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Fahrenheit 9/11 Variety Review

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Fahrenheit 9/11 Variety Review

Old 05-17-04, 02:53 PM
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Fahrenheit 9/11 Variety Review

Fahrenheit 9/11

(Docu -- Competing)

A Dog Eat Dog and Wild Bunch presentation. (International sales: Wild Bunch, Paris.) Produced by Jim Czarnecki, Kathleen Glynn, Michael Moore. Co-producers, Jeff Gibbs, Kurt Engfehr. Supervising producer, Tia Lessin. Directed, written by Michael Moore.


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By TODD MCCARTHY
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Its title notwithstanding, Michael Moore has delivered a film rather less incendiary than might have been expected -- or wished for by his fans -- in "Fahrenheit 9/11." Designed as an indictment of the Bush administration's domestic and international policies since the 2001 terrorist attacks on New York and Washington, D.C., the sporadically effective docu trades far more in emotional appeals than in systematically building an evidence-filled case against the president and his circle. Thanks to Moore's celebrity, project has been a publicity magnet since its inception, which assures plenty of continued media attention on the ramp up to its intended July U.S. release by an as-yet-to-be-determined distributor, as well as hefty returns both theatrically and in DVD/homevid release in October, a month before the election.
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Pic fails to provide any hard facts or make any incriminating connections that a reasonably informed person doesn't already know about, so intellectually Moore is largely preaching to the converted in this blatant cinematic 2004 campaign pamphlet.

Due to the way Moore has skewed his account to emphasize blacks, other minorities and the poor as the primary domestic victims of Bush's policies, it would seem that the groups the filmmaker primarily hopes to influence in November are the disenfranchised who don't normally turn out to vote in large numbers, and "patriotic" Middle Americans who might be convinced not to automatically vote Republican. In these respects, he might prove somewhat successful due to the emotionalism of his pitch.

It may then be of secondary importance that much of the film is constructed of recycled parts drawn mostly from television, and that it reveals Moore as an inadequate prosecuting attorney when it comes to collecting evidence, rationally laying out his argument and delivering the coup de grace in a masterly summation. Instead, his approach is scattershot and manipulative, his tone derisive, jokey and snide in regard to the administration and media, but earnest when it comes to regular folk.

If one agrees with Moore's politics -- and indeed, even if one doesn't but longs for the professional gadfly to give Bush his best shot -- there must be some disappointment that Moore hasn't made better use of his ample materials and various witnesses who appear to have the goods on the administration, the Saudis and other matters. One has the feeling there's a lot more beneath the surface that will eventually come out, but that Moore, in his haste to get this film done before the election, hasn't gotten it.

Opening minutes once more stir the pot of the 2000 Florida election results controversy before pic sketches a portrait of George W. Bush as a do-nothing president who spent "42% of his time" during his first eight months in office "on vacation" (one wonders where that statistic came from, and if it includes weekends).

Exaggerated and repetitive footage of Bush holding a children's book in a Florida elementary school class while the 9/11 attacks were happening are designed to make him look like a clueless dunce, but pic then jumps into the serious business of the connections between the Bush and Bin Laden families and the covert and seemingly outrageous way in which at least two dozen members of the Bin Laden family were allowed to fly out of the United States when all other flights were still grounded.

There's a lot of meat here, and "House of Bush, House of Saud" author Craig Unger is briefly on camera to indicate as much. But Moore's account consists mostly of innocuous archival footage of the first President Bush meeting and greeting Saudi dignitaries. These images may be pregnant with import, but on the surface are no different from similar ones that could be found of any modern U.S. president or top official.

Moore then comes up with a bit about a certain James R. Bath, a fellow member of the Texas Air National Guard with George W. who subsequently became a business associate of the Bin Ladens. Other financial ties are mentioned as well, and a Taliban leader is even shown being given a guided tour around Washington, D.C. But for all the negative impressions one is supposed to take away from all this, Moore completely fails to draw all this info together and propose what it means at the end of the day.

Moore shows a photograph of one brother of Osama Bin Laden with the implication that there might be something sinister about him. But the film doesn't even spend one minute on backgrounding the Saud or Bin Laden families -- Osama has more than 50 siblings, after all -- or in dealing with realpolitik issues that would begin to explain the history of U.S.-Saudi relations under a succession of administrations.

A terrific entire film could have been devoted to detailing these ties -- indeed, the Bush-Bin Laden link was mentioned as the subject of "Fahrenheit 9/11" when it was first announced -- but Moore's interest suddenly turns away from this in favor of a section ridiculing what he sees as the exaggeration of terrorist threats and hanging out with a lonely state trooper along an empty stretch of Oregon coastline to illustrate the vulnerability of U.S. borders despite the heightened alert.

