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Fahrenheit 9/11 (2004)

A 2004 documentary movie direct4ed by Michael Moore.

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Michael Moore’s Fahrenheit 9/11: Let Me Stand Next to Your Ire

  • Jun 29, 2004
  • by
Rating:
+3
Pros: moving, presents some undeniable facts, music

Cons: manipulative, can be criticized as “propaganda,” too broad in scope

The Bottom Line: Let your anger rise / and we'll fly and we'll fall and we'll burn / no one will recall, no one will recall - Muse - "Stockholm Syndrome"

Do you remember what it was like to trust your government? Back in the simple days of the Cold War, I blissfully thought of the USA as “the good guys” and Russia and East Germany as the enemies. President Reagan’s image on television gave me the same benign joy as watching Mr. Rogers. In fact, they sort of looked the same. Sadly, I now realize that things aren’t as straightforward as they seemed when I was five. Our government had (and continues to have) shady business dealings with many of the people whom our current president calls “evil.”

Nevermind that, says Britney Spears and many other so-called patriots who say we should stand by our president no matter what he does. Of course, these people were some of the first to condemn President Clinton for receiving blow jobs in the Oval Office. Britney’s baby talk voice in the archived footage that Michael Moore splices into his latest film Fahrenheit 9/11 underscores her childish attitude of loyalty. America seems to be suffering from a case of amnesia and Stockholm Syndrome with, according to congressman/psychiatrist Jim McDermott, a bit of cognitive dissonance and Pavlovian conditioning thrown in for good measure. George W. Bush wouldn’t have been president in the first place had Florida not screwed up the 2000 election and the Supreme Court not halted the re-count. How quickly we forget.

In F9/11, filmmaker/activist Michael Moore attempts to rouse America from its three and a half year nightmare and make sure it doesn’t continue for another four. Moore makes no attempt to hide his biases in this film (no, it’s not really a “documentary”), in which he paints a very negative picture of the Bush administration. Unfortunately, in simplifying some facts and omitting others as he goes for breadth over depth, Moore leaves himself open to criticism, making the same mistakes he made in Bowling for Columbine.

A friend of a friend described Moore’s filmmaking style as “the way I wrote term papers in middle school.” It’s like starting with a thesis and skimming through a 400-page book, writing down a few pieces of supporting evidence and ignoring anything that refutes his claim. If you are looking for antithetical information, you won’t find it in F9/11, which is why Democrats and other people who despise George W. Bush (i.e. the rest of the world) applaud at screenings of F9/11, while Bush supporters dismiss the film as “propaganda.” In this case, the supporters and detractors are both right. However, had Moore focused F9/11 and dug more deeply, he could have made a more persuasive case and a more profound film overall.

Michael Moore really should have made three separate documentaries: one about the fraudulent election, one about September 11th and how the Bush administration ignored the warning signs and had numerous business ties to the bin Laden family, and one about the immoral Iraq war. F9/11 begins by rehashing the horrors of the 2000 presidential debacle, touches on the fact that Bush was on vacation (more than any other president in history!) as his approval rating dipped prior to the September 11th terrorist attacks, and then shows us how the Bush machine convinced the public that Iraq was the enemy. Even before September 11th, Bush was aching for a reason to start a war with the oil-rich nation. Along the way, Moore stops by his hometown of Flint, MI to demonstrate how the military exploits the lower classes. There’s no mention at all of the fact that Saddam Hussein was a horrendous dictator, and the whole film feels a bit superficial.

If you’ve been paying attention to the news for the past few years, most of the information in F9/11 will come as no surprise. The ideas in F9/11 aren’t very radical for the most part. Sure, some of the facts may have been buried in the back of the paper or may not have been in there at all if you read a conservative rag like the Boston Herald, but most people who see F9/11 will already know that President Bush chartered private planes for members of the bin Laden family to fly out of America after September 11th. Moore’s interview with a former higher-up in the FBI combined with footage from old cop shows emphasizes how incredibly ridiculous it was not to question any members of the bin Laden family in the wake of the attacks.

Moore is at his best when he conducts man-on-the-street interviews, but his celebrity status prevents him from doing much of that anymore. When Moore stands in front of the Saudi embassy, the Secret Service approaches him and addresses him by name. Incidentally, when Moore graces the screen for the first time, you might think the projectionist has spliced in a scene from SuperSize Me by mistake. The days of Roger and Me style anonymity are over. Moore tries a few of his old stunts in F9/11, but they feel insignificant next to the footage of mangled bodies in Iraq, which are hard to stomach and, undoubtedly, powerful. Driving around Washington in an ice cream truck reading the Patriot Act aloud after learning that many legislators didn’t read the whole thing before signing it felt more silly than meaningful, and I’m sure Moore could have found more noteworthy victims of the Act than members of an Oakland peace group that was infiltrated by the FBI.

While in Flint, Moore meets a patriotic woman whose daughter participated in the first Gulf War and whose son is killed in Iraq during the production of F9/11. Moore’s emotional manipulation succeeds, as the footage of the Michigan woman’s grief and that of Iraqi victims is very moving. While many young men and women are returning from Iraq in body bags or with terrible injuries, Bush has cut soldiers’ pay and veterans’ benefits, which is unfathomable given his plea to “support our troops.” Along with the lengthy segment about the Bush family’s ties to the Saudi terrorists through the oil and defense industries, the footage of soldiers and civilians in Iraq is the most effective part of the film.

