26
Oct
09

Movie Review: Capitalism: A Love Story

capitalism_a_love_story

 

Would Jesus be a capitalist?

 

Directed by Michael Moore.

 

After a “stock footage” disclaimer that the following film may be too shocking for viewers, we’re treated to closed circuit camera video of people robbing banks. Following that a British short film about life in Rome. Moore juxtaposes images from our current society into the short film with the narrator’s dialogue backing up the images of both old (Rome) and new (America). Yes, we are the “second” Roman Empire and yes, it’s all over…

 

The question above, “Would Jesus be a capitalist?” is one of many that Moore poses to us as he turns a gigantic mirror not just on Wall Street, but on Main Street (but he is more bias against Wall Street). Moore waxes nostalgic about growing up in the Fifties; his dad worked every day while his mom could stay at home, they bought a new car every three years, and the family went on trips to NYC every other summer. Now his hometown of Flint is on the list of the worst places to live in the U.S., millions of jobs have been lost, etc. What happened?

 

Toning down the humor and the “kid picking on the bully” that Moore can be known to exhibit, he instead chooses to investigate just exactly what placed us on this point of the economic map. One of those offering answers is William Black, the guy who exposed Charles Keating in the Eighties. Black talks about the de-regulation of the early 2000s which has led to the mortgage crises and current foreclosures affecting the nation.

 

Showing the effects on the underdog, Moore visits a family in Illinois whose home is being repossessed by the bank. The house has been in the family for over 40 years. The husband, a big, MidWesterner, was put on disability years ago after a workplace accident. His wife does part-time work. Having to pay for doctor bills he took out a home equity loan (“your home is a bank!”) and as the variable rates grew higher, he could no longer afford to pay them. He is forced to vacate and clean out all his belongings. For doing both, the lender gives his family a check for $1,000. The wife cries as a grand is pittance for having to fork over the home she’s been in for decades.

 

And the lenders aren’t the only ones “making out like bandits.” A group called Condo Vultures in South Florida capitalizes on the fact that people “overleveraged” themselves and are buying up property left and right for the eventual resale. Conversely, there is a family living in storage truck in South Florida who was evicted from their home. The neighbors gathered around, broke into their old home, and let them move back in. 9 police cars showed to try and evict the family again.

 

Moore delivers a soft blow on what should otherwise be a Mike Tyson TKO. I’m not mad at how he presented the information, because a lot of this needed to be said, but Moore could’ve gone deeper and harder-hitting; that’s something I find lacking in his last few documentaries. On this “go” Moore makes it more personal and more mature. Instead of running around with a camera crew and forcing people into answering questions he lets people tell their stories which are more effective. There are a few signature “Michael Moore moments,” like when he uses yellow Police Crime Scene tape and wraps it around Wall Street, or takes an armored truck to Goldman Sachs and AIG to get our money back, but they’re embedded later on in the movie.

 

Another ingredient of a Michael Moore film is presenting you with the information you didn’t have or realize. This comes in two points: a) The Corporation you work for may/probably has a Dead Peasants policy on you and b) the guy flying you to your destination is making less than the manager at the McDonald’s. An example of the first point comes in the form of a woman whose bank notifies her that the company her late husband worked for had an insurance policy on him for $1.5 million, none of which she will ever receive. Apparently corporations have monthly “mortality rate” projections and they’re not happy if it’s about 50%

 

The second is that yes, the people flying us from Boston to L.A., L.A. to New York, etc. make LESS than I do (which IS saying a lot). Several of these pilots have second jobs such as teaching, babysitting, working at a coffeeshop, etc. just to get by. Moore shows Captain Sully, the airline pilot who saved the lives of 150 passengers, testifying before Congress that the airlines have cut pay by 40%. Nobody listened or even if they did, they weren’t wanting to.

 

While this film may not have been as hard-hitting as I would like it to be, it’s still an important movie to watch. This isn’t about socialism, democracy, plutonomy, etc. It’s about straight-up greed. Moore does exhibit two instances where democracy works for companies, which is promising. My only other real complaint about the film is that it shuttles back and forth, not giving you the identity of certain individuals or why they should be important to the narrative until much later.

 

Should you see this movie? Yes. It’s important. Maybe you’ll find empathy or sympathy. Maybe you’ll wake up and see what’s really going on. Maybe you’ll start a discussion on complacency, collusion, and how much either side has to do with it. Just a thought.

 

One final note: there’s footage of FDR reading his proposed Second Bill of Rights. This bill guaranteed health care, education, a job, and a home to U.S. citizenry. After Word War II Japan, Germany, and Italy drew up new constitutions that included some of these provisions. Incidentally, these ideals have never been presented for inclusion in our own Constitution.

 

My grade: (adjusted for inflation) A

 

For information on whether the company you work for has a Dead Peasants policy on you, check out www.deadpeasants.biz

 

P.S. If you’re interested more in “how we got here,” check out the documentary “The Corporation.”

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