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DVD Reviews

HTF REVIEW: Roger & Me



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#1 of 36 Herb Kane

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Posted August 18 2003 - 03:38 AM

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Roger & Me



Studio: Warner Brothers
Year: 1989
Rated: R
Film Length: 90 Mins.
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1 Standard
Audio: DD Mono
Subtitles: English, French & Spanish




The Feature:
When I popped this documentary in, I was expecting a somewhat obnoxious (and perhaps humorous at times) cat and mouse chase with Michael Moore seeking out, then General Motors Chairman, Roger Smith. Man, was I wrong. Never having seen any of Michael Moore’s work (other than the Oscar presentation fiasco last spring and I wasn’t impressed), I really didn’t know what to expect. What I got was a 90 minute documentary that tugged at the heartstrings for the entire duration of the movie.

Roger & Me, is a story which chronicles the deterioration of a city (Flint, Michigan) and its people due to the massive GM layoffs back in the late 1980’s. The story is more than a simple quest to interview the Chairman, moreover one to illustrate a social study of those who were affected by these layoffs.

The story starts off with a detailed history of the city and Moore’s family history and ties to the auto industry and the community. We are taken on a tour of the Flint area - much of what looks to be all that remains after wartime. We meet many of those who were personally affected including a young man selling his plasma and young woman who sells rabbits as pets and as meat. We meet one of four deputy sheriffs who are responsible for nothing but handling an average of 25 evictions daily of those who cannot make their rent payments. One of the individuals interviewed (a friend of Michael Moore) is in a mental institution unable to cope with the idea of yet another layoff (his 5th in five years).

Warning folks… I found the documentary to be rather disturbing and offensive at times. We meet hometown boy Bob Eubanks (host of the long time Newlywed Game) who tells a very offensive racist joke. While I understand its inclusion to the documentary, I’m not convinced it adds much to the story Moore is trying to convey. In another interview, Moore speaks with a young woman who breeds and sells rabbits. While showing one of her rabbits to Moore she gets bitten once too often. She then walks over without any hesitation, picks up a pipe and clubs the rabbit to death, hangs it from a tree and skins it (very graphic). Again, Moore is trying to emphasize that merely a few blocks down the road is one of the world’s wealthiest companies, and here we are witness to what amounts to “third world America”. It’s very disturbing.

Michael Moore did an outstanding job compiling this thought provoking documentary. It is sure to leave you very thankful for everybody and everything you have.



Video:
There seems to be some confusion as to the original AR of this film. The general consensus is that, this was originally shot in 16 mm and composed for a standard composition, which was blown up to 35 mm. Roger & Me was then cropped for a theatrical presentation. If indeed that is the case, the 1.33:1 is correct.

The vast majority of what we see here is archival footage, much of which is old and in pretty rough shape. Most of what was shot for the documentary is not old (well, not that old) and is in pretty rough shape. In an attempt to be as diplomatic as possible, this is a very poor video presentation. There is grain all over the place. Much of the lighting was poor and the image lacks the type of detail we have come to expect from a modern transfer. Was I diplomatic…?

Keep in mind, this was Moore’s first big project and he was working with a shoe string budget. That, combined with the fact that this is almost 15 years old, should really be of no surprise.

It would be nice to officially be able to confirm the details surrounding the specifics of the release in terms of the film's AR.



Audio:
I’m afraid the report card doesn’t vary much in this department either. The audio track is DD Mono which isn’t a soundtrack that’s likely to impress. While much of the dialogue is clear, not much more can be said. There is a lot of music during this documentary and some of it sounds very flat. One bit of good news… there were no signs of any hiss or noise.

Again the shoe string budget kicks in here… in fact during the commentary, he mentions the company who was instrumental in doing the sound production for the movie. It was going to cost $12,000 which Moore didn’t have. The production company was so moved by the documentary, they offered to do it gratis.



Special Features:
On this disc, there are 2 special features. The first is a theatrical trailer, which is in rather rough shape and is most certainly grainy.

The second feature is a “Commentary With Michael Moore”.

It seems as though commentaries and interviews are becoming less and less informative on our beloved format. The amount of fluff, advertising space and superfluous verbiage from those involved, in my opinion, are becoming the norm.

This is an exception.

During the commentary, the movie is played again in its entirety, this time with Michael Moore’s comments dubbed over giving us the finer details of many of the scenes and shots during the filming. He goes into great detail about how Warner Brothers embraced the film and the role they played in the people’s lives who were shown in the documentary. He also confirms that there was no censorship of the documentary and includes the Bob Eubanks story and his stance after the movie started to get off the ground.

There is one final scene where we witness the eviction of a mother and her children on Christmas Eve. During that scene, (and at the same time it is happening), just down the road GM is having an elaborate Christmas party, singing Christmas carols etc. The scene cuts back and forth showing the disparity of one family and the extravagance of another (the GM family). Pretty moving stuff.

