Josh Steinberg

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Josh Steinberg

Bowling For Columbine Blu-Ray Review (Criterion)



Bowling For Columbine, Michael Moore’s Academy Award-winning examination of gun violence in America, makes its Blu-ray debut from the Criterion Collection. Though the film is over fifteen years old, and while some of its more gimmicky moments may not play as smoothly as they once did, the majority of the film still feels relevant today.

[review]
 

bigshot

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I totally wrote off Michael Moore when it got to the end of this movie. The way he treated Heston was despicable. It was obvious that he wasn't all there. That's heartless.
 
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Dick

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I totally wrote off Michael Moore when it got to the end of this movie. The way he treated Heston was despicable. It was obvious that he wasn't all there. That's heartless.
Without getting into political jeopardy on this forum, I would state that, while I felt a bit uncomfortable at the tail end of the Heston interview, the man was, even then, an icon of the NRA, and his "Cold, dead hands" speech pretty much sums up the way the very divisive 2nd Amendment is handled today. I thought Moore's badgering of Heston was a bit over-the-top, but he made his point. He could have edited out a couple of minutes and the message would have been just as salient.
 

Bryan^H

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I totally wrote off Michael Moore when it got to the end of this movie. The way he treated Heston was despicable. It was obvious that he wasn't all there. That's heartless.
I enjoyed the movie up until that point. Heston was suffering from Alzheimer's disease, and Michael Moore bullied him. It was a sickening sight. Ruined the movie for me, and my respect for Michael Moore.
 
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bigshot

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I really liked Michael Moore when he did TV Nation. He was less of a disingenuous sledgehammer. I wish that series would get released to DVD. I might remember why I used to like him.
 
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Hollywoodaholic

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It's fair to criticize Moore for appearing to bully Heston during that interview, but the facts are that as active President and face of the NRA he was fair game; he was not then currently diagnosed with Alzheimer's (so Moore couldn't have known); and he was active on the campaign trail for weeks after that working to get Bush and Republicans control of the House and Senate; and he was on pre-production for his next film. He was fair game.

Moore was quoted in an interview at the time saying, "God I hope he doesn't get any bad diseases, I wouldn't wish that on anybody. I hope he lives a long life. I feel that the argument on my side of the fence is strong enough that I don't need him to be weakened by any disease." Heston was not diagnosed with Alzheimer's at the time.

The other interesting thing about this encounter was that Moore was also a member of the NRA, and even paid extra dues to have his membership bumped up to Lifetime Member status so that he would be eligible to run against Heston for the presidency of the NRA. His plan was to campaign and recruit 5 million more Americans to join (that shared his views) at the lowest fee level, and they would turn around and vote him in as president, and then he would win and dismantle the organization from within. (A strategy later straight out of the Bannon playbook).

But to me the film still stands up as a valid documentary and mirror of a gun-obsessed society.

I don't think these are provocative comments, but Moore is someone it's hard for people to be neutral on, and I just wanted to say don't let the Heston interview discourage you from an otherwise thoughtful and entertaining documentary.
 

Paul Rossen

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It's fair to criticize Moore for appearing to bully Heston during that interview, but the facts are that as active President and face of the NRA he was fair game; he was not then currently diagnosed with Alzheimer's (so Moore couldn't have known); and he was active on the campaign trail for weeks after that working to get Bush and Republicans control of the House and Senate; and he was on pre-production for his next film. He was fair game.

Moore was quoted in an interview at the time saying, "God I hope he doesn't get any bad diseases, I wouldn't wish that on anybody. I hope he lives a long life. I feel that the argument on my side of the fence is strong enough that I don't need him to be weakened by any disease." Heston was not diagnosed with Alzheimer's at the time.

The other interesting thing about this encounter was that Moore was also a member of the NRA, and even paid extra dues to have his membership bumped up to Lifetime Member status so that he would be eligible to run against Heston for the presidency of the NRA. His plan was to campaign and recruit 5 million more Americans to join (that shared his views) at the lowest fee level, and they would turn around and vote him in as president, and then he would win and dismantle the organization from within. (A strategy later straight out of the Bannon playbook).

But to me the film still stands up as a valid documentary and mirror of a gun-obsessed society.

I don't think these are provocative comments, but Moore is someone it's hard for people to be neutral on, and I just wanted to say don't let the Heston interview discourage you from an otherwise thoughtful and entertaining


documentary.
Though Heston at the time of the interview might not have been diagnosed he was clearly suffering. It is painful to watch and should have been deleted from the film.
 
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Bryan^H

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It's fair to criticize Moore for appearing to bully Heston during that interview, but the facts are that as active President and face of the NRA he was fair game; he was not then currently diagnosed with Alzheimer's (so Moore couldn't have known); and he was active on the campaign trail for weeks after that working to get Bush and Republicans control of the House and Senate; and he was on pre-production for his next film. He was fair game.

Moore was quoted in an interview at the time saying, "God I hope he doesn't get any bad diseases, I wouldn't wish that on anybody. I hope he lives a long life. I feel that the argument on my side of the fence is strong enough that I don't need him to be weakened by any disease." Heston was not diagnosed with Alzheimer's at the time.

