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Reviews » Blu-ray Reviews » Fahrenheit 11/9 (Blu-ray)
Fahrenheit 11/9 (Blu-ray)
Universal // R // December 18, 2018 // Region A
List Price: $29.98 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Stuart Galbraith IV | posted January 2, 2019 | E-mail the Author
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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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Filmmaker Michael Moore has his work cut out for him. With Trump and his Administration embroiled in almost daily scandals and the country spiraling headlong toward neofascism, collating and distilling just the months preceding and following the 2016 Presidential Election into a two-hour documentary must have been a daunting task. He might consider a 10-hour miniseries for his next project.

Fahrenheit 11/9 (2018), its title a clever play on his earlier Fahrenheit 9/11 (2004), finds Moore juggling myriad outrages, trying to tie everything together. Some of these components, like gun violence and school shootings, don't entirely fit together, but it's still one of Moore's most daring films to date. Advertising suggests that it's primarily a take-down of President Trump - an easy target - but by far its most compelling moments have Moore brutally critical of corporate wing of the Democratic National Committee, especially a jaw-dropping visit to Flint, Michigan by then-President Obama.

The 11/9 of the title refers to the day Donald Trump was declared the winner of the 2016 election. Predictably but effectively, Moore traces the smug dismissal of Trump-as-viable-candidate by both the mass media and by his Democratic and Republican rivals, particularly those supporting Hillary Clinton - though Moore goes easy on Clinton herself. Moore himself uneasily admits to compromising his usual instincts in a bizarre clip from a Rosanne Barr talk show segment, with Moore uneasily shoulder-to-shoulder with Trump himself.

Mostly though, he ties Trump's out-in-the-open criminal behavior and general outrageousness to the prior actions of ruinous Michigan Governor Rick Snyder, whose systematic destruction (if not ethnic cleansing) of that state's African-American strongholds (Detroit, Flint, Benton Harbor, etc.) resulted in undemocratically appointed "emergency managers" and, in Flint's case, a profit-driven rerouting of the city's water supply to the lead-infested Flint River, ultimately poisoning thousands of the city's predominantly black residents.

Moore's lifelong commitment to the people of Flint easily make this story the film's backbone. In what sounds like a cheesy trailer for a ‘50s horror film, shock follows shock: the toxic water begins to damage auto parts cleaned and processed at the city's lone General Motors plant, so Snyder diligently provides GM access to clean fresh water from nearby Lake Huron, but not the people of Flint, whose hair falls out, where they begin dying of Legionnaire's Disease and, worst of all, the entire population of children exhibit alarming levels of lead in their blood, data criminally altered to "safe" levels by image-conscious Republicans. If Rick Snyder and his cronies could (very nearly) get away with such crimes against humanity, what might Trump try on a national and international level?

Like a steel ball in a pinball machine, Fahrenheit 11/9 frequently changes gears abruptly, turning to such topics as the West Virginia teachers strike, the Parkland School shooting and its aftermath, militarized police, racial intolerance, the role of the corporate media in Trump's ascension, and other matters. (Surprisingly, no mention is made of the Dakota Access Pipeline controversy. The inaction when not outright silence of President Obama and then-candidate Hillary Clinton certainly contributed to the latter's defeat and would have strongly supported Moore's themes.)

For this reviewer, one of the (slight) weaknesses of Moore's films and the (neo-)liberal wing of the mass media generally has been a decided lack of self-criticism of the corporate/neoliberalist policies that contributed to Trump's victory in the first place. But in Fahrenheit 11/9 Moore's examination of the undemocratic Democratic primaries plays like an open, festering wound. In the film, he focuses on the primary in West Virginia, where progressive Democratic Socialist Bernie Sanders won all 30 counties in the state, Hillary Clinton even placing third in one, behind a candidate none of Moore's West Virginian interviewees even heard of. And yet, inexplicably, it was Clinton that was awarded the majority of delegates and "won" that state.

Coming off even worse is Barack Obama, who's seen visiting Flint in a disastrous (but apparently barely covered by the news media) PR trip. Before Flint's desperate families, then-President Obama makes an excruciating attempt at a joke, playfully sipping - but not really drinking - from a glass of the poisoned water. The populace was, quite rightly, appalled at his unfathomable callousness.

Moore tries to offset the growing sense of utter helplessness his audience feels with older-style signature Michael Moore moments of humor: spraying the front lawn of Snyder's Governor's Mansion with Flint water, for instance, and later, somewhat half-heartedly, trying to make a "citizen's arrest" of Snyder at the state capitol. More interestingly, he offers can-do profiles of younger generation progressive candidates, including the articulate and intelligent Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who comes off as positively luminous here. Moore's almost invariable pep rally-like call to action near the end comes off as ineffectual if not outright naïve. Given even the DNC's tone-deafness, inexorably beholden as they are to their corporate masters, and the corporate fascism in nearly full control of virtually everything else, is the change so desperately required even possible anymore?

Video & Audio

Universal's release of Fahrenheit 11/9 offers a fine transfer of the film, available also in digital copy form, at 1.78:1 widescreen with DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio, all up to contemporary standards. Optional English, French, and Spanish subtitles are provided.

Extra Features

The release, alas, is bare bones with no extra features

Parting Thoughts

Michael Moore may be preaching to the choir, as I doubt many all-in Trump supporters will be seeking this out, but in self-criticizing the Old Guard Democratic Party base, Moore's latest may have the most lasting practical influence. Highly Recommended.






Stuart Galbraith IV is the Kyoto-based film historian largely absent from reviewing these days while he restores a 200-year-old Japanese farmhouse.

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