Considering it’s release time during one of the most tense presidential election years in 2008,my own feelings upon seeing this film were as controversial as the subject matter.  After all it’s very hard not to personalize one’s own experiences during a given time,and that was a vital consideration with me and this particular film.  There was simply a lot of overexposure in the media at the time and also a mammoth Wall Street collapse that put George W Bush aggressively into the public eye as his second,and probably most tumultuous term as president,came to a close. I decided to weigh the issue-it was a biopic about someone who I was anxious to rid my thoughts of at the time with the fact it was an Oliver Stone film-a huge plus in my own case. When I actually took the time to look at the film,it wasn’t exactly what I expected it to be at all.

                                      The film exists on a duel timeline,weaving in and out of George W Bush’s (Josh Brolin)  administration planning the agenda for Operation:Iraqi Freedom back into his past. As the debate about the middle east rages on,we view Bush’s days at Yale. Of his years of being bailed out of prison by his father George Sr,played with eerie similarity by James Cromwell and W’s failure as an oil rig worker and his descent into a life of alcoholism and womanizing. After failing in politics the first time,he builds his reputation by managing a major league baseball team and helping out with his father’s presidential campaign. Along with wife Laura he successfully runs for Governor at which time he contemplates the presidency for the first time. In the end,when he begins to understand the enormous complications of the war in the middle east he ends up facing regrets as to his choice to become president and not pursue his original love of professional sports.

                                     Josh Brolin delivers a barnstorming performance as the younger Bush. He portrays the character as a very stereotypical American male image: brazen,careless and not always very aware of the consequences of his actions. This does an excellent job at pointing out the father/son schism between the younger and elder George Bush’s,wherein the son is strongly competitive for his fathers respect over the younger and more politically rewarded brother Jeb. Richard Dryfuss does an extremely accurate turn as Dick Chaney. He is portrayed as a very conniving character pulling at the naively righteous president,who became a virtual slave to his own religious convictions after years of struggling with addition problems. This is depicted with some of Stone’s typically wonderful humor as the president casually mispronounces Guantanamo as “guantanamera” during lunch at the White House.

                                   There are many scenes portraying characters such as Colin Powell,Condi Rice and presidential adviser Karl Rove all debating the way the post 9/11 issues should be handled. Chaney and Rove paint the military model of the picture: take over as much as possible with no thought to the consequences where Powell and Rice both press at first for taking more time to look into the situation before making a move. Brolin’s Bush,admittedly not the best at conversation,buckles at making such hard choices. These are the kind of decisions that marred his own lack of focus in his youth. And,consequently as president. By humanizing a character who had by this time become the figure head of one of the most difficult presidential administrations in history,Oliver Stone was probably very successful at portraying George W. Bush as a man whose deeply seeded insecurity couldn’t back up some of his more boastful intentions.


Capitalism: A Love Story

Capitalism-A Love Story

                         Moore begins his film very much in his typical fashion-linking his subject matter to the framework of history.  He visually compares America in the immediate post GW Bush era as similar to the Roman empire as it was about to fall: a paper thin level of surface sheen disguising an ailing socio-political construct. Of course after this we are treated to a time line that traces the post war economic boom following the second world war all the way up to the election of Ronald Reagan. It illustrates that that administration instituted a system by which American finances would be distributed from within enormous corporations. This resulted in a syndrome of trickle down economics that slowly declined throughout the 1990’s up to the present. And being a Michael Moore film,his ideal example of this is the infamous mass closing of and layoffs at the GM auto plants,and anything connected to them,in his native city of Flint. And from there Moore is off to the races.

                        Michael Moore is as always asked to leave just about any building he and his film crew approach as he pursues his investigation. Basically the world has become a ghetto,where people all over the country are being evicted from their homes after buying into all sorts of big bank based sub-primes and all manner of corrupt loans. While the news media is insisting that the economy is growing,the evidence is mounting all around Moore of the CEO’s of most major corporations are taking extended vacations and personal raises with the money that had provided his generation with a steady and secure middle glass. He introduces us to a juvenile jail where young people are imprisoned,often for below misdemeanor offenses,for a profit.  We also see the value of the dead placed over that of the living with the detestably named “dead peasant” insurance policies of corporations such as Wal-Mart. Amid the ever growing double talk as Moore tries in vein to understand modern financial codes,everything culminates in that massive 2008 Wall Street Bank collapse.

                       While the White House debates a government bailout during that years high stakes presidential election,Michael Moore takes us to the mid west where an industrial robot manufacturing plant and a bread distributor are making new economic strides with a democratic cooperate system,whereby the workers own the plants and all have a say in the economic distribution  As Obama is elected amid conservative backlash of his politics as being “socialist”,Moore talks to a member of the cabinet about how America has basically redefined the barriers between democracy and socialism to the point where they are made out to be one and the same. Moore ends the film by illustrating the looming anti-corporate  and pro Union attitude beginning to return to the average American working class individual.  In the end,Moore evokes a comparison to how FDR stood up for the auto plant strikers in his native Flint with Obama’s pro labor stance and sense of financial fairness.

                        Since I’m sure Michael Moore is more than aware of the irony of using the capitalist system in order to decry it by making this film,the pros and cons of this film are very personal. In his typical fashion he showcases both the everyday working American and there hopes and dreams to service with bankers and corporate CEO’s who,somewhere along the line,seem to have lost some of their heart and soul. One wonderful point he makes here is taking to the minister who married him and his wife,who along with other religious figures presented here,agree capitalism has in fact become unchristian and ungodly by their standards. This shows that,in truth,money has become a god to be worshiped  by a number of people. His narration and approach to the people he is trying to interview is calm and reasonable. Typically he never seems to raise his voice.  This makes his outlook even more accessible to those who may come into this with a skeptical eye.

                          The only quality about this film is one I’ve noticed is very typical of Michael Moore. And that is that he tends to equate the many societal ills that his films look to remedy under the banner of the closing of the GM plants in his native Flint, Michigan. Fact is,he covered that topic with remarkable thoroughness in his debut film Roger & Me and doesn’t really need to dwell on that theme as much as he does. Of course I could probably make the same remark on any Michael Moore film.  All and all,releasing this film during a time when American’s were taking back their democracy and were finally beginning to receive information in the media affirming the corruption surrounding them was a definite masterstroke.  It was also gratifying that this film ended with a great deal of optimism and hope in the future. And perhaps most importantly that our economic past and present are invariably tied together in helping to determine it’s own future.