The Aisle Seat - Movie Reviews by Mike McGranaghan
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THE AISLE SEAT - by Mike McGranaghan


Fahrenheit 11/9

Michael Moore's Fahrenheit 11/9 opens with a recap of election night 2016 -- TV news pundits assuring America there is no way Donald Trump can win, once-joyous Hillary Clinton supporters breaking down as they realize the former First Lady will not become the first female President, an oddly glum-looking Trump stepping to the podium to make his victory speech. Right before cutting to the opening title sequence, Moore, in voiceover, asks, "How...the fuck...did this happen?"

It's a question Trump-loathing Americans have been asking themselves for nearly two years now. However, anyone expecting Fahrenheit 11/9 to be a two-hour Trump bash-a-thon will be surprised. Moore is just as hard, if not harder, on Clinton, Barack Obama, the entire Democratic party, and even himself. Blaming the Trump presidency on Trump, he seems to be saying, is a mistake. The conditions leading to his win began forming long ago, and both sides share considerable blame, albeit for different reasons.

The first thirty minutes or so are admittedly critical of Trump, as are the last twenty. Moore begins by examining the way he successfully manipulated the media to dominate the news cycle, and looks at how/why he formulated some of his most controversial opinions. He also includes a lengthy montage of interviews and pictures in which he's disturbingly inappropriate with daughter Ivanka. There are way more examples than you might think.

The ending, meanwhile, lays out an argument that what Trump is doing has eerie parallels to what Adolf Hitler did in Nazi Germany. Such comparisons can make even liberal people squirm a little bit -- you may not like him, but he hasn't killed six million people -- yet Moore makes a compelling argument that both men had identical means of consolidating power by fostering mistrust in long-standing institutions.

In the middle hour and ten minutes, he goes after other targets, most notably Michigan governor Rick Snyder. Moore outlines in detail how Snyder orchestrated the poisoning of Flint's citizens, including thousands of children, by forcing them to unknowingly drink lead-infused water. (The local GM plant got the clean water so as not to have auto parts corrode on the assembly line.) Mass shootings, the Democratic Party's screwing of Bernie Sanders, and the empty "thoughts and prayers" rhetoric of many GOP politicians also come under examination.

There's a ray of hope in here. Fahrenheit 11/9 spends a substantial chunk of time following people who are working to invoke change. Moore interviews Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez, who pulled off a stunning upset in New York's 14th congressional district race, and Rashida Tlaib, the first Muslim-American woman elected to the Michigan legislature. He meets with the brave students of Parkland Douglas High School who organized the March For Our Lives rally. By getting active, all of them have helped to start the process of creating much-needed reform. That's an important takeaway. The film is urging us all to abandon complacency and get involved. Participation is the only way the problems facing our nation can be solved.

Part of what makes Michael Moore such a compelling documentarian is that, unlike conservative filmmaker Dinesh D'Souza, he knows that there has to be a little entertainment value to go along with the polemic. With this in mind, he engages in one of his trademark stunts, attempting to make a citizen's arrest of Rick Snyder. He also takes a few digs at his own expense, revealing (to his great embarrassment) that Jared Kushner threw the premiere party for his documentary Sicko and that Steve Bannon's company did the home video release for another of his pictures. Some fun and humor balances out the intensity of the general subject matter.

The point of Fahrenheit 11/9 is not that Donald Trump is bad. It's that the whole system has become corrupt, and Donald Trump is merely the inevitable result of that. Moore criticizes the Democratic establishment for constantly attempting to "compromise" -- thereby setting itself up for a series of losses -- just as hard as he criticizes Republicans for what he sees as their misdeeds. At the end of it all, the documentary is not really about slamming Trump, but about encouraging the audience to take part in fixing whatever infuriates them. By delving into what many feel is a dark period of American history, he lights a torch to illuminate a possible way out.

Fahrenheit 11/9 sometimes makes you feel angry, sometimes makes you feel inspired, and always makes you think. After the slight misstep of Where To Invade Next, Michael Moore is back on fire. The result is one of the most important and politically-astute films of our time.

( out of four)

Fahrenheit 11/9 is rated R for language and some disturbing material/images. The running time is 2 hours and 8 minutes.

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