It’s abundantly clear, Moore is passionate about this film and what we get is a 90 minute meat & potatoes commentary that shouldn’t be missed.



Final Thoughts:
After watching children being evicted from their homes on Christmas Eve and hearing stories of murder/suicides by those affected, I’d be lying to you if I said there wasn’t a lump in my throat after the 90 minutes elapsed. It is a thought provoking story that is sure to move you and make you feel for those who were left behind due to corporate downsizing, all in the name of profits. The final line during the end credits pretty much sum this documentary up by saying;

“This film cannot be shown in the city of Flint……….. all of the theaters have closed”.

As matter of being humbled, this film is one that everyone should see at least once.




Release Date: August 19th, 2003
My Top 25 Noirs:

25. 711 Ocean Drive (1950), 24. Odds Against Tomorrow (1959), 23. Desperate (1947), 22. Pushover (1954), 21. The Blue Dahlia (1946), 20. The File on Thelma Jordon (1949), 19. He Ran All the Way (1951), 18. The Asphalt Jungle (1950), 17. The Killing (1956), 16. I Walk Alone (1948),...

#2 of 36 Ted Ehlers

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Posted August 18 2003 - 04:19 AM

Herb,

Great review! I have seen this several times during the initial VHS release, and once more recently. I had no idea it had a mono soundtrack, of course then, my "home theater" was a mono TV and VCR.

I would slightly disagree with the Bob Eubanks scene as being needless. One of Mike Moore's themes that has run through his film and TV career is that the people in charge, the people we make famous in entertainment, elect for office, and nearly worship are often not the humble and good people they appear, and this scene is an early illustration of that.

Moore has often caught so-called "good guys" acting callous, moronic, and outrageous. If these scenes shock or offend, it's due to the fact Moore's subjects do and say shocking, offensive things, and its a credit that he can make a film that causes you to feel something real.

Without getting political, I will say that this movie actually transcends partisan politics. The points in "Roger and Me" have more to do with FAIRNESS, and this is not the property of any political entity. In fact, both parties line up behind corporations like GM.

The excellent yet imperfect Bowling for Columbine may be a lightning rod for controversy on this forum, but Roger and Me is a film that needs to be seen by everyone. The issues it presents are increasingly relevant, and Moore is just plain right! We all have varied opinions about war, guns, and politics, but can anyone defend a corporation that single-handedly destroys and entire city an thousands of lives in the pursuit of slightly higher profits from exploited overseas labor?

I'm gonna buy this ASAP.
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#3 of 36 Patrick McCart

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Posted August 18 2003 - 04:33 AM

The IMDB isn't always a reliable source for OAR. If Moore participated in the making of the DVD, it's possible that he preferred it unmatted.

#4 of 36 Herb Kane

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Posted August 18 2003 - 04:46 AM

Patrick:

Quote:
The IMDB isn't always a reliable source for OAR. If Moore participated in the making of the DVD, it's possible that he preferred it unmatted.


True. I'm just going by what WB have indicated on the box and the technical specs shown by the IMBb.... that's all.

Herb.
My Top 25 Noirs:

25. 711 Ocean Drive (1950), 24. Odds Against Tomorrow (1959), 23. Desperate (1947), 22. Pushover (1954), 21. The Blue Dahlia (1946), 20. The File on Thelma Jordon (1949), 19. He Ran All the Way (1951), 18. The Asphalt Jungle (1950), 17. The Killing (1956), 16. I Walk Alone (1948),...

#5 of 36 Jon Martin

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Posted August 18 2003 - 04:50 AM

So I take it from the review that Moore hasn't included the 30 minute sequel PETS OR MEAT on the DVD?

Excellent film that showed what happened after the film came out. It played after the PBS airings of the film. But hasn't made it to video or DVD.

Thought for sure it would be on the DVD. Oh well.

#6 of 36 Herb Kane

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Posted August 18 2003 - 05:12 AM

Jon:

Quote:
So I take it from the review that Moore hasn't included the 30 minute sequel PETS OR MEAT on the DVD?


Unfortunately not, although it is discussed in the commentary. After having just watched this I am anxious to see it though.

Herb.
My Top 25 Noirs:

25. 711 Ocean Drive (1950), 24. Odds Against Tomorrow (1959), 23. Desperate (1947), 22. Pushover (1954), 21. The Blue Dahlia (1946), 20. The File on Thelma Jordon (1949), 19. He Ran All the Way (1951), 18. The Asphalt Jungle (1950), 17. The Killing (1956), 16. I Walk Alone (1948),...

#7 of 36 Dax P

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Posted August 18 2003 - 06:09 AM

Very disappointed to get confirmation on the exclusion of Pets Or Meat (not seeing it listed on specs anywhere, I'm not shocked, but...).

