Thursday, July 01, 2004

Stupid Criticisms of Fahrenheit 9/11?

Aaron Swartz defends Fahrenheit 9/11 here. But the problems with Fahrenheit 9/11 aren't the ones to which Swartz replied. The problem with Fahrenheit 9/11 is that it just isn't a good film--Cannes notwithstanding. If you look at my blog you'll see that I'm no fan of Bush. But Fahrenheit 9/11 fails as a film. It bounces back and forth among too many possible objectives:
  • Laughing at Bush as an incompetent fool.
  • Documenting ties between Bush and Saudi Arabia.
  • Making emotional connections with relatives of victims of 9/11 and the Iraq war.
  • Contrasting the world of big money with that in which the rest of us live.
  • ...
But the film fails to focus on any of these, and in that failure, it misses being a good film. It hits most of these points, but it hits them in such a disorganized way that it doesn't fully succeed at any of them. For example, the film starts as if it is going to be film version of Craig Unger's book, House of Bush, House of Saud. But it doesn't document that case well enough to be fully convincing. At best it suggests that there may be something there, but it immediately goes on to other things.

And that's what happens throughout. There are moments, for example, in which Moore shows us how terrible war is and what its effects are on both victims and soldiers. That could be a movie on its own. But these scenes are few and isolated--not enough to make a powerful case.

For my money the two best scenes in the film are (a) Brittany Spears chewing gum and saying that whatever Bush wants must be right because he is the President and (b) the final scene in which Bush couldn't remember the "fool me once/fool me twice saying" and ended up saying "Don't be fooled a second time." Stitch those two scenes together and you have a great ad for Kerry.

UPDATE: Paul Krugman, as usual, puts it well:
"'Fahrenheit 9/11' is a tendentious, flawed movie, but it tells essential truths about leaders who exploited a national tragedy for political gain, and the ordinary Americans who paid the price."

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