(Check out the list so far)
The Movie: Bowling for Columbine (2002)
One Sentence Plot Summary: Michael Moore tries to figure out what makes America a violent group of gun nuts and changes the face of documentary filmmaking for better and worse.
Why It’s on the List:
Let’s be clear. Michael Moore is a problematic figure, and I have mixed feelings about including this film on the list, especially since this is the only documentary on the list. However, Bowling for Columbine had a profound effect on me. This was not the first documentary I ever saw, but it was certainly the first one I saw in theaters. I can even remember the theater and time period when I saw this film. It presented an alternative view of American, one I did not see in the mainstream press. I was shocked by the 911 tapes playing over the tragic Columbine footage. I laughed at the South Park like cartoon of American history. It raised a lot of questions about guns and why America is so violent.
The sad part is it’s 20 years later, and the problems haven’t gone away. School shootings happened on a near daily basis until the lockdowns occurred in March. We’re still gun nuts, still have issues with the way we treat Black men in this country, and still have issues with poverty. Moore discusses these issues humorously but still conveyed the gravity of these problems. In a way, this is something we see all the time on various late-night shows. John Oliver has perfected this and is significantly better at it quite frankly because he does his research and isn’t as manipulative. I don’t think these late night shows ripped off Moore, but it’s clear this film has had a tremendous amount of influence.
Moore’s next film about the Bush Administration was ultimately his highest grossing documentary, but it does not have the staying power of this one. Think of this. Moore brings up the racist and classist issues of the television show Cops. That show also spawned a podcast that served as an expose and was only just finally cancelled despite its horrific reputation. Bowling for Columbine also features some great interviews with Marilyn Manson and Matt Stone. I know full well there is inaccurate information and manipulative editing, but it’s still a very powerful look at the problems of America and problems that still exist.
*Not a huge fan of Charlton Heston’s politics but the way his speech is edited and the subsequent interview (where there’s at least the possibility he has some form of dementia) does not sit right with me.
*There’s a lot of manipulative editing tactics throughout.
*The cartoon about American is a gross misrepresentation of a lot of things, but the KKK and NRA., repugnant groups though they are, starting around the same time have nothing to do with each other.
MVP: Michael Moore is so much a part of this documentary as the director and “character” that it’s impossible not to give him this award. Due to this being a documentary, there’s no best performance.
Best Quote: “Every time that I bring up comparisons with other free-world countries, what I hear is ‘Our culture is so different. We’re so different’. They have violent video games, they have violent movies, they have alienated youth. They, like us, don’t have prayer in schools. What is so radically different? What is it about us? – Tom Mauser
Is there a sequel? No. Moore really hasn’t made a documentary nearly as impactful as this one (Although Sicko might be his best for reasons relating to him taking himself out of the story).