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Falling Out of Love with “Capitalism”

Posted in Documentary with tags , , , , , on March 23, 2010 by ericstraus

Michael Moore still has the ability to make engaging, entertaining documentaries as we’ve seen with “Roger and Me,” “Bowling for Columbine” and “Sicko,” but is he losing his edge?  His latest film, “Capitalism: A Love Story,” exposes the history of capitalism and our country’s infatuation with it, and how it has led to the current economic nightmare in which we are embroiled.  But Moore’s targets are far from controversial – they are the greedy Wall Street bankers who took all our money and paid their CEOs huge bonuses.  Perhaps Moore is trying to broaden his audience by attacking the obvious, but the impact is lost.

The film certainly does have some though-provoking moments, such is in the opening credits as we see a montage of scenes from ancient Rome mixed in with current images, while the narration describes the reasons behind the fall of Rome, which we see are easily applicable to what’s happening in today’s society.  Or like in the way people usually connect capitalism with democracy, when in fact they can be polar opposites.  Why, he asks, do we demand democracy in our political system, yet we accept a dictatorship at the workplace?

Another interesting aspect of the film deals with religion; Moore speaks with several clergy members about, in essence, what Jesus would say about capitalism.  The overwhelming reply was that Jesus was a Socialist, and that he would not approve of a system that constantly rewards the rich and punishes the poor.

He speaks with congressmen and senators about the system’s apparent failure, but they pretty much tell us what we expect them to tell us (based on their being Republican or Democrat).  We see emotional examples of how workers are beginning to fight back against greedy corporations that close plants while earning record profits, like a window and door company in Chicago.  The workers staged a sit-in until they were paid the money they were owed at the time the business closed; the outpouring of support from the community was immense, and eventually the company gave in and paid them.

Moore creates a convincing argument that during the Reagan years, our country stopped being a democratic union and became a corporation.  Cabinet posts were being filled with CFO’s and other corporate big-wigs from Wall Street institutions, and the country was being run like one giant factory.  He suggests that the only way to fix things is to destroy capitalism and embrace democracy.

Moore is certainly not going to convert anyone by demanding the dismantling of capitalism, but even the blue-collar right wing faction of our society will support his vitriol against AIG, Merrill Lynch, Goldman-Sachs, etc.  And that’s why his message is not as bold and shocking as it has been in previous films.  But he is still a good filmmaker – I just hope his next target isn’t Kim Jong Il.

Final Grade for Capitalism: A Love Story: B-