With the booing of Michael Moore's anti-war Oscar speech still echoing in Hollywood, the filmmaker announced on his Web site last week that "Bowling for Columbine" has surged at the box office, suggesting that anti-war activism isn't a death knell for artists.
Grosses for "Bowling for Columbine" jumped 73 percent the weekend after the awards -- gaining more than any other movie that won an Academy Award, except "The Pianist," which improved by 138 percent. Two weeks later, the film is still drawing more viewers than it did before the filmmaker's comments.
Moore's soap boxing at the Oscars probably won't hurt him in the long term, just as it probably won't affect anti-war actors such as San Francisco native Danny Glover either. Since the 1940s and 1950s, when many artists were blacklisted, actors and filmmakers have rarely seen their careers destroyed because of their political views.
I've always considered Moore a guilty pleasure, much like the liberals that listen to Rush Limbaugh. I think Moore's aggressive style is funny to watch even though I think his premises are wrong. Back in 1996, when Moore was answering questions in an AOL chatroom, I asked him why he hated Pat Buchanan when they had the same ideas about labor. He totally skirted the question, knocking Buchanan personally instead of acknowledging the common ground. It made me realize he was less interested in discussing the specific issues and more interested in being the celebrity face for the neo-left. It would be easy to dismiss him, but his schtick is funny.
His show the Awful Truth had some great comic moments. In one episode, Moore was playing Rage against the Machine music and had a bunch of rowdy kids form a mosh pit. He vowed to endorse the first Presidential candidate that would jump into the mosh pit.
They traveled the country with the kids in the back of an open cargo truck with the music blaring and offering the endorsement to many candidates. Gary Bauer was totally without humor. Orrin Hatch seemed to smile, but wouldn’t do it. Bill Bradley declined respectfully. Moore couldn’t get close enough to Al Gore to ask him. He did get into a George Bush press conference, and when he asked Bush, Bush said something like, “Oh, Michael, get a real job.” They waited for Alan Keyes outside a rally and asked him when he came out. I don’t think Keyes knew who Moore was, and seemed ambivalent to the idea. He asked his daughter what she thought, and she said go ahead so he did.
Keyes was later derided for doing this. It even came up at the next Republican debate, with Gary Bauer crying that they were playing Rage against the Machine music (read: devil music). I laughed all the way through the segment. But it gave me a lot of respect for Keyes, because he really came off as a regular guy. He believed in his own ideas and spoke well, but he didn’t take himself seriously.
That is what is missing from most of our politicians. They take themselves deathly serious. Here Moore inadvertently revealed a lot about political personalities in a way that few commentators would have. So even with all of Moore’s socialist rhetoric, his style and brashness are funny and revealing. He’s not always honest as this web site attests, and I’m glad they booed him at the Oscars, because half the fun of Moore is watching doors slammed in his face when he’s confrontational. But Moore’s job as the funny liberal is watchable anyway. When I see Bowling for Columbine, I will no doubt hate the inaccuracies but belly laugh a half dozen times anyway.