You’ll find several horrifying facts like these if you sift through all the funny but irrelevant “Bushisms” that Moore includes in the film. However, Moore’s attempts to be clever undermine the film’s credibility. Portraying Bush as a bumbling idiot is easy and fun, but it actually distracts us from the damage his administration is causing. Similarly, I didn’t see what could be gained by speculating on what Bush may have thinking when he was sitting in a Florida classroom minutes after the 9/11 attacks, and playing a riff from Eric Clapton’s “Cocaine” while presenting documents from Bush’s time in the National Guard is amusing but highly unsound journalism.

I do admire Moore’s musical selections, however, as they really add to F9/11’s entertainment value. I was expecting to be in tears throughout F9/11 since I had heard that Madonna (or is it Esther now?) said she cried more during it than any other film, but it was much funnier than I had been expecting, and I only shed a couple of tears. Maybe I’m just numb. After all, the news has been pretty horrifying for as long as I can remember.

Despite my criticisms, Fahrenheit 9/11 is certainly worth seeing. Michael Moore is a true patriot, speaking out when he sees atrocities occurring in his country. I agree with his view that, if you love America, you should hate the Bush administration, but I don’t think that F9/11, with its many holes, will convince many Dubya followers that their cowboy is leading us astray. I fear that a plurality of American voters, like Britney Spears, will turn a deaf ear to the truth and sing, “Hit me baby, one more time” come November.


Recommended:
Yes

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More Fahrenheit 9/11 reviews
review by . November 09, 2008
Fahrenheit 9/11
I avoided this documentary for quite some time, particularly due to all the hype over how powerful it was, and from other voices how lame it was. Well, I finally watched it to discover that I found it to be neither overly powerful or overly lame, but a fairly normal documentary put together much like others, focusing on the Bush family.     Ignoring the Republican/Democrat verbal boxing matches (lets face it folks, there is no discerning the two parties apart any longer, all …
review by . August 13, 2006
posted in Movie Hype
I am not sure where to start with this movie, or this persuasive visually essay. After all, that is what it is. Anyone who states this movie is entire fact, despite political stripe, is really not being honest with himself or herself. Many of Michael Moore's arguments and positions on topics really follow a "1 + 1 = 3" formula. For instance Fahrenheit 9/11 opens with the Bush/Gore 2000 election. How different news channels weren't displaying solidarity with the results of the election. Then the …
review by . October 28, 2004
posted in Movie Hype
I watched this at the invitation of someone who insisted I do so, saying it would convince me Bush was a disaster for the country. What I saw, instead, were Moore's usual diatribes, cleverly constructed to misrepresent the truth. We all know Bush was inexperienced in facing the camera during his early years in office and highly self-conscious about it to boot, all of which tended to make him smirk foolishly at inopportune moments, stumble haltingly over his words and look beseechingly around, as …
review by . July 14, 2004
Pros: Plenty of verifiable facts to back his assertions.     Cons: Seen through a biased eye.     The Bottom Line: In the finally analysis Fahrenheit 9/11 is more then just another attempt by Michael Moore to shock us, it is an attempt to educate, to question, to enlighten us.      I should preface this review by telling you that I claim allegiance to neither the Democrat nor Republican Party’s. I am an Independent in my political affiliations …
review by . June 28, 2004
Pros: Powerful, funny, spirited     Cons: Anguished, sad, depressing     The Bottom Line: It is both anguised and angry at the same time which leaves the viewer feeling torn - not sure whether to cry or riot.      Plot Details: This opinion reveals major details about the movie''s plot. Michael Moore's hot topic film contained no new surprises - but was a great example of the freedom of the press in the United States. Moore took square …
review by . June 25, 2004
Pros: Good humor and interesting discussion topics abound.     Cons: Not always an objective look.     The Bottom Line: While not always objective, Moore has created a film that you simply can't forget.     Next to “The Passion of the Christ” no film has generated more controversy than Michael Moore’s “Fahrenheit 9/11”. The film takes a highly critical look at the Bush administration, the War against Terror, and the …
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About this movie

Wiki

Starring Ben Affleck, Stevie Wonder, George W. Bush, James Baker III
Directed by Michael Moore
Writer:  Michael Moore
2004

Product Description
In the most provocative film of the year, Academy Award-winner Michael Moore presents a searing examination of the role played by greed and oil in the wake of the tragic events of 9/11. From Academy-Award winning director Michael Moore (Bowling for Columbine). WINNER, Palme D'Or Award at the Cannes Film Festival, BEST PICTURE. DVD features:

* "The Release of Fahrenheit 9/11" featurette
* "Iraq, Pre-War" featurette: The people of Iraq on the eve of invasion
* "Homeland security, Miami style" featurette: Footage of the old men who patrol the Florida coast lookng for terrorists as part of the homeland security plan
* "Outside Abu Ghraib Prison"
* Eyewitness account from Samara, Iraq
* "Lila, D.C.": Lila Lipscomb at the Washington, D.C. premiere
* Arab-American comedians: Their acts and experiences after 9/11
* Extended interview: More with Abdul Henderson
* "Condi 9/11": Condoleezza Rice's 9/11 Commission testimony
* "Bush Rose Garden": George W. Bush's full press briefing after 9/11 Commission appearance

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Details

Director: Michael Moore
Genre: Documentary, Drama
Release Date: June 23, 2004
MPAA Rating: R
Screen Writer: Michael Moore
DVD Release Date: October 5, 2004
Runtime: 2hrs 2min
Studio: Lionsgate Films
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