I always forget what it's like to watch a Michael Moore movie right before I watch one. I've enjoyed every one of his features, but the time in between viewings is spent talking myself into believing I'm above them in some way. It's a strange thing. I could be projecting the anger I feel for the people done wrong in his films. I bleed middle class, so much of his subject matter enrages me already. Capitalism: A Love Story is about rich people making money for making themselves rich. I've got a lot of middle fingers for most of these people. It's too bad I'm only critiquing the movie about them.
"Human identity is no longer defined by what one does, but by what one owns." Said over 30 years ago by President Jimmy Carter in an invigorating televised speech, it's a quote that is no less relevant now than it was at the time, and that was before Reagan. In Capitalism: A Love Story, Michael Moore, whatever his political intentions may be, gives us an overview of how fucked up America is where money is involved. I can't imagine how hard it was for him to limit himself to a two-hour running time. Moore plays Informative Robin Hood as he gives numerous examples of how the banking and housing industries have inflated all things financial to a point where only those in banking and housing industries can afford to live comfortably. America has always thrived on circular logic like this.
Though its title is obviously sarcastic, Capitalism doesn't really shit all over the economic structure of capitalism itself, but rather its stronghold in a supposedly democratic nation. The beginning of the doc sardonically covers the transition from the "good old days" of the '50s and '60s to the Reagan era, complete with corporate America's visible stronghold over politicians and government. Moore reminds us of his Nostradamus-like prescience with Roger & Me clips predicting the fate of General Motors. There are lots of people who lost their jobs and houses juxtaposed with wealthy, multi-home owners. Add a hilarious song about Cleveland and some political wrongdoings, and things are breezily enlightening, but with a juvenile sense of arrangement.
That's how you get reeled in, and then Moore drops most of the humor (though keeps a sharp tongue), and delves into heavier issues, such as employee-death profiteering. Moore starts name-checking financial companies and their ballooned worth, pigeonholing Wall Street at every turn. Occasionally, Moore adds himself to the mix, but it seems lazy on his part, and in a post-Sasha Cohen world, it's not very convincing. But there are tsunamis more subtle than this filmmaker, so I couldn't expect anything different.
A large chunk covers the hyper-drama of the stock market kabooming, and the fear tactics then used to make America think that the banks are what keep the majority of this country's population thriving. It's nothing The Daily Show hasn't shown us, but in this context, it seems all the more maddening and inconceivable. So, when things kind of conclude on more hopeful notes, it rouses a rebel yell and you want more, more, more (or not).
It's tough for me to call bullshit on most of Capitalism: A Love Story, because all the facts seem pretty straightforward. The editorializing is consciously done for laughs, so it's only when he's finishing someone's sentence that he comes across as more than an evil spirit guide. As sympathetic as I felt for people whose homes were being foreclosed, they all called themselves hardworking homeowners, so I'm not quite sure why these people's houses were being foreclosed upon. Were they hardworking, but easy paying? If so, then it's just desserts.
Again, it could be the ever-present thinness of my wallet speaking, but Michael Moore has once again raised my blood pressure and further darkened my view of greedy people. The segments that included full co-op businesses where the owners/workers do everything themselves are influential, and make me want to research more. All I want a documentary, however skewed, to be is effective, and that's clearly the case here. I'd stake exactly one dollar on it.
Take out your fingers, because there are 10, count them, 10 featurettes on this thing, with names too long to mention. Their length, and quality, equal an entirely separate film. Some are extended cuts of interviews that appear briefly in the feature. Some are entire segments that were cut. One is Jimmie Carter's badasssss speech from '79.
Two segments cover movements that aim to take the housing back from banks who allow neighborhoods to go into despair by not selling houses. It's the kind of stuff that would piss off a banker or eviction-notice guy, but it makes a whole lot of sense. There's an extended take with House Rep Elijah Cummings, in which Cummings sounds like the most level-headed suit wearer in Washington D.C. Chris Hodges, Pulitzer winner, gives his extended take on capitalism, and he also sounds like a genius. There's a talk with a priest whose genius is questionable. One feature is about farming for communities, and one covers an independently run taxi service. Professor Tom Webb is an expert on worker co-ops, and he sheds an informative light on the entire process. Finally, besides trailers, there's an inspiring look at the North Dakota state bank, and how well it stands up to privatized banks. It's by far the best set of extras one could hope for, at least involving the same topic as the feature itself.