Bowling for Columbine

2002 documentary

Rating: 16/20

Plot: Michael Moore pisses off gun nuts.

I had one person, one of those guys who doesn't really understand the Constitution or especially the 2nd Amendment, tell me that Michael Moore says in this movie that people should have their guns taken away. I have seen this twice, and I must have missed that part both times. Michael Moore isn't always fair and he is guilty of using propaganda techniques to sell his ideas, but there's really no point in this movie where the filmmaker points a definitive finger. That might be the documentary's fault actually. Moore raises questions about violence in America, specifically gun violence, but doesn't really answer them. This is very well researched, and there's a wealth of information about our gun laws, tragedies like Columbine, violence in the U.S. compared to other countries (some with nearly identical laws), America's bloody history, and often insane reaction to violent acts. Conservatives who hate Michael Moore will find lots to hate here because there's lots of Michael Moore in this. And they'll kneejerk, saying that Michael Moore is telling everybody that we should do this or that we should do that, but I just don't see it here. As I said, he's exploring this issue that really needed to be explored 10 years ago in the wake of Columbine and, sadly, needs explored just as much today in the wake of Newtown. The most important thing to learn from all this is that there isn't a simple answer to the problem but that there is very definitely a problem. Like all Moore's documentaries, this is presented in a way that makes it all as humorous and as entertaining as it is tragic or troublesome. Scenes where Moore gets himself a gun at a bank or attempts discussion with Dick Clark (a pointless scene, one example of where this meanders a little more than it should) or Charlton Heston are typical of the director. There are also conversations with Terry Nichols' brother John Nichols, one that also manages to be both chilling and humorous as he refers to Timothy McVeigh as a "nice guy" and says he isn't familiar with Gandhi; shock rocker Marilyn Manson who makes a lot more sense than he should; and Matt Stone, odd to me since I just saw a Michael Moore marionette explode in Team America: World Police. Oh, and few clips of scantily-clad women holding machine guns which, as anti-machine-gun as I am can still appreciate as a warm-blooded American male. Most chilling to me: the 911 calls over the security camera footage of Columbine and Charlton Heston speech footage juxtaposed with a father of one of the victims of that tragedy. This is an important movie, just as important as it was 10 years ago, and I suspect that people who have negative things to say about it ("Michael Moore wants to take our guns away!" or "This movie is filled with lies!") haven't even seen it.

"Take the Skinheads Bowling" is one of my favorite songs ever, by the way. There's a cover of it here over the credits. It's Teenage Fanclub though I prefer the original Camper van Beethoven version.

I would also like to point out that Michael Moore, according to Michael Moore on Twitter, has not made a dime from this movie. I'm not sure if that's important or not.

1 comment:

Josh said...

I was intrigued with this movie when I was in high school. I was figuring out what side of the political coin to fall on -- I had Pentecostal-conservative influence and pot-smoking, unprivileged hippy liberalism influence. What affected me most was the illogical behavior of the gun/"freedom" enthusiasts. They were full of paranoia. They were afraid of the government, therefore they wanted to fight fire with fire...as if they would even have a chance.

Moore definitely tries for the political statements by bum-rushing Dick Clark, and entrapping Charlton Heston. But, I guess they got what they deserved? Seemed to be fluff.

The meat of this story comes with the business model of gun/ammo sells and its customers. Flat-out: America is a happy gun-toting nation. And the gun companies are just trying to exploit that (as any business would). It's obviously not about "freedom"; it's about business as usual.