Monday, September 14, 2009

I love him, I hate him

Michael Moore....so many emotions pop up when I hear the name. As a documentary filmmaker, I both appreciate and abhor him.

To his credit he's never actually claimed his films are "documentaries"...he's always just said they're films. Which is the equivalant of me constantly avering that I'm not a reporter...I'm a blog. The facts in his films are mostly 99% accurate, but he definitely paints those facts according to his own color pallette. It's like looking at a vista with heavily hued sunglasses...you are seeing the actual horizon but you're not seeing the full spectrum of that horizon. I actually don't have an issue with this...how could I?

What I take issue with is his methods of obtaining his story, i.e., the ambush of Charlton Heston in Bowling for Columbine and the blatantly staged scenes of him walking out of Heston's residence after he embarrased him; or rounding up two Columbine victims and marching them down to K-marts to protest the sale of ammunition. That, to me, is not documentary filmmaking, it's propaganda and staged activism. But once again, he's been careful not to call himself a documentarian...he refers to himself as a filmmaker. For that I respect him.

Having made informational and documentary films my whole life, I can tell you what my personal standard is for a true documentary film as opposed to propaganda: If you set out to make a film on a subject, already knowing what the answer or outcome will be...that's propaganda (and I'm not implying that all films of this genre are bad). If you set out to make a film on a subject, not knowing the answers or the outcome of the film....that's a documentary.

Documentaries are much harder to make and usually don't end up as commercially successful as propaganda films because they require much more work and aren't nearly as reactionary or "dramatic" as propaganda films. I think one of the best examples of quality documentary filmmaking is PBS' Frontline series. I think WGBH sets the bar for true documentary standards.

Watching this video today:


...I couldn't help but laugh at Michael Moore chastising the journalistic ethics of America's newspapers. If he's fooled himself into thinking that he's somehow above and beyond the influence of corporations....I'd love to audit his income sources. His points are absolutely valid, but I just found his indignancy on journalisic ethos a little hard to choke down.

7 comments:

Anonymous said...

Be careful, you don't want him coming after you too.

Colby said...

Propaganda is often beautiful and alluring, heck "Triumph Of Will" is a gorgeous film, albeit with a horrific message....

What would you call a film like "Unzipped" which might not fall under your criteria of unbiased, but might be even more truthful due to it's maker being close to the subject?

Anonymous said...

That's an ironic statement on this website.

Dambala said...

pathetically predictable.

Here's a joke for especially for you, Dallas:

Once upon a time, a young man went to the circus. He was very excited, as he lived in western Manitoba and had never seen a circus before; the kind of town where you shave and the trolly stops. Anyway, as circus days drew nigh, the young man grew ever more excited. He arrived before dawn to get the best seat in the house, and was seated hours before the first trapeze act.

Finally, the trapeze artists gave an awe-inspiring performance, the elephants danced, and the lion tamer tamed. At last, the clowns came out in full regalia and green hair. They rode around by the gross in a purple volkswagon. The volksie pulled up to center of the ring, and an overweight clown with orange hair, acne, and a purple nose advanced to the podium:

"Will the person in section A, row Y, seat 42 please stand up?"

The young man looked at his ticket, and to his surprise, he was sitting in that very seat. The young man stood up.

Clown sez, "Wellllll, there's the horse's ass, now where's the rest of the horse?"

The man, dumbfounded, stood for a moment, then made his way quickly through crowd and out of the tent. Returning home, the man wept for days, and mourned the loss of dignity and honor. Eventually reason overcame his grief and the man grew determined. "I'm not going to get mad, I'm going to get even, and avenge the honor of myself, my family, and this town," exclaimed the man. He picked up the curriculum guide for the University of Nevada at Las Vegas (UNLV) correspondence courses and started to read.

Eventually his eyes came to rest on an advert for a class in "Quick Wit Retort." "Learn how to use those snappy comebacks to your advantage, now!" So the man sent in his $19.95 and soon received the course materials. In a few weeks, the man mastered the materials, and sent the final back to UNLV.

Much to his surprise, a registered letter arrived from the president of UNLV. It read:

Dear Sir: We are utterly flabbergasted at your performance in Quick Wit Retort 101. We would be most gratified if you could come to UNLV to complete your degree with our fine academic institution. Here's a check to cover your expenses.

To make a long story short :-), the man made straight A's in the QWR program. He was awarded numerous distinctions, and when he graduated, the graduation speaker Ed Meese awarded the man the Presidential Medal of Outstanding Quick Wit Retort, signed by Ronnie himself!

Some days afterward, Harvard University sent a lear-jet to pick the man up for an interview. The graduate admissions officer didn't mince words. "If you complete our masters/doctoral tenured track program in QWR, you will never have to worry about money again," said he. Needless to say, the man promptly moved to Cambridge.

In 5 years, the man had finished his doctorate. By this time, the man was known throughout the world as the leading expert in Quick Wit Retort. Word had even reached western Manitoba, which made his mother very proud. Everyone from Pentagon pundits to Beltway bandits consulted the man on technical questions of QWR.

One day, while sitting at his desk reading his hometown newspaper, the man noticed that the circus was coming to his hometown again. An evil smile crossed the man's face. "Siegfried," cried the man to his assistant, "We must be away to Manitoba. Ready the jet!" As the plane crossed the downlands of Michigan, the man savored the moment of victory that was to be his.

Dambala said...

The man arrived at the circus tent very early, making sure to get the seat in section A, row Y, seat 42.

Finally, the trapeze artists gave an awe-inspiring performance, the elephants danced, and the lion tamer tamed. At last, the clowns came out in full regalia and green hair. They rode around by the gross in a purple volkswagon. The volksie pulled up to center of the ring, and an overweight clown with orange hair, acne, and a purple nose advanced to the podium:

"Will the person in section A, row Y, seat 42 please stand up?"

The man glanced at his ticket. This time he was ready.

Clown sez, "Wellllll, there's the horse's ass, now where's the rest of the horse?"

The man rose to his feet, full of confidence. He thrust out his chest and said in the loudest voice you can imagine:

FUCK YOU, CLOWN!!!!

Dambala said...

Colby,

I haven't seen unzipped yet...but my quick answer would be its still propaganda and there is no clear line between documentary and propaganda...it's just an effort/intent on the part of filmmaker which sways it one way or other. But let me say once again...I don't use the term propaganda as an inherently negative term. I'm just using to describe films where the resolution of the film is pre-determined.

mominem said...

If's not as if Mr. Moore isn't a self promting capitalist himself.