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on 8 September 2004
Right, first things first. Michael Moore has never made any pretence of releasing unbiased documentaries. His work seeks to make a point, not to present both sides of an argument and come to a balanced conclusion. Perhaps it is a shame that his work is classified as documentary, as people seem to have unjustified expectations when this term is used. However, to take Fahrenheit 9/11 as an example, this film was no more biased than the daily dose of propoganda that was released in the build-up to the Iraq war, and it has resulted in fewer deaths, so I'm not quite sure why Moore's films cause such offense.
Michael Moore sets out to prove one thing in this film - that the stunningly high firearm death toll in the US is produced by a culture of fear, which in turn is fostered by overwhelmingly negative news reporting and constant scare stories from politicians. I found it hard to contest this point throughout the film, and after going away and thinking about it, I found it hard to conceive of a competing hypothesis.
It may well be that Moore has used some creative editing, and that he seeks to portray certain people in a bad light. However, in a developed country where more than 10,000 people per year die from gun violence, the president of the NRA might expect to come in for some flack, and I'm sure Heston's shoulders are broad enough.
Personally, I find it refreshing that someone is willing to offer a reason, and therefore a solution, for what is a terrible problem. Even for those people who hated the film, it probably made you sit for a while and consider an issue which you may not otherwise have considered, even if you reject Moore's method and conclusion. At the end of the day you are free to disagree, however by then you have at least thought the issue through. This film is an honest attempt to raise an issue which should be much higher on many people's agenda, and Moore should be commended for that.
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on 14 May 2003
This is a brilliant and thought provoking documentary.
If you have seen any of Michael Moore’s other documentaries or read any of his novels Moore mixes humour with real and depressing issues.
“Bowling for Columbine” does exactly that. The documentary isn’t just about gun culture its about the whole reality of life. Moore raises many issues including the gun culture, but also the race and poverty issues of the United States. He manages to do this by showing archive of the Columbine shootings , George W Bush, (other) right wing politicians and probably more disturbing the archive of the NRA rallies. He also interviews a wide range of people from police officers, the crazy James Nichols, Marilyn Manson and Charlton Heston.
The interview with Heston shows what kind of people these “gun lovers” are.
When asked Why the U.S.A has over 11000 deaths from guns each year Heston makes comments about ethnic groups and says its his right to own a gun because of the “White” discoverers of the U.S.A. There’s so much you can say about “Bowling” so in short, you really have to go and watch it and see for yourselves the legend that is Michael Moore. I cant wait for his next project Fahrenheit 911.
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on 26 August 2003
I was impressed by Moore's approach to this difficult problem, because he chose to take the difficult way. This documentary is made by someone who clearly loves his country, but realizes something is going wrong. And he wants to understand what is going on.
It would have been much easier to blindly hate the States and make a movie which simply blames the NRA, a couple of politicians and gun lobby groups, for example. Easy, simply dividing the world in good versus bad. Luckily, Moore is clever enough to start digging deeper than that. His conclusion is quite open in the end, hinting at issues like social security, weapon policies (commercial and political), school systems, violence in mass media, our role as citizens, social dynamics - with respect and attention for the way ordinary people like you and me have to deal with this. You get the big picture on a macro and micro level at the same time. It makes Moore's analysis relevant for anybody in any country.
This is a brilliant documentary, essential stuff for anyone who is concerned with western socio-politics. Go see this movie.
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VINE VOICEon 2 June 2003
Michael Moore takes to the big screen in this Oscar winning documentary, which plays like a whole series condensed into one gripping episode. The most obvious thing to say first is that this is far from a mere reportage about the tragic massacre at Columbine High School, but rather an investigation into how such a thing can (and all too often does) happen in modern-day USA. Short of attempting to provide neat answers, Moore introduces his ideas through rivetting and at times disturbing insights into the gun culture that pervades American society, and the resulting fear and loathing that it generates. As such, Moore finds himself confronting the people who would tell you there is nothing to get so worked up about, from right-wing militia to the humble employees of KMart, who sold the bullets to the perpetrators of the Columbine High School massacre.
This documentary is fascinating, disturbing, cynical (in places), unerringly to the point, but ultimately hopeful that somehow the people that need to sit up and take notice will hear what is being said. The factual content of the film makes it essential viewing, whether you appreciate Moore's characteristic (and at times slightly difficult to watch) manner or not. This is obviously not 'saturday night at the movies', but it is certainly a film that can be watched over and over again.
