Michael Moore

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Michael Moore with his Oscar award after Bowling for Columbine won the 2003 Academy Award for Documentary Feature.

Michael Moore (born April 23, 1954) is an American film director, author and social commentator. He is widely known for his outspoken, critical views of corporations and the Bush administration.

Early life

Michael Moore was born in Davison, Michigan, near the city of Flint. At the time, Flint was home to many General Motors factories, where his mother was a secretary, and both his father and grandfather were employed. His uncle was one of the founders of the United Automobile Workers labor union and was part of the famous sitdown strike.

Moore, an Irish-American, was brought up a Roman Catholic and attended a Diocesan seminary at age 14. He then attended Davison High School, graduating in 1972. That same year, he ran for and won a seat on the Davison school board on a platform based on firing the high school's principal, John B McKenna, and vice principal, Kanje Cohen. By the end of his term both had resigned. Michael Moore is also an Eagle Scout, which is the highest rank awarded by the Boy Scouts in the United States, and an achievement of which he is still proud. For his Eagle Project, he filmed a documentary pointing out various safety hazards and issues within his community.

After dropping out of University of Michigan-Flint, at 22 he founded the alternative weekly magazine The Flint Voice (which soon changed its name to The Michigan Voice). In 1986, when Moore became the editor of Mother Jones, a liberal political magazine, he moved to California and the Voice was shut down. After five months at Mother Jones, he was fired when he refused to publish an article by Paul Berman that was mildly critical of the Sandinistas' human rights record. Explaining why he did not publish the article, Moore stated that "(Ronald) Reagan could easily hold it up", saying, "See, even Mother Jones agrees with me" [1]. He later sued for wrongful dismissal, seeking $2 million, and settled the case for $58,000, which provided partial funding for his first film project, Roger and Me.

Moore is married to Kathleen Glynn (born April 10, 1958 in Flint). In 1981, the couple gave birth to a daughter named Natalie.

Directing

Films

Roger & Me: Moore first became famous for his controversial 1989 film Roger & Me, a documentary about what happened to Flint, Michigan, after General Motors closed its factories and opened new ones in Mexico, where the workers were paid much less. Since then Moore has been known as a critic of the neoliberal view of globalization. "Roger" is Roger B. Smith, former CEO and president of General Motors. The documentary was an extremely ambitious undertaking for someone who had never attended film school or worked in any capacity in the movie industry. Moore was largely taught the craft of filmmaking by his cinematographer Kevin Rafferty, who is ironically also a first cousin of President George W. Bush. The influence of Rafferty, who co-directed the 1982 cult classic documentary film The Atomic Café, can be seen in Moore's satirical use of archival footage taken from vintage B-movies, television commercials, and newsreels that has since become a hallmark of his documentaries.

Canadian Bacon: In 1995, Moore released a satirical film, Canadian Bacon, which featured a fictional US president (played by Alan Alda) engineering a war with Canada in order to boost his popularity.

The Big One: In 1997, Moore directed The Big One, which documents the tour publicizing his book Downsize This! Random Threats from an Unarmed American, where he criticized mass layoffs despite record corporate profits. Among others, he targeted Nike for outsourcing shoe production to Indonesia.

Bowling for Columbine: Moore's 2002 film Bowling for Columbine, probes the culture of guns and violence in the States. Bowling for Columbine won the Anniversary Prize at the Cannes Film Festival and France's Cesar Award as the Best Foreign Film. In the United States, it won the 2003 Academy Award for Documentary Feature. It also enjoyed great commercial and critical success for a film of its type and became, at the time, the highest-grossing mainstream-released documentary (a record now held by Moore's Fahrenheit 9/11). It was praised by most critics for illuminating a subject slighted by the mainstream media, but it was attacked by some opponents who claim it is inaccurate and misleading in its presentations and suggested interpretations of events.

