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Bowling for Columbine


Because this movie is probably important enough to justify a rather lengthy review, there are a few things I feel you should know before I tell you what I thought about this movie:


Number 1:  A few months ago I was at a convention-lunch-thingy and there was a guest speaker named Bob Rae (former Premiere of Ontario and, I might add, a damn fine speaker).  Bob gave a speech about giving speeches and, during this speech he inevitably brought up the age old advice of “know your audience”.  As an example of a speech that failed miserably by not heeding this well-worn advice, Bob mentioned the then recent Academy Award acceptance speech of Michael Moore.  “There’s Michael”, Bob pointed out (but do not suspect for an instant that this is an accurate quote), “There is Michael standing before an audience filled with people who are generally left wing democrats who dislike George Bush and are pro-gun control.  How does Michael use this to his advantage?  He doesn’t.  In fact, he is so loud, obnoxious, ignorant and belligerent that he gets booed off the stage”. 


I thought that Bob Rae’s speech on speaking was great.  I agreed filly with his using Mr. Moore as an example of poor public speaking.  Personally, I loathe current American foreign policy and think George Bush is a horrible leader (to put it nicely) but when I saw the clip of Mr. Moore ranting and screaming, I was offended.   This offence was on my mind while I was watching the movie.


Number 2:  My brother saw this movie (he liked it) and then told me (erroneously I might add) that in the movie it says that Canadians have more guns per capita than Americans.  I found this hard to believe.  I especially found it hard to believe because I once read a stat that said Texas (supposedly the most heavily armed state) has something like 5.2 guns per person.  However, as my brother is a trustworthy and smart fellow (and since I still have some faith in Mr. Moore) I went along with him and added that crazy notion to my head full of useless (and sometimes incorrect) facts. Well it turns out that there are not more guns per capita in Canada than in the U.S. Or, at least, the movie doesn’t say that there are.  The movie actually says that there are 7 million guns in Canada and I don’t recall the movie actually reporting how many there are in the U.S. of A (which is odd).  My belief is that Mr. Moore included the 7 million number to emphasise how many guns there were in Canada.  He did this to show that we are not gun-less nuts like the Brits are, and thereby highlight the fact that killing people with guns is an American phenomena and not simply a bi-product of gun ownership. 


In fact, according to A Review Of Firearm Statistics And Regulations In Selected Countries (Research, Statistics and Evaluation Directorate Department of Justice Canada April 25, 1995), a bit less than 1 in 4 Canadians own a firearm, whereas, in the good old U.S.of A. a little over 85% of the population does.  According to the ATF (Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco & Firearms), in 1994 there were 222 million firearms in the possession of U.S. citizens.  What is odd is that even though there are only about 3 times the number of firearms owned per Capita in the U.S.A. as compared to Canada, the homicide with Firearms rate is about 10 times as high: 67 people per 10,000,000 in Canada and (193 yearly and 640 people per 10,000,000 in the U.S.A. (16,704 per year).  So, despite the similarities in our culture, Americans are about ten times more likely to kill someone with a gun than Canadians are.  Comparatively, in Britain, where only about 2500 members of their police force are trained with handguns and almost no one owns one (0.004% of the population), almost no one dies in a homicide with a firearm (14 people per 10,000,000).  Of course, Britain’s homicide rate in general is just over half that of Canada’s which is about 25% of America’s.  Unlike the point Mr. Moore appeared to be trying to make in stating that Canadians had guns and didn’t shoot each other, in reality, we don’t have close to the number of guns that Americans have.


In any case, I watched the whole movie waiting for my brother’s stupid statistic and it never happened.  And I was disappointed.  And it highlighted the fact (in my mind) that Mr. Moore is more about sensationalism than he is about truth or cause and effect.


Number 3:  Robin Williams is a funny guy.  Way long ago, Mr. Williams (high as a kite no doubt) did a recorded performance which I believe was entitled Live at the Met.  During that performance (or, at least, ‘a’ performance that was recorded) he made a comment something to the effect of there being 10 deaths a year in all of Britain which are caused by handguns and 10 deaths a day in New York City caused by handguns (I don’t remember the stats and wouldn’t particularly trust them if I did).  Robin’s point (punch-line) was at either gun control worked or the British just cannot hit the broad side of a barn with a firearm.


