MOVIE REVIEW- Mad money: Moore's latest rips capitalism
Hey, there's a terrific new movie about entities that rise from the dead to devour the general population and suck their lifeblood!
Actually there are two such movies, but in Capitalism: A Love Story, the entities are corporate, not corporeal.
Michael Moore is up to his old tricks (and some of them are getting old) with a call for revolution against the American financial system, which he sees as hopelessly corrupt because of a merger between Washington and Wall Street. It started with Reagan giving tax cuts to the rich and becoming a "spokesmodel" for big business, and continued through deregulation until most of the heads of the Treasury Department are alumni of Goldman Sachs who are still working indirectly for their old employer.
At least that's Moore's version. Despite repeating Econ 101 (not because I enjoyed it so much), I don't understand that stuff. Moore plays(?) dumb, too, to get economic factors simplified as much as they can be. Some are explained by Wallace Shawn in what looks like the setting for My Dinner with Michael.
I related to Moore's nostalgia for the simpler times we grew up in, when there was a middle class in America and people who worked hard could provide for their families on one income. The wealthy, though taxed at a 90 percent rate, still had enough to "live like Bogart and Bacall." I can remember when I first heard about the haves and have-nots and thought I was one of the haves.
The nostalgic aspect of Capitalism is conveyed through old clips, from Moore's childhood home movies to ancient "educational" films and even a scene from Roger & Me as he makes another attempt to penetrate General Motors headquarters. An Encyclopedia Britannica film, Life in Ancient Rome is used to draw parallels with today in terms of slave labor, the gap between rich and poor, and "spectacles" to distract the masses.
The human toll of recent events (some updated at least as late as May of this year) is shown in families facing foreclosure and losing homes they've lived in all their lives. A Florida real estate magnate boasts about his company, Condo Vultures, which resells foreclosed properties. He explains the name as indicating they don't do the killing, just pick the carcasses clean.
"This is capitalism," Moore says; "a system of taking and giving– mostly taking."
Then-President Jimmy Carter warned in a speech that Americans' identities are no longer based on what you do, but what you have. That was before Reagan presided over "the wholesale dismantling of the corporate infrastructure" that improved bottom lines by letting companies increase productivity with fewer workers.
Alan Greenspan, Federal Reserve Chairman from 1987-2006, is blamed for encouraging people, especially seniors, to tap into the equity in the homes they had paid for, borrowing at rates that could go sky high, and sometimes losing those homes as a result.
An example of what can happen when the profit motive trumps compassion is shown in a Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania juvenile detention center that was privatized. The for-profit owners paid off judges to raise conviction rates and send harmless kids to the center, where their sentences were often extended without cause.
Although airlines' profits may not be through the roof now, Moore pontificates about how little they pay their pilots, some of whom have to take second jobs to survive.
Speaking of pontificating, Moore brings in a couple of priests to discuss the sinful aspects of capitalism. A bishop confirms this, though in more diplomatic terms. If no one quite portrays Jesus as setting a model for socialism, the point is made that he was more concerned with the welfare of the poor than the amassing of wealth by the rich.
Moore points to a couple of companies owned by their workers as an example of what can be done, and notes that Jonas Salk worked for a salary and never took extra money for developing the vaccine that wiped out polio.
Then there are the "dead peasant" life insurance policies some companies take out on their employees, hitting jackpots when they die. It's another example of how American business has come to resemble a casino, with the economy based more on gambling than production.
Moore's amusing/abrasive personality permeates the film, but he's not physically present for much of it, though he does some of his typical grandstanding by running a crime tape down Wall Street, demanding that companies return the bailout money they received from the government and trying to make a citizen's arrest of their executives.
A key talking head in the film is President Franklin D. Roosevelt. In a speech made a year before his death, he proposes a new Bill of Rights for America that would guarantee such things as a job, education, home, and healthcare for all. While that never passed here, we were instrumental after World War II in getting those elements written into the constitutions of Germany, Japan, and other countries when we helped them rebuild.
Moore isn't afraid to ask tough questions, like "What the f**k happened?" He's also not afraid to advocate "revolution," although he's careful not to give details of what we can do and how.
For me, the highlight of Capitalism: A Love Story is the Cleveland tourism promotion, a synthesis of two videos that are available on YouTube.
I enjoyed a lot of the movie and even learned a little from it, but at this point in time, a re-release of Moore's Sicko might have been more timely.