Fahrenheit 9/11: Fahrenheit 9/11 examines America in the aftermath of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, particularly the record of the Bush administration and alleged links between the families of George W. Bush and Osama bin Laden. Fahrenheit was awarded the Palme d'Or, the top honor at the Cannes Film Festival; it was the first documentary film to win the prize since 1956. Moore later announced that Fahrenheit 9/11 would not be in consideration for the 2005 Academy Award for Documentary Feature, but instead for the Academy Award for Best Picture. He stated he wanted the movie to be seen by a few million more people, preferably on television, by election day. Since November 2 was less than nine months after the film's release, it would be disqualified for the Documentary Oscar. Moore also said he wanted to be supportive of his "teammates in non-fiction film." However, Fahrenheit received no Oscar nomination for Best Picture. The title of the film alludes to the classic book Fahrenheit 451 (about a future totalitarian state in which books are banned; paper begins to burn at 451 degrees Fahrenheit) and the pre-release subtitle of the film confirms the allusion: "The temperature at which freedom burns." At the box office, Fahrenheit 9/11 remains by far the highest-grossing documentary of all time, taking in close to $200 million worldwide, including domestic box office revenue of $120 million.

Sicko (filming): Moore is currently working on a film about the American healthcare system from the viewpoint of mental healthcare, focusing particularly on the managed-care and pharmaceutical industries, under the working title Sicko. At least two major pharmaceutical companies, Pfizer and GlaxoSmithKline, have ordered their employees not to grant any interviews to Moore. [2] [3]

Fahrenheit 9/11½ (pre-production): On November 11, 2004 Moore told the Hollywood trade publication Daily Variety that he is also planning a sequel to Fahrenheit 9/11. He said, "Fifty-one percent of the American people lacked information [in this election], and we want to educate and enlighten them. They weren't told the truth. We're communicators, and it's up to us to start doing it now."[4] The sequel, like the original, will concern the war in Iraq and terrorism. Moore expects to complete Fahrenheit 9/11½ in 2006 or 2007.

Moore's documentary style is an involved, essayed form, as much about Moore himself and his opinion as they are about the subject at the heart of the film. This is a potential criticism from more traditionalist documentary makers, who prefer a more observational style, the filmmaker hidden behind the camera. The feature-length essayed form was pioneered by Nick Broomfield and was adopted by documentarians such as Louis Theroux, who himself worked with Moore on Michael Moore's TV Nation.

Moore's style has also come under fire from those who claim that when making his films, he unfairly edits and re-sequences events in order to twist or misrepresent the words of his targets or interviewees. Dave Kopel has compiled a list of alleged deceits in Fahrenheit 9/11, and Slate.com's Christopher Hitchens compiled a similar list. The caustic tone of these criticisms quickly drew counter-criticisms from OpEdNews.com articles like Deception; Desperate Right Wing Attacks on Fahrenheit 9/11 and How Many Lies Can Christopher Hitchens Tell? as well as an eFilmCritic article Defending Truth: Slate's Chris Hitchens does a hatchet job on Michael Moore and a Columbus Free Press editorial.

Television shows

Between 1994 and 1995 he directed and hosted the television series TV Nation, which followed the format of news magazine shows but covered topics they avoid. The series was aired on NBC in 1994 for 9 episodes and again for 8 episodes on FOX in 1995.

His other series was The Awful Truth, which satirized actions by big corporations and politicians. It aired in 1999 and 2000.

Another 1999 series, Michael Moore Live was aired in the UK only on Channel 4, though it was broadcast from New York. This show had a similar format to The Awful Truth but also incorporated phone-ins and a live stunt each week. The show was performed around midday local time, which due to the time difference made it a late-night show in the UK.

In 1999 Moore won the Hugh M. Hefner First Amendment Award in Arts and Entertainment, for being the executive producer and host of The Awful Truth, where he was also described as "muckraker, author and documentary filmmaker."

