Monday, November 28, 2011

Bowling for Columbine

We’ve owned this fdvd or several years but could never bring ourselves to watch it. We held the reasonable theory that a movie about the Columbine shootings would be crushing. In sooth, tho serious in intent, it’s not as thuddingly depressing as feared. That is, Michael Moore maintains a stance of entertainment in this work. I know that sounds cheezy on my part, but crushing recitations of gravid societal ills compel hopelessness, not the opposite. We don’t need more hopelessness. I’ve checked. We really don’t.

After 9/11 (Day of Infamy Inc.), people on the Poetics list were citing Michael Moore’s take on those stark events. That’s an entire misread of what Moore is. Moore is not Socratic wisdom, he’s Trickster. What he thinks in some broad sense pales against what he will say in the small but bountiful moment. To look toward him for guidance suggests a power that he cannot give.

Moore is an easy Everyman, or I should say in minuscule, ordinary person. His schlubbiness makes his pleasantly pertinent questions powerful and teetering. People relax in the face of this unkempt looking average guy. Moore’s innocent questions hit pay dirt because his victims feel superiour.

The movie begins with him opening an account at a bank that will gift him a new rifle for his business. File under You Can’t Make This Up. The bank, in Michigan, a hunter’s haven, might naturally play to their clientele thus, strange as it may seem to us in a less hunter strong environment. Moore himself is a gun owner and NRA member, which allows the movie to carry more weight than if he were a dedicated gun hater.

The movie’s best moments occur when Moore as innocent accosts significant people. The superiour sorts chatter away, until they realize that Moore wields a knife. Or someone like Terry Nichol’s brother, who looks crazed much of the time.

Moore interviews Marilyn Manson, who was an easy to identify influence on the shooters at Columbine. Manson was well spoken and thoughtful, and Moore just agreed. Let Manson supple the movie’s theme.

Moore sometimes eschews his schlub persona and becomes heroic. I regard this as an off note. Two victims of the shooting, with bullets in their bodies still, were taken to Kmart. Kmart sold the bullets in their bodies. The victims wanted to encourage the company to stop selling firearms. To me, there was a whiff of using these kids. One was confined to a wheelchair and the other looked like he could be. Moore, as instigator, with camera rolling, made a demonstration with which these kids could participate. Given that Moore established that Canada and other countries have plenty of guns without a 100th of the murder rate that the US enjoys, it looks more like a cure of the symptom than the disease itself.

A weird, under-emphasized moment occurs somewhat early in which we see a few real life shootings. Moore offers no explanations. One is, apparently, a random shooting, one looks like a Kent State victim, and one is someone putting a gun in his mouth and firing. These images startle, for sure, but Moore pops them in almost thoughtlessly. As shocking as these incidents are, they zip by almost pleasantly. I just find that weird.

The movie culminates in Moore gaining interview access with Charlton Hesston, then president of the NRA. I actually understand the NRA’s persistent defense of 2nd Amendment. It’s like defending a trademark. If you let down your guard on little things, suddenly the big things slip by. Still, Hesston arrives in Columbine while the shootings still are mourned. And an incident in which a 1st grader brings a gun to school and accidentally kills a classmate again brings him to town. That’s just tone deaf.

In the interview, which Heston allowed in his Hollywood glamour pot, Moore tries to upend the knucklehead. Heston cannot let go the feisty ego aplomb, which plays into Moore’s hands. Moore steps across the No Thanks point, and Hesston walks out. Heston has different hair than he did in the public proclamationing, id est, he aint got his toup. He walks away with his stiff old man back angled forward, loser loser loser. Moore kinda kills the flush by wielding a picture of the little dead girl. Leaving the picture for Heston to chance upon left a bad smack. The girl did not die for your use, did she Michael?

So I argue a bit with technique, and philosophic stance, but as a somewhat thoughtful entertainment, it worked. Militia folk and others declaring they need to protect themselves, but gosh darn, against what? And why with automatic weapons and war armaments?

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