Three Mile Pilot
Built To Spill
Jon Spencer Blues Explosion
AND MUCH MORE!
"The music business is run by lawyers and accountants, and they don't really care about the integrity of art."
"You can make nicely crafted things, whether they're poems, sculptures, paintings, records, CDs, whatever. But they'll just be that -- nice. They won't be unwieldy as personal expression often can be."
"What do a toilet bowl and a woman's vagina have in common? They both need to be cleaned with Lysol."
"It's a done deal. By the end of 2003, Saddam Hussein will either be out of power or out of the realm of the living. So who's next in line for the coveted position of dictator -- uh, leader -- of Iraq, home to the largest supply of crude reserves on Earth? Here's the list of nominees."
"In a segment that seems designed to honor yet another one of rock and roll's seminal yet fallen heroes, MTV just can't help talking about why it, not Nirvana, mattered so much."
"And that's where some of the roots of this are: bizarre delusions in the minds of people with too much time on their hands that somehow I deprived them of being major label rock stars."
"I don't give a fuck about that stuff. I feel comfortable being called a punk band, because I feel that's what we came out of."
"In other words, Heavy Metal 2000 is a movie built, like Julie Strain, to satisfy the pleasure of our friend dick. Its depth, as postmodernists used to enjoy arguing, lies on the surface; that's where its signifiers float and that's where the horny eyeballs land."
Ray knows well enough that the monolith called film -- and by extension, Hollywood -- was built upon what the French termed "trompe l'oiel", a trick of the eye. And he tricks everyone, including his own viewers, with this layered onion of a film until they're all left confused and crying.
"White folks tend to see these criminals as "evil," deviant, or otherwise not like them. To be sure, most black folks will not identify with a Muhammad or a Malvo, but fear being identified with them."
"I think that there's been a lot of difficulty in defining what is American, what is considered American. There's a lot of difficulty with acceptance within our community of foreignness at this time."
"That's an issue I'm dealing with here: what is going to happen with this next generation of kids? What is their culture but media culture? What hasn't been sanitized and homogenized?"
"America embodies mimetic relations of rivalry. The ideology of free enterprise makes of them an absolute solution. Effective, but explosive. Competitive relations are excellent if you come out of it the winner. But if the winners are always the same then, one day, the losers overturn the game table."
"Word comes that brother Cat Stevens refuses to lend his support to our virtuous jihad. May this turncoat's Peace Train be laden with explosives and rammed into the Mountain of Mohammed, peace be upon him. "
"I Want to See Change in My Lifetime": Interview with Michael Moore, Bowling for Columbine
by Cynthia Fuchs
Michael Moore asks questions for a living. Most often, they're good questions, pertinent and provocative, even if the answers aren't coherent or definitive. With the documentaries Roger & Me (about his pursuit of GM chairman Roger Smith, 1989) and The Big One (his pursuit of Nike CEO Phil Knight, 1997), as well as with his irreverent television series, TV Nation (1994-5) and The Awful Truth (1999-ish), his website for Dog Eat Dog Films, as well as his books, Downsize This! and Stupid White Men, Moore has made it his business to challenge the seeming inevitability of consumer culture and popular beliefs.
The 48-year-old Flint, Michigan native, whose average guy's slouch and baseball cap are by now familiar -- he appears regularly in his films as well as on talk TV -- is upfront about his sense of mission. Some critics find him irritating or "outrageous." But if by such irritation he can change the dangerous "normal" order, he's done what he needs to do. He does his homework, is quick to voice his opinion, and ready to back it up. He's less worried, for instance, about Saddam Hussein seeking "weapons of mass destruction" than he is about the Bush Administration's current campaign to obscure what's happening, their creation of "weapons of mass distraction."
Moore's film, Bowling for Columbine, takes as its point of departure the April 1999 shootings at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado, then spreads its attentions increasingly wide, considering and concocting connections among Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris and the Lockheed Martin missile-making plant that provides much of the employment for Littleton denizens, as well as the bullets sold so cheaply by K-Mart, the NRA's birth just as the KKK was declared a "terrorist" organization, South Park, Cops, and U.S foreign policy.
The documentary, like Moore's previous films, is driven by questions: Why is the gun murder rate so much higher in the United States than in many other countries? How is such pervasive aggression linked to economic, political, or social circumstances? In Washington DC recently, I was able to ask Michael Moore some questions.
Bowling for Columbine argues that extreme acts of violence, for
example, the Littleton shootings or the DC
area sniper, are less deviant than they are produced by a culture
based on fear. Can you say more about how you see that relationship,
between violence and fear?
it makes violence the coin of the realm, the way to get U.S. attention.
that becomes so normalized...
CF: You demonize
the individuals who commit violent acts, and contain the fear, not having
to consider the systemic underpinnings.