Music videos

Moore has directed several music videos, including two for Rage Against the Machine for songs from "The Battle of Los Angeles": "Sleep Now in the Fire" and "Testify". He was threatened with arrest during the shooting of "Sleep Now in the Fire", which was filmed on Wall Street; the city of New York had denied the band permission to play there, even though the band and Moore had secured a federal permit to perform. [5]

He also directed the music videos for System of a Down's "Boom!" and "All the Way to Reno" from R.E.M..

Writings and political views

Moore has authored three best-selling books:

After Moore's departure from Mother Jones, he became an employee of Ralph Nader. He left Nader's employment on bad terms, but Moore vociferously supported Nader's campaign for the United States presidency in 2000.

In exchange for jumping in the show's "traveling mosh pit," Republican Alan Keyes won the endorsement of Moore's television series The Awful Truth in 2000, although Moore does not endorse Keyes' views.

Moore became a lifetime member of the National Rifle Association after the Columbine Massacre. He has said in an interview that his intention was to run for president of the organization and dismantle it after winning.

In the 2004 election, Moore urged Nader not to run, so as not to split the vote for ousting Bush. (Moore joined Bill Maher on the latter's television show in kneeling before Nader to plead with him to stay out of the race.) Although Moore has claimed he is not a Democrat (although he registered as a Democrat in 1992 [6]), on January 14, Moore endorsed General Wesley Clark for the Democratic nomination. Moore drew attention when charging publicly that Bush was AWOL during his service in the National Guard (see George W. Bush military service controversy). Also, during an October 27 stop in Portland, OR, Moore called the private phone number of radio host Lars Larson, given to him by a member of the audience.

Moore was a high-profile guest at the 2004 Democratic National Convention, prominently seated in a box with former President Jimmy Carter and his wife. Moore also attended the 2004 Republican National Convention, where he was criticized in a speech by Senator John McCain as "a disingenuous film-maker". Moore wrote a daily column chronicling his impressions of the convention in USA Today.

During September and October 2004, Moore spoke at universities and colleges in swing states during his "Slacker Uprising Tour". The tour gave away ramen and underwear to people who promised to vote. This provoked public denunciations from the Michigan Republican Party and attempts to convince the government that Moore should be arrested for buying votes, but district attorneys refused to get involved. The "Underwear" tour was a popular success. Large numbers of young adults registered to vote, and by a strong percentage voted for John Kerry (Kerry 54%, Bush 44%). Nonetheless, the generally increased turnout in the election ensured that the percentage of youth voting was little different than in 2000, albeit at a higher numerical level. John Kerry eventually won the state of Michigan by 3%.

Quite possibly the most controversial stop during the tour was Utah Valley State College in Orem, Utah. A fight for his right to speak ensued in massive public debates and a media blitz. Death threats, bribes and lawsuits ensued. The event was chronicled in the documentary film This Divided State.

With the 2004 election over, Moore continues to collect information on the War in Iraq and the Bush administration.

Controversy and criticism

Moore's body of work has attracted a great deal of criticism and praise, especially after the release of his film Fahrenheit 9/11 in 2004. While it gathered generally favorable reviews from movie critics [7] and many awards, some opponents described the film as a deceptive and inaccurate portrayal of the U.S. government. Moore set up a rebuttal "war room" [8] to support the content in Fahrenheit 9/11 and counter criticisms [9].

Similar allegations of deceptive editing, staging or scripting scenes, or altering the original intent of the speaker in the video have also been made by conservative critics about Moore's film Bowling for Columbine [10]. In Bowling for Columbine, on-screen text was allegedly altered in a Bush-Quayle campaign ad, and footage edited into it from a non-campaign ad, in order to make it seem racist. Moore denied that this was done in the film, but is said to have slightly corrected the text for the DVD release. [11]

Ray Bradbury has also complained about Moore's adaptation of his Fahrenheit 451 title without permission [12], calling him a "screwed asshole." However, such permission is not legally required and Bradbury himself is the author of several books whose titles are taken from works by other writers.

Moore has been criticized by some conservatives for the public speaking fees he receives. However, Moore's supporters have described these attacks as hypocritical, pointing out that public figures of Moore's stature (including many of his critics) are often paid similar honorariums by sponsors for their appearances and very few of them are on record as having donated the money to the causes they support [13].

