Bowling for Columbine wins for best documentary, and the director goes off. Some would say the deep end.
I’m confident that Michael Moore, during his acceptance speech at the Oscars, said exactly what he meant to say. He intended to be incendiary, using his brief moment in the sun to inflame the emotions of the Academy members who put him there and of the viewing public. He wasn’t wrong in what he saidâ€”Bush is president by virtue of a ficticious election, and the reasons behind the present war are ficticious as wellâ€”but the Oscar podium is a place for gratitude and humility. It’s a place for thanking your forebearers, contemporaries, heroes, contributors, and so forth. It’s a place for talking about what you learned in making your film. It is not a place for crass political speeches. (Though it is too bad the orchestra drowned out his line about the Dixie Chicks and the Pope.)
Done correctly Moore could have used the opportunity both to properly accept the award and to make a few political points. Since his movie was about the pervasive culture of fear under which we live, it would not have been difficult to fire a few broadsides in the direction of both the war and the president while doling out appropriate thanks. Lacking the proper sensibility in this regard, Moore sadly came off as a low class ingrate.
In his post-acceptance remarks to reporters he spoke about the dutiful nobility of his actions; the love he feels toward cinema, freedom speech, and America; and the evils of the Bush administration. Two out of three ain’t bad, but the idea that he somehow had a duty to launch into an anti-Bush screed during the Academy’s airtime is absurd. It’s not noble, it’s rude. Sure, we have freedom of speech in America. We also try to have tact, because your political point of view gets marginalized when people think you’re a jerk. (Something more than a few protesters up in Portland should learn.)
There’s no question Moore is a very talented author and filmmaker. Now there’s no question he’s juvenile egotist as well, but that’s no tragedy. In fact, it’s probably part of what makes him as good as he is at what he does. I do, however, find myself wishing that vocal proponents of views similar to my own would come across in a more compelling fashion. There is a difference between the easy work of being heard and the difficult task of changing someone’s mind. Anti-war types need to learn this and to get better at the latter.