One key conclusion that jumps out from this film is the fact that alot of people in America seem to think that the spiralling gun problem in that country is either not their responsibility (like KMart), or that the problem could be alleviated (if not altogether solved) by stricter gun control. Among the only voices of reason in the film (other than Moore himself) is that of goth-rock star Marilyn Manson, whose compassionate and constructive comments are juxtaposed with the crass and mind-numbingly blinkered mumblings of Charlton Heston (the president of the National Rifle Association), who looked deeply embarrased when Moore finally puts the boot in, and so he should be.
This is a rare thing, but you don't even need to have seen this film once to buy it... just read some of these other reviews to see why.
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on 30 September 2003
While all non-Americans have long regarded Americans with a mixture of admiration, spurred by their economic success, rock music and Hollywood movies, and disbelief (rabid nationalism, gun-obsessed people and culture of violence in general), most Americans themselves have always felt this is quite normal and hold that it is their God-given right (!) to own, carry and use weapons as they please.
However, as Michael Moore points out, the problem is much deeper than the gun culture. In fact, he is not far from stating that guns are probably the result, not the cause of America's violence culture.
The ultimate cause is nothing less than... fear. Fear of anything and everything. Fear of 'six foot African-Americans', fear of not being part of the group, fear of the neighbour, fear of crime, fear of snakes, fear of african bees, you name it, the list is never endless. And the fear itself is spurred by the media, willing to do nothing else but to make you watch TV and buy papers, to make you buy the products announced in the commercials, eventually to milk your money from you, which can be done as long as you're glued to the box.
Moore argues well enough that it is this fear that makes Americans different from everybody else. That indeed they have more violent crimes than anywhere else in the world. Indeed, every year more than 11000 people are killed in the US while only 68 are killed in Japan. However, Japan has its own culture of violent video games and violent past. But apparently they're meek (my words based on what I understood) or at least not prone to stupid violence. And Japan is not alone. Though the UK, Germany and France have higher crime rates they are still nowhere near the US.
However, even if gun culture is a result and not a cause, after a while it does become a cause. It becomes a cause when you can even buy ammunition for your top of the range gun at the local K-mart and then all you need is an excuse to fire it. And many times people end up shooting not a trespasser or a criminal but members of their own families.
Moore also demystifies South Central LA, a place that occupies a special spot in America's psyche for being so violent that it's a no go area. Balls, he says, it's as safe as any other neighbourhood only it's full of black people and therefore associated with violence by the white. And so it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.
This is the most original (yet we all knew this is so), funny but serious, blunt but sharp and revealing documentary I have ever seen. It has won the Hollywood Accademy Oscar for the Best Documentary and well as the Palme D'Or Cannes for Best Film, itself a feat since documentaries have not even been accepted to run for the prize for decades.
While the DVD doesn't have any extras worth raving about (direct access to chapters doesn't never counted as an extra) the documentary is definitely worth every penny you spend on it.
Oh, and if you want to know about subtitles, it's only got English for the hearing-impaired.
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on 3 November 2003
This really is a great film, thought provoking and insightful.
The film analyses just how gun nutty the USA is. Pro gun groups such as the NRA and the Michigan Militia are quite rightly portrayed as unsimpethetic, fanatical groups. The "George Bush's America" sequence is one of the most atmospheric sequences ever put together and you just have to laugh at the "hip to be square" cop talking about the hunter dog incident as if it's the most natural thing in the world.
The film contains actual CCTV footage of Columbine High School on the day of the massacre and interviewees include Charlton Heston, Brian "Marilyn Manson" Warner (anyone who thinks that Manson is a freak should watch this interview, the man is very bright and articulate), the father of one of the Columbine victims and many others with their own particular viewpoints.
The main point raised in the film is "The Culture Of Fear", something that Bill Hicks talked about for many years before this film was made. Certain things that you would expect to be mentioned in a film like this, such as Waco, dont (apart from McVie's accomplice mentioning it but no real in depth stuff) but this doesnt take away to much from the film.
As well as all of this, the soundtrack fits in very well with the themes explored in the film. As well as being a great song, Joey Ramone's version of "What A Wonderful World" works as the perfect ending to a great film.
Other films have explored violence in society, such as "Killing Of America", but none have had the moral conviction of this film.
We've got the film, now all we have to do is dispose of the guns.
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VINE VOICEon 10 July 2004
Yes, it's heavily partisan and opinionated. Yes, people will either love or hate it depending on which side of the fence they sit, but I guarantee no-one will ever sit on the fence after seeing Bowling for Columbine. This is riveting film-making, iconoclastic in its well-researched deconstruction of the American attitude to firearms (because, despite the views of those in denial, the bald facts of the American rate of gun crime and death are beyond question), and as confrontational as they come - right to the climactic encounter with NRA President Charlton Heston. Personally, I wouldn't have it any other way. Thank goodness for the courage of film-makers like Michael Moore, warts and all.