On 6 January 2003, Yasmin Alibhai-Brown criticized Moore for perpetuating stereotypes of black people. Writing in The Independent she said she was enraged when Moore said, during an appearance on stage in London, that the plane passengers on 9/11 were "scaredy-cats" because they were mostly white; that if there were more black people on the flights they would have "crushed" the hijackers. [14]. Two weeks later, after her opinion piece was adopted by the right-wing, Yasmin wrote another piece saying that although she objected to Moore's "crass remarks", she supported his stance on guns and the Iraq war. [15]

With Moore's success, there have been some works criticising his books and films. These include the films Michael Moore Hates America, Celsius 41.11, and FahrenHYPE 9/11.

The conservative evangelical Christian group Focus on the Family urged a letter writing campaign directed at Michael Moore and published his home address in a July 2004 newsletter.

On September 12th, 2001, the day after the September 11th terrorist attacks against New York City and Washington, DC, Michael Moore posted a message on his website that included the passage (since redacted from the message on the site): "Many families have been devastated tonight. This just is not right. They did not deserve to die. If someone did this to get back at Bush, then they did so by killing thousands of people who DID NOT VOTE for him! Boston, New York, DC, and the planes' destination of California — these were places that voted AGAINST Bush!" This has been interpreted by some critics as Moore implying that an attack against areas that had voted for Bush would have been justifiable. These same critics have pointed out that, at a time when the people of the United States, including both major political parties, were coming together following the attacks, Moore was still focused on the electoral politics of 2000.

A recent controversy surrounds Michael Moore's public comments about the Iraq insurgency and terrorists. In a memo released on his personal website, Moore said "The Iraqis who have risen up against the occupation are not 'insurgents' or 'terrorists' or 'The Enemy'. They are the REVOLUTION, the Minutemen, and their numbers will grow — and they will win. Get it, Mr. Bush?" The Minutemen were a group of elite militia in the 18th century that participated in the American Revolution as well as other conflicts in pre-Revolution America on the side of the British.

In their book Michael Moore Is a Big Fat Stupid White Man, David T. Hardy and Jason Clarke criticize Moore for, they allege, being untruthful in his film productions, especially with respect to Bowling for Columbine (the book's release predated Fahrenheit 9/11). Their allegation is that he primarily includes interviews and speeches that are heavily edited to create a negative image of the subject being portrayed and present misleading or false facts. [16]

In the book Do As I Say (Not As I Do): Profiles in Liberal Hypocrisy, author Peter Schweizer alleges that Moore's private foundation has traded hundreds of shares in Halliburton, the oil company targeted for criticism in Fahrenheit 9/11, which may contradict Moore's statement in his book "Stupid White Men," where he wrote: "I don't own a single share of stock." [17] [18]

Oscar acceptance speech

When Moore accepted the Oscar for Bowling for Columbine, he created a stir when he took the opportunity to state his point of view on President George W. Bush having started the 2003 invasion of Iraq:

"Whoa. On behalf of our producers Kathleen Glynn and Michael Donovan from Canada, I'd like to thank the Academy for this. I have invited my fellow documentary nominees on the stage with us, and we would like to — they're here in solidarity with me because we like nonfiction."
"We like nonfiction and we live in fictitious times. We live in the time where we have fictitious election results that elects a fictitious president. We live in a time where we have a man sending us to war for fictitious reasons. Whether it's the fictition [sic] of duct tape or fictition of orange alerts, we are against this war, Mr. Bush. Shame on you, Mr. Bush, shame on you. And any time you got the Pope and the Dixie Chicks against you, your time is up. Thank you very much."

The televised speech was met with a mixture of boos and applause from the audience. In a backstage interview with Moore afterwards, he stated that the majority of the audience was cheering. Moore repeated the part of his speech that had been cut short due to the orchestra starting to play music and his microphone being turned off, and gave the reason "I'm an American" in defense of his choice of acceptance speech. In commentary included on the DVD for Columbine, Moore indicated that the majority of the audience were cheering for him, prompting one or two boos from audience members, and that further booing was actually Moore's supporters responding to the one or two detractors who had become vocal in the audience.