Still, there is a very funny montage of administration honchos' heads superimposed over the credits of "The Magnificent Seven," priceless footage of John Ashcroft publicly singing a ludicrous song of his own composition seemingly entitled "Let the Eagle Soar" and some glibly effective montages that catch officials in doubletalk and lies.

Skipping quickly over Afghanistan -- Moore never lays out his opinions about the legitimacy of that war -- pic devotes its second half to Iraq. Loading up on the sort of gruesome images of the dead and wounded generally not shown on U.S. TV, Moore takes his cheapest shot when he follows extended coverage of a distraught Iraqi woman wailing about her lost relatives with a clip of Britney Spears supporting the war.

But against the backdrop of deteriorating conditions post-invasion, the film settles into humanist mode, focusing on the cost of the war in human terms rather than in the context of government miscalculations or rising rage in the Arab world. Moore returns to his native Flint, Mich., to look at the army's recruiting efforts in areas of heavy minority and unemployed populations, and juxtaposes this with blunt interviews with G.I.s who openly wonder what the hell they're doing in Iraq, express their distaste for the place or state their intention to oppose he war in the voting booth when the opportunity arrives. This, above all, is Moore's message here.

Most moving interlude features a very brave bereaved mother, Lila Lipscomb, surrounded by her family and keeping it mostly together as she talks about her dead soldier son and reads his last letter home. She then travels to Washington seeking some solace by physically confronting the White House, a visit disturbed by a ranting protestor and a pro-war passerby, and by Moore's silly sidewalk efforts to get members of Congress to get their children to enlist in the military.

Although he narrates, Moore himself is less of a physical presence in "Fahrenheit 9/11" than usual, which actually increases his effectiveness onscreen at certain moments, such as when he's questioned by an officer when he's filming outside the enormous Saudi Embassy across from the Watergate Hotel in D.C.

Although there is an ominous shot or two of hooded prisoners, chronology of the version shown in Cannes ends before the prisoner abuse scandal. Moore has indicated that he will update the film before U.S. release, and that the DVD will include extra footage and a commentary.



Camera (Technicolor), Mike Desjarlais; editors, Kurt Engfehr, Christopher Seward, T. Woody Richman; music, Jeff Gibbs; sound (Dolby Digital), Francisco Latorre; chief archivist/field producer, Carl Deal. Reviewed at Cannes Film Festival (competing), May 17, 2004. Running time: 121 MIN.
Old 05-17-04, 03:26 PM
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...and a review from TIME

A First Look at "Fahrenheit 9/11"
Controversy aside, the new Michael Moore film is a fine documentary
By MARY CORLISS/CANNES




Monday, May. 17, 2004
A few years ago, Michael Moore spoke then-Governor George W. Bush, who told the muckraker: “Behave yourself, will ya? Go find real work.” Moore has made trouble for so many powerful people he has become a media power of his own. He can even make celebrities of mere movie reviewers: When his latest cinematic incendiary device, “Fahrenheit 9/11,” had its first press screening Monday morning, American critics emerging from the theater were besieged by a convoy of TV and radio crews from networks around the world who wanted to know what they thought of Moore’s blast at the Bush Administration.

Disney, for one, was not impressed. Earlier this month, the company ordered its subsidiary, Miramax Films, not to release the film. Moore says that his lawyer was told by Disney CEO Michael Eisner that distributing it would harm the company’s negotiations for favorable treatment for its Florida theme parks from that state’s governor, one Jeb Bush. Harvey Weinstein, co-chair of Miramax, is now trying to buy the film back from Disney and to fashion his own coalition of the willing — other distributors happy to profit from Disney’s timidity. The result of this internal agita will be to raise the profile and, most likely, the profitability of Moore’s film, which he still hopes will open on the July 4th weekend.

So much for the controversy. How is it as a movie? “Fahrenheit 9/11” — the title is a play on the Ray Bradbury novel (and Francois Truffaut film) “Fahrenheit 451,” about a future totalitarian state where reading, and thus independent thinking, has been outlawed — has news value beyond its financing and distribution tangles. The movie, a brisk and entertaining indictment of the Bush Administration’s middle East policies before and after September 11, 2001, features new footage of abuse by U.S. soldiers: a Christmas Eve 2003 sortie in which Iraqi captives are publicly humiliated.

