Capitalism: A Love Story (Moore, 2009)

If Capitalism: A Love Story is indeed Michael Moore’s last documentary (as it’s rumored to be), then America’s most notorious nonfiction provocateur has achieved quite an affecting oeuvre. His latest film, an often brilliant assault on the evils of governmental and business corruption predicating the Great Recession, produces some grand and biting critiques culminating in a gut punch of a third act calling for nothing short of a economic revolution by the American citizenry. Moore vividly reveals why this particular dam has been cracking for decades (one astute bank regulator named Bill Black makes this very convincing analogy), painting a timeline of slow decline perpetrated in some way by all of the last four Presidential Administrations. There’s more than enough blame to sink both sides of the political party divide.

Much like Sicko, Moore doesn’t entirely rely on the patented pop culture montages and archival tangents to make his point. The most potent and jarring moments come in his talking heads interviews with everyday people, be it the Illinois family paid to remove their own furniture and possessions by the very bank that’s evicting them, or the collection of Chicago factory workers blessed by a Bishop during their week long sit in at a Window/Door factory. Moore has a keen ability to morph typically muted affectations into moments of damning injustice.

Capitalism: A Love Story further proves why Moore should be considered one of the great montage artists in film history. His editing borders on breakneck, framing personal histories and tragedies around epic news footage, pop culture artifacts, and disturbing presentational data. Most critics get hung up on Moore’s grandstanding and miss the forest for the trees. Moore pokes and prods the politicians, lobbyists, and businessmen with a hot poker, hoping to see the devil pop out the other side. It seems like a need rather than a fetish. Moore’s success and failure comes down to whether or not you believe he’s doing this for the American people or himself. I tend to be optimistic in this regard, and view him as a filmmaker of the people.

Sicko (Moore, 2007)

Some people despise Michael Moore, and I just can’t figure out why. Even if you don’t agree with his politics, or show-boating, or style, he’s still one of the only American filmmakers consistently dissecting American failures in the social and political spectrum. And he’s doing it through brilliant use of montage, using jarring, personal images and emotional moments, cut with music, animation, and archival footage to produce the greatest and extreme responses. Sicko, Moore’s latest incendiary doc on the state of American health care, offers a toned down, but precise example of this approach to filmmaking. Moore spends most of the film off camera (that is until the righteous ending), and it provides even the most anti-Moore viewer with a look at what he’s really capable of, all pandering aside. Moore is a fine showman, and an even better antagonizer, and we need his passion right now in an American film market flushed with mediocre Hollywood shit. Sicko not only rightfully lambasts a system that’s obviously not working, but it goes a step farther and charts other health care modes that are. Even if his portrayals of Canada, France, and England’s health care system feels too rosy, his point remains to shake American viewers into a rage, as if to say that if even half of what he’s telling us is true, we should be rioting in the streets. After viewing the film, I felt Sicko to be Moore’s best work to date – restrained yet tough, enticing and maddening, forceful but humane. For all these reasons, it’s Moore’s most mature film, and the one with the most seamless and scary structure, basing almost all of it’s facts on human accounts of horror within the system. The ending, while almost unforgivably staged, is devastating in it’s unmasking of our current government’s lack of humanity toward those they deemed heroes only a few short moments ago – the rescue workers at Ground Zero who now suffer from terrible respiratory ailments because of their sacrifice. Corporate Health Care, of course, gave them the runaround, and it’s actions like these that make Michael Moore so necessary. We know, for better or worse, he’s not going to let any of these money grubbing bastards on Capital Hill or in the corporate world off the hook, and we’re all healthier for it.