Does Michael indicate WHY it's not there on the commentary at all?

Ownership issues, I suppose.

Still. The 23-minute Three Years Later 'sequel' being present should have been a given for Roger & Me's dvd release.

I've seen it, but like the movie, not for a long time...

Hope Michael's first series TV Nation (NBC/Fox) makes it to disc, and Pets Or Meat finds a home on it, then...

#8 of 36 Gregory Pauswinski

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Posted August 18 2003 - 07:29 AM

Thanks for the review Herb! I've been anxiously awaiting this DVD for quite a while now.

#9 of 36 Lew Crippen

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Posted August 18 2003 - 07:52 AM

Nice review Herb. It is interesting to get a view from someone who was not familiar with the flim or Moore.
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#10 of 36 Nick Graham

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Posted August 18 2003 - 08:29 AM

Great review, Herb! While the staging, manipulation, and misleading the audience involved in Bowling for Columbine has soured me on purchasing it as I had originally planned, Roger and Me is a no brainer. A brilliant, moving film that EVERYONE needs to see, and recommend to their friends.

#11 of 36 Scott_J

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Posted August 18 2003 - 08:46 AM

Quote:
Ownership issues, I suppose.
I can't think of any ownership issues that would have prevented Pets or Meat from being included on this disc. IIRC it was produced by Moore's production company for PBs, so I would think the title is owned by either or both of those entities. If Moore owns it, I'm sure he would have had Warner put it on the disc. If PBS owns it, Warner distributes their programs on DVD, so they would most likely have allowed its inclusion. I can't understand why it's not here.

Still, even with it not being included, I'm still picking this up Tuesday afternoon at BB, on my lunch break (along with BFC).

#12 of 36 Jack Shappa

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Posted August 18 2003 - 09:32 AM

Has there ever been any discussion as to wether or not Roger & Me was created in the same bogus fashion as Bowling for Columbine? I'd like to at least rent it (Roger) but not if its a hatchet job...

Your review sounded as if you'd never heard of anyone raising rabbits for meat. This isn't as uncommon as you think.

Also do we get to see the sequel that shows Michael Moore eating a huge Thanksgiving feast in his multi-million dollar mansion, then cuts away to children starving? Didn't think so.

- JS

#13 of 36 Lew Crippen

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Posted August 18 2003 - 09:57 AM

Jack, I think that you are letting your political bias show. I’d hate to see a review thread get closed because of that.

Your first question is reasonable (though you are using as loaded language to press your point, as ever did Moore). To answer your question, however, there are incidents in the film that have been called into question. For example there is an eviction shown that is not directly attributable to GM layoffs. There has been much discussion as to whether or not this is appropriate. Discussing this point, solely within the confines of making a movie, the question is ‘if a representative eviction satisfies the need for truth, or does Moore need to show one that was the direct result of a GM layoff?”

This is another question that I don’t think should be examined in a review in ‘software’.

Should you wish to watch the movie and discuss the meritsof the film in a non-political fashion, I would be pleased to participate.
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#14 of 36 Dave Scarpa

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Posted August 18 2003 - 09:58 AM

Yes, let's keep the focus on the DVD's Quality and not the political Content. Political Diatribes are not allowed on the forum. Boy Right now I wish they were.
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#15 of 36 Michael Boyd

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Posted August 18 2003 - 09:59 AM

I saw this theatrically in 1989 or early 1990. And have seen it on VHS once since then. Now I'm thinking and someone correct me if I'm wrong, wasnt this shot on 16mm and blown up to 35mm? I was under the impression that this was Moore's only use of film (besides archival footage) and Big One and Columbine were all shot on video and later transferred to 35mm.

Very disapointed Pets Or Meat is not included. I've never seen it.
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#16 of 36 Jack Shappa

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Posted August 18 2003 - 10:59 AM

Lew, I don't see how my first question was anything but straight forward. If I'm politically biased would I even want to watch the film at all? Unless you didn't like the use of the word "bogus". Is there some dispute over Bowling being largely fabricated? I thought this was a given. If not then my mistake. I simply needed some info to make an informed decision as to wether to watch or not.

Perhaps my understanding of what is allowed while discussing a review is flawed. Are we only to discuss the merits of the review itself, and aren't allowed to go any further into the movie's ramifications? It would be awfully hard to discuss a movie like Roger & Me without getting political, but that doesn't mean it needs to get nasty or personal.

Thanks for answering my question. To answer your question, ‘if a representative eviction satisfies the need for truth, or does Moore need to show one that was the direct result of a GM layoff?” No, it does not satisfy the need for truth. I don't like being manipulated like that. Unless he never directly claims in the movie that the eviction is directly related to the GM layoff, but just a sign of the problems in Flint in general. That I could accept, but the movie's entre angle is the callousness of GM and the effect it has on the town.

If I've gone down a forbidden path here then my apologies.