And we just "instinctively" know that this violence comes from men. This is truly one of the flaws of the film: there's no mention of gender. And that's because it was made by a guy, frankly. If a woman had made it, you could not go for two hours and not note at least once, that we're safe from 52% of the population; 52% of the population will not jump you on the street, will not mug you, will not break into your house and kill you, will not drive around the suburbs with an assault rifle, will not drive by with her other girlfriends shooting guns out the car in a drive-by. It simply does not happen.
that 52% walks around having to think about rape.
CF: I was
impressed that you addressed race and racism so forthrightly in the
film. Why do you think that white people are so reluctant to discuss
race and racism?
The most incredible day for me in the last decade was during the L.A. riots, in 1992. I was in New York, and walking to the Warner Brothers building; it was the day after the riots started to slow down. And there was an announcement in the building that it was closing, and everyone should go home. Manhattan shut down. People were running to the train stations to get to the suburbs. The streets were empty. I walked into a store and the manager had a baseball bat on the counter. I asked him why and he said, "Just in case." I said, "The riots are 3000 miles away, what are you worried about here?" He knew, they all knew, that it could happen anytime, anywhere, because we have refused to deal with the problem. I'm not going to refuse to deal with it. I'm going to talk about it and talk about it, and I want to see change in my lifetime.
I'm speaking in a very spiritual sense here: I am not allowed to not speak out. Whatever that judgment day is, I will not be granted any kind of eternity if I benefit as a result of others' hardships. Especially, when it's because of the color of their skin. I'm not waiting for that day. I ask myself this every day: what is it that I'm doing? I'm listening to that lesson I learned as a child, that a rich man will have a harder time getting into heaven than a camel will passing through the eye of a needle. We will be judged by how we treat the least among us.
And so, as my books or films become more successful, I'm challenged more. I just broke my own record, broke Roger & Me's record for the largest gross for a documentary. But what am I doing now? I ask myself, "Are you sitting at the Ritz doing interviews or are you working on that 9-11 film you're supposed to be making, to make sure that Bush isn't returned? Where's the HMO documentary that you've already spent a few months on? You've got to go back and finish these things. And are you taking care of yourself, so you're going to be around 20 years from now?"
I am so proud of going down these roads that other people don't want to go down. I'm hoping that people like me, guys like me, will at least listen to something that I'm saying because it's coming from me, even when I bring up the subject of race. When we show this film for the first time in Flint, I'm going to sit there with a majority black audience, because it's a majority black town. Even the limited black audiences that I've seen it with, in these premieres, appreciate that I've done it. I didn't have to do it; it would have been a great film without it. But of course, I did have to do it. I can't let it pass.
And lefties go, "It's not about race, it's about class." But the class thing succeeds because race is used to keep the people apart. And maybe you have to grow up in a place like Detroit or Flint, to understand that. I have to write about this someday. And it's not because I have a parochial love for where I'm from. But I'm really from a different place. Michigan is a different place: it was the first state to get rid of the death penalty, back in the 1850s. The whole cultural thing that's come out of Detroit, in terms of its music: whether it's the voice of the white underclass in Eminem or the MC5 or black resistance in Motown. And then you've got rebellious little girls like Madonna, whose dad worked at Chrysler. All these levels of art that comes out of Michigan. This is where the union movement started. And one of the first things the UAW did was integrate the assembly lines, so our dads worked with black dads. So Flint because the first city in the country to have a black mayor, even though it was still 70% white. It was the first city in the country to pass an open housing ordinance. That's where I'm coming from.
CF: You mentioned
that you hoped white guys might listen to what you say in your film.
Who do you imagine as your audience? I'm wondering this because it seems
that some of the people you interview in your films don't know who you
are good at organizing around objects of fear, much like the U.S. administration
tends to be. Marilyn Manson makes a sharp observation in Bowling for
Columbine, linking fear and consumption: did he say that before or after
George Bush told everyone to go out to the malls, after 9-11?
Also, it's important to keep people ignorant. So as long as you can keep them glued to the TV, as they are today with the sniper story, that's good. That way, they won't watch or read the real news, or know what they should really be frightened of. I'm afraid that we have 40 million people living below the poverty level. Or 40 million adults who cannot read above a fourth grade level, or almost 50 million now who don't have health care. That is something to be afraid of, because that will unravel a society. What do we have to do to get the news to cover that as the main story every night?
point comes out in your interview with the Cops producer [in
Bowling for Columbine].
CF: And case
in point: when, in the film, you try to get the L.A. reporters and cops
to talk about the smog.
CF: The film
is tightly structured. I know you had about 200 hours worth of tape
to put together: do you have a specific process?
U.S. interviewers want to position you as "controversial," and so "out
CF: It is
disheartening that the resistance to attacking Iraq was articulated
and organized, and polls revealed more concern about the economy than
Iraq. Then, Congress voted, and suddenly, the president's ability to
make war is a done deal.
CF: To what
to you attribute that perennial out-of-touchness?
06 November 02
Cynthia Fuchs is film-tv-viddy editor at PopMatters.com and Associate Professor of English/Media/African-American studies at George Mason University.
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