Bowling for Columbine (2002) (R)
I probably don't agree with everything that Michael Moore believes in, I'm not sure anyone could. His politics seem to be all about the people in some altruistic sense, yet he is always on the prowl for big corporations to take down. In "Bowling for Columbine" it's the NRA and the media itself, which is why the movie seems to meander a bit and fall back into Moore's earlier work as a reprise instead of an entirely new venture. I may not agree with everything that Moore thinks, but I do like his movies because, whether an invoker of hatred or a political activist, Moore is unquestionably talented.
I think a lot of the success of his documentaries lie in how he presents himself. Most of the time, Moore is lumbering on screen, a figure of no particular grace and often a sharp remark ready to fire off. His interviewing style is deceptively tricky, focusing everything on what was said and what was meant by that. Most of the time his subjects—the ones his disagrees with—are turned into jabbering fools, some just walking away from the camera and ignoring him altogether. In each and every scene, Moore gives the camera a power that most documentarians do not, they expect the power to come from the action or the people. The camera is just as much a figure in "Bowling for Columbine" as the interviewees are.
The movie might suggest that the entire length will be dedicated to the events surrounding the Columbine shooting in Colorado; but that's not the case. In fact, the actual footage concerning the Columbine tragedy make up possibly only ten full minutes of the film, the rest is about the society that brewed up the situation.
Moore is making a claim that America is tailoring children to be in a constant state of fear and that violence is a rational answer to this fear. We are being controlled by the media to believe we are at war constantly.
The NRA presents itself as an American tradition that hinges on the freedom of the free world. Without guns, we will eventually become slaves to the government, that nasty, evil machine that wishes to chew us up and spit us out. Now, make no mistake, Moore is no fan of the government and I suppose if you were really to think about he harshly critiques everyone in power, the likelihood that he is suggesting an anarchist society is relatively high. Still, it means a lot if, coming from this man, you have an idea that maybe we're not being stringent enough in the way we treat, educate, and control guns.
Moore is not lobbying for gun control laws because he himself has a history with firearms and maybe it would be hypocritical to change his way of thinking. Instead he tries to ask a question: "Why are Americans so freakin' obsessed with killing each other?". He compares America's history of gun violence to other countries and keeps coming up with a staggering realization: by almost 10,000 gun related deaths a year, America is the most violent country (in this arena).
Possible reasons? Ethnic population, violent history, etc. Moore debunks each one so swiftly that it's impossible to call it successful. He sweeps aside of the counterarguments to make way for his points leave the critical thinker wondering where his research is coming from.
Yet Moore is a powerhouse of a filmmaker and one hell of an interviewer. I think anyone who meets him seems to underestimate his potency and love for a good, ol' fashion shame fest. One such moment includes him taking two victims of the Columbine shooting to the K-Mart headquarters to ask why bullets are still sold in stores. As a matter of showing their point, one of the survivors buys out all of the ammunition in a local store. Objectively, this does not really accomplish much in the film; but officially, it was the starting point for K-Mart's removal of all ammunition from its stores.
Moore completely understands that he's juggling a hot topic because when discussing guns, the tempers are likely to fire off without warning. As such, he never really takes as firm of a stance as his other movies do and he movie then becomes about the media.
We all know that we are conditioned to fear, or maybe we should realize this. Moore's point is hammered home so strong that it is almost uncomfortable that he should use 9/11 footage in order to present himself as a rational mind in a chaotic world.
By the end of "Bowling for Columbine", nothing concrete was established. I did not have a revelation, not that it had to happen in order to make the movie great. Moore's sidetracking makes "Bowling for Columbine" seem like a sequel to "Roger & Me" and a prequel to "Fahrenheit 9/11". I don't think it's as successful as either of those movies.
Special? Probably not.
Posted by Micah Jones