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Capitalism: A Love Story

"Capitalism: A Love Story" as well
as a film review by Gary Chew

GARY CHEW/Sacramento

The provocative Michael Moore confesses in his latest film that when he was a boy, he wanted to become a priest. During his childhood, Moore says he was struck by the priestly commitment of ministering to parishioners and helping the poor. After seeing "Capitalism: A Love Story," I'm glad Moore took another career track.

Flint's foremost filmmaker (who now resides in Traverse City) sometimes gets the jump on current events so far in advance it seems as though he might be tinkering with the national agenda. "Roger and Me" addressed the woes of the U.S. auto industry in another century, "SiCKO" premiered well ahead of the health care hassle now raging and "Capitalism" was already underway as a project when the fit hit the shan on Wall Street a year ago.

Michael Moore at GM

Michael Moore gets inside General Motors for the first time.

Even though "Capitalism: A Love Story" is no more provocative than today's cable news punditainment, it tries to cover a topic as large as it is controversial. The two-hour (plus) film barely makes a dent, but Moore manages to make a few with information that comes less than a surprise than why none of it has been reported, if at all, until now.

On seeing "Capitalism," I was introduced to a new term called "Dead Peasants Insurance"---not to be confused with "Dead Poets' Society." Dead Peasants' Insurance refers to the policy a major company takes out on the life of an employee and designates itself as the beneficiary. If the employee dies, the company gets the death benefit without the deceased or anyone in his or her family ever having known the policy was in force. Results: the company makes a big profit on the death of the worker; the family receives not one damned thin dime.

Other than how to land a big jet in the Hudson River, hero and US Airways pilot Capt. Sully Sullenburger told a congressional hearing his salary had been cut by 40% by the airline and that his pension wouldn't be there for him at retirement. Sullenberger's laudable feat of flying was a big story with lots of legs, but his financial status slipped through the cracks in the news media.

Carrying the point further about meager pay for people who fly planes loaded with innocent, paying passengers, Moore recounts the recent Buffalo, New York crash of a Colgan Air Dash-8 turbo-jet commuter that killed 50. Both pilots were paid less than twenty thousand dollars a year. The co-pilot also worked as a part-time waitress.

Michael Moore

Michael Moore attempts a citizen's arrest of the AIG board of directors

Another revelation in "Capitalism" that's sure to raise an eyebrow or two are the kickbacks lavished on two judges by entreprenuers of a privatized juvenile detention center in Pennsylvania. Seems the judges were generous at sentencing young people to serve time in the for-profit joint. Pennsylvania taxpayers picked up the tab.

Moore sets the stage for his provocative docutainment with a brief recap of the ascent of Ronald Reagan from B-movie actor, to TV salesman extraordinaire for big business and, finally, the Gipper's eight-year residency at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

In a vintage film clip, Donald Regan, President Reagan's Secretary of the Treasury and later Chief of Staff, is shown at the president's side while Mr. Reagan is giving an address. Regan leans toward the president's ear and curtly grunts, "You're gonna to have to speed it up," which President Reagan does. Secretary Regan was a player in much of the economic and financial reform brought forth in the Reagan Administration.

But Moore does fire salvos at a notable Democrat, U.S. Senator Christopher Dodd of Connecticut. Michael also takes an oblique swipe at the current Secretary of the Treasury, Timothy Geithner and the Director of the White House Economic Council, Lawrence Summers. Both men were nominated by President Obama.

Another unsurprising item that comes near the close of Moore's "Love Story" is his adulation for President Franklin Roosevelt. A strip of creaky old black and white film of FDR delivering his 1944 State of the Union Address---on radio about a year before his death---tells how much time (65 years) has slogged by without Americans realizing what FDR called his "Second Bill of Rights." Google it and see them for yourself. They read like an agenda for a series of meetings that might be scheduled for next week in Washington, D.C.

Garbed in a dark suit with white collar doesn't seem to be the proper costume for such a disheveled provocatuer as Michael Moore. Yes indeed, it is the crumpled ball cap, baggy blue jeans and giant-economy-sized tennies that better capture the correct attire for the hyperbolic, blue collar sage of the American Rust Belt. Moore is more American than his flag-wrapped detractors would admit.

As Bo Diddley admonished us long ago, "You can't judge a book by looking at its cover."

- - - - - - - - -

The final piece of music to play over the closing credits of Moore's film may cause some to remember the Oklahoma Hills that Hank Thompson used to sing about... with the help of a pair of crusty, old Okies: Okemah-native, Woody Guthrie's "Jesus Christ" song as sung by an Okie from Muskogee by way of Bakersfield, Merle Haggard...

Jesus Christ

Jesus Christ was a man who traveled through the land
A hard-working man and brave
He said to the rich, "Give your money to the poor,"
But they laid Jesus Christ in His grave.

Jesus was a man, a carpenter by hand
His followers true and brave
One dirty little coward called Judas Iscariot
Has laid Jesus Christ in His Grave.

He went to the preacher, He went to the sheriff
He told them all the same
"Sell all of your jewelry and give it to the poor,"
And they laid Jesus Christ in His grave.

When Jesus come to town, all the working folks around
Believed what he did say
But the bankers and the preachers, they nailed Him on the cross
And they laid Jesus Christ in his grave.

And the people held their breath when they heard about his death
Everybody wondered why
It was the big landlord and the soldiers that they hired
To nail Jesus Christ in the sky.

This song was written in New York City
Of rich man, preacher, and slave
If Jesus was to preach what He preached in Galilee,
They would lay poor Jesus in His grave.

"Capitalism: A Love Story" official site.

Opens 10/2 at the AMC Southroads 20 in Tulsa.

Check Yahoo Movies-Tulsa for theaters and times.

Gary Chew can be reached at garychew@comcast.net,
Facebook.com/justin.playfair and Twitter.com/orwellingly.

Copyright © 2009, Gary Chew. All rights reserved.

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