Though made over the past two years, the film has scenes that seem ripped from recent headlines. Last week, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld visited Iraq and, to the cheers of his military audience, defiantly called himself “a survivor” (a word traditionally reserved for those who have lived through the Holocaust or cancer, not for someone enduring political difficulties). In the film, a soldier tells Moore’s field team: “If Donald Rumsfeld was here, I’d ask for his resignation.”

Moore’s perennial grudge is against what President Eisenhower called the military-industrial complex: the collusion of big corporations and bad government to exploit the working class, here and abroad, for their own gain and in the process deprive citizens of their liberties. The Bush Administration’s Iraq policy is handmade for Moore’s grievances. Bush and his father have enjoyed a long and profitable relationship with the ruling families of Saudi Arabia, including the bin Ladens. The best-seller “House of Bush, House of Saud” by Craig Unger, whom Moore interviews, estimates that the Saudis have enriched the Bushes and their closest cronies by $1.4 billion.

Politicians reward their biggest contributors, and the Bushes are no exceptions. Fifteen of the 19 September 11th hijackers were Saudis; but when Prince Bandar, the Saudi ambassador who is close to the First Family, dined with the President in the White House two days after the attacks, the mood was collegial, not angry. In the Iraqi ramp-up and occupation, the Administration has rewarded its Saudi and Texas supporters with billions in rebuilding contracts. As Blaine Ober, president of an armored vehicle company, tells Moore: the Iraqi adventure is “good for business, bad for the people.”

Bad for the people of Iraq, Ober means. But, Moore argues, bad for Americans as well. As he sees it, 9/11 was a tragedy for America, a career move for Bush. The attacks allowed the President to push through Congress restrictive laws that would have been defeated in any climate but the “war on terror” chill. “Fahrenheit 9/11” shows some tragicomic effects of the Patriot Act: a man quizzed by the FBI for casually mentioning at his health club that he thought Bush was an “*******”; a benign peace group in Fresno, Cal., infiltrated by an undercover police agent.

Two Bush quotes in the film indicate the Administration’s quandary in selling repression to the American people. One: “A dictatorship would be a heck of a lot easier, no doubt about it.” The other: “They’re not happy they’re occupied. I wouldn’t be happy if I were occupied either.” Moore’s argument is that the U.S. is currently being occupied by a hostile, un-American force: the quintet of Bush, Rumsfeld, Dick Cheney, John Ashcroft and Paul Wolfowitz.

Moore is usually the front-and-center star of his own films. Here, his presence is mostly that of narrator and guiding force, though he does make a few piquant appearances. While chatting with Unger across the street from the Saudi embassy in Washington, he is approached and quizzed by Secret Service agents. Hearing from Rep. John Conyers that no member of Congress had read the complete Patriot Act before voting for it, he hires a Mister Softee truck and patrols downtown D.C. reading the act to members of Congress over a loudspeaker. Toward the end, he tries to get Congressmen to enlist their sons in the military. Surprise: no volunteers.

The film has its longueurs. The interviews with young blacks and a grieving mother in Moore’s home town of Flint, Michigan, are relevant and poignant, but they lack the propulsive force and homespun indignance of the rest of the film. “Fahrenheit 9/11” is at its best when it provides talking points for the emerging majority of those opposed to the Iraq incursion. In sum, it’s an appalling, enthralling primer of what Moore sees as the Bush Administration’s crimes and misdemeanors.

“Fahrenheit 9/11” may be seen as another example of the liberal media preaching to its own choir. But Moore is such a clever assembler of huge accusations and minor peccadillos (as with a shot of Wolfowitz sticking his pocket comb in his mouth and sucking on it to slick down his hair before a TV interview) that the film should engage audiences of all political persuasions.

In one sense, Michael Moore took George W. Bush’s advice. He found “real work” deconstructing the President’s Iraq mistakes. “Fahrenheit 9/11” is Moore’s own War on Error.
Old 05-17-04, 04:23 PM
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Let's just hope we get a chance to see it and judge for ourselves. When Bowling For Columbine was released, I couldn't find it within 50 miles of where I live...I'm hoping this one goes wider.
Old 05-17-04, 04:24 PM
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Considering all the controversy and publicity surrounding this one, I think it should be fairly easy to find.

Reviews looks interesting. I just wanted to get in here before the inevitable flame wars.
Old 05-17-04, 09:15 PM
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Nope nothing new here folks keep moving!
Old 05-17-04, 09:55 PM
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Say what you will about Moore's politics and the liberal media once against "preaching to it's own choir", but he's still a terrific filmmaker who excels at entertaining docudramas. Sure his works are biased, but so are 90% of all documentaries in general.
Old 05-17-04, 10:18 PM
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Originally posted by Rivero
Say what you will about Moore's politics and the liberal media once against "preaching to it's own choir", but he's still a terrific filmmaker who excels at entertaining docudramas. Sure his works are biased, but so are 90% of all documentaries in general.

