The Oscars are nearly always a chore to get through and are only ever enlivened by a bit of controversy and it was Michael Moore at the 2003 ceremony who baited the audience when accepting his Oscar for Best Documentary for ‘Bowling for Columbine’ and took the opportunity to berate George W Bush for the war in Iraq which was met with both applause and hateful booing.
Over the years Moore has continued to be something of a divisive figure in the world of documentaries purely due to his social conscience and at times over simplistic call for justice with an arguably skewed left wing view and ‘Where to Invade Next’, his first documentary in six years is no different in that respect.
Here he takes the contentious view that despite having bought the US war machine to wars in Korea, Vietnam and Afghanistan, America hasn’t actually won a war since WWII and has only destabilised countries. So Moore, with tongue in cheek, figures he should try to invade other countries and take the best from them if they have no oil. So armed only with a US flag he visits Italy, France, Finland, Slovenia, Germany, Portugal, Norway, Iceland and even Tunisia to see what they have that he can purloin for use back home.
Moore cuts a shambolic figure as he shuffles his 62 year old man mountain frame around the world looking ever more frail in his quest to take the best from each country and there is a certain degree of justifiable envy when he sees workers in Italy have a huge amount of paid holiday with no negative effect on work output or France where school children have 4 course meals including a cheese board compared to the slop served in the US schools where they struggle to even provide toilet paper. Or Germany who work a 36 hr weeks and employers break the law if they contact their employees outside of work hours. With wanting the best from all worlds Moore conveniently overlooks the envy that some of these nations have of others and as the film goes on the arguments are hardly presented objectively. Slovenia, for example has free university education, and so US students go there for a free college education without contributing anything financially to Slovenia – its exactly what political parties like UKIP protest against in the UK.
Moore’s sensibilities get ever less discerning when visiting Portugal where the liberalisation of drug use means no one has been arrested for that offence in years but the theory is then expanded to hard drug use in the US by black minorities who end up being jailed but then lose the right to vote and are forced to manufacture items for large companies essentially for free – an act which he equates with slavery. In Norway he visits a liberal prison that is home to their countries worst criminals including Anders Behring Breivik who murdered 57 school children and has been jailed for a maximum 21years but still has access to all manner of facilities. It’s enough to make Daily Mail readers froth at the mouth. From here he moves on to women’s rights in Tunisia and government funded abortion and ultimately Iceland where several banks run by men drove the country to the brink of bankruptcy bar one bank……..which was run by women. The conclusion he draws from all of this is that if women ran countries and more were CEO’s then the world would be a better place. It’s possibly that Moore, who is socialist /democratic in his sensibilities, chooses to ignore Margaret Thatcher when he makes this point. What he does point out though is that most of the freedoms that he had found in other countries originated from the US which has, over the decades, chosen to ignore them and there are moments that Moore, despite what many think, clearly loves his own country and wonders why the US cannot re-enact these privileges where they originated in the first place.
At his best Moore does make some excellent points but at times he lets his own political agenda cloud his reasoning which is a shame as he can put forward a good point as well illustrated in his anti gun lobby film ‘Bowling for Columbine’ which reduced Charlton Heston to looking, at best, foolish and at worst, an absolute idiot. Unfortunately as the film goes on the arguments become more simplistic and the film is overlong and would have made a better TV series than a standalone film. Pointedly he never ‘invades’ the UK.
Here’s the trailer;