In making this joke, Mr. Williams did for me in under a minute, what Mr. Moore did in more than 90 minutes and, to a large degree, Williams did it better.


But let me talk about the movie.


THE ACTUAL REVIEW:  (at least sort of) Michael Moore is a self-righteous, unattractive, witless buffoon and he uses these traits to his full advantage in making what are, in reality, painfully stupid movies.  Do not get me wrong: I really liked this movie.  I REALLY liked Roger and Me.  Moreover, I thoroughly liked both of them while I was watching them and for a short time afterward.  Finally, I liked Roger and Me up until a short time after I saw Bowling for Columbine.  Then I was forced to revise my opinion.


Part of the reason I stopped liking them (although I would probably watch either again) was that they were essentially parts one and two of a movie that could have been named The Incredulous and Annoying Michael Moore Interviews People and Makes them Uncomfortable.


When Roger and Me was released, it was something new.  Michael went around harassing car manufacturing executives about how they had allowed a place called Flint Michigan to fall into disuse and demise by moving their manufacturing plants to cheaper elsewheres.  Normally a large portion of me would suggest that the workers should have moved too but this movie really brought home the idea that there should be some level of corporate responsibility in a world where there is, in fact, none.  The movie had moments of hilarity and many, many moments of deep sadness.  It was a warm movie that made you really care and let you believe that Michael Moore himself was not that big a part of it.  Moore was just a guy who wanted to show what the manufacturers had done.  He was ballsy, walking into corporate buildings unannounced and trying to speak with CEOs.  He was sneaky, getting shares so he could attend a shareholders gala and shout questions at the speakers.  It was an absolutely fabulous triumph for the little guy and even if the little guy lost, he lost with some dignity.  This was the movie for which Moore really got the award when he was given the award for Bowling for Columbine.


Bowling for Columbine is a movie that is seeking an answer knowing that there is no clear answer available.  It is much like Roger and Me in this respect.  On the other hand, where in Roger and Me I really felt for the poor people of Flint Michigan, in Bowling, I didn’t really feel for Americans.  After all, they were both the victims and the assailants.   Bowling also seemed to be a lot more about Michael and his antics, a lot more.  Looking back, his rudeness wasn’t funny.  Like when he shows up at Carleton Heston’s house with his NRA card (Moore was quite the shooter when he was young) and is granted an interview only to badger Mr. Heston about the gun issue and make him-self as annoying as possible.  All the while, half mugging the camera in a “isn’t this so cool – see how I have this old man on the ropes”.  It bothered me that Moore would do this. Invade a man’s home to ridicule him.  Maybe Heston deserves some ridicule for being the spokesperson for the NRA but the clip of him holding up a rifle and screaming “when they pry it from my cold, lifeless hands” (or some such nonsense) was enough.  You don’t have to be indignant and go to the guy’s house and bug him.  That’s his house for cris’sake.


Bowling for Columbine was an important movie and I am glad that I saw it.  I may even watch it again.  In the end, however, it came nowhere close to being as important as it should (or could) have been.  It really only was a mish-mash of immediately topical mini-points and a venue through which Moore could say, “look at me! I am so clever! See how I appear as such an uneducated slob so I can trick them all into assuming I am such.  See how I act like an ignorant fool, reiterating the same point over and over as if I am retarded so that they will be unable to talk their way out.  Watch as I unmask the evil …  well, the evil in America”. 


I was not only partially sickened by the whole bug Heston in his home thing, but the whole using the victims of Columbine to bring down the mighty Wal-Mart’s (or Zellers or Someone) bullet department was sad as well.  I hope those kids got paid something because they looked stupid on the movie.  To give them credit you could kind of see them pulling away from Moore when he was being obnoxious. 


This movie was not about gun control or Columbine or even Bowling (seriously, it was not at all about bowling), it was about Michael Moore.  While watching it I loved it.  So much information, so much lying on my sofa feeling superior to these gun toting idiots who can not see the forest for the trees. So much superficiality and nothingness that, in retrospect, I am almost sickened to admit that I did truly enjoy this film.


I would suggest you watch it.  Rent it.  Get lost in its goofy goodness.  It has no real message and reaches no conclusions but if you want to see an obnoxious guy who is pretending to be an idiot (at least, I am hoping he is pretending) tackle no one in particular…. You will love this movie.

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