That was great for me, because Moore in recent years had fallen out of favor with me. I just didn't like "Bowling for Columbine." The message of the film seemed muddled to me and I didn't approve of ambushing frail celebrities Dick Clark and Charlton Heston--one is dead and the other had a debilitating stroke since that movie, which brings to mind the old adage: pick on someone your own size--or age group.
Anyway, the economic "crisis" of 2008 provided great fodder for Moore to get back to his roots of expounding on the evils of corporate America. In typical Moore fashion it involves a scattershot approach and a couple sequences of him being run out of buildings by security guards. At least no elderly celebrities were ambushed.
Since this is a "documentary" (though with Moore that's used very loosely) there's no point trying to describe the "plot." As I said, Moore uses his scattershot approach to explore different aspects of the hold capitalism has on our lives and our government. He features families being evicted, priests speaking out against capitalism, a sit down strike in Chicago, and a look at the political maneuvering that resulted in the big "bailout" of Wall Street--among other things.
Moore made a couple of great points here.
- I'm glad someone finally said this: the reason America experienced such great prosperity after WWII is that all of our rivals in the industrial world had been leveled. It's easy to win the race when everyone else is lying on the ground. It wasn't American pluck, grit, hard work, determination, brains, or anything else we like to attribute it to. Mostly it was geography that we were isolated from most of the front line fighting (except for Pearl Harbor and parts of Alaska) and were sitting on a jackpot of natural resources--many of which we have since squandered, like oil.
- During WWII, FDR was working on a "Second Bill of Rights" that included the right for every American to have a job that paid enough to live on, affordable housing, universal health care (sound familiar?), and a paid vacation. All of these things came to pass: in the nations we defeated. Why? Because FDR's advisers were the ones who helped write the constitutions of Germany, Japan, and Italy, also known as those evil "socialists" who overtook our automotive industry.
- Wall Street is the biggest, most lucrative casino in the world. Nothing is more evidence of this than "derivatives" the financial instruments that allow companies to "bet" on just about any outcome. Don't ask me to explain how it works--or anyone else either.
- Our government is owned by Wall Street fat cats. This was evidenced by the fact the "bailout" was passed a second time after going down in defeat when millions of Americans demanded it to fail. As well, officers of Goldman Sachs were and are holding key positions of power within the Federal regulatory system. Hank Paulsen, the head of the Treasury who wanted the bailout was also a former Goldman Sachs employee. Gee, why would he be so eager to bail them out? As well, Countrywide, one of the biggest contributors to the housing bubble that burst made special loans to a large number of government employees. The FBI was onto a lot of this well before it happened, but many of its white collar crime officers were conveniently transferred to other units in the wake of 9/11 and Iraq.
- YOU can make a difference. The Chicago sit down strike was a great example of that. So too was a family who with the help of their community broke back into their own home to squat in it. Typically we think we're alone and powerless against the big, faceless corporate machine, but this isn't always so.
- Is the irony that Moore is a millionaire who's reaped the benefits of the capitalist system in selling books, theater tickets, and DVDs to the people. Not to mention that his movie is bankrolled by big corporations like Paramount, who themselves are owned by bigger corporations.
- Another interesting irony would have been to point out a lot of these bankers participating in the bailout were a part of either the "Greatest Generation" that fought WWII or the Boomer generation who protested corporate greed in the '60s. This was a squandered opportunity to me and is kind of surprising considering how much stuff Moore threw on the screen.
- It's disingenuous to make it seem as if Wall Street is completely culpable for what happened. Someone had to take out those bad mortgages and refinancing loans. That person is YOU. (OK, maybe not you exactly but the 99% of people who aren't Wall Street fat cats.) It's like how I don't like Wal-Mart and what they do to small towns or how they treat employees (evidenced in the movie by their former policy of taking out "Dead Peasant" insurance on their "associates") but I still go there to save $1 on hamburger or $0.10 on a can of peas. Come on, you do it too. A point in the movie is about how little pilots are paid. Well guess what, WE hold some responsibility there. It's not just evil CEOs responsible. It's because YOU the consumer don't want to pay an extra $50 or $100 for an airline that would treat its pilots better when you can pay super low rates for Southwest or some other airline that packs people on like cattle and pays pilots "less than a manager at a Taco Bell" as the movie says. But I suppose that would clash with Moore's populist message that the fat cats are the ones to blame.
- I was disappointed Moore couldn't work in the Corporate Crime Fighting Chicken from "TV Nation." Seems like a perfect venue for that.
That is all.
My score: 85/100 (3.5 stars)
Metacritic score: 61/100 (2.5 stars)