- Cryo

#17 of 36 Nick_Scott

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Posted August 18 2003 - 01:24 PM

Quote:
Has there ever been any discussion as to wether or not Roger & Me was created in the same bogus fashion as Bowling for Columbine? I'd like to at least rent it (Roger) but not if its a hatchet job...


As mentioned above, yes. In fact, it was VERY controversial because of Moores use of "mixed editing" to imply things that were not true. This method was used throughout BFC, but much less in RAM. (for example, most of the closed buildings, were closed BEFORE the plants, but was implied it was after- ie Movie theaters).

But, unlike BFC, these "tricks" do NOT take away from the films message (imo), making it a fantastic movie to watch. Plus, it is fairly non-partisen, so its not likely to offend anyone.

Since this is the "DVD" thread:
Does Moore talk about these "tricks" in the commentary? He has spent the last couple months defending them in BFC, so he might have wanted to avoid the issue altogether?

-Nick

#18 of 36 Brandon_T

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Posted August 19 2003 - 01:27 AM

As a lifelong resident of Flint, Michigan, and coming from a family where my father, both grandfathers, and several uncles all worked in the assembly plants in Flint I wish I could tell you how inaccurate I feel this film is. However I don't wish to be kicked off the forum for "Political Diatribes"

For those of you that don't know, let me just say this. Flint is a self sustaining city that has many great suburbs. I don't know of any major metropolitan area that doens't have its bad places. I KNOW that GM shutting down several plants here in Flint hurt many many people, but what they don't tell you is that more than not, those people were offered transfers to cities such as Lansing, Kalamazoo, and Pontiac.

Flint now stands fine on its own without GM for the most part. I grew up expecting to work for the giant, but could never get a job. I am now glad that is the case as I have a career that can take me places.

Finally, the major fault I find with this film is the fact that Mr. Moore seems to have a problem with for profit companies. I tend to think that if you are not a charitable company, you are in business to make money. You do what you have to to maintain a reasonable profit level. My father, who was laid off by GM on more than one occasion, feels the exact same way.

Brandon

#19 of 36 Lew Crippen

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Posted August 19 2003 - 03:10 AM

Quote:
Perhaps my understanding of what is allowed while discussing a review is flawed. Are we only to discuss the merits of the review itself, and aren't allowed to go any further into the movie's ramifications? It would be awfully hard to discuss a movie like Roger & Me without getting political, but that doesn't mean it needs to get nasty or personal.

We can in fact discuss the content of the film. I think that the correct area for this is in movies. There have already been a couple of threads on Bowling for Columbine, one of which was closed due to some members inability to enter into a discussion without also making personal attacks (not confined to Moore).

But one thread survived, although to be accurate, it did require a few reminders by the moderators to keep it on the straight and narrow. Even then we had some members who felt the need to vent about Moore, even though they had not seen the film (and did not intend to).

Jack, see the film and start a thread in movies. A lot of us will join in the discussion. Perhaps Brandon can give some further insights. I used to live in Lansing and I worked at Oldsmobile, so I think that I too have a view as to the auto industry and Moore’s perspective.

At least this will keep this area clean for such non-political discussions and dispassionate discussions as the merits of Super 35 and whether a particular DTS track is better than the DD one. Posted Image Posted Image
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#20 of 36 Ted Ehlers

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Posted August 19 2003 - 04:36 AM

In our attempt to create a civil platform for "software", we are actually having an antiseptic and moot battle.

These films are more than "software" - and this is really the main section of the HTF where a variety of aspects are discussed. Yes, there are other places on this forum to talk about everything under the sun, but this is the gleaming metropolis, and the other areas are the small towns and suburbs populated by specialists. "How is this a DIY Project? It's available as a kit, newbie!!!"

It always blows my mind when someone writes a glowing review because of an expensive DVD production, top-notch transfer, and thick DTS track. The actualy quality, content and context of the FILM seems like an afterthought, or more likely no thought at all. (recent reivew of a factory produced teen girl demographic, or a thread calling into question the sanity and morals of someone who dared to call American Wedding a bad movie without actually viewing it... as if it was secretly Stanley Kubrick's secret last film and not a American Pie sequel.)

This thread should be 10 pages long, with the kind of free and heated exchage of ideas this film should spark. Instead, anything more than "Hmm, it's mono, and it sure makes ya think" puts you in the artificial category of HTF subversive. Oh no, what would a studio exec think if they wandered in and read posts from viewers of this movie who had differing political opinions that resemled an actual debate about the DVD's content? Worse yet, what if someone called an idiotic statement by its rightful name?

Meanwhile, there is a Jay and Silent Bob thread that grows by the minute. Sometimes I think that if Kevin Smith had co-directed Lord of the Rings and Boba Fett was in it, 95% of this forum would only need one thread called "Oh My god, My Life Is Complete."
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