Capitalism: A Love Story
Directed and written by Michael Moore
It’s not every day that I get to see Michael Moore in the flesh. Granted, he’s too much of a liberal firebrand for me to stomach at times, but I couldn’t pass up an opportunity to see the Republican Party’s Public Enemy Number 1 in all of his pudgy glory last Wednesday night when I screened his film, Capitalism: A Love Story.
Michael Moore’s latest exposé delves into the unattractive underbelly of the American economic system. In the first substantive scene (one that doesn’t involve cats flushing toilets or Ryan Seacrest), Moore asks the audience how history will portray America. He proceeds to display scenes of capitalism’s victims: evicted homeowners, condemned houses, and “Condo Vultures” — morally suspect individuals who buy and sell foreclosed homes for a profit at the price of other people’s misery. Capitalism: A Love Story is a history lesson, and Moore is the professor. Many will disagree with his interpretation of the facts, but at the heart of the film is the quest for a better solution and a look at an ugly tool for money making. Like his previous movie Sicko, Moore raises questions in order to spark a serious and necessary conversation regarding the socioeconomic direction of America. He does this not because of his dislike of America but because he loves this country tremendously, a point that many of his detractors overlook. Of course, Moore, as usual, takes shots at the right, maligning Reagan, Corporate America, and during the Q&A session, the religious right.
Moore uses plenty of examples in denouncing capitalism throughout the 2 hour film. Privatized juvenile detention, regional airplane pilots, Dead Peasants’ Insurances, and footage of home evictions build upon each other to paint capitalism as a sinister and unforgiving force. Being the politically provocative individual that he is, Moore (who actually attended seminary school before becoming a full time director) throws in religion to describe Wall Street as a black hole awash with sin.
A few scenes in “Capitalism” will make Course 15 students cringe. Moore believes that the intelligence and energy of talented students are best used solving the world’s relevant problems, not analyzing finances in return for large paychecks. In one interview, Moore struggles to understand the meaning of a derivative, which is fairly humorous, as are his other quirky antics involving citizen’s arrest, police tape, and meeting the CEO of General Motors. Moore, of course, pins blame on the politicians who benefit from favors or look the other way when grossly improper actions occur, risking the welfare of Americans. He also explains that the average American hasn’t revolted due to the illusion that, perhaps someday, riches and fortune are attainable, like a tantalizing carrot that will never be eaten.
Capitalism addresses relatively recent topics such as the $700 billion bailout and the presidential election last fall, while the resonating effects of the economic downturn are still felt today, making the film especially poignant in these vulnerable times. As a remedy to capitalism, Moore promotes democracy. Although democracy is not really an economic doctrine, he believes following the tenets our forefathers promoted might lead to a more equitable way of living. Stopping short of supporting socialism, Moore still brings ideas to the table that are important to discuss. Moore is venerable at his craft: evocative documentary making. He juxtaposes many images and metaphors together, a technique that evokes humor and pathos.
The real treat of the evening was participating in the question and answer session after the screening. Moore is actually a very funny individual, and, of course, very opinionated. He made many comments that are not appropriate for this publication, but he spoke with urgency and with an organic touch that makes him analogous to a good drinking buddy with whom you debate politics, sports, and culture. In making Capitalism, he hopes more people will get involved in looking for solutions. “Crazy good things happen all the time,” he asserted, “because of the will of the people to never stop fighting for the greater good.”