Regardless of your feelings about Michael Moore, he remains one of the most creative directors working today. He tackles issues that come close to ripping apart our country in a fashion that deserves to be seen.
This movie begins with a searing critique of Donald Trump and the success he is having in converting American politics into his TV series entitled “The Apprentice.” Despite his misogynistic personal life and the many lies that flow from his lips daily, people flock to him in the same way German citizens did to Hitler. This is demonstrated in “Fahrenheit 11/9,” where Moore shows Hitler addressing a large cheering audience where he has the German chancellor speaking in Trump’s voice. It is both fascinating and chilling.
But Moore doesn’t stop his critique of our American political system with his poignant analysis of our president. At the heart of the movie is a focus on the simple truth of how money completely controls our political agenda.
In that regard, the Supreme Court’s decision in Citizens United has unleashed a demonic force across our country where wealthy people can maneuver elections and hide their identity. For those who doubt, read Jane Mayer’s magnificent book “Dark Money” and be sure to pay attention to a PBS documentary under the same name.
What Moore does with this film is point out how the middle class and the little people of this country are being left behind. While they are encouraged by daily political ads to support the very candidates that serve only the interests of tycoons, people like President Trump seek the little guy’s support in the same fashion that medieval tycoons wanted serfs to praise them while they worked to survive in the fields.
No one escapes Moore’s cinematic blade, and that includes presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama. Clinton is shown recklessly expanding our national jail population, while Obama is held accountable for deporting more immigrants than any other president while sugar-coating the water poisoning taking place in Flint, Michigan. In particular, watch how Obama fakes drinking water out of the glass when he is only touching it with his lips when speaking in Flint.
While I fully knew this before seeing “Fahrenheit 11/9,” the film dramatizes how we are on the verge of recreating life in the Middle Ages. Ignoring the importance of Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security, conservative Republican candidates criticize their Democratic opponents for attempting to have government help the poorest of the poor lead a meaningful life. This is shameful, and nothing demonstrates that more than Republican evangelicals who embrace Jesus’ mantra to love your neighbor while separating Hispanic families in order to send them back to a desperate life they are trying to escape.
Though there is no one answer for all of this horrific nonsense, I do have a simple proposal. Anyone who wants to run a political ad on TV, the radio, in the paper or online should have to completely identify themselves and their supporters. Why do they get to use their millions to hide from public scrutiny?
Secondly, it’s time that we eliminate college debt by making public institutions as free as high schools and grade schools. Why do we let the wealthy benefit from an education where little people are only trying to find a way to make a contribution to life as we know it?
Finally, anyone who is over 65 knows the benefits of Medicare. It’s time that we apply that benefit to all Americans from the day of birth. After all, if the definition of being an American involves the guaranty of “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness,” how can that possibly exist if some Americans can’t afford health care?
“A Star Is Born”
What movie classic other than “A Star Is Born” has been remade over the last 80 years with such great success? It began with Fredric March and Janet Gaynor in 1937, followed by James Mason and Judy Garland in the classic version appearing in 1954, the lackluster recreation starring Kris Kristofferson and Barbra Streisand in 1976, and now the new version directed by and starring Bradley Cooper alongside Lady Gaga. Yet it remains a heartbreaking romantic saga that is as relevant today as it was in the 1930s.
To begin with, this is a love story involving two people on adjoining professional ladders heading in the opposite direction. It centers on a veteran musician named Jackson Maine (Cooper) who is fighting alcoholism and drug addiction after his concerts. In the process, he goes to a strip club where he is entranced by a singer known as Ally (Lady Gaga) as she sings “La Vie En Rose.” A romance ensues that you immediately suspect will challenge both of them.
Cooper gives a brilliant performance as Maine, a shaggy, long-haired singer who resembles an exhausted Jackson Browne. When he meets Ally, it is clear she has all but given up her chances of becoming a recognized singer, but he soon brings her on stage at one of his performances that launches her career.
Though the two differ in age and temperament, it is clear their love for each other is genuine. While Maine’s addictions are destroying his fame, Ally simultaneously passes him with the help of Rez, a singularly dedicated promoter played memorably by Rafi Gavron.
It is extraordinarily likely that Cooper will receive an Oscar nomination in the director category, and Lady Gaga is likely to be the frontrunner for Best Actress. As they face numerous challenges in their relationship, they never lose sight of the fact that they have accidentally discovered the love of their lives.
Let me acknowledge some other remarkable performances, beginning with Andrew Dice Clay as Lorenzo, Ally’s father. An L.A. limo owner surrounded by some funny colleagues, Lorenzo is dedicated to her professional success. In the process, he demonstrates an acting talent that has all but been forgotten. Let me also point out Sam Elliott as Bobby, Jackson’s older brother. He brings to this movie the same strength he deployed in “I’ll See You in My Dreams” (2015) “The Hero” (2017).
It has been a long time since Hollywood has had the nerve to provide us with a romantic cinematic tale of this film’s caliber, and you only have to think back to Clark Gable and Vivien Leigh in “Gone with the Wind” (1939) and Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman in “Casablanca” in 1942. This movie involves every member of the audience in an emotional story of two lovers who sooner or later are going to have to say goodbye. I would advise all of you to bring tissues, as the ending is overwhelmingly likely to produce tears.
Before closing, let me point out the fantastic music in this film. Bradley Cooper gives some very strong concert performances while playing guitar, and Lady Gaga will capture your heart as she sings a variety of songs that are also likely to receive Oscar consideration. Do songs entitled “Always Remember Us This Way,” “Before I Cry,” “Too Far Gone” and “I’ll Never Love Again” entice you?
If you liked last year’s “The Greatest Showman,” you will be entranced by this film from beginning to end. Though it has weaknesses, they are meaningless. It tells the story that confronts us all, namely the nerve to fall in love in the face of a social order that will likely drive you apart.•
Robert Hammerle practices criminal law in Indianapolis. When he is not in the courtroom or the office, Bob can likely be found at one of his favorite movie theaters watching and preparing to review the latest films. To read more of his reviews, visit www.bigmouthbobs.com. Opinions expressed are those of the author.