric: happiness, curiosity, community, human dignity. That the film ends in a powerful call for women’s equality, suggesting in no uncertain terms that having women in power is a necessary part of political and cultural progress, is perhaps the film’s most surprising element. (Do stay through the end of the credits to find Moore riffing beautifully off of Marvel’s most emulated trademark: the post-credits sequence).

How you feel about the film and its message will no doubt depend on your own political affiliations. Even as the audience at my screening clapped rapturously as the credits rolled, suggesting perhaps Moore was merely preaching to a converted choir that could wave away the tricky logistics that would make these ideas hard to implement wholesale in these shores, I could pick out snippets of dialogue that suggested this choir was a tad more cynical than Moore anticipated: “I mean, it’s so reductive, really.” “Well, but none of that will work here.” “I wish it were that easy!” Where to Invade Next is, in that, classic Moore: a conversation starter that will be greeted with equal number of wolf-whistles as exasperated sighs.

Check out the teaser for it below:


Where to Invade Next played Saturday October 3rd at the NYFF, and while concrete release date plans or distribution are up in the air, Moore’ doc is bound to open wide sometime soon.

How Does 'Fahrenheit' Hold Up?

Taking a trip down memory lane Michael C revisits an atypical Cannes winner...

I knew all this politics crap would be brought up," he said. "We all agreed that Fahrenheit 9/11 was the best movie of the competition."

That was Cannes Jury president Quentin Tarantino talking to the BBC back in 2004 -- 10 years ago this very day -- defending his decision to make Michael Moore’s political hand grenade of a movie Fahrenheit 9/11 the first documentary to win the Palme d’Or since The Silent World in 1956. Fahrenheit went on to become and remains, the highest grossing documentary of all time by a significant margin.

Tarantino continued:

"I just whispered in his ear and said, 'I just want you to know it was not because of the politics that you won this award, you won it because we thought it was the best film that we saw.'"

I would sooner stick my head in a bag of scorpions than reopen the toxic debate over the accuracy of Moore’s film. But now, on the 10th anniversary of Fahrenheit’s big Cannes win, I would like to take issue with the above statements. With the safe distance of time, with all the political consequences long since passed, is it safe to admit the plain truth: Tarantino's statements are transparently false...

Click to read more ...


This &That: Makeup Finals, Foreign Beauties, Rule Changes

So I spent all of last night exuberantly "Oh No You Maggie Smith'nt!"* with friends over the 2 hour season premiere of Downton Abbey. Then I spent the better part of today at a table full of Oscar voters picking their brains (in a polite conversational way, mind you) at a luncheon for The Artist. More on both of those events soon but between last night and today, so many OscarQuakes or at least golden tremors.

*joke stolen from Patton Oswalt

Let's discuss four of them immediately! 

1. Hunger Games beauty Jennifer Lawrence will announce the Oscar nominations.
Usually people dress somewhat sedately for that super AM event but we're hoping Jennifer pulls out another one of those va va voom numbers she kept finding for last year's awards circus. The nomination event happens so early in the morning and if Jennifer wears skin tight white or form fitting red again, that's better than a pot of steaming coffee as an eye opener.

P.S. Is the publicity team behind Hunger Games the hardest working team in showbiz? You know this is all part of that evil world domination blitz. 

2. Documentary Rule Changes
Michael Moore and others proposed some Oscar Rule changes to the Academy and they've been adopted. The most controversial one, which we're totally fine with, involves requiring a review from the Los Angeles or the New York Times. The idea behind this rule is that the papers have a policy of reviewing each film that opens for a full week engagement. But it seems silly to stipulate that a review is required when the whole point is to get the movie in theaters for a full week. Why not just say "must play a week in Los Angeles and New York City to qualify?" Seems strange to put the qualification requirement on newspapers. According to Michael Cieply at the New York Times documentarians are not on board with these changes which would drastically reduce the number of qualifying entries.

I take a rather hard stance on this topic all the time and I assure you that it is not an anti-filmmaker stance. My stance is only a pro audience stance. I do not believe that films should be eligible for awards if they are not playing for the public. I'm tired of this elitist film culture where people only show their films in very discreet ways for very select audiences and hope that they'll win awards by which they will then try to lure paying audiences. On an individual case by case basis it's easy to see why the vast majority of pundits and filmmakers side with filmmakers on this topic and back these rules that make peekaboo engagements possible. But if you back up and look at the full picture it is much healthier for the survival of cinema if theatrical engagements are required and the audience is included. If movies aren't made to be seen there is no point in making them. If you want an engaged audience you have to create one. And to create one you've got to get the films out there in the marketplace. 

3. Makeup Citations
The bakeoff for Oscar's continually confounding Best Makeup category has finally happened and seven films are moving on to compete for the 3 wide nomination list. I've never found any reasonable explanation as to why this category has such a tiny amount of nominees given that a huge portion of movies require wig and makeup and prosthetics work but it is what it is. Despite "Best" often equating with "Most" J. Edgar and Green Lantern did not make the cut. Neither did that much talked about Michelle-to-Marilyn transformation wow them.

So your finalists go like so...


  • Albert Nobbs
  • Anonymous
  • The Artist
  • Gainsbourg: A Heroic Life
  • Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2
  • Hugo
  • The Iron Lady

I am not remotely a fan of The Iron Lady but I think it'd be a very deserving nomination in that category since the makeup work on Streep is just flawless / transformative. The rest of the field I don't have strong opinions of. Do you? It's worth noting that no Harry Potter film has ever been nominated for Makeup though a few of the previous films have made it to pre-nomination lists like this one. 

4. Foreign Film Finalists Will Be Announced on... TBA?
I wish I knew when. If so I could plan better. Every day I wake up in fear that I will miss my chance to tell you how much I liked movie A or B before Oscar cuts them in the winnowing process, he says pessimistically. And every day I run out of time. I need a deadline! Last year they announced a week ahead of the regular nominations so I guess that gives me... 5 or so more days?

Left (France's Declaration of War) Right (Denmark's SuperClásico with the always awesome Paprika Steen)

For the record in case I get no other chance to say it should the Academy not respond well to them the 'Movie A' in question is France's cancer dramedy Declaration of War which is super lively, passionate, funny, and tearful (Take that 50/50... You are nothing to me now!) and the 'Movie B' in question is Denmark's divorce comedy SuperClásico starring the inimitable Paprika Steen (Applause) who you already know I 'stan for whenever I get the chance.

I interviewed her recently (we'll get to that eventually) and much to my delight she dubbed me a "nerdy film blogger!" Her exact words! Now I love her even more. I wish American directors would hire her because she speaks English fluently and is a great actress who can do both intense drama and spiky comedy. What more do they need? Why should the Nykqvists, Mikkelsens and Skarsgaards be the only Scandinavian actors Hollywood has on speed dial? Paprika can act circles around so many people. Get on that, Hollywood! Time is a wasting.