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"FAHRENHEIT 11/9"
(2018) (Documentary) (R)


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QUICK TAKE:
Documentary: Filmmaker Michael Moore looks at the current political situation in the U.S. -- from both the Republican and Democratic sides -- that resulted in Donald Trump becoming President.
PLOT:
Filmmaker Michael Moore looks at the current political situation in the U.S. -- from both the Republican and Democratic sides -- that resulted in Donald Trump becoming President. That includes pundits not taking then-candidate Trump seriously and the reason behind him deciding to run for office. There's a brief segment about his unusual relationship with his daughter and then a much longer one about the water crisis in Flint, Michigan being the result of decisions made by Governor Rick Snyder. There's also a look at racists in the U.S., the Parkland school shooting, and that the Democratic Party is corrupt regarding how they choose their candidates (especially as related to Bernie Sanders), the rise of Hitler in Germany and much more.
OUR TAKE: 6 out of 10
As an open disclaimer, I should point out that I'm neither a registered Republican nor a Democrat. Instead, I'm an independent voter and vote for the person and not party. I think that's the only sane way to elect officials to govern us as it usually prevents the potential of getting the wrong person for the job simply because one believes they most only tow the party line.

For a bit more than a decade, I also worked in the world of politics, specifically that of the U.S. Senate in, yes, an independent role providing TV coverage of the Senate floor proceedings, committee hearings and TV and radio shows held at our facility. In doing so, I not only got to know many of them from both sides, but also got to witness them behind the scenes, unlike the regular public.

And you know what? In that era ('87-'97), they obviously had their differences while doing their job, but then often hung out together afterward, able to put their differences behind them when not on the court, so to speak. You know, sort of like professional athletes.

Since then, however, that camaraderie has all but evaporated, and both sides seem to despise each other, with that discord and anger flowing over into their constituents. I've made more than five laps around the sun and have never seen such behavior where those on both sides of the political aisle are further retreating into their own trenches, leaving a no man's land out in the middle for the rest of us.

And according to Michael Moore in his latest documentary, "Fahrenheit 11/9," that along with the typical party machinery led to the rise of Donald Trump and what he and others view as the end of democracy in America. Is he right? Only time will tell, but I have to say that my father -- who died in 2007 and was a WWII vet, proud NRA member, and lifelong old-school Republican -- warned long ago about the rise of an autocrat as he witnessed back in the '30s and '40s in Germany.

I countered that the checks and balances of our system, along with immediate, widespread and easily available media coverage that was lacking back in those times would surely stop such an occurrence again. He wasn't so sure and now, like Moore, I wonder if he was onto something back when Trump was just a businessman and party politics was more civil.

The thesis, if you will, of Moore's film is that the rise of a potential autocrat like Trump has been decades in the making and that the blame falls near equally on both sides of the aisle. Yes, the filmmaker is an unabashed liberal, but he takes the Democratic Party to task, especially in its use of so-called superdelegates to make sure someone like Bernie Sanders -- despite winning the majority vote in various states' primaries -- didn't stand a chance of being awarded the party's presidential nomination. Bill Clinton also gets called out, as does Barack Obama, but only as related to the water crisis in Flint, Michigan.

That part, which takes up a significant chunk of the film's running time, is meant to show what happens when an elected official with autocratic tendencies -- in this care, Michigan Governor Rick Snyder -- puts money and cronyism ahead of their constituents. It's certainly a disheartening and maddening scenario -- where children were exposed to high levels of lead poisoning and government officials knew about it -- but it sort of feels like it needed its own documentary to cover that large story rather than hijack this one.

There's also a fairly significant amount given to the Parkland school shooting tragedy -- material that, sad for our country in that things haven't changed, Moore already covered in "Bowling for Columbine" (about the events leading up to that previous mass shooting) -- and the rise of Hitler in Germany. That's designed to both give us hope in terms of young people becoming politically active and trying to change the system but also scare us in regard to the old adage of those who don't learn from history will end up repeating it. But he's also clear to point out that hope alone is a dangerous thing because, without related action, it can lead to disaster.

So, the film is sort of all over the place, with the segues between such material sometimes feeling rushed and clunky. And there are the usual Moore mannerisms of documentary filmmaking where he sometimes cherry picks facts and jumps to conclusions. Case in point is a bit listing various famous men in the media who seemed to be tamping down Hillary Clinton and then turned out to be alleged abusers of sexual power, as if that was some sort of conspiracy, but without pointing out those who didn't do that and weren't that sort of person.

No one is ever going to accuse a Michael Moore offering of entering esteemed film documentarian Ken Burns territory, but that's not what he's after. Instead, he's always trying to be a provocative alarmist putting out a call for action. And while I might not always agree with his conclusions or politics, and find some of this film a bit sloppy and disjointed, I concur with his main assertion that politics in America is broken and that if we're not careful, someone can take advantage of that and us. "Fahrenheit 11/9" rates as a 6 out of 10.




Reviewed September 20, 2018 / Posted September 21, 2018


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