Capitalism: A Love Story (US - BD RA)
Gabe endures another Michael Moore documentary without learning very much
I’ll start here right and reiterate full disclosure – I’m a very left winged person. I do my best to separate my politics from the intensions of most films, especially narrative and fictional films (I love film violence), but when it comes to something as divisive and precisely political as Michael Moore it’s hard to not take my personal politics and non-movie opinions into account. For the record I’ve grown just as tired of Moore’s shtick as the rest of you, and despite an acute hatred of ex President George W. Bush, I did not like Fahrenheit 9/11. I thought it was lazy, incomplete filmmaking – a mix of preaching to the choir and digging up almost inconsequential dirt. I also hate Moore’s pranks. They worked in the cases of his two strongest films, Roger and Me and Bowling for Columbine, but these films were more impressively focused, and above all, genuinely enthralling. Sicko did away with most of the fact-dulling pranks for Sicko, which was an unfocused film, but a promising return to form overall (minus the Cuba stuff, which doesn’t prove anything in terms of the film’s thesis statement).
Capitalism: A Love Story threatens to be a step back for the controversial filmmaker. His subject matter is no-brainer, crowd pleasing comfort food. We all hate Wall Street these days, they’re the easiest of easy targets. They’re like the Nazi’s of modern American culture, just behind pedophiles. Most of us probably have very personal reasons to be pissed off in the current economy (I know I do), and most of us have a vague idea of who to blame. Moore loads his anger gun and sprays his audience with hot steaming fury. Moore starts things with an amusing juxtaposition of modern America and Rome, but quickly defaults to his personal brand of heavy-handed narration. Immediately I’m aware that without his presence this would be a very good film. I agree with the vast majority of his sentiments, but he speaks with a tone that makes even me want to punch my television in the face. When he lets the victims and villains speak for themselves it works so much better, and he makes plenty of snide comments by editing classic footage into the mix.
The ‘good old days’ montages actually work the best for Moore’s argument, especially in terms of speaking to those that would likely most viciously oppose him. Reminding his audience that we used to tax the hell out of our rich people, and reveled in union healthcare is a solid move, but it’s suddenly scrapped in favor of a bombastic run through the Reagan administration. This isn’t the way to win over new converts, who likely adore Reagan, and ignore his point. Moore’s making really important points, but he’s making them in his usual divisive manner, and genuinely just burning bridges and preaching to the already furious choir. At times the more recent historical problems are presented in a more matter of fact manner, which works more in favour of Moore’s point and goals.
Perhaps it’s a good thing in the long run that Moore glazes over the real history of our problems, because it frees him up to explore some of the likely unknown aspects of Capitalism gone mad, including the depressing story of a judge that made money putting kids in jail, food stamp utilizing major airline pilots, and banks purchasing life insurance policies on cancer ridden employees. There are a few more cheap shots, like making a point that Capitalism is immoral according to Christian belief systems (sad but true), and the act missing on the Constitution, but he also adds some positive proof of Capitalism alternatives, like worker owned businesses, which is more than we can say for many leftist propaganda documentaries, which tend to just build up a series of answerless complaints. This center section mostly works, despite needlessly sarcastic descriptions of foreclosure rules. Moore isn’t a stupid man, and he finds the most Americana people to ‘exploit’ for his cause (assuming people can be knowingly exploited), though surprisingly be uses more acquired footage than he ever has before, allowing local news make his point a little too often. This is better than his opening act snide voice over work, of course, but strikes me as a little lazy, similar to Fahrenheit 9/11. The final act, which covers the events that lead to the financial bailout, actually flows quite well, and builds suspense and dread without utilizing too much of Moore’s personality, but feels like almost an entirely different film, and defaults to yet another of Moore’s stunts, likely his goofiest yet, and a massively lame sentimental final statement that personally embarrasses me on every leftist’s behalf. Overall, we’re talking the very definition of a mixed bag.
There are so many different brands of video and film at play that this 1.78:1, 1080p transfer is hard to judge on any technical level. Sometimes Moore uses 8mm home videos, sometimes he uses ancient 16mm news reel footage, sometimes he uses beautiful 35mm film footage, and other times he uses acquired low-resolution video. These pieces feature all kinds of bleeding, chroma noise, edge-enhancement, blocking, and every other brand of artefacting available to man. The bulk of the stuff filmed specifically for the movie is high definition digital, and it looks perfectly sharp and without any major compression incident. Moore has an artistic eye from an editing and juxtaposition standpoint, but his films rarely revel in any kind of graphic beauty, so there isn’t a lot to say concerning colour quality, lighting, contrast, or any other cinematography related visual input, other than it all looks fine. The blacks are deep, the hues are natural, if not a little dim, and the details are about average.