The other interesting thing about this encounter was that Moore was also a member of the NRA, and even paid extra dues to have his membership bumped up to Lifetime Member status so that he would be eligible to run against Heston for the presidency of the NRA. His plan was to campaign and recruit 5 million more Americans to join (that shared his views) at the lowest fee level, and they would turn around and vote him in as president, and then he would win and dismantle the organization from within. (A strategy later straight out of the Bannon playbook).

But to me the film still stands up as a valid documentary and mirror of a gun-obsessed society.

I don't think these are provocative comments, but Moore is someone it's hard for people to be neutral on, and I just wanted to say don't let the Heston interview discourage you from an otherwise thoughtful and entertaining documentary.
I didn't want to muck up this review thread but I have to respond to this.
Because Heston was not diagnosed with Alzheimer's Disease at the time doesn't make it any less painful to watch. I have had three relatives with Alzheimer's, and even though they were not "diagnosed" until the disease was in the later stages, the confusion was there long before, and family members recognized what they were suffering from before the diagnosis.

Michael Moore had to have known something was wrong with Heston, but he insisted on needling him anyway, and he kept the scene in the film.

I cannot for the life of me understand why anyone would think that is OK. To me it is on the same level of killing live animals for dramatic effect like they used to do in movies. Completely uncalled for, and sickening.
 
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bigshot

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I find it weirdly honest that they left the Charlton Heston interview in the movie. Everyone (including Moore) had to know it would be criticized by many people.
I don't think Moore questions himself much... just other people.
 

Colin Jacobson

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I find it weirdly honest that they left the Charlton Heston interview in the movie. Everyone (including Moore) had to know it would be criticized by many people.
It's a weird moment because Moore tries to make Heston feel bad for a girl's death, even though there's no tangible connection.

Was it super-tacky that the NRA would have rallies in towns recently scarred by gun violence? Hell yes.

Was Heston or the NRA at large responsible for the little girl's death? Not at all.

IIRC, Moore makes no case that lax gun laws or the NRA had anything to do with that tragedy - it's just the juxtaposition of the killing and the rally that come across poorly.

But it's super-manipulative and bizarre that Moore badgers Heston to apologize to the dead girl. It makes Moore look worse than Heston - Moore openly uses the image of a dead six-year-old for his own political ends, and it's a terrible choice...
 
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Colin Jacobson

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I never saw the movie until I got the Blu-ray a few weeks back. My site's review comes from another critic, one who lambasted its supposed anti-gun/anti-2nd Amendment bent.

The critic remains a friend, but I can't figure out what movie he saw! "BfC" is a badly flawed movie - and not a very good one, IMO - but it is not an anti-gun screed...
 

Josh Steinberg

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Me too but there's so much in the movie that I find outright depressing that I'm probably going to hold off.
I saw this movie in theaters when it opened in 2002, and then again when the original MGM DVD came out in 2003 - but I hadn't revisited it since. What I had forgotten was how funny many parts of the movie are. Moore has a comedian's sense of rhythm and timing and knows when to throw in a joke or a bit of sarcasm or an ironic clip to lighten the mood. I remembered the movie being pretty grim (except for the animated sequence in the middle) but I was surprised at how many moments I had forgotten that just made me laugh out loud, and where it seemed clear that that was the intent.

"BfC" is a badly flawed movie
I don't know if I would go that far, but one of the things that wasn't really apparent to me in 2002/2003, but which stood out to me this time, was how all over the place the movie was. Moore throws a lot at the wall to see what will stick, and the transitions between material aren't always very smooth. He has a lot of people on his team working on the research end, whether it's fact finding or archival footage, but there are times when he appeals more to your emotion than your intellect. And I don't think there's anything wrong with that. But it does mean that the film is much more of a personal essay or opinion piece than it is an encyclopedia article. But there was definitely a huge cultural moment around the release of the film, and I think that, if nothing else, the film is invaluable as a time capsule.
 

Colin Jacobson

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I don't know if I would go that far, but one of the things that wasn't really apparent to me in 2002/2003, but which stood out to me this time, was how all over the place the movie was. Moore throws a lot at the wall to see what will stick, and the transitions between material aren't always very smooth. He has a lot of people on his team working on the research end, whether it's fact finding or archival footage, but there are times when he appeals more to your emotion than your intellect. And I don't think there's anything wrong with that. But it does mean that the film is much more of a personal essay or opinion piece than it is an encyclopedia article. But there was definitely a huge cultural moment around the release of the film, and I think that, if nothing else, the film is invaluable as a time capsule.
That's all why I think the movie is badly flawed. It plays for emotion rather than theory/purpose and just casts a huge net that fails to catch anything.

It's basically a series of weird people - James Nichols, anyone - and manipulative events. That whole K-mart stunt was almost as awful as the Heston interview!
 

Hollywoodaholic

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The most memorable image to me from the film as I remember (and one that resonates as profoundly today as it did then), is when he interviews a father of a Columbine student at his workplace... and the man is talking about his inability to fathom where these 'kids' are getting these destructive or ideas of killing and causing death from.... and he's standing in front of an ICBM missile at his workplace, which is a weapon designed to fly thousands of miles and kill hundreds of thousands of people. And he works at this plant that builds them. And he can't understand where this sense of kids thinking about killing comes from.
 

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