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Review: Bowling for Columbine

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I was going to wait until next week to share any more reviews but after being asked here about my thoughts on Moore, I thought I’d post this one too.

In a nutshell, I think this is a great documentary and Michael Moore is a talented director and editor. My quibble – especially after reading not just the reviews but also sifting through the anti-Moore web sites – is that he plays a little too fast and loose with the facts. And the more factual errors that are made the less credible the rest of the movie is.

I’m talking here about errors/omissions he’s copped to – such as implying that Charleton Heston and the NRA went to Flint “soon” after a shooting when it was actually eight months later, at a time when lots of political groups came to town – and not the ones still in dispute.

Overall Moore does a good job of providing an educational, entertaining movie but it’s hard to tell when the factual part ends and the fun part begins. He wrestles with a good legitimite question: Why is American society more violent than that of other nations? He shoots down some of the usual theories, using statistics which critics question. The main answer he seems to suggest is that violence is caused by fear generated by the news media. TV news about bloodshed makes people more likely to be violent themselves.

There’s one big problem with that theory though – the level of violent crime in America has dropped in recent years at the same time that media coverage of violent crime – especially school shootings – is up. Despite those quibbles, I give this ambitious movie an 8. He may be sloppy, but he’s good.

Memorable movie quotes:

Chris Rock: You don’t need no gun control. You know what you need? Bullet control. I think all bullets should cost $5000. You know why? If a bullet cost $5000 there’d be no more innocent bystanders.
Michael Moore: If you were to talk directly to the kids at Columbine or the people in that community, what would you say to them if they were here right now?

Marilyn Manson: I wouldn’t say a single word to them, I would listen to what they have to say and that’s what no one did.

There is something very wrong when Manson sounds more intelligent in that sound bite than most politicians.

The movie was the formerly highest-grossing documentary of all time. The highest-grossing documentary is now Fahrenheit 9/11 (2004), also by Michael Moore, which made more in its opening weekend than this movie did in its entire run.

Moore has his share of critics, including this site devoted to criticizing his movies. While documentaries are traditionally made by liberals, three anti-Moore documentaries have been made: Michael Moore Hates America, Fahrenhype 9/11 and *Celsius 41/11: The Temperature at Which the Brain…Begins to Die.*

I might check out those movies sometime but meanwhile the irony is he’s laughing all the way to the bank. But it’s probably not the bank in the movie where you get the free guns.


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About Scott Butki

Scott Butki was a newspaper reporter for more than 10 years before making a career change into education... then into special education. He has been doing special education work for about five years He lives in Austin. He reads at least 50 books a year and has about 15 author interviews each year and, yes, unlike tv hosts he actually reads each one. He is an in-house media critic, a recovering Tetris addict and a proud uncle. He has written articles on practically all topics from zoos to apples and almost everything in between.
  • Roger Brennan

    Scott Butki is the perfect tool for the DNC.

  • Ah and now I know how to do links so I should say, that penguin thing is here

    Anyone else wish better movies than Moore’s and ones about penguins were the box office smashes?

    Like Murderball, for instance?

  • My post about penguins and irony is now up.

  • Oh I love irony.

    More/moore soon.

  • ejt

    Manson is a genius, Moore is a dullard.
    Manson works for a living, Moore lies for a living.
    One gets paid for singing to his fans, the other gets paid for singing praises to the mass media.

    What =’more’= do we need to understand?

  • Marilyn Manson came across as the smartest guy in the entire movie. He was brilliant and eloquent, which is quite surprising since I expected the exact opposite based on his music and public persona.

    That is all.

  • ejt

    Moore is a boor, period.

    Why is it, do you suppose, that most people will willingly swallow a pack of lies, but equivocate endlessly over discussing a simple truth?

    I’ll tell you why: Most people can’t handle the truth.
    The truth is painful, mercilous, and without remorse.

    Most Americans are a pack of pansey-arsed twits who couldn’t empty piss out of their boots if the instructions were written on the heels.

    They believe in all the garbage that’s shoved their way – by the likes of Moore, and the mass media, and they do so without any critical thinking whatsoever.
    Obviously, if it’s on TV, or if it’s in the movies, well it much be true, right?

    What Moore did was successfully candy coat a load of sh*t, and a whole lot of people bought it, hook, line, and sinker. Or, would that be lock, stock, and barrel?


    When Moore’s effluvia is critically analyzed, what one ends up with is simply this: Why did he employ so many lies, and half-truths in an attempt to assail what amounts to better than a third of American citizens who have done nothing to anyone?

    Why is he so busy employing the leftist media to accomplish his goal of disarming honest, law abiding people, when =IN POINT OF FACT= he =KNOWS= that fewer than 1000th of one percent of all firearms owners are ever involved in a criminal act?

    Why should all those honest, law abiding people be punished for the acts of a few?


  • >>Just out of curiousity, if I make the “leader board” by coming in this site gangbusters, what do I get?<< A kick in the nads and no life? Dave

  • RJ

    Yeah, the two anti-Moore documentaries I saw weren’t exactly “enjoyable” but they were informative…

  • Just out of curiousity, if I make the “leader board” by coming in this site gangbusters, what do I get?

  • Pat Robertson and Rush Limbaugh and
    the like used to hype a video supposedly
    showing Clinton had some people capped.

  • I haven’t seen one on Vince Foster, but it wouldn’t surprise me if there was such a thing. There’s also Farenhype 9/11, which is interesting primarily for technical reasons. It’s not so entertaining, but if you want a straightforward, point by point factual debunking of Farenheit 9/11 it’s fairly useful. And it is interesting to see how Moore’s disinformation techniques work, but it’s not entertaining by any stretch of the imagination. It’s more tiresome and depressing and makes you kind of sick at how Moore does what he does.


  • Ah. I might have to watch that one day.

    And then there was the documentary in which it’s implied that Clinton had Vince Foster capped or something.

  • I wouldn’t say they’re any better than Michael Moore is. Plus they’re mostly reactive – producing documentaries to counter propaganda from the other side.

    The best of the lot – and I hate to even menton it – is probably Waco: The Rules of Engagement – but it’s from the extreme, insane Tomothy McVeigh right wing, but it’s very much the same kind of suppositional reasoning that Moore uses – just to serve a different agenda.


  • Can anyone point to a good Republican documentary maker? Or does such a thing
    even exist?

  • >>The movie was the formerly highest-grossing documentary of all time. The highest-grossing documentary is now Fahrenheit 9/11 (2004), also by Michael Moore, which made more in its opening weekend than this movie did in its entire run.<< An excellent proof of my theory that the more you lie in a documentary the better it does commercially, especially if your lies escalate and become more and more insane and exploitative. Dave

  • What I love – and what is well articulated in the book What is Wrong With Kansas – is how the conservative movement is based on fighting against the “liberals in power.” And yet Bush & Co. are in power so isn’t that message
    at some point contradictory?
    It’s like fighting a system which you
    are entrenched in.

    Manson is indeed articulate, especially
    when put up against a politician – and yes, Bush qualifies as one, or at least
    someone impersonating one.

    Of course he probably couldn’t spell impersonate but that’s a rant for another day.

  • Junior qualifies as a politician?

  • Russ Van Rooy

    Good review overall. One thing though – Marylin Manson is an extremely articulate fellow and so it is no surprise to me that what he had to say in this documentary was as reasonable as it was. Politicans ? Hell, most of them are as stupid as a bag of rocks – just look as the chief one among them.