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Michael Moore film says capitalism must die

Moore Twenty years after getting his start at the Toronto film festival with "Roger & Me," Michael Moore was back Sunday night among 1,400 cheering friends for the first public screening of "Capitalism: A Love Story," without question destined to be his most controversial film yet. Even the protesters out front were in his camp.

This time the documentary filmmaker's target is not a corporate titan, like General Motors' CEO Roger Smith was all those years ago, but a concept -- capitalism -- so American as to seem like the country would cease to exist without it. And so, by extension, Moore's target is us, a population that his film argues has come to confuse capitalism with democracy, which is the one thing he believes could actually save us.

It is an extremely risky gambit and Moore knows it.

"At least we'll have one good night with a bunch of Socialists from Canada," Moore said as the crowd roared.

As good a filmmaker as Moore is, he's not bad as a stand-up either. The film was screening in the city's historic Elgin Theatre in the Visa Screening Room. Soon after taking the stage in his now familiar trucker's hat, suit and tennis shoes, he crooned sotto voce "Welcome to the Visa screening room, Visa..." before telling about the nervous calls he got asking if there was anything about the credit card giant in his film.

But it was, for the most part, not a night for laughs as the film opened with a '50s-style health warning -- those with heart conditions, or small children, should leave immediately. While it drew laughs, they weren't hearty ones because the subtext was clear, this was going to be no easy ride.

The documentary is in its own way an activist love letter for a different time, one he feels passionately we should reclaim, as he intercuts his own family's home movies of vacations -- "me here on Wall St." accompanied by a shot of an 8 or 9 year old Moore -- or a recent walk with his now 88-year-old father to the empty lot that once was a massive spark-plug factory where his dad worked for nearly four decades. His father had made the trip from Flint, Moore told us, and was in the audience.

Moore's confrontational provocations, which he first introduced us to in his relentless hounding of GM's Smith for an interview to explain the massive downsizing of the Flint, Mich. operation all those years ago, now feels familiar. It feels softened in this film, perhaps because he felt the need to spend so much time in setting the table for his message. He takes us back to Rome, with a textbook explanation of why the empire collapsed juxtaposed with images that remind us how relevant those words are today,

There are heartbreaking vignettes of foreclosed families. An interview with a guy whose company is called "Condo Vultures," and is in the business of buying up and reselling foreclosed properties. As he explains it the only thing what separates him from a real vulture is that he doesn't vomit on himself (his idea of a joke).

Moore walks us through the so-called "dead peasants" life insurance policies that companies take out on their employees -- not for the families, but to enrich corporate coffers. There are charts and graphs and news clips explaining how Wall Street took over Washington, how the disparity between rich and poor grew so wide. And there is the trademark Moore confrontational fun: the filmmaker wrapping Citibank, Chase, et al. in yellow crime scene tape, trying to make a citizen's arrest of their boards of directors.

The film gets tougher and tougher as it goes along with his hometown priests, among others, denouncing capitalism as not just a failed economic system, but as an evil that must be eradicated. I saw one woman slip out at this point, but the rest of the audience seemed mesmerized, barely moving except for the occasional ironic bit that allowed us a second of comic relief.

After a standing, cheering ovation as the final credits rolled, more than half the audience stayed for the Q&A after. The questions, unlike Moore, were not confrontational. Did he have hope that Obama would bring change? He did, though he's not giving him forever to do it. Was he angry over the deification of President Regan? He was.

And then it was over, unless you wanted to join the nearby worker protest -- there were directions.

--Film critic Betsy Sharkey

Photo: Michael Moore arrives at the screening for "Capitalism: A Love Story." Credit: Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images for Overture.

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Funny how Michael Moore uses capitalism to spew hate about capitalism. That's like a cancer patient on chemo telling other people that chemo is bad but keeps using chemo himself! This is a very twisted individual!

I'd love to see him try and make an Anti-Cuba or Anti-Venezuelan movie inside of Cuba or Venezuela. Then lets see how far he gets!! What a disgusting hypocrite!!

Oh yes, I forgot, he pays his employees well so that they can buy a house and live the American dream. They have good medical insurance too. The kind that pays 100% of bills with no deductible., not the cheap kind so that the CEO can have another Mercedes in his driveway and another mink coat for his wife. Get off your high horse.

You are right on Dolores, I agree with you. Michael has to feed his family and make his mortgage payment on a regular house not a mansion. He does help organizations and charities. He helps the working poor. That is part of the problem, you haters make so much money and you are so educated that you can not even relate to down to earth people. Get off your high horse.

It's funny that Michael Moore's thesis in the movie is that we've confused capitalism with Democracy - and the comments just bear that out. In theory, at least, it should be possible to have a free society with a market that isn't based on "greed is good" principles.

So then is Michael going to split the profits of this film evenly among all who contributed?

Is Michael Moore pro- tyranny? Capitalism must die? How about we redistribute his profits?Tyranny like slavery must be abolished! Tyranny in all its forms is evil. It enslaves humans, we abolished slavery, we must abolish tyranny. That is the greatest legacy we can leave future generations. Whatever the quality of anyone's "art", it is immoral for artists to support totalitarian regimes. Join the Facebook movement, "End Tyranny Worldwide". Lets trully change the world, be it Cuba, North Korea or Iran. Freedom for all mankind. Give tyour profits to this cause, Mr. Moore!

Michael Moore can demonstrate best for his crusade against capitalism by giving all of his money away that the movie will probably make from all of the fringe elements that will turn out to see it, by first giving to the Hugo Chavez re-election committee, followed by the Che Guevara memorial scholarship fund at Patrice Lamumba university in Moscow, and the rest to every quasi communist fantasy world organization he can think of...and then he will have the street cred of a down and out "rage against the machine" communist he seeks so badly to want to be.

For all you haters out there, Michael Moore did make his money via films but it is through his hard work as a film maker and not off the backs of other people/peons. He isn't against necessary making money per say, but how the profits were made by exploiting the system and it only benefits the top 1% of the population. Before spitting venom, know the argument first.

So..How much of the money he makes with this propaganda will he be putting in the collectivist share pot? And what's Moore's net worth now? How many rooms are in his mansion? What sort of Health Insurance does Moore have? How diverse is his stock portfolio? He seems like a big fat capitalist to me. What a nauseating hypocrite.

Instead of capitalism, how about we just make Mikey disappear.What a hypocrit. He makes all his money from the capitalistic system and yet, he wants the rest of us to give that up and work for the good of all. Hey Mikey YOU FIRST

Seems like a very fair review definitely going to see it when it comes out!

I assume that Moore is not using any aspects of capitalism to produce or distribute his film.

That would be hypocritical.

Michael is a bitter anti-America propagandist!! He's the reason why there's so much HATE propaganda spewed against all things NON- liberal in the media. People have given this man too big of a platform in the name of free speech but if he was a conservative, he would get shut down! Sheer hypocrisy.

reagan, not regan

So did he make any actual points? I wish the LAT had sent a business reporter, as Sharkey's not even much of a film critic.


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