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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » The Awful Truth Season 2
The Awful Truth Season 2
Docurama // Unrated // January 29, 2002
List Price: $39.95 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Gil Jawetz | posted January 29, 2002 | E-mail the Author
Buy from Amazon.com
C O N T E N T
V I D E O
A U D I O
E X T R A S
R E P L A Y
A D V I C E
Highly Recommended
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P R I N T
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Michael Moore has gotten some bad press lately for
sending out an e-mail
criticizing US business policies a little to close to
September 11th's
tragedies. It's a shame he couldn't wait a little
longer since many of
the issues that he has made it his life's work to
expose (unfair labor
practices, government pandering to big business) are
integral to our
current situation and to our future. Also falling into
the category of
bad timing is the release of the second season of his
Bravo show The
Awful Truth
onto DVD.


The Awful Truth (which is very similar in style
to Moore's
previous show TV Nation) uses humor to expose
some gross
hypocrisies in our country. Each episode contains two
10 to 15 minute
skits focusing on one issue at a time, like lobbyist
favoritism in
Washington or BMW's refusal to pay reparations to
slave laborers from
World War II. But the style is unique. Usually Moore
uses simple
editing
and the subjects' own words as his weapon, like a
fashion designer
claiming that sweat shop workers love their jobs
because "all their
friends are there" or a politician who wants the ten
commandments posted
in every public school but can't name (or even
paraphrase) a single
one.


The problem with Moore's quick-cut activism is that it
usually exposes
stupidity and creates great entertainment (as well as
a lot of head
shaking disbelief) but it often can't delve deep enough
into the material
that it could change someone's mind. He's mostly
preaching to the
choir,
since fans of his show are likely to already agree
with him on most
issues. Some of his ideas are great
oversimplifications. For example,
he
doesn't explain whether or not the fashion designer
interviewed has any
connection to the sweat shop that his camera crew
visits, so this
segment isn't good for much more than a laugh. Also,
his condemnation
of
New York taxi drivers for neglecting to pick up black
customers (which
spawned one of the best segments on TV Nation
as well as a very
funny one here) doesn't include any information about
the rash of
cold-blooded cabbie murders or the fact that African
immigrant cab
drivers express the same bias. This sort of
wrinkle would detract
from Moore's ability to make a point (and a joke) in a
short amount of
time, so it's ignored, and the issue becomes a little
less
complex than it really is.


Similarly, not all segments work. Moore's protest of
then-NYC Mayor Rudy Guiliani's puritanical "Quality of
Life" campaign finds him opening a Times Square sex
shop that obeys the 60% wholesome / 40% naughty split that
Guiliani mandated by selling lots of items bearing the
mayor's face. While it's a funny idea, there isn't
anything funny about a Guiliani buttplug after you've
already seen a Guiliani dildo and a Guiliani
vibrator.



On the whole, however, the segments are entertaining
and politically provocative. A faux newsreel declaring
"War is over!" refers to the war on abortion providers
with anti-abortion crusaders gleefully advocating
murdering doctors in pursuit of their goals. Even
actor Ben Stein pipes in with his "abortion is murder"
opinion (unless the statement was another one of his
famous deadpan jokes, in which case he's a comic
genius!)


Similarly, the show kicks off with a blockbuster sequence that finds Moore traveling the 2000 Presidential
primary trail with a portable mosh pit looking to endorse the first candidate willing to take a stage dive to
Rage Against the Machine. This is an extremely funny segment, sometimes so only for how long Moore is
able to engage politicians like Orrin Hatch. When then-Governor Bush tells Moore to "Go get some real
work," the intrepid filmmaker's reaction is funny, true, and a sad reminder of a time when it was so easy to
point out our future president's glaring flaws.


So, you can't really get your news from The Awful
Truth
, but you
can stare in amazement as Florida Death Penalty
supporters say things
like "I don't see any reason why Florida can't execute
two inmates a
month. If Texas can why can't we?" or as a northern
California judge
wholehearted endorses the notion of railroading the
accused straight to
jail without trials because it frees up his time for
fishing.


But the main sense one gets from The Awful
Truth
is that Michael
Moore is pissed. He's pissed enough to send goodfella
Sal Piro to
collect for Holocaust victims from BMW, pissed enough
to sell oil for
60
cents a gallon in the name of Saddam Hussein to
collect packaged food
for starving Iraqi children harmed by UN sanctions, and
pissed enough to enter a ficus plant into a
congressional election in a
New Jersey district where the unopposed candidate was
so confident in
his win that he didn't bother opening a campaign
office and didn't even
come home for election day. The fact that the ficus (a
write-in
candidate due to some sketchy maneuvering on the part
of the local
board
of elections) may have actually won except for the
vote counters'
refusal to count the write-ins (a major constitutional
violation) just
proves how right he can be.




VIDEO:

The full-frame video looks fine, if unremarkable. Most
of the material
was shot on video for TV broadcast and, with six half
hour episodes per
disc, looks fine.



AUDIO:

The Dolby 2.0 stereo soundtrack is also fine. Field
mics are used for many segments but the production is
surprisingly clear. This is not a audiophile's show,
but the track is well produced.



EXTRAS:

The main extra is commentary from Moore on four of the
episodes from
the first disc. His commentary is fun to listen to
("Look at him," he says while watching Hatch
contemplate the mosh pit. "You know he just wants to
jump in.") But for the most part the episodes serve as
their own commentary.


The discs also feature extra "Lenny the Awful Truth
Bookie" odds sequences, but these are by far the least
funny segments of the show.


A lengthy Michael Moore biography and assorted
descriptions and trailers for other Docurama releases
are also included.



FINAL THOUGHTS:

Michael Moore has a built-in fan base from his
previous work. These viewers will definitely enjoy his
brand of sarcasm. More casual viewers may find some of
the skit hilarious, but no one with an opposing
viewpoint is likely to find Moore's opinions
entertaining or convincing; Trying to discuss the
segment on prayer in school with a Republican friend
reminded me of that. Still, anyone with a healthy
distrust of our one-party political system should find
much to love about Michael Moore's version of the
truth.

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