Healthy Living Movie Review
Capitalism: A Love Story
A Film by Michael Moore. Now on DVD for sale or rent.
Given corporate media's general dismissal of Michael Moore's latest documentary, we expected "Capitalism: a Love Story" to be free enterprise's final coup de grace. Fortunately or unfortunately, depending on your political persuasion, Moore doesn't quite bring down the House of Mammon. Yes, you'll find the usual heroes and villains in Moore's magnum opus: greedy CEOs, corrupt politicians, heroic whistleblowers, and a sad parade of working class victims of corporate excess. Moore does reveal how Congress is using taxpayer money to bailout investment banks while thousands are losing their homes to foreclosure. But why the American public is so damn passiveand/or misinformedreally deserves to be the subject of Moore's next film. Why aren't we all storming the Bastille?
As a Murrow-esque documentary "Capitalism" is a competent piece of work, outstanding by most measures, just not Moore's best. Unfortunately, Moore substitutes polemic in places where he used to make riotous jokes, and preaching gets tiresome all too quickly. Although some reviewers applaud Moore for having matured as a director, frankly, we miss the crude, in-your-face Michael who elicited belly laughs at the expense of the high-and-mighty.
A bit of the old trickster erupts when Moore appears at the steps of General Motors' corporate headquarters, blow horn in hand, shouting to the CEO, "I have some advice for you!" Unfortunately, we never get to hear what that advice would have been. However, Moore has blogged extensively about retooling GM plants to build public transportation, providing high paying "green jobs" for skilled workers while solving pressing environmental problems. Too bad this forward-thinking vision didn't make it into the actual documentary.
Moore's conclusion is that capitalism is so evil that it needs to be replaced with "democracy." But the conclusion doesn't follow from the premise, and Moore is conflating a generic political model with a specific economic perversion. In order to upend corporate capitalism, Moore's film should have presented a viable economic alternative. Moore's nostalgic examples of America's best days hearken back to the 1950s, a heyday for unions but also an orgy of mindless consumerism, hardly a model for whatever workers' utopia Moore might have proposed. Yes, Moore does show a couple isolated examples of happy workers' cooperatives, but he never asks the next logical question: "How can we use your model to rebuild American industry or at least retool GM?"
Moore is on firmest footing when making the case for reregulating banking, ending the privatization of social institutions, and taking a fresh look at FDR's "Second Bill of Rights" which would have guaranteed healthcare, job security, and a decent pension for all. To be sure, these would mean big fixes for our buggy economic system, but not quite a program for the new revolution.
Moore also makes a moral argument for reform, interviewing three Catholic priests who say that Jesus wouldn't have approved of corporate bankers. It's good theater but intellectually lazy. Couldn't Moore find any economists to plead his case? The director has done better in his previous movies, so let's hold him to his own high standards. When Moore upended the American healthcare system in "SICKO," he took us to Europe, Canada, and Cuba and showed us healthcare that actually worked.
For all our niggling complaints, Michael Moore is doing a yeoman's job exposing capitalism's excesses, shouting horror stories that the corporate media rarely even whispers. This alone makes "Capitalism" recommended viewing for all concerned citizens. See it with friends!
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