Very True. I dislike Moore but admit he can make entertaining documentary-style films.

*shakes fist at Winged Migrations bias*

Last edited by RichC2; 05-17-04 at 10:26 PM.
Old 05-17-04, 11:34 PM
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The only bad reviews this film will get will all be from complete right wingers.

I'll catch the flick the moment it's released to Vegas. Same as I did for Bowling for Columbine almost two years ago.
Old 05-17-04, 11:48 PM
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Focus picked it up for distribution. A universal branch who also has a theme park in florida no less.
Old 05-17-04, 11:54 PM
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Focus picked it up for distribution.
Wow. Focus is really picking up it's steam on being one of the best indie studios out there.
Old 05-18-04, 12:05 AM
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Interesting too bad they still call them documentaries. There's more facts in Oliver Stone's JFK and than any of Moore's films but at least Stone had the smarts to call it fiction.
Old 05-18-04, 12:34 AM
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Originally posted by PopcornTreeCt
but at least Stone had the smarts to call it fiction.
Only certain sections of it, years later, and after being continuously attacked for his supposed facts.
Old 05-18-04, 12:45 AM
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Des - one more discussion or comment about bootlegging and you'll have a week off. -Blake

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Old 05-18-04, 08:57 AM
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Originally posted by Rivero
Say what you will about Moore's politics and the liberal media once against "preaching to it's own choir", but he's still a terrific filmmaker who excels at entertaining docudramas. Sure his works are biased, but so are 90% of all documentaries in general.
Reni would be proud.
Old 05-18-04, 09:58 AM
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Reni would be proud.
That's what I love about Michael Morre, he pisses off conservatives so much that they start making comments like this.
Old 05-18-04, 12:57 PM
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I was just reading how the film got an unprecedented 15 minute standing ovation at Cannes.
Old 05-18-04, 01:08 PM
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Ebert has an article about it's Cannes premier. He had a lot of positive things to say about the movie.

http://www.suntimes.com/output/eb-fe...-cannes18.html

But the film doesn't go for satirical humor the way Moore's "Roger & Me" and "Bowling for Columbine" did. Moore's narration is still often sarcastic, but frequently he lets his footage speak for itself.


I don't understand these 15-25 minute ovations movies are always getting at Cannes or other film festivals. How can you clap or cheer for something for that long?

And another thing I wonder, do you start cheering when the end credits begin rolling, or after?
Old 05-18-04, 01:11 PM
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Somehow I can see this not playing in any Florida theatres. Damn Jeb Bush.
Old 05-18-04, 01:16 PM
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Originally posted by Crocker Jarmen


I don't understand these 15-25 minute ovations movies are always getting at Cannes or other film festivals. How can you clap or cheer for something for that long?

I'm sure about half of it is because whoever made the film is at the screening and walked on stage.
Old 05-18-04, 01:20 PM
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Actually, I just heard Moore on the radio. He says that the film got a five minute ovation from about five people up in the balcony. The other 10 minutes was others applauding the applauders.
Old 05-18-04, 02:02 PM
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Originally posted by flashburn
Somehow I can see this not playing in any Florida theatres. Damn Jeb Bush.
This is the perfect comment to demonstrate the typical MM fan. Totally priceless.
Old 05-18-04, 02:24 PM
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Originally posted by Original Desmond
Definitely gonna download it out of curiosity
Brings up a good point. Moore, if he had the courgae of his convictions, should make this movie ideological freeware. Meaning, it can be downloaded and traded for FREE. Anyone getting a pirate copy would be exempt from prosecution so long as certain conditions are met (do not alter and distrubute as original, etc).

Be curious to see if guys downloading this movie get the attention of the FBI or other Law Enforcement organizations.
Old 05-18-04, 02:42 PM
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Originally posted by Rivero
Say what you will about Moore's politics and the liberal media once against "preaching to it's own choir", but he's still a terrific filmmaker who excels at entertaining docudramas. Sure his works are biased, but so are 90% of all documentaries in general.
Try 100%

People beat up on Moore, but all docs are skewed to a certain degree, even films from nice guys like Chris Smith and morons like Morgan Spurlock.
Old 06-23-04, 02:22 AM
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Our review is now posted:
http://www.cinemazing.com/archives/002978.html
Old 06-23-04, 04:26 PM
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nice job on the review.

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