The Perpetual Three-Dot Column
The Perpetual Three-Dot Column
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by Jesse Walker

Tuesday, September 23, 2003
NEW ON VIDEO: Michael Moore's Oscar-winning Bowling for Columbine, considered in four parts:

Section One

Moore, who first made a name for himself as a defender of the working class, spends about 30-40 minutes holding working-class gun culture up to ridicule. In homes and theaters across the country, gun-shy college-educated children of privilege giggle with delight.

Section Two

Suddenly, Moore turns his attention to U.S. foreign policy. Could there be a relationship between the violence of the American government and the violence of American civilians? It's hard to say -- he drops the issue almost as soon as he raises it, never bothering to sketch out an argument.

Section Three

Moore argues that Americans are prone to panic and excessive fear. He blames the media for this, saying they sensationalize violence and demonize certain social groups, such as black men. Astute viewers will note that this comes in the middle of a movie that rarely stops sensationalizing violence -- and spent around half an hour demonizing the rural working class.

Section Four

A jumble of other stuff. Apparently eager to prove that he's guilty of every sin he or anyone else has ever accused the media of committing, Moore:

1. Interviews the principal of a Michigan school where a little girl was murdered by another student, extracts little information, but includes the segment anyway so we can see his Montel-like efforts to comfort his interviewee when she starts to cry.

2. Attempts to interview Dick Clark, on the grounds that the mother of the boy who committed that school shooting worked at one of Clark's restaurants. I don't quite get the premise here.

3. Takes a couple of wounded Columbine survivors to K-Mart headquarters because they were shot with, in a phrase he uses repeatedly, "K-Mart bullets." Insists on showing their wounds to low-level K-Mart flunkies. After a day, K-Mart agrees to stop selling ammunition.

A side note: There were at least two incidents, neither mentioned in Moore's movie, in which school shootings were stopped several minutes before police arrived because one of the potential victims had a gun. I couldn't tell you whether those lifesaving firearms were loaded with K-Mart bullets, but if they were I guess they won't be anymore.

4. Interviews a semi-senile Charlton Heston about guns and violence, until Heston gets fed up and walks away. As Heston leaves, Moore tries to show him a picture of the dead Michigan girl. Then he leaves the picture near Heston's door.

Mawkish and obnoxious at the same time -- that's our Michael!


This movie took a lot of heat for its
carelessness with facts. But its argument is so confused, its style so hypocritical, and most of its jokes so unfunny that it would be a bad movie even if it were scrupulously honest, just as Moore's Roger & Me was a funny and riveting movie even though it took some liberties with the truth. I stopped being a fan of this filmmaker long ago, but even I was surprised at just how terrible Bowling for Columbine turned out to be.

Behold Michael Moore: here there once was a talented man.

posted by Jesse 6:43 PM
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