Michael Moore Isn’t Feeling the Love
Michael Moore is adding someone new to the list of people who drive him crazy.
You know who you are. You saw "Bowling for Columbine" and didn't bother entering the gun control debate. You saw "Sicko" and didn't write your legislator. You watched "Fahrenheit 9/11" and didn't vote.
Well, Moore has had it. "I'm tired," he says from the green room of KCET, where he has been railing for a half-hour about Wall Street and the Bush administration in support of his latest film, "Capitalism: A Love Story," which opened nationwide Oct. 2.
The film did well this weekend, bringing in an estimated $4.9 million on just 962 screens.
"I went through eight years of fighting one of the most disastrous presidencies this country has ever seen," he says. "And you know what, folks? I'm not doing this alone anymore. If you're going to sit on the bench and just wait for my next movie to come out, or watch Obama have to fight all these crazies (alone), I've got better things to do."
Even for Moore, it's strong talk. And while few observers believe Moore would ever surrender the pulpit that has made him one of America's most successful political proselytizers, Moore has made perhaps his most personal film in "Capitalism."
The movie, an excoriation of the banking industry and final hectoring of President Bush, blames the economic meltdown on corporate greed and Reagan-era deregulation. But Moore sprinkles personal moments throughout the film, including glimpses of his faith, fears and father. And he threatens that if America doesn't getting off its rear end, Moore is sitting on his.
"Some people will not even come to see this movie because they've been indoctrinated," he says, nibbling part of a fruit and nut diet that has helped him shed 70 pounds since Christmas.
Not that he's any lighter in his bluster. Conservative opponents, he says, "have created a fictional character using my name. Everything they say - he doesn't love his country, he's godless - is the opposite of who I am. I'm a person who deeply loves his country. I'm an Eagle Scout. My uncle was killed in World War II. I still go to Mass."
Moore removes a baseball cap impossibly small for his head and runs his hand through a tangle of hair. "I've never put my spiritual beliefs out there like I have in this film," he says. "But I thought, damn it, they've created such a lie about me, and good people won't go to my films. They think I'm something I'm not."
But if Moore's films suffer from public inertia, it may have more to do with the filmmaker's hubris than his subjects, others counter.
"Sometime Michael Moore asks too much of us," says Michael Levine, author of Guerilla P.R., which examines grassroots marketing.
"He wants us to address health care, or the deficit, and frankly, people already feel overwhelmed and would rather be entertained," Levine says. "He comes in and says, quite compellingly, that this house is pretty dirty. But a lot of people are saying they'll clean it tomorrow - "American Idol" is on tonight."
That doesn't mean people don't show up for his films. Of the top-six-grossing documentaries of all time, he has made three of them. "Fahrenheit 9/11" remains the only documentary to take in more than $100 million.
"If he were a feature filmmaker, he'd be Steven Spielberg and James Cameron rolled into one," says Paul Dergarabedian of Hollywood.com. "Sometimes it seems like Michael eclipses his own movies. He's a personality that's made him a star. You can question how effective his movies are, but you can't question what a box-office force he is. Love him or hate him, people show up."
But Moore says it's not enough. In "Capitalism," he implores the audience to be as vigilantly skeptical of President Obama as they were of Bush. "I want him to know we're watching," he says. "We're expecting him to side with us, not Goldman Sachs."
Moore catches himself sounding morose, and stops.
"Even in all this darkness, I'm hopeful," he says "After eight years, instead of having to play defense and fight what the White House is doing to hurt the people, I'm going to get to play offense. I've got the quarterback in the White House calling some of the plays here. I'm going to be able to push for things now."
Levine warns he shouldn't push too hard, though.
"Michael's brilliance is in his filmmaking, particularly his sense of humor," he says. "He can't get away from that. His success comes from the primal idea that if you're going to tell people inconvenient truths, you better make them laugh or they'll kill you."
And what if "Capitalism" tanks? What will Moore do?
"I've got a couple scripts working," he says. "Fiction."
Even his fans raise their eyebrows at that prospect. "There aren't many filmmakers people feel more strongly about," says Howie Klein of the political blog DownWithTyranny.com. "I don't think anyone wants to see him stop making documentaries, however you feel about him."