Skip to comments.Official Ebert review of Moore film
Posted on 06/24/2004 8:01:40 AM PDT by Borges
FAHRENHEIT 9/11 / ***1/2
June 24, 2004
Lions Gate/IFC Films presents a documentary directed by Michael Moore. Narrated by Moore. Running time: 110 minutes. Rated R (some violent and disturbing images, and for language).
BY ROGER EBERT
Michael Moore's "Fahrenheit 9/11" is less an expose of George W. Bush than a dramatization of what Moore sees as a failed and dangerous presidency. The charges in the film will not come as news to those who pay attention to politics, but Moore illustrates them with dramatic images and a relentless commentary track that essentially concludes Bush is incompetent, dishonest, failing in the war on terrorism, and has bad taste in friends.
Although Moore's narration ranges from outrage to sarcasm, the most devastating passage in the film speaks for itself. That's when Bush, who was reading My Pet Goat to a classroom of Florida children, is notified of the second attack on the World Trade Center, and yet lingers with the kids for almost seven minutes before finally leaving the room. His inexplicable paralysis wasn't underlined in news reports at the time, and only Moore thought to contact the teacher in that schoolroom -- who, as it turned out, had made her own video of the visit. The expression on Bush's face as he sits there is odd indeed.
Bush, here and elsewhere in the film, is characterized as a man who owes a lot to his friends, including those who helped bail him out of business ventures. Moore places particular emphasis on what he sees as a long-term friendship between the Bush family (including both presidents) and powerful Saudi Arabians. More than $1.4 billion in Saudi money has flowed into the coffers of Bush family enterprises, he says, and after 9/11 the White House helped expedite flights out of the country carrying, among others, members of the bin Laden family (which disowns its most famous member).
Moore examines the military records released by Bush to explain his disappearance from the Texas Air National Guard, and finds that the name of another pilot has been blacked out. This pilot, he learns, was Bush's close friend James R. Bath, who became Texas money manager for the billionaire bin Ladens. Another indication of the closeness of the Bushes and the Saudis: The law firm of James Baker, the secretary of State for Bush's father, was hired by the Saudis to defend them against a suit by a group of 9/11 victims and survivors, who charged that the Saudis had financed al-Qaida.
To Moore, this is more evidence that Bush has an unhealthy relationship with the Saudis, and that it may have influenced his decision to go to war against Iraq at least partially on their behalf. The war itself Moore considers unjustified (no WMDs, no Hussein-bin Laden link), and he talks with American soldiers, including amputees, who complain bitterly about Bush's proposed cuts of military salaries at the same time he was sending them into a war that they (at least, the ones Moore spoke to) hated.
Moore also shows American military personnel who are apparently enjoying the war; he has footage of soldiers who use torture techniques not in a prison but in the field, where they hood an Iraqi prisoner, call him "Ali Baba" and pose for videos while touching his genitals.
Moore brings a fresh impact to familiar material by the way he marshals his images. We are all familiar with the controversy over the 2000 election, which was settled by the U.S. Supreme Court. What I hadn't seen before was footage of the ratification of Bush's election by the U.S. Congress. An election can be debated at the request of one senator and one representative; 10 representatives rise to challenge it, but not a single senator. As Moore shows the challengers, one after another, we cannot help noting that they are eight black women, one Asian woman and one black man. They are all gaveled into silence by the chairman of the joint congressional session -- Vice President Al Gore. The urgency and futility of the scene reawakens old feelings for those who believe Bush is an illegitimate president.
"Fahrenheit 9/11" opens on a note not unlike Moore's earlier films, such as "Roger & Me" and "Bowling for Columbine." Moore, as narrator, brings humor and sarcasm to his comments, and occasionally appears onscreen in a gadfly role. It's vintage Moore, for example, when he brings along an unsuspecting Marine recruiter as he confronts congressmen, urging them to have their children enlist in the service. And he makes good use of candid footage, including an eerie video showing Bush practicing facial expressions before going live with his address to the nation about 9/11.
Apparently Bush and other members of his administration don't know what every TV reporter knows, that a satellite image can be live before they get the cue to start talking. That accounts for the quease-inducing footage of Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz wetting his pocket comb in his mouth before slicking back his hair. When that doesn't do it, he spits in his hand and wipes it down. If his mother is alive, I hope for his sake she doesn't see this film.
