He warned about the GOP War on Labor, years before the GOP “War on Women” was identified.
He sounded the alarm about the gun manufacturer’s terrorist organization the NRA had morphed into, years before Russian money covered their bottom line.
Health care meltdowns, the broken political system that lets a monied minority defy the Will of the People, Michael Moore’s covered a lot of ground over the decades. So who’s in the mood for Michael Moore’s Greatest Hits, a film which reminds us the cinema’s Jeremiah predicted the nativist backlash and Democratic Party drift that put Donald Trump in power?
Quick show of hands?
“Fahrenheit 11/9,” a non-sequel sequel to “Fahrenheit 911,” borrows too much from that earlier film, about the democratic institutional breakdown that put George W. Bush in the White House and had us fighting multiple wars, one unnecessary, and rebuilding the World Trade Center.
His new film revisits the 2016 election, returns to Moore’s hometown of Flint, Michigan, as ground zero in the have-have/nots wars of the future (over water) and stands shoulder to shoulder with the gutsy students of Parkland, activists who are — to Moore — pointing the way to the future of the Democratic Party and perhaps even a return to majority rule.
Cynicism tends to overwhelm the picture at times, even as Moore is interviewing Congressional candidates, “outsiders,” like Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez of New York or Rashida Tlaib of Michigan, or Richard Ojeda, a union boosting Congressional hopeful from West Virginia.
He recounts the West Virginia Teacher’s Strike, which spread across the country, the “fearless kids” or Parkland, who organized a nationwide “March for Our Lives.”
And most chillingly, he dives deep into the manufactured public finance crisis that Michigan Governor Rick Snyder turned into public health water crisis in Flint, and even attempts a citizen’s arrest of Governor Snyder, who imposed “state of emergency” conditions on several predominantly African American Michigan cities, put his cronies in charge and in Flint, caused 100,000 mostly- black people to be poisoned, and over-charged for the water that was poisoning them.
The guy should go to jail, but no lump in a Detroit Tigers hat is going to put him there.
Moore manages a few “stunts” like that in this film, spends entirely too much time recounting his own cozying up to Trump and remembering that last election and only really gets his dander up at the outrage perpetrated on his native Flint.
His bigger themes, the ones allow him to revisit “Roger & Me” and “Sicko” and the first “Fahrenheit,” is that the busted, money-corrupted system is drifting into despotism, that the rich keep rigging things in more and more obvious ways to starve, poison, cripple and keep compliant the working people of America so they can rule us from their high rises, gated communities and private islands.
And the Democratic Party, by compromising with those with the take-no-prisoners scorched Earth politics of today’s conservatism, has let it happen. He points one angry finger at the Clintons, who dragged the party towards Big Money.
And if Moore does no other service, he sticks a sword into the balloon of Obama nostalgia — showing just how little the two-term president with the Netflix deal did to fight for the poor, the racially oppressed. Obama’s sell-out visit to Flint is, to Moore, right up there with Putin and Comey’s interference in the last election as a cause for Trump’s unexpected (especially to Trump, as Moore reminds us) victory.
The stunts are old hat and the recycling makes “Fahrenheit 11/9” longer and more of a drag than it needs to be. He doesn’t really have an ending, just a string of open-ended warnings and uncanny resemblances to Germany in the 1930s.
Some of his “Democratic Establishment” shots land, Berner that he is. But if you want a more original take on the electorate the last election cycle, seek out “American Chaos.” James D. Stern took a different tack and made a film every bit as good as “Fahrenheit,” without Moore’s grandstanding.
Because rest assured that whatever happens in November, whatever happens with this latest Supreme Court fight, and whatever Robert Mueller does, America’s cinematic Jeremiah will be there, Detroit Tigers hat and all, to remind us we were warned, even if he won’t admit that none of his 30 years of warnings have ever been heeded.
MPAA Rating: R for language and some disturbing material/images
Cast: Michael Moore, Donald Trump, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez
Credits: Written and directed by Michael Moore. A Briarcliff release.
Running time: 2:03