What is happening in our world? Who is doing what? what is going on now? These are questions that will be answered. Enjoy.
Fahrenheit 11/9 Michael Moore Movie Review
Michael Moore knew Donald Trump would win the 2016 election.
He doesn’t say this to be smug, although there has always been a certain smarmy tone to his voice and work—which, I think, has always been part of his appeal. Moore’s films have always balanced a left-leaning political mindset with a merry prankster sensibility ever since his debut film, Roger & Me, saw the documentarian mixing comedy and facts in his pursuit of an interview with GM chairman Roger B. Smith. Long before The Daily Show, or Last Week Tonight, or Chapo Trap House, or Who Is America?, Michael Moore was blending irreverence with political statements, using comedy as a tool to change the hearts and minds of his viewers.
But does he change minds? That’s debatable. In our fractured and polarizing times, I can’t imagine a documentary will (or even can) sway those on the right over to the left. With his latest, Fahrenheit 11/9, Michael Moore seems to know this: It’s a film about Donald Trump, and one that examines the first 18 months of his presidency. But it’s not a movie made with the intention of getting Trump supporters to recognize that they were duped. Instead, it’s a movie targeting those on the left—a sobering reflection of how the Democratic party is as complicit in the president’s rise to power as the conservatives who blindly supported him.
In the end, it’s a lot, and difficult to write about in a succinct way. Incorporating disparate events and jumping back and forth in time (as far back as the Third Reich and as recent as the mass shooting at Stoneman Douglas High School), Fahrenheit 11/9’s individual threads are stronger than the sum of its parts—precisely because we already know what the totality really means: We’re fucked, and we did this to ourselves. There’s a certain sadist quality to the film, and its audience—likely left-leaning viewers—must be equally masochistic in the desire to rewatch and relitigate the last two years of American history in the form of a loosely structured documentary that distills vast swaths of rhetoric and political philosophy into two hours.
Luckily, Moore maintains his sardonic abilities to poke fun while also dealing in doom and gloom. He has to laugh in the face of this disaster, which is only getting worse. The jokes and the stunts will get you in the door; the somber reflections on global history (montages of German propaganda ultimately feel less on-the-nose and more foreboding) may leave you shaken by the end credits.
Fahrenheit 11/9 is a movie targeting those on the left—a sobering reflection of how the Democratic party is as complicit in the president’s rise to power as the conservatives who blindly supported him.
There’s the inevitable rehashing of the 2016 Democratic primaries. Moore doesn’t hide the fact that he was a Bernie Sanders supporter (in a post-screening Q&A, he called Clinton “the smartest person to run for president”), and he takes the Democratic party leaders to task for rejecting Sanders and his supporters (highlighting the many states that went for him in the Democratic primaries and pushed superdelegates at the DNC to clinch the vote for Clinton). He bemoans the fact that Clinton did not visit many battleground states, particularly his native Michigan. The Democrats seemed to know that Clinton was a polarizing candidate, and her team feared that sending her to those places would simply encourage voters to pick Trump over her. (In hindsight, it’s alarming that the Democrats had their own weariness about their candidate while, at the same time, assuming she had the victory in the bag.)
He also targets the Democratic establishment—figures like Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer—for their compromises with the right. The film lambasts Bill Clinton’s presidency as the spark for the left’s slow move to the center, introducing mass incarceration of black Americans, cozying up to Wall Street, rejecting LGBT rights. In Moore’s perspective, the Democratic party became more like Republicans in an effort to win voters. All that did in the end, he suggests, was turn off the vast majority of Americans who no longer feel the interest or energy to participate in our electoral system. They feel helpless and unrepresented; the Democrats lost their base, and the Republicans slowly gained followers by actually making promises to an electorate that they had no intention of keeping—and, meanwhile, spun their rhetoric to distract Americans from the damage caused by their corporate interests.
And then there’s Trump’s history. Moore pieces together all of his toxic behavior: He wouldn’t rent to black people; he called for the execution of the Central Park Five; he made appalling misogynist comments (discomforting sexual remarks about his daughter); he promoted Birtherism. And all of that was done very publicly, and the media cheered it on because it made for good TV or salacious tabloid covers. Moore took it seriously, while most of us didn’t. Donald Trump was never a dumb joke. Donald Trump was right there in front of us all the time—”[committing] his crimes in plain sight.”
Michael Moore at Trump Tower, November 2016
Getty ImagesYana Paskova
But still, the film’s most unsettling moments are the parts those on the left won’t want to see or hear. The entertainment industry-heavy audience at the Los Angeles premiere on Wednesday cheered when the film depicted the successful West Virginia teachers strike or the stirring speeches from Parkland students at the March for Our Lives; the crowd booed during a montage that featured Matt Lauer, Charlie Rose, Mark Halperin, Bill O’Reilly, and Roger Ailes—whose careers imploded in the wake of sexual harassment and/or misconduct allegations—belittling Hillary Clinton and her campaign (a clip of Les Moonves, whose downfall at CBS happened so recently that it didn’t make it into the film, also elicited hisses). But the audience was silent during the film’s most tense moments: when President Barack Obama didn’t evade Moore’s piercing lens.
The most powerful and upsetting segments of the film took place in Moore’s hometown of Flint, Michigan, as he slowly and purposefully unveils the extent of the water crisis. He doesn’t let Michigan governor Rick Snyder off the hook; he goes as far to accuse Snyder, who ordered the installation of a new and unnecessarily pipeline from Lake Huron to the struggling city and during its construction let the city rely on the polluted Flint River, of committing genocide after the residents were exposed to toxic levels of lead in the water (which also caused an outbreak of Legionnaires’ disease).
It’s a crisis we’ve all heard about, but Moore carefully gives it a more human face—particularly the black children who were the most at risk of sickness, and whose lives were ruthlessly ignored by those in power who cared nothing for their wellbeing.
And it’s truly heartbreaking to watch Flint’s residents lose their hope. Obama visited the town in May 2016, months before the election and two years after the water was contaminated. It was then that during a speech he asked for a glass of water, put it to his lips, and declared the water safe to drink. (He’d go on to do it once more on camera, while also repeating the notion that it wasn’t a stunt.) It was an empty symbolic gesture, and many of the Flint activists that Moore interviews in the film knew it. And years later, with the water still unsafe to drink and no end in sight, Flint feels ignored. Or worse: forgotten. And while Hillary Clinton didn’t set foot in the town during the 2016 campaign, Donald Trump did. The right had figured out how to use hope—albeit false hope—as a weapon.
By the end of Fahrenheit 11/9’s barrage of doom, you may feel hopeless and dejected, but Moore is eager to see his audience turn that dejection into action. The only thing the left has remaining, Moore’s film suggests, is a fight. The West Virginian teachers offers that hope, as does Parkland survivors Emma González and David Hogg’s activism. New faces hoping to infiltrate the Democratic party (Moore’s cameras followed Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Rashida Tliab’s successful primary campaigns) are also depicted as shining lights in this current American darkness, who can break up the establishment and return political power to the people.
But ultimately, the film ends on a cliffhanger, as we’re currently writing history every day as we muddle along. We’ll truly be able to mark the film’s success on November 6. If there’s hope left, we must use it to strengthen our battle strategies.