Such scenes are typical of vintage Moore, catching his subjects off guard. But his film grows steadily darker, and Moore largely disappears from it, as he focuses on people such as Lila Lipscomb, from Moore's hometown of Flint, Mich.; she reads a letter from her son, written days before he was killed in Iraq. It urges his family to work for Bush's defeat.
"Fahrenheit 9/11" is a compelling, persuasive film, at odds with the White House effort to present Bush as a strong leader. He comes across as a shallow, inarticulate man, simplistic in speech and inauthentic in manner. If the film is not quite as electrifying as Moore's "Bowling for Columbine," that may be because Moore has toned down his usual exuberance and was sobered by attacks on the factual accuracy of elements of "Columbine"; playing with larger stakes, he is more cautious here, and we get an op-ed piece, not a stand-up routine. But he remains one of the most valuable figures on the political landscape, a populist rabble-rouser, humorous and effective; the outrage and incredulity in his film are an exhilarating response to Bush's determined repetition of the same stubborn sound bites.
What an idiot.
WTF is so eerie about that? Jeez, what the hell is wrong with people. I bet fatso roger ebert never checked to see how his appearance on tv looks. He just wings it. Only psycho republican presidents would actually practice a speech to get the right body language. Sheesh.
Gee, I wish I had a dollar for every effusive adjective describing Ebert's affection for Moore. Peas in a pod.
Inexplicable? It may not be the correct explanation but I have always thought that, perhaps, President Bush didn't want to freak out a bunch of schoolchildren.
And there were protocol in place that we simply don't know about...not every you, Moore/Ebert.
No mention, as usual, of the fact that SA was strongly opposed to America invading Iraq.
where is the review? the piece reads like a promo or cliff notes not a review. no mention of the facts or the lack there of... is there not one fair liberal that has access to the media? its like some freakin cult..reall scary but mostly pathetic that they cant think for themselves they need propogandists like michael moore to tell them what and how they should think and feel...and who they should direct their hate towards...it disgusts me!
" If the film is not quite as electrifying as Moore's "Bowling for Columbine," that may be because Moore has toned down his usual exuberance and was sobered by attacks on the factual accuracy of elements of "Columbine"; playing with larger stakes, he is more cautious here, and we get an op-ed piece, not a stand-up routine."
Simply the most ridiculous statement in a review chock full of them.
Just noting it was Richard Clarke, on his own authority, getting the bin Laden family members out of the country undermines this comment. We can all cite dozens of other "errors" in Moore's film...but why?
Nobody but the far leftwingnuts are making plans to spend a Friday night at the movies on this.
'9/11': Just the facts?
June 18, 2004
BY ROGER EBERT FILM CRITIC
A reader writes:
"In your articles discussing Michael Moore's film 'Fahrenheit 9/11,' you call it a documentary. I always thought of documentaries as presenting facts objectively without editorializing. While I have enjoyed many of Mr. Moore's films, I don't think they fit the definition of a documentary."
That's where you're wrong. Most documentaries, especially the best ones, have an opinion and argue for it. Even those that pretend to be objective reflect the filmmaker's point of view. Moviegoers should observe the bias, take it into account and decide if the film supports it or not.
Michael Moore is a liberal activist. He is the first to say so. He is alarmed by the prospect of a second term for George W. Bush, and made "Fahrenheit 9/11" for the purpose of persuading people to vote against him.
That is all perfectly clear, and yet in the days before the film opens June 25, there'll be bountiful reports by commentators who are shocked! shocked! that Moore's film is partisan. "He doesn't tell both sides," we'll hear, especially on Fox News, which is so famous for telling both sides.
The wise French director Godard once said, "The way to criticize a film is to make another film." That there is not a pro-Bush documentary available right now I am powerless to explain. Surely, however, the Republican National Convention will open with such a documentary, which will position Bush comfortably between Ronald Reagan and God. The Democratic convention will have a wondrous film about John Kerry. Anyone who thinks one of these documentaries is "presenting facts objectively without editorializing" should look at the other one.
The pitfall for Moore is not subjectivity, but accuracy. We expect him to hold an opinion and argue it, but we also require his facts to be correct. I was an admirer of his previous doc, the Oscar-winning "Bowling for Columbine," until I discovered that some of his "facts" were wrong, false or fudged.
