Michael Moore has another movie out and it’s bound to make a lot of people angry. Including some of his fans.
The movie is called “Fahrenheit 11/9” – a take-off on the title of his 2004 anti-Bush picture, and the day after the 2016 election – and of course it’s an anti-Trump film. But it’s also, in its own way, an anti-liberal film.
It’s not that Moore has become a conservative. Far from it. He thinks the current president is a disaster, a Hitler with a spray tan.
But Moore thinks Hillary Clinton was a what-choice-do-I-have choice at best, just another politician with favors owed to Wall Street and an itchy eagerness to go to war. (He’s even less fond of her husband.)
And Barack Obama? Hey, the dad in “Get Out” might have wanted to vote for him a third time, but sometimes Moore seems to regret he ever supported him at all.
You see, being liberal isn’t good enough for Moore – or, he says, for the extreme times we live in. An unapologetic, go-for-the-Bernie, radical socialist, Moore’s most hated word is “compromise.” He doesn’t want consensus, he wants a confrontation, and he wants it now.
Yet he’s also – as his latest movie proves – a highly talented, hugely entertaining, endlessly contradictory filmmaker. And even when he’s shouting, he’s saying things everyone ought to hear. Even the people he doesn’t like. Even the people who don’t like him.
As usual, he can get sloppy with facts. Moore states that Trump only ran for President as a way to get more money out of NBC for “The Apprentice,” once he’d found out what Gwen Stefani was making for “The Voice.” (He provides no proof of this.) Moore says that “redneck” came from the red bandanas that miners wore, to show their solidarity with the union. (No – the word predates that.)
And, in his wildest, most slippery insinuation, he combines audio of 9/11 and “the war on terror” with newsreel clips of the Reichstag fire and Hitler’s consolidation of power. It’s the kind of populist paranoia – you think the Nazis were the only ones that faked a domestic attack so they could seize control? – best left for people like Alex Jones.
But Moore can also be very funny (at his own expense, too – his most disarming quality is his willingness to mock himself). He’s also an accomplished filmmaker, with a talent for finding just the right clips and closeups, and then editing them in a way that not only increases their power but makes a new and entirely different point.
Sometimes his own passion gets him off the track. There’s a whole second movie in here about the water crisis in his hometown of Flint, Mich. – a tragedy that strikes him particularly hard but seems a little off the topic. Similarly a montage of Trump posing creepily with his daughter Ivanka raises the “ewww” factor without adding anything substantive.
But then Moore refocuses that anger.
And, in best Michael Moore fashion, delivers a sequence that’s both hilarious and horrifying, with candidate Hillary facing accusations and attacks from a variety of male journalists and media titans, all later driven from their jobs because of sexual-misconduct accusations.
Or another powerful moment, in which extremely hard-to-watch school shooting footage is followed by scenes of the young survivors mobilizing to fight for real change, even as they face patronizing politicians who haven’t done their own homework.
Or another inspiring, solidarity-forever story in which West Virginia teachers – some of whom have had to go on food stamps to supplement their paltry salaries – defy their own union and join with school bus drivers and cafeteria workers to fight for a fair contract.
Of course those sequences, like the Flint one, are rooted in problems that began long before Trump took office. But that’s because, in the end, Moore isn’t that interested in Trump, except as a symbol of the system. (Russian spies, hush payments to porn stars and the infamous “grab ’em” tape? Moore would have to work hard to care less.)
No, even though it’s as big and flawed and messy as Moore himself, “Fahrenheit 11/9” is really about one thing: Unless you’re a multimillionaire, you haven’t been making the really big decisions in this country for a long time, no matter which party you vote for. And unless you find some friends and start organizing and fighting back, right now, issue by issue, you probably never will.
And that’s a message everyone needs to listen to.