Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Where To Invade Next Review

Where To Invade Next Review

There is a scene early in Michael Moore's "Where To Invade Next," where Michael is in a French school. He is sitting with a group of French children who are getting ready to eat lunch at school. "I only took French once in high school, would you like to hear what I learned?" says Moore, as he blithely blurts out all the French he knows. I think he was trying to make the French children laugh, but they never do. They are bewildered, uncomfortable and seemingly can't believe what they are seeing. This is the feeling I get watching Michael Moore's documentaries these days. I am watching a man who thinks he's clever and funny and insightful, but all he is doing is bellowing non-sensical jibberish I can't understand. Instead of learning anything or finding his documentaries clever or insightful, I am bewildered, uncomfortable and can't believe what Moore is saying.

Michael Moore is a documentary filmmaker who has been the center of controversy for over a decade, and he's been a figure of spite. I haven't loved many of Michael Moore's documentaries, but that doesn't mean he's never made a good movie. I have liked "Bowling For Columbine," or "Roger And Me," where Moore made eye-opening points about real issues, he tackled his ideas with astute evidence and intuitiveness. Moore used to have a sharp, investigative eye that made his early documentaries shocking. Now, he just comes off as a naive child who doesn't have a very good understanding of what he's talking about. He just points his finger and says, "hey, this is what America is doing wrong."

Yes, I get it. We are far from a perfect country, you can turn on the news at any time during this summer alone and see we are far from a perfect country. I don't hate Moore's documentary because 'MERICA!, I usually can't stand his documentaries because his points are poorly made. Moore's recent documentaries, and especially "Where To Invade Next," are full of great ideas, but they don't add up to a whole like he used to do. He isn't making movies to infuriate, to acknowledge and to think about. The structure of his movies are as slim as they've ever been, and he just can't make a valid point for the most part.

"Where To Invade Next" begins with the wackiest, and most self-indulgent scene Moore has ever created. The entire documentary is built on the conceit that Moore was chosen by the Joint Chiefs of Staff to inform them which country to invade. According to the Joint Chiefs of Staff, since America hasn't won a war since WWII, they have given up on invading countries and have given their powers to Michael Moore. Instead of Moore going around discussing which countries we should invade from a militaristic point-of-view, he goes to countries and "steals" ideas he thinks would make the United States of America better. He goes to France and looks at how portioned and nutritious school lunches are. He takes a look at the Norwegian prison system. He looks at how the Italians handle worker's rights and their abundance of vacation time. He goes to Slovenia and looks at their free college. He goes to Tunisia, and Portugal and Germany and shows us how wonderful European socialism is and how all of our greatest social and economic problems are coming from because we aren't given into our NATO allies' ideals.

Here's the rub though, much like Moore's healthcare documentary "Sicko," "Where To Invade Next" is another case of Moore finding the best case scenarios of Europe and comparing them to the worst possible scenarios in America. Yes, our prison inmates deserve to have better rights, yes school lunches and education in our country should be better, yes our worker's rights should be improved upon, but Moore doesn't give any good solutions or suggestions on how to do this. He basically just points a finger at America and shows us how wrong we are. Nevermind that the European Union has had struggles of its own for nearly a decade. Nevermind that these struggles are forming crisis' overseas. Its like Michael Moore never learned how to compare and contrast. He is very selective in what he does and does not show, and that doesn't lead to a very provocative documentary.

The opening credit sequence is also a massive head-scratcher. As we see scenes of police brutality and government foul-play over to the tune of the "Inception" song. I watched two hours of documentary to see if these awful scenes had any relevance to his movie and barely any of it did. Moore has become so obsessed with making us look bad with no relevance or any genuine thought in the imagery he's showing. I think a documentary about the Black Lives Matter movement or the 2008 financial collapse would make for provocative documentaries, but if Moore has nothing provocative to say about any of it, why bother?

Here's the thing though, Moore can capture some great ideas and he does here. I would love an entire documentary on Iceland and women's roles in business and government there. I would love to learn more about how when Iceland's stock market took a swan dive, that it was an all-women bank who didn't loose money and how the banks run by men were fairly investigated and they went to jail. That would have made for a great documentary on its own. I'd love to hear more about the no homework policy in Finland and how a whole countries school system focuses on NOT teaching for a standardized test has transformed Finland into one of the best educated countries in the world. I'd even like for Moore to go back to America and investigate more on how our prison system has become the modern slave trade and is leading black men to become voiceless. But Moore wastes any good idea he has, and we have him ham-handedly tell various Europeans and Africans that he has invaded their country for their great idea as he plants an American flag on their property. Its supposed to be satirical and clever, but it comes off smug and dis-interesting.

Why? Maybe Moore has become more naive in his old age. Maybe he's less angry in his old age. Or maybe he hasn't had a Republican in office to kick around for several years. I do know that Moore has become boring as a documentarian. When I used to watch his documentaries, whether I agreed with him or not, I was drawn to something about his style. I used to like it when Moore would confirm or challenge (and yes, mostly challenged) my beliefs. Now, he just looks like an old man out of breath.


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