In some cases, he was guilty of making a good story better, but in other cases (such as his ambush of Charlton Heston) he was unfair, and in still others (such as the wording on the plaque under the bomber at the Air Force Academy) he was just plain wrong, as anyone can see by going to look at the plaque.
Because I agree with Moore's politics, his inaccuracies pained me, and I wrote about them in my Answer Man column. Moore wrote me that he didn't expect such attacks "from you, of all people." But I cannot ignore flaws simply because I agree with the filmmaker. In hurting his cause, he wounds mine.
Now comes "Fahrenheit 9/11," floating on an enormous wave of advance publicity. It inspired a battle of the titans between Disney's Michael Eisner and Miramax's Harvey Weinstein. It won the Palme d'Or at the Cannes Film Festival. It has been rated R by the MPAA, and former New York Gov. Mario Cuomo has signed up as Moore's lawyer, to challenge the rating. The conservative group Move America Forward, which successfully bounced the mildly critical biopic "The Reagans" off CBS and onto cable, has launched a campaign to discourage theaters from showing "Fahrenheit 9/11."
The campaign will amount to nothing and disgraces Move America Forward by showing it trying to suppress disagreement instead of engaging it. The R rating may stand; there is a real beheading in the film, and only fictional beheadings get the PG-13. Disney and Miramax will survive.
Moore's real test will come on the issue of accuracy. He can say whatever he likes about Bush, as long as his facts are straight. Having seen the film twice, I saw nothing that raised a flag for me, and I haven't heard of any major inaccuracies. When Moore was questioned about his claim that Bush unwisely lingered for six or seven minutes in that Florida classroom after learning of the World Trade Center attacks, Moore was able to reply with a video of Bush doing exactly that.
I agree with Moore that the presidency of George W. Bush has been a disaster for America. In writing that, I expect to get the usual complaints that movie critics should keep their political opinions to themselves. But opinions are my stock in trade, and is it not more honest to declare my politics than to conceal them? I agree with Moore, and because I do, I hope "Fahrenheit 9/11" proves to be as accurate as it seems.
Shallow analysis of a shallow film. Moore has little to work with and his propaganda piece denotes desperation by the radical left. Ebert puts aside critical analysis to promote his leftist politics. Everyone knows this is a propaganda piece including the left.
The scene Ebert mentions where Bush continues to read to children after being informed about 9/11 amazes me. Bush did exactly the right thing. Had he broke away abruptly the left would have criticized how he scared the children. The left is indeed desperate.
Two Jabba idiots.
They like to disparage the character of Pres. Bush, and they don't even have enough self countrol to stop eating.
How's that stomach stapling workin' for ya Roger?
Official, mind you.
I hope Roger doesn't commit suicide when the DEMO(N)cRATS fail to stuff enough ballot boxes next November.
Michael Moore would not recognize competency if it came up behind him and kicked him in his very ample butt so hard his nose started bleeding. He is a very cunning person who has wormed his way into trash film making, by finding some wealthy donors, making very exaggerated caricatures of scenes from everyday America, and weaving them into semi-fictional works about a world that never was, and logically, could not exist. These film productions are cartoons, showing imaginary people doing improbable things, and real people behaving in ways wholly inconsistent with all the history of what they have ever done or been. The visual image is vastly more powerful than the spoken or written word, and has the potential to supplant reality. Sure, there is "freedom of speech", but apparently this freedom is being seriously abused here, by the detachment of historical and verifiable fact from the discussion and replacing it with complete flights of fancy.
I'm sure that if Moore could have gotten hold of it, he would have shown video of Bush picking his nose and pooping. What it sounds like he shows is people being human, normal. We all would come off looking weak and foolish if our lives were edited to show the bad times, the night we drank too much or the looking in the mirror in the morning and pulling in the tummy or putting on makeup. It's all cheap shots and could be done to anyone with the same effect.
Two fat, ugly men.
By the way, the loony-tunes left is trading in theories that Bush's apparent lack of concern, reading to school children for seven minutes, shows he knew in advance that the attack was going to happen. Conspiracy theorists debate whether it's "LIHOP" or "MIHOP" -- Let It Happen On Purpose or Made It Happen On Purpose.
Now give us your opinion of what America would be like under the presidency of Al Gore.
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