From the Bipartisan Appreciation Day Desk
Originally written 05/27/04
There's a great picture on Page 3 of the Sun-Times today (linked here for your enjoyment) of Al Gore railing against Condoleeza Rice, Donald Rumsfeld and George Tenet, calling for their resignations. The picture is great because it looks like, just as soon as he's finished that tirade, a squirrel scampers up his trousers and the speech suddenly turns into an homage to that "4 out of 5 dentists agree" Trident commercial.
It's a face so full of comically-overdone rage that it only looks at home when done by Vince McMahon at the point when a wrestler storms into the ring, hits someone with a chair and demands his shot at whatever title is up for grabs at the next Pay-Per-View, just before Vince gets choke-slammed, DDT'd, Rock Bottom'ed or whatever the wrestler's signature move is.
I'm fantastically happy that Michael Moore won the Palme d'Or at Cannes last weekend. Foremost, I'm happy because I'm a fan of his work and the man himself. Peripherally, I'm happy as an American film-buff who applauds any director bringing home the big-prize at Cannes, so long as it's not the ever-unintelligible David Lynch. Granted, the only two I can think of are Quentin Tarantino and the Coen Brothers (who we're going to count as one to prevent having to retype the statement), but that's beside the point. Upon finding out Michael Moore won, I IM'ed my friend Dave, and then ended up in a debate over the merits of Moore's films and whether or not they can genuinely be classifed as 'documentaries'.
To be a purist, one would only label more objective (and less entertaining to most) films like Winged Migration and When We Were Kings would qualify. They're objective films that are removed by species or chronology from their subjects and therefore don't serve to make any overt statement, preferring to simply convey information to the viewer, using film as a medium. However, it is folly (now I sound like I've got a PhD, right?) to try to make a contemporary film about contemporary politics and remain objective about the matter. It is tantamount to scaling a vertical wall of teflon without the benefit of suction-cups. Ultimately and invariably, objectivity gives way to commentary, and at that point calls into question a film's ability to be termed strictly as a documentary.
For me, its ability to be termed as a documentary ends with Michael Moore's onscreen role in the work, given that it's actually a role. He inserts himself into his work to the point where he becomes a character in the narrative; and while he is supposed to represent the Everyman, we all know that he's Michael Moore, that drives a parallel to Norman Mailer, who's been doing that shit for decades and has made such a career of doing so that no one actually takes him seriously.
Believe it or not, I actually talk like that in IM's.
Also in documentary news, Super Size Me has made somewhere around $2.3 million -which is a big hit for a documentary- and swung the #10 spot in last weekend's film grosses, all without the support of MTV/Viacom, which refuses to run ads for the film, likely out of fear of drawing the ire (and losing the associated ad-revenue) of McDonald's, the 800-pound gorilla of the fast-food market.
Strangely enough, McDonald's was only the 600-pound gorilla of fast-food until it spent a month on the Super Size Me diet. *zing!*