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Usual strengths and weaknesses associated with Moore really good points and aims but puts himself far too central
When I watched this film I was it as the main title of "Slacker Uprising" and it was only after I had seen the film, draw my own opinion together and come here to post a review that I learnt of the "proper" title. I thought it was befitting the film because if you think of the two film titles, they both describe the same film but they both have different subjects as their focal point. So, the question is, which one best describes the film? I ask this because to me Slacker Uprising (the title I prefer) has the same strengths and weaknesses as many of Moore's films. The strengths are there of course and they are the things that his fans and ardent supporters will tell you while not really being keen to discuss much else. In this film it is the spirit of awareness of political involvement and of debate that makes it interesting.
In following the tour of the colleges, the film gets to see any things that are well picked out and depicted. We get to see Republican's attacking the tour for "bribery" (giving out joke gifts to those who register at the event) and then weeks later show us major Republican donors offering money to the student bodies if they will only cancel the tour at their venue. It is a joke of free speech and it is well contrasted in the film. What also works is the chance to hear from real people on both sides. Of course the sound bites selected from protesters against the tour are not the sharpest but it is not that fair to go to the desert and then complain about all the sand it kinda comes with the territory. I liked it though, I liked to see people engaged, I liked to see them energised for a cause even if I happened to disagree with (like the hecklers at some of the venues) I liked what they did and I liked that Moore let them have a moment and never mocked them that badly (although of course he makes light of them).
All these things I liked and generally the film was interesting to see the campaign and understand what it was trying to OK it is more of a record than a documentary but there are themes and discussion points in here that make it more than just a chronicle of events. The problem I have with it is that Moore himself is too much centre stage. Now, I do not mean this physically because of course he was always going be on the stage or on camera but more that the film has this air of presentation that suggests greatness. Now, I will give him credit as I do to many documentary makers and activists, for the work he does to inform and raise awareness I may not always agree with what he is saying but then I don't want him to stop saying it any more than I want Fox to stop saying what they do. However, he does have this issue that he makes HIMSELF the focus of things at times rather than letting the subject be there with him just the presenter. With this film it opens with the suggestion that the Democrats had blown it totally till he got involved and ends with the implication that Kerry would have won if he had just gotten out of the way and let Moore do it all for him - there are lots of these moments scattered throughout the film and it constantly grates.
The scene with the medal of honour is a keeper not only that it happened the way it did but that it made it into the final cut of the film. I think he was wrong to take it because the right answer to the offer would have been "your father gave/risked all he had in getting that medal and he did it for us and specifically for you, so your way of life could continue. All I'm doing is encouraging people to do is exercise the rights he defended for us he would want you to have that and, if you want to give me something to show you support me then get voters out next week do just what I'm trying to do, I'm nothing special not like your Dad". It sounds like I'm fixating on this event but beyond the fact he took it of more interest is that it got put in the film and you really have to ask yourself what role that scene serves here other than showing what a hero Moore is to his fans which is not what I thought the film is about. If this was the only example of this self-focus then I would be fine but it is frequent and just as weird each time.
And so it is. Slacker Uprising is a solid film but, as a document of record it doesn't have a core documentary draft to keep the audience engaged and overlooking faults. Don't get me wrong I found it interesting but I really wish that someone had taken Moore in hand and said, "this is not about what we did it is about why we did it, what we were asking people to do and what those people did". But it seems nobody did so the film does have a lot of material that makes it about Moore himself and, as we have seen with his last couple of films, when that happens he weakens his own film and message. And I don't care if the intentions of the title are "ironic" or if I'm accused of "not getting it", the "proper" title should be Slacker Uprising as the "slackers" and the "uprising" should be the focus of the film not "Captain Mike".
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