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Wake-up call 

A review of Farenheit 9/11

click to enlarge "This is an impressive crowd  the haves and the have mores. Some people call you the elite; I call you my base."  George W. Bush
  • "This is an impressive crowd the haves and the have mores. Some people call you the elite; I call you my base." George W. Bush

*Fahrenheit 9/11 (R)
Lions Gate Films

Was it all just a dream, the last four years?

This question opens Michael Moore's controversial new film that bashes the Bush administration's bungling of the Sept. 11 crisis, the war in Afghanistan, the siege of Iraq and the war on terror. Watching Fahrenheit 9/11, it sure feels like a dream, a really bad dream that America desperately needs to wake up from.

You can like Moore or not, admire or dislike his previous films Roger & Me and Bowling for Columbine, but you'd be hard pressed to deny the power of Fahrenheit 9/11. Little is revealed that hasn't already been reported in the mainstream press at least once over the past four years -- albeit often buried on page 13 next to the weather report. But in Fahrenheit 9/11, Moore meticulously pieces together all the disturbing tidbits that have left us reeling with nowhere to scream as we've watched the Bush machine dominate public discourse. The cumulative effect is startling.

Admit it, you've forgotten that this president's inauguration parade was interrupted by tens of thousands of protesters in Washington who actually stopped the presidential motorcade. And did you remember the long line of African-Americans who appeared before Congress to protest the results of the Florida vote count, each dismissed by Al Gore himself, none of them able to find one senator who would support their claims of disenfranchisement in the Bush election?

We've been told many times that President George W. Bush has racked up more vacation hours than any other president, but take the fact that he vacationed 42 percent of the time during his first eight months in office, juxtapose that against footage of the president rooting around in the woods "looking for bugs," then realize it's less than a month until Sept. 11, the president has been briefed by the CIA on a possible bin Laden attack but has dismissed the report ("I believe the name of that report was 'bin Laden Determined to Attack Within the U.S.'" -- Condi Rice) -- these ordered sequences build up a palpable level of horrified disbelief.

Moore's research is deeper, his editing stricter and the reach of documentary footage richer in this film than in his others. More importantly, he keeps himself out of the frame more often than not, with a few exceptions. The film would have been stronger minus his crowd-pleasing clowning sequences.

Moore demonstrates a mastery of subtlety in his use of footage of Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Rice and Powell, all passively receiving their make-up, looking like corpses, before announcing to the American people that the United States has invaded Iraq. Bush's little beady eyes dart back and forth as he awaits his cue -- he looks like a high school kid running for president, twitching on the stage with sweaty palms. Moore shows equal restraint in the 9/11 segment of the film, going to a blacked-out screen where we hear the planes crash and the screams, all to a mournful musical score.

Those who'd like to dismiss the potential impact of the film point out repeatedly that only those who agree with Moore's politics will see the film. They ignore the possibility that many neutral moviegoers who might not otherwise be motivated to vote will be galvanized by Fahrenheit 9/11. If that happens, Moore, the guy who right-wing pundits love to accuse of hating America, will have served his country well.

-- Kathryn Eastburn

Kimball's Twin Peak, Tinseltown

  • A review of Farenheit 9/11

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