DVD: Capitalism: A Love Story

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In presenting a “fireball of a movie that might change your life” (Peter Travers, Rolling Stone), Moore “skewers both major political parties” (Claudia Puig, USA Today) for selling out the millions of people devastated by loss of homes and jobs to the interests of fat cat capitalists. Moore has “dug up some astonishing dirt” (Brian D. Johnson, Macleans), stories told in the faces of the foreclosed and evicted, in the food stamps received by hungry airline pilots, and in the courage of fired factory workers who refuse to go quietly. But more than a cry of despair, Moore’s film raises the possibility of hope. Capitalism: A Love Story is “The most American of films since the populist cinema of Frank Capra (It’s a Wonderful Life)” (Dan Siegel, Huffington Post ), “a movie that manages shrewdly, even brilliantly, to capitalize on the populist anger that has been sweeping the nation” (Joe Morgenstern, Wall Street Journal ). Capitalism: A Love Story is loaded with over 80 minutes of bonus features and extended scenes, written and directed by Michael Moore

Michael Moore's didactic documentary style is actually a source of inspiration in Capitalism: A Love Story. This film, which explores the history of incongruence between American capitalism and democracy, is evidently a culmination of Moore's lifetime of research into this topic: he begins the movie by admitting his longstanding interest, rooted in childhood experiences in Flint, Michigan. As a result, the film displays an expertise that is less irritating than in Moore's earlier works, in which various loopholes can be found in one-sided presentations (see Bowling for Columbine). Here Moore employs his trademark tactics to make a satirical documentary that functions as a film-based, grassroots political strategy meant to provoke revolt. Consisting of patched-together clips from various eras and media outlets, the film weaves a narrative that underscores Moore's argument that while America is a success because of its democracy, it has been denigrated by capitalism, which he calls "a system of taking and giving, mostly taking." Capitalism: A Love Story is a patriotic call to arms that seeks to ignite rage in the viewer who is tired of political stupidity resulting in poverty and hardship among a dwindling middle class. It begins by tracing the growing gap between the rich and poor, from the Depression through the 1950s "free enterprise" boom. Using clips of FDR and Jimmy Carter warning against greed and inequality, Moore shows how gradually Americans came to accept Reaganomics, corporate corruption, then Bush-era swindling over time. This history serves as context for his explanation of the housing crisis, the collapse of banks, and Bush's covert, last-ditch efforts to pass sketchy bills on the cusp of Obama's election. Moore asks several lawyers, senators, and bankers, "What the **** happened?" and each offers intelligent assessments of situations that many American viewers still struggle to comprehend. Unfortunately, there are corny Moore moments throughout the film, such as when he takes an armored truck to various banking headquarters and harasses security guards to let him in to reclaim money stolen from the American public. Clips of Bush dancing juxtaposed with shots of people crying because they've lost their homes are melodramatic and only weaken Moore's arguments. Like Robin Hood, Moore seeks justice, but his greatest strength is as a translator between those speaking a complex political language and his viewers. Capitalism: A Love Story, while it does have a condescending tone throughout, does much to relay a complicated history that we all need to know for the sake of our own empowerment. --Trinie Dalton, amazon.com

The short list of what can be considered documentary film classics has yet another wonderful addition by legendary filmmaker Michael Moore. It is a visual spanning of the history of corporate influence over our political leaders and how this has poisoned the entire establishment nearly beyond repair. I will never forget the segment of a presidential speech, showed roughly around the beginning of this film, of a man standing behind president Reagan who leans in and says angrily in his ear: "HURRY IT UP; WE DON'T HAVE ALL DAY!" The camera then freezes on Reagan's shocked face as the narrator simply asks, "Who speaks to the president like this?" It graphically shows you how much influence is measured by the corporations over our political leaders. This film in particular strikes higher notes than Moore's previous films in that it takes you back to the roots of earlier documentaries and brings out more ample and articulate forms of evidence in support of the general thesis. Capitalism: A Love Story seeks to expose the corruption of our varied form of greedy Capitalism, and to replace it with a more democratized base system, typically referred to as Leftist-Libertarianism or Libertarian-Socialism.

Once upon a time people were "taught" to think the King spoke for GOD and that was that. Today we are "taught" Capitalism is the "natural order of things" and "works better than any other system." Both arguments were used to uphold the divine right of Kings. Some things never change. People want leaders. Why, is beyond me. Even the Old Testament tells Israel you may have your King, but it will not make you happy. Great movie... Problem is, people do not have a vision of how to live in a world without "Leaders". Without a vision of non-hierarchical power structures people are clueless to what replaces them. Democracy was started into play in America, in a small way – but became stillborn by the 1840's. Since then it has just been a tool of power for the wealthy to steal from the poor. You told a great story, Mr.Moore. A true story. If you make a wonderful romantic comedy in which everyone turns out happy! happy! happy! in the end with great wealth due to the wonders of Freedom and the Free Market you would make a ton of money. I bet the folks that ran the Colosseum in Rome made a ton of money also. Thanks for the effort. In your "Love Story" you told the truth. People want the pretty lie. I loved how you re-cased Jesus as Milton Friedman, genius.
– Robert San Socie