Much of his film is sobering and unashamedly emotive, centring on the appalling massacre at Columbine High School in Columbia and the senseless killing of one 6-year old by another in poverty-stricken Michigan. But despite the underlying tragedy Moore entertains us throughout, and has the drive to extend his researches to 2 hours worth of film without ever letting the pace or epic scale drop. You get the dead-ends as well as the triumphs, truly cinema verite. Had he chosen to take his talents to Hollywood, Moore might have been the next Cecil B DeMille, but in the documentary form he is masterful and fully deserving of his rewards.
And the fact that so many would willingly line up to shoot him with the weapons extensively detailed in this film shows just how close to the bullseye he achieved. Top marksmanship, I'd say.
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on 4 February 2004
Bowling for Columbine is probably one of the most important films of our time. It examines the gun culture that currently exists in the USA and asks that all important question, why? Why do Americans have such problems with guns? In this film, Michael Moore asks many of his fellow Americans that very question, including singer Marilyn Mansen and the president of the NRA, Charlton Heston. Some of the answers he receives are truly shocking, and not from who you would expect.
Michale Moore travels across America examining different views on guns, from Columbine, the site of the Columbine High School massacre a few years back, to his home town of Flint, Michigan, and also asks what encourages Americans to shoot each other. Is it a culture of fear caused by the media, or are there other factors?
He also travels to Canada to find out why Canadians, a nation of hunters, and similar to Americans in many respects, don't have the same problems.
Funny, sad and revealing, Bowling for Columbine is not an easy film to describe. If you have seen any of the other films by Michael Moore, you're sure to enjoy this one. If you haven't, this is a good place to start, just like I did.
Be warned though, there are some scenes which some people may find upsetting. I know there were some which I did.
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on 14 December 2003
Can't recommend this highly enough. It should be on the national curriculum as a compulsory study work into contemporary issues.
Yes, we hear every day about the "American Way" and how a gun culture has infused American society but, for me, this documentary was a huge eye opener in many ways.
Michael Moore is an unassuming, humble and inspirational writer and orator who really does want to change things - in his case the maxim "the pen is mightier than the sword" really does apply. Michael's interviewing style is probing but he does not attempt to pass judgment he simply states the facts in layman's terms and this is one of the things which makes this piece so powerful. His delivery style borders on evangelism, so passionate is he about what he does. And rightly so.
It is quite simply the most important piece of documentary work that I have ever seen and the impact will be long lasting.
One slightly bemusing point - how on earth can the New York Post find this "screamingly funny" it is far from funny and is a shocking indictment of all that is wrong with popular American culture.
Michael - the world needs more people like you!
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on 16 July 2003
Let me start with saying that Michael Moore did one heck of a job when he shot this documentary....and "got away with it". Not only did he get away, he got an Oscar as well. The documentary has its fair share of insights, the best in my opinion has to be the South Park interlude explaning America's identity. Truly apt.
What held me back in giving this documentary a top grade has to do with some of Moore's actions which I can only label as typical American over-dramatization. The scene that readily comes to mind is when Moore places the photograph of the 6 year old victim of a gun related accident on Heston's front lawn. I mean, I'm sure Heston rubs me (and others no doubt) the wrong way and the racial remark he uttered was ghastly but even Heston didn't want a six year old to die as a result of a gun related accident. I'm sure he's as appalled as the next person about what happened. The way Moore leaves Heston's residence after placing the picture, bowing his head in quiet desperation, made me question his implementation of what I call a "Oscar trick card." But chances are Moore never looked at it this way and didn't realize he needlessly inflicted more harm to Heston that Heston did to himself. Moore should have let the interview with Heston speak for itself without driving home the message over the corpse of a six year old.
A bigger problem with "Bowling" I have has to do with the fact that Moore never really addresses the cause of the disproportionally large counts of gun related accidents in the US. Although he shows us what it isn't, he should have persisted more in finding out what is. He knows the answer is there but ultimately only manages to hint at it. In a later interview he is much more focused on this point but still doesn't seem to recognise that he hasn't answered the question or fails to see that this question is paramount and deserves the answer he has set out to find.
One of my favorite moments is the Marilyn Manson interview. Manson is being bombed by "respectable" Americans throughout this section, but he turns out to be the only person saying sensible things and arguing coherently and intellectually.
A good documentary, no doubt, but rewarding it with an Oscar made me wonder about the quality of all the other nominations. In any event you should at least rent it and then decide if you want to make it part of your collection.
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