Sunday, October 11, 2009

Film Review: "Captialism: A Love Story"

I admire Michael Moore's courage.  He fearlessly goes after what most would consider fairly dangerous subject matter: gun control, health care,"socialized medicine", a stolen election, and the unanswered, hushed-up questions left in the wake of 9/11.  Now, in "Capitalism: A Love Story", he has the balls to reveal the underhanded dealings of Congress and Wall Street and how, hand in hand, they engineered a near collapse of the financial system, in the process ensuring the enrichment of the nation's wealthiest 5% while imperiling the other 95%.  Moore has the audacity to demonstrate that propagandists for capitalism convinced most of us that an evil system was godly, that Jimmy Carter's honest warning about consumerism and greed was ignored in favor of the damaging deregulation allowed by Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton, and that a system touted as the best in the world almost destroyed us. (By the way, the Constitution does not sanction a capitalist system---it's not even mentioned.)

Moore's tone is ironic and measured, and the film is at turns highly entertaining and deeply disturbing.  He playfully compares the Fall of Rome with modern American society, using good old-fashioned montage and juxtaposing images.  In one sequence he re-edits an old Hollywood Biblical tale, re-dubbing Jesus the miracle-healer as a modern-day health-care provider ("I can't cure this man...he has a preexisting condition..."); seeking to alleviate the possible discomfort such hilarious blashpemy may cause some viewers, Moore reminds us of his own Catholic upbringing. 

As far as the disturbing material goes, some incredible images and ideas emerge.....How the best minds in the top Universities are snapped up by Wall Street to create exotic loan formulas and derivatives that few can understand let alone explain....How the bailout, that was originally successfully blocked by the voice of the people, was ultimately passed after backroom dealings by Congress...How companies take out life insurance policies on employees, with the company as beneficiary, in effect betting on when employees will die....How airline pilots are often paid less than managers at Taco Bell....How some members of congress became special clients of Countrywide Home Mortgage while vast numbers of borrowers were victimized in the subprime scheme....The incredible memo from Citibank to its largest investors, building a case for an eventual "plutonomy", which was a calculated plan to divert all power into the wealthiest 1% .....and Wall Street's nightmare with the Obama election....and on and on....

Most compelling is a newsreel of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, (apparently found in an archive somewhere after being presumed lost for decades), stating his desire for a second Bill of Rights, guaranteeing all Americans the right to a good education, universal health care, jobs with sustainable incomes for necessities AND recreation, and security in retirement. All of these rights, by the way, are now enjoyed by our former World War II adversaries, whose countries America helped rebuild after the war (Germany, Italy, Japan.)

Moore calls us to action, and I was proud to see his coverage of the Chicago company Republic Windows. When the employees were told last winter that  the company was out of business and they had three days to leave without getting paid, these employees staged a successful sit-in to fight for the money that was owed them by the bailout-fortified Bank of America.  This is a small gem of a story encased in a wide mosaic of greed and arrogance, outrage and heartbreak.  Moore uses this tale brilliantly to seal his argument that we can, and must, act, and not accept whatever comes down to us simply because we are comfortable today. Any one of us could be in the position of the Repulic employees tomorrow.

There are those who will dismiss Moore's arguments outright...but he's hard to overlook, with his common-sense advocacy of regular people.  He combines the plain-speaking and intelligent populism of a Will Rogers with a Swiftian sense of social satire.  Go see this movie.....


  1. Great post, Tom (as usual!)

    I love Michael Moore's films. It's so refreshing to have a talented filmmaker like him ripping the mask off of our political system and revealing all the corruption and ugliness we condemn other countries of having. The more people that see this film and demand change the greater hope we have of having the kind of society we deserve and not just what they are willing to let us have.

  2. Tom,

    So nice to have you as a visitor!

    I revised the piece a little bit since you wrote..I think it reads better...

    Thanks as always for the support.