People in the United States generally speak of Socialism as something awful, pointing to Russia and China as examples of the dangers of far leftist thought. But if they would simply take the time to read into some of their literature of political theory, they would realize that there are branches within the movement which are infinitely distinct from those totalitarian nations. It is a category mistake to assume that socialism entails totalitarianism, as if what you see in Russia and China were totally across the board. To any of you interested in getting a thorough education on this subject, I would recommend you checking out the following books: Anarchism: From Theory to Practice; Chomsky on Anarchism
– Sean Weinstock, Lexington, KY

Not as funny as some of his other films, Capitalism: A Lover Story [CALS] did cause me to cry several times -- and think hard about our country, our world, and our future.
Buying or renting the DVD is actually preferable to seeing the film in a theater (although I imagine there would be some pleasure joining in a lusty chorus of BOO's when Cheney's evil, sneering puss appears on the big screen). That's because the disc includes a number of additional features that ponder the effects of capitalism on our ecology - and show a few enlightened companies where workers actually share equally in the profits and decisions.
I have to say, I wonder what sort of world we're leaving our children -- and I don't even want to think about the grim fate awaiting our grandchildren.
Unless of course your children wind up among the fortunate few in the top one percent -- and then they'll probably be living behind locked, electrified gates in heavily fortified McMansions far from the poor and middle classes from whom they have profited.
CALS is essential viewing for every citizen who still believes in the American dream...
– Jerry Danzig

Since the release of Roger & Me in 1989, Michael Moore's name is rarely heard in the media without the preface of "controversial filmmaker" -- and that's when they're being kind. Less receptive outlets tend to use terms like "left-wing lightning rod," and, occasionally, "lying bastard." With a 20-year career that's taken on some of the most polarizing issues in the United States, Moore's reputation as an incendiary liberal isn't surprising, nor is it undeserved. While that reputation has made it difficult for his films to garner an objective reception, they've rarely, if ever, been boring. Bearing that in mind, the premise of Capitalism: A Love Story -- two hours dedicated to the evolution of economic theory between 1932 and 2008 -- threatens to be at least a little tedious. Any trepidation one might have going into the film, however, is unwarranted. Capitalism passionately incorporates elements from virtually all of Moore's past efforts, from poor health care and mass layoffs to the devastation of being evicted from one's home, giving it a cohesiveness that makes for a movie as inspiring and forceful as anything the director has done in his past. While it's unlikely that this will be Moore's last documentary, it feels like an opus, or, less dramatically, the end of an emotionally charged cross-country road trip that began and ended in Flint, MI, peppered with unsuccessful attempts to get inside the headquarters of General Motors.
Though less focused than Bowling for Columbine or Fahrenheit 9/11, the film is never scattered. Whether lampooning the abysmal wages of airline pilots or following a Peoria couple through a gut-wrenching home foreclosure process, the message is consistent: capitalism has been distorted from the free enterprise it used to represent into a cartel comprised of America's wealthiest industries and individuals, whose shared goal is to continue amassing wealth for themselves, at the financial and spiritual cost of average Americans. According to Moore, the so-called socialism that this top one percent of society is so adamantly against is not a form of liberal extremism bordering on fascism, but a true democracy in which all Americans are able to share in America's wealth -- and that America's wealth isn't limited to money in the bank. Moore posits that this brand of democracy began to deteriorate after the death of Franklin D. Roosevelt and the consequent death of his proposed Second Bill of Rights, which would have given all Americans the right to health care, a living wage, and a decent home (ironically, members of F.D.R.'s administration would implement many of these policies in Europe during its reconstruction after WWII). The second factor, in an eerie echo of Roger & Me, was the 1980 election of Ronald Reagan. In an interview, former U.S. banks regulator Bill Black implies heavily that Reagan's presidency caused a "seep in the dam" that eroded through the years and finally broke in 2008, nearly taking America's economy with it.
Moore's solution, unfortunately, is a little too simple. All society needs to do, he says, is organize, strike, rally, and vote against the industries responsible for depriving them of what F.D.R. considered basic American rights. It's not that the sentiment is untrue, or that his examples of such movements aren't inspiring -- they are -- but they feel like a drop in the bucket. Though the film doesn't suggest that a large-scale revolution is easy, neither does it impart how monumentally difficult such an undertaking would be. Then again, footage capturing the laid-off employees of S.K. Hand Tools' victory after a long battle with financial powerhouse Bank of America brings something to the table that may, in the long run, be more effective than the gritty realities of causing nationwide political upheavals: hope. If a factory of working-class citizens can stick it to corporate America, maybe the good guys can win in the end. Sure, it's idealistic -- but in a post-bailout America, even a drop in the bucket goes a long way. ~ Tracie Cooper, All Movie Guide