Capitalism: A Love Story tears open with a big and bassy version of Iggy Pop’s ‘Louie Louie’, and sets the stage for the bulk of this Dolby TrueHD’s most impressive moments. The vast majority of the non-musical moments in the film utilize the on-set sound, which is recorded mostly by a single microphone. This means the bulk of the sound is centered. Occasionally a big sound effect will be tossed into the mix, like a bomb explosion or record scratch, and these directly match the bombast of the musical soundtrack. Around the 50 minute mark the rear channels come out loudly in the form of a hypnotic voice, and there’s an amusing surround sound attack around the hour and 20 minute mark. The LFE gets a genuine workout throughout, surprisingly enough, though again, it’s mostly in the form of music, including classical mainstays and plenty of rock and pop additions.
DVD and Blu-ray has done a lot for Moore over the years, and like the best documentary filmmakers he uses the special features format to his advantage. The extras here are mostly deleted and extended scenes, presented as standalone featurettes. These start with a Blu-ray exclusive talk with Harvard Professor Elizabeth Warren uncut on how ‘Wall Street Got Away with Murder’ (8:20, HD), where Moore steps on Warren’s words a bit too much. ‘Sorry House-Flippers and Banks – You’re Toast in Flint, MI’ (5:30, HD) sees the government in Moore’s hometown taking its unused land for itself, and away from banks. ‘Congressman Cummings Dares to Speak the Unspeakable’ (7:00, HD) see Cummings talking rather calmly about the subject matter, and not really drawing any conclusions. NY Times Pulitzer Prize Winner Chris Hedges gives his thoughts on ‘The Killing Machine Known as Capitalism’ (8:40, HD), and is largely left uninterrupted by Moore. Hedges is a little repetitive and melodramatic, but gets his point across eloquently enough. ‘The Rich Don’t Go to Heaven (There’s a Special Place for Them)’ (8:30, HD) fills in a little more about the facts of Christianity versus Capitalism, though Moore’s personality once again takes precedence.
‘What If, Just If, We Had Listened to Jimmy Carter in 1979’ (17:50, HD) is likely the most interesting stand alone extra, featuring the entirety of Carter’s 1979 address (the 1080p encoding is kind of wasted…). ‘The Omnivore’s Dilemma? It’s Capitalism’ (6:10, HD), a look at people growing their own food, was likely deleted because of the overall quality of the much more needle focused Food, Inc.. ‘Commie Taxi Drivers – You Talkin’ to Me? – in Wisconsin’ (5:50, HD), despite its floppy title, is a semi-clever look at Union cab driving in Madison, WI, that will likely make half the audience re-evaluate their employment choices. This really should’ve been included in the final doc. ‘How to Run the Place Where You Work’ (11:20, HD) is a discussion with worker cooperatives expert Professor Tome Webb, which also should’ve been included in the final doc in some form, in place of Moore’s more sentimental stuff. ‘The Socialist Bank of…North Dakota?’ (4:30, HD) looks at one bank’s ability to work outside the system, and follows the rather tragic history the brought it about. The featurettes wrap up with ‘The Bank Kicks Them Out, Max Kicks Them Back In’ (10:50, HD), another positive little story that plays to better emotional strings than some of the stuff that made the final film. A trailer official ends the extras.
Capitalism: A Love Story comes a little too late, and is a little scatterbrained, not to mention Michael Moore’s traditional snotty sense of humour tends to grate, but it’s a good place for those outside the know to start. The most unfortunate aspect of the whole film is how quickly it’s been dated. It’s amazing the difference a year makes in such an impatient society. Sicko is a better and stronger film overall, but Capitalism doesn’t flop as sharply as Fahrenheit 9/11. Still, 2009 saw the release of The Cove and Not Quite Hollywood, which pushes Moore’s latest pretty far down the must see documentary list. The audio and visual representations are pretty minimalist given the films documentary style, though the extras are filled out with a solid supporting series of featurettes, one of which is not available on the DVD release (which is incredibly ironic given the film’s themes, ahem).
Reviewer Note: The images on this page are not representative of the Blu-ray image quality.
Review by Gabriel Powers
Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian
Release Date: 9th March 2010
Disc Type: Blu-ray Disc
Audio: Dolby TrueHD 5.1 English
Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish
Extras: Wall Street Got Away with Murder, Sorry House-Flippers and Banks – You’re Toast in Flint, MI, Congressman Cummings Dares to Speak the Unspeakable, The Killing Machine Known as Capitalism, The Rich Don’t Go to Heaven (There’s a Special Place for Them), What If, Just If, We Had Listened to Jimmy Carter in 1979, The Omnivore’s Dilemma? It’s Capitalism, Commie Taxi Drivers – You Talkin’ to Me? – in Wisconsin, How to Run the Place Where You Work, The Socialist Bank of…North Dakota?, The Bank Kicks Them Out, Max Kicks Them Back In, Digital Copy
Easter Egg: No
Director: Michael Moore
Cast: Michael Moore, George W. Bush, Barack Obama
Length: 127 minutes
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