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Given his far-left leanings, you would naturally assume liberal provocateur Michael Moore would be all in on tearing into the Trump era, with its presumed agenda of racism, classism, misogyny, and despotism -- and you would not be wrong in that assumption. But the GOP and its Trump-enabling ways are only one of the targets of his scathing vitriol: The Democrats, and the DNC also earn his wrath, to say nothing of past presidents Barack Obama and Bill Clinton. Moore is ready to take all comers in this one: He's mad as hell and isn't going to take it anymore.

With Fahrenheit 11/9, Moore uses his bullhorn to take it to both political parties -- the GOP for its sneering cynicism and corporate greed; the Dems for screwing over Bernie Sanders during the DNC, and more or less aping moderate Republican values and methodologies. He actually blames the current political morass on William Jefferson Clinton, whom he describes in withering tones as setting the stage for a surging Republican party by embracing their values; and he doesn't leave Obama unscathed, either, pointing out the surge in militarization and dramatic increase of drone strikes under his eight years in office.

Fahrenheit 11/9

89 Cast: Documentary, with Michael Moore, David Hogg, Donald J. Trump, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Bernie Sanders

Director: Michael Moore

Rating: R, for language and some disturbing material/images

Running time: 2 hours, 1 minute

Moore has always been more of a town crier than savvy, laser-focused liberal operator -- his weapon of choice involves a spray of buckshot rather than a single armor piercing shell -- and I say that (mostly) to his credit. As has been pointed out countless times, he was one of the few politically minded advocates to warn the Democratic body that they dismissed Trump at their peril, actually predicting his victory, cutting against conventional wisdom in such a way that he seemed actually prescient when the votes were counted.

To be sure, he saves most of his vitriol for the current president -- the title of the film, playing off his earlier film, denotes the day Trump won the presidency, after all -- but instead of combating him head-on, as you might suspect, he spends much of the film just giving him the side-eye, as a teenager might eyeroll a particularly egregious gym coach, not even taking him seriously enough to denigrate him directly. It's not like he pulls his punches, but he doesn't dwell so much on what Trump is doing, as much as what he stands for, and how we all got here in the first place.

Notably, he blames everybody on both sides: the GOP for letting him take power and embracing him in order to curry favor with his contingency; the Dems for trying to hold onto the existing power structure as much as possible to ensure their old guard remain on their seats; the liberals for being outraged but not taking action; the Trumpites who are letting themselves be brainwashed by an autocrat.

The only people Moore fully endorses are the "fighters" who actually take action against the sitting pillars of power: the striking teachers of West Virginia, who held out even against their own union leaders for a better living wage, inspiring other state teachers to follow suit; the anti-gun activists of Parkland, Fla., who became politicized during the six minutes their high school was under siege by a lone gunman, and organized the largest gun control rally in the history of the country in less than six weeks (notably, one of the Parkland teens Moore speaks with brushes aside his praise of their parents, by telling him they were raised by "social media"); and, finally, those crusaders of Moore's hometown of Flint, Mich., who kept the pressure on Gov. Rick Snyder, when their water supply was shown to have much higher levels of lead and other contaminants after he switched up their source in order to cash in on government contracts for his cronies.

In fact, Moore uses the Flint crisis as a kind of through line for the film's activation: Downtrodden people, in one of the poorest cities in the country, rising up for themselves and forcing the world to take notice of their plight. That such a brazenly shameless action -- because of Flint's large black population, one person Moore speaks to refers to it as a "genocide" -- can take place in one of the more prosperous countries in the world, speaks volumes as to how far tilted the system has become.

If you are left, centrist, or even right, there is plenty here to keep you awake at night, miserable at where we are as a country, and where we are headed next. In one of the film's more striking passages, Moore cites recent Gallup Poll results suggesting the vast majority of people in this country are, in fact, greatly in favor of such causes as gun-control, gender equality, and immigration; but even with the Democrats winning the popular vote in seven out of the last eight presidential elections, the left currently holds no seat of power in the current government, from the White House to the Supreme Court. Checks and balances have been replaced by a Citizen's United-fueled overthrow.

So fractured and torn up is the system, Moore suggests the counterculture, liberal revolution, as embodied by female candidates Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez and Rashida Tlaib, is the only way to truly represent the will of the people, that Democrats, by glumly following the rules established by the old hierarchy are essentially doomed to fail, as what football coach Bill Walsh once said of QB Steve DeBerg, "he's just good enough to get you beat."

At 64, Moore is a bit less of a firebrand than in his younger, spunkier days. Other than a few halfhearted stunts -- one involving hijacking a Flint water truck and spraying the contents of the front lawn of the Michigan Governor's Mansion -- he seems more weary in his approach, and in the nearly 30 years since making Roger & Me, when GM first closed down their Flint plants and moved operations overseas, you can understand why.

In one scene, he meets with Bernie Sanders, and the two gray-haired men seem to hit if off like old comrades from an ancient war. Pointing out the discrepancy between the actual primary poll results and the vote of the so-called super-delegates representing their states by countering the will of their districts and voting for Hillary anyway, you can see how the party has gone off the rails: If neither side can maintain the most basic tenets of democracy, then it's no wonder why we find ourselves, as Susan Sonntag has put it, "one 9/11 away" from losing our democracy altogether.

MovieStyle on 09/21/2018

Print Headline: Farenheit 11/9

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