Bowling for Columbine
You So Crazy!
Writ & Dir. Michael Moore
Opens October 11th
and Me was a remarkable movie. It was ground breaking
-- it showed us that documentaries are not just for PBS;
they can actually entertain while they educate, just like
mathemagicians, one-armed history teachers or that film-strip
from first grade about Drippy, the puppy who kept wetting
his bed. Beyond simple entertainment, however, Michael Moore
(the 'Me' of Roger and Me) tried to relay something to his
audience more than your average outrage at corporate greed.
There was something about a woman skinning a dead rabbit
in her back yard that was so grotesque, so revolting, that
I suddenly understood the plight of Flint, Michigan and
the injustice wrought upon it by GM. That one scene affected
me in a very base and fundamental way. This was suddenly
our hometown that had been destroyed, it was a piece of
us that was slowly atrophying. We were Moore. We were the
'Me.' The 'Me' was us
and it was also Moore. It was
all very confusing -- confusing and funny. That is Michael
Moore's true gift, an ability to communicate to his audience
with an array of weapons, humor, wit, irony, severity and,
when need be, rabbit guts.
Now-a-days Michael Moore looks a little too much like John
Candy for comfort. He's surely more active that the famously
dead comedian, but they've both got that open mouthed vacant
stare, as though they are trying to determine the edibility
of whatever they are talking to, be it microphone, chicken,
or Charlton Heston (Charlton Hetson
. Charleston Chew
don't think we didn't notice). Back in the day when Michael
Moore was a gun-toting mini-Michiganite he looked almost
exactly like my Brother-In-Law, Perry, I'm not sure which
similarity disturbs me the most.
In his works following Roger and Me I feel that he has
lost some of his grip on his craft. He is still wry and
biting, he can be funny as hell and is loads of fun to watch,
but the more causes he fights for the less I feel he actually
believes in them. Moore has become a crusader, and much
like his umpteenth-century counterparts, I'm not totally
convinced he knows what he's fighting for. For it to work
Moore has to invests something of his own self into his
battle before he can expect any of us to do the same.
I walked into Bowling For Columbine thinking that gun control
was a little too easy for Michael Moore. Especially gun
control as it pertains to Columbine. There are so many idiots
to make fun of. Moore, I thought, was going to have a field
day with this one. He was going to give us more of the same
shtick that has worked for him so well in the past. And
I was half right. As it happens, Bowling For Columbine is
one of the most impressive documentaries I have seen in
a very long time.
The move starts off, as one might expect, with guns. Guns
and Michigan. Guns and the people in Michigan, like the
Michigan Militia, or the kid who makes home-made napalm,
or James Nichols. What's amazing about people and guns is
that everyone knows exactly what kind of gun they keep at
home or use hunting or sell in the inner city; they spout
off the type and caliber with a speed and accuracy I only
have when it comes to remembering my birthday. "Colt
45", "Ak-47", "M-16", "glock,"
all of them with their cute little numbers. The first third
of the movie is an overwhelming, hilarious barrage of guns.
But the movie is not really about guns or gun control or
how weird and creepy Charlton Heston is, or any of that.
As the film unfolds you quickly realize the movie is about
violence, itself. Specifically Moore wonders why, exactly,
Americans are so much more violent as a nation that almost
any other country in the world. It isn't a question that
is easily answered, and Moore readily admits this. He ticks
off the popular suggestions: The proliferation of guns,
violent music, video games, an absence of morals and religion,
the abundance of gory movies and television shows, the economic
class struggles, and so on. He then discounts each of these
possibilities as the sole cause for our violence. There
is the issue of how Americans can be so afraid that we must
buy hordes of weapons, and secure ourselves in gated communities,
and yet we constantly glut ourselves on murder, rape, violence
and impending doom by way of cancer causing air-freshener
every night on the news.
He does not profess to lay blame on the media, however,
or the news or entertainment or anything. Unlike the majority
of documentaries, Bowling For Columbine, does not seem to
have an obvious answer or message, the filmmaker is not
taking any one stance (except maybe that what happened in
Littelton was just about as tragic as it gets). If Moore
had a particular opinion about violence in America going
into the movie, it is terribly clear that he leaves it just
as confused and uncertain as the rest of us. Which is somehow
very comforting in-and-of-itself.
Technically, this is a very well made piece. The editing,
the stock footage, the excerpts from South Park, all provide
an air of levity and simultaneous severity. You won't stop
laughing for the first thirty minutes, but all the while
you will understand just how serious the subject is.
Oklahoma City Bombing Suspect and brother of the convicted
Terry Nichols, James is so amazing to watch. From the outset
of the interview, answering just 'Food' when asked what
kind of farmer he is, to the end where he holds a loaded
gun up to his head, it all just so amazing. Never before
have simple dumbness crossed subtly with total insanity
to produce something this mesmerizing. He's got crazy-cool
A bonus in this movie is you will see, for the first time
ever, Michael Moore actually applaud the doings of a giant
US corporation, the entire movie is worth it just for that.
It's awesome to see Moore win against one of these behemoths
for once. I actually got a nasty case of the Tarded-Tingles
during that scene, and I'm not ashamed to admit it.
Moore is perfect at interviewing his subjects. He has Charlton
Heston devouring his foot with a cigar throated smoothness,
and all the while the old codger looks as though he's actually
enjoying the taste.
The animation sequence telling the history of America as
a constantly and needlessly violent country tries to be
cute, almost. It is funny but comes at a rather pointedly
severe part of the movie. It goes over the top a little
too much and loses the movie far more ground than it wins.
Almost all of what is pointed out by the sequence has already
been expressed. It is needless and not really that funny.
It drags in the middle; the segment in Canada runs a little
too long. Sure, we all realize that Canada is a utopia of
unlocked houses, and free health-care and cute accents,
and everything. But that is all so boring. The kids up there
are pretty cute though; all rosy cheeked from the frost
Towards the end of the flick he starts to push his sentiment
down our throats a little. Leaving a picture of the first-grade
girl who was shot by another first grader on Charlton Heston's
door step, for example. It's just too cheesy to be touching.
Humor: Three Bennies Hill
The movie is very funny. Especially the first third. And
while it never makes light of a tremendously serious subject,
it never fails to poke fun, where fun deserves to be poked.
Insanity: Two and a half straight jackets
While everyone in the movie has a strong opinion about something
(except the Canadians
they're so boring!), and they
all are, for the most part, certifiable (stop looking at
the camera, James Nichols, you're eyes are too creepy!),
it never goes over the top and becomes absurd. The really
insane thing is that these people are all very obviously
Editing: Four hundred pounds of film on the cutting
Like I said, the editing is what really brings this movie
together. The juxtaposition of every segment with every
other segment is perfect through-out. There is an ambiance
about the film that is startling, and achieved solely through
Overall Coolness: Three Bedford Hipsters
Definitely worth seeing. Moore manages to tip-toe softly
around a very sore subject, while at the same time pounding
it out into a fully entertaining and enlightening movie.