Mar 3, 2010

Guy With A Library Card: Issue 04

My Hero
Written by M

If I had to pick one musical hero it would be the Foo Fighter's Dave Grohl, but this isn't about Dave. This is about someone who I feel I should respect but I can't bring myself to completely enjoy what this man does. By now you're probably cursing my name by the fact I'm still beating around the bush. But there is no easy way for me to raise this subject and this person, so here it is; this is about Micheal Moore.

I am a documentary person. I can't explain it. I love watching docs and I love being part of them from behind the camera. As Luke has found Editing, I have found documenting. This love I likely owe to my dad and his countless A&E Biographies, his obsession with bio-pics, news and anything to do with real people like Ali or Tretiak. I likely should have went through journalism school. All of this is why I have problems discussing Micheal Moore.

You see, I have very mixed feelings about him, created by his history and what he has done. Let's face it, without Moore documentaries would not be as popular as they are now. Roger and Me changed everything. It was fresh, it was entertaining and it was as Dave says “ordinary”. He created a large appeal to the everyday average person struggling in the world. Then Bowling came out. Even more people paid attention to him. And when he got to Sicko “the man” was afraid of him.

As a documentary guy I can't help but to watch his films. Personally, my favourite being Bowling For Columbine. I remember when I first saw it I thought two things; 1. He makes some good points and 2. why is my bull$h!t detector way off the charts? I never put thought into it until I started hearing things about how he manipulates images and audio. Then things kind of made sense. I watched the movie again and thought that it is pretty obvious what is full of crap and what isn't. Then I got mad, I thought this isn't even a documentary. Then my stance shifted and I though his tactics are actually pretty smart as far as how to compile an entertaining documentary.

Then the pitchfork came, it was called Fahrenheit 911. I had high expectations for this movie and was let down immensely. My radar shut down about three minutes in going “are you kidding me?” Ever since, I lost all respect for the man as a documentarian. I went more grass roots and appreciated the classic “just watch what happens” approach to docs. Unfortunately, that style lost out to Micheal's argumentative style. I started to look at most docs as if there are three sides to every story and this is one. I was very cynical about something I loved and it drove me insane. This was when I started to question film school.

Luckily, this very moment made me realize something that I had never thought profound before. All documentaries have a point. So I had to retool what I thought about docs and I came to the conclusion that the aim of any doc should be for truth within the subject matter. This still left our poor Mikey.

Now I've never taken the time to research what he had done and all of my opinions were based on face value of what I had seen. So on two separate occasions I ran into Documentaries about Mr. Moore on the library shelf. The first one I watched was called Micheal and Me. Which was garbage. It came off as 'Micheal is famous and I strive to be like him so lets see if my career can get a boost directly from him'. I call it doc because the truth was evident that this guy was desperate. Also, along the way you do learn a little about Micheal but it's not worth watching.

Then I found a doc called Manufacturing Dissent. In this one, a Canadian Journalist follows Micheal on his tours and talks to many people from many sides of the Moore debate. It is very news reel in flow and feel but was much better. The thing I like is that they really do strive to create a truth to what he does and why he does it. There are critics, there are fans and yes you still have to take some of it with grain of salt.

The problem I am left with is, I still don't know how to take the whole Micheal Moore issue. On one hand, he plays to much with the reality and context of his subject and material. On the other hand, if by doing so you can create something maybe a little more entertaining or make people spirited for something good, inspiring, and intelligent it may be worth it. In my lifetime, although I don't believe entirely in Micheal Moore and don't respect him, he has done enough to influence my work. The thing I try to keep in mind is trying not to lose the truth within the tactics. I guess the most important thing Micheal did teach me is to think for myself. In everything I watch, I choose to ignore what sets me off and take in what I do appreciate. Even if the aim is not truth it can become truth for me. The facts I can learn later.

So now to answer the question you all are thinking, why do I love Dave Grohl so much? You see, Dave helped change culture with Nirvana and then did his side thing that blew up huge. The impressive part is that he went from drums to guitar and vocals. With that he has also tackled producing, recording and almost anything in the industry you can physically do. This also spans from grunge to pop to punk to metal. Whether he's with the Foo or the Queens or Probot the man has done it all and has done it with success both financially and critically and, maybe more importantly, with fans. I can't help but feel he'll be the last of his kind. Dave you are My Hero. Mike you're a prick, but I can't ignore you. Oh, the conflict.


Editing Luke said...

You say you don't respect Michael Moore M, but in a way you almost have too. Granted he has a strong bias and adds his own spin, but what documentarian doesn't? Ultimately aren't documentarians trying to create a debate about an issue? Staying impartial is tough when you want to make a point.

Really, no matter your view on Moore, he's the one responsible for bringing documentaries to the masses - at least in the last 10 years. Other than a Moore release, how often do you see a documentary playing with the other big films at the Cineplex? It's been rare, but they've been more relevant than ever thanks to his contributions. I've seen a lot more docs on DVD because studios have realized there's more of a market for them after Moore's successes.

Moore may not be the best role model, but he does charge his films with enough fuel that you can't help but get enthused about the issue no matter where you fall into the argument. He's kind of like the opposite of Glenn Beck, who I can't stand, but can't help but admire for how charged he gets. Both know how to get me thinking - often about just how crazy people are, haha.

Editing Luke said...

All that said, you have to respect those who were willing to shake things up enough to help you discover what you were really looking for - in this case, a far more diverse market for documentary film.