When the host, Steve Martin, returned to the stage after Moore's speech, he joked: "It was so sweet backstage, the Teamsters are helping Michael Moore into the trunk of his limo." [19]

Depictions of Moore

In the 2004 satire film Team America: World Police, a marionette representation of Moore surfaces as a suicide bomber who blows up Team America's headquarters inside Mount Rushmore. He is later described as a 'giant socialist weasel'. One of the makers of the film, Matt Stone, later stated that this representation was in response to Moore's placement of a South Park-style animation after an interview with Stone in Moore's film Bowling for Columbine. They opined that this created the false impression that Stone (and his colleague Trey Parker, who together are popular largely through being the creators of South Park) created the animation, which he saw as "retarded." Stone later states that he does not "really hate the guy". [20]

In an episode of the television show Arrested Development, 'The One Where Michael Leaves', an unnamed obese documentary film maker approaches Lucile asking if she would enlist her son in the military. Michael Moore asked the same question in Fahrenheit 9/11, except the responses he received were "no".

The 2004 Academy Awards opened with a satirical short film in which the host, Billy Crystal, re-enacted the most memorable scenes of 2004. Moore was depicted holding a camera amidst a battle (the Battle of the Pelennor Fields from The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King film), and shouting, "Stop this war. Shame on you hobbits, shame on you. This is a fictitious war. This war was not elected by the populace."

MADtv comedian Paul Vogt is noted for his impersonations of Moore. In a 2003 skit, entitled "Bowling for Christmas", [21] Vogt as Moore angrily accuses Christmas shoppers of supporting terrorism and Santa Claus of exploiting child labor. In each scene the inscription on Moore's baseball cap gets progressively more self-righteous: "Hero", "Saint", "Martyr".

Moore lent his voice to a parody of himself on The Simpsons; he was depicted as showing up to Springfield Elementary School in support of a student strike. When interviewed by Kent Brockman, he offered statistics and then got belligerent when Brockman asked him for the statistics' source as proof of their accuracy. [22]

The British television programme Dead Ringers featured a segment in its 2004 "US election special" entitled "Michael Moore takes on Michael Moore," in which a Michael Moore impersonator satirises Moore's documentary style and approach.

Despite the controversy surrounding Moore and his work, he has had great critical and financial success as a filmmaker and writer. His films Bowling for Columbine and Fahrenheit 9/11 debuted as the highest-grossing feature-length non-music nonfiction films of all time, the latter making over $120 million. Bowling for Columbine won the Oscar for Best Documentary as well as the first unanimous Grand Jury Prize at the Cannes, and Fahrenheit 9/11 won the People's Choice Award for Favorite Motion Picture (an unprecedented honor for a documentary film), as well as the Palme d'Or Best Picture at the Cannes Film Festival.

His published work

List of books

List of films

List of TV series

Quotes

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  • "Our young people who go off to war and who join the service, we need to honor them because they're willing to risk their lives to protect us, to defend us, so we can have this way of life. And the agreement that they make with us is that we never send them into harm's way unless it is absolutely necessary. I think most Americans — I just saw the latest poll today — 54% now believe that [invading Iraq] wasn't the wisest thing to do — it wasn't certainly in self-defense. You weren't threatened; I wasn't being threatened, and that's the only time, because ultimately if it was your child…would you give up your child to secure Fallujah?"
    — On the television program Late Night with Conan O'Brien, June 25, 2004
  • "We Americans suffer from an enforced ignorance. We don’t know about anything that’s happening outside our country. Our stupidity is embarrassing."
    — The Washington Dispatch, June 26, 2004

External links

Reviews

Biography

Current events (fan sites and watch sites)

General criticism

Defense articles

Interviews

News features

Flint, Michigan

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