Friday, October 02, 2009

Capitalism: A Love Story and Big Fan

This is perhaps Michael Moore's best film, both in terms of message, and form. Moore's never really gotten much praise as a filmmaker because what he does is deceptively simple. Sure, there are the obvious touches, the sing-songy sarcastic narration, the feigned shock, the melodramatic use of music from other films and ironic use of songs, but what's hidden between those things is a very delicately weaved film. Moore's movies are episodic by nature, but he has a keen sense of when and where and how long those episodes should be and it creates a non-fiction film in which a narrative emerges. Maybe it's not a narrative in a story sense, but in an emotional and informative sense there is an arc to the film, and this one, more than any others, leaves the audience in a state of determination and will to action. I would argue that Moore is not a documentary filmmaker in as much as he's an essayist. Like any great essayist, he has complete control of his medium, his use of image and sound in place of text on a page, in presenting a thesis (In this case, Capitalism does not work), giving context for that thesis and then leveling reason after reason why that thesis is so. Of course it's more elegant in the film than that reductive analysis, but at their essence, that is what his films do. So the measure of his films is how persuasive they are and in what ways do they make you think about the subject (or subjects) explored in the film. It's in this regard that Capitalism: A Love Story is so successful, and I think it's one of the best movies of the year.

Written and directed by Robert Siegel, former editor of The Onion and screenwriter of The Wrestler, Big Fan, like Siegel's earlier film, explores a less glamorous part of sports culture. In this case a New York Giants fan named Paul (Patton Oswalt). Paul lives to love the Giants, and has little else in his life. The film is very well observed in the details of how Paul life is consumed by his fandom and how much he defines himself based on that fandom. There are great scenes of Paul writing and rehearsing the inane rants he gives on the local Sports Talk Radio Show he frequently calls into ("Hey, it's Paul from Staten Island..."), only pausing to let customers out of the parking garage he works in, sitting in a harshly lit booth pouring over notebook pages filled with cliche analysis and insults about the last or nearest game. Oswalt is great, as is Kevin Corrigan as his Giants co-fan and only friend. Siegel allows the film to be dark and sad in place of comedy, though the film is often very funny, and lets the characters go in realistic and decidedly noncommercial directions. However great many elements of the film are though, I feel like Siegel could have pushed it even further and gone darker and explored the notion of the obsessive fan who lives for nothing else even more. As it stands now the film is very good, but there's always a feeling that it could have been great.

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