Roger & Me Reviews
The film begins with a collection of archival footage of the filmmaker?s youth strewn together in a series of clips. His intent in providing this, seemingly, is to convey the depth of the relationship that he had with his hometown, Flint, and that same intimacy and dependency that it had with General Motors. From here we are taken into contemporary Flint, to which our filmmaker has returned after a mutual disharmony with San Francisco, where we find ourselves in the midst of a mass employee layoff by General Motors. Flint?s GM plants are getting ready to shut down and move their facilities into Mexico, where labor is significantly cheaper, and about 30,000 Flint employees are preparing their selves and their families for the misfortune that will lie ahead. From this point we watch the citizens of Flint, most of which were GM workers, and its economy descend into a depression from which we can only hope it returns. Throughout the documentary our filmmaker not only carries the role as the visionary, but he also assumes the role of the director, narrator, participant and I may even go as far to say the film?s representative protagonist.
It is clear that Moore intended to criticize the greed-fueled decision of Roger Smith and his lack of insight into just how great an impact his decision would have; he may have even been implicitly referring to all corporate leaders, but the story that he has presented to us yields more than one moral. Based on the filmmaker?s method in filming I have found two secondary aphorisms to prevail: (1) What are we willing to give up in the quest for progress, and (2) Ultimately people are only concerned about their own well-being. However, in examining this film one could find a multitude of underlying morals being professed/upheld, for Moore?s film is not one-note, but it seems that the first two are more readily identifiable.
Moore formats his film in such a way that we see these great disparities in ?character? as individuals or institutions approach what they consider to be progress or success. Though, too often do we forget that in order to progress you must abandon old concepts, ideals, modes of action, and general things of the past and acquire better, otherwise it is not progression. The problem in Roger and Me, though, is that often times we are willing to give up too much or simply the wrongs things, and our quest for progress and advancement loses that quality and simply becomes greed.
By Adella Lee
Back in 1989, when General Motors CEO, Roger Smith, decided to close several auto plants in Flint, Michigan, it cost 30,000 people their jobs and led to the decline of the city of Flint. Michael Moore was determined to find out the reason why the company closed the plant by interviewing Smith face-to-face. Therefore, he produced a documentary that recorded the entire process of trying to make contact with Roger, which he titled Roger and Me.
In Roger & Me, Moore provides contrast between how wonderful Flint used to be and how horrible Flint is after the plant shutdowns. At the beginning of the documentary, the director shows us how prosperous the city of Flint was in 1989. The documentary depicts the city as a place with a large number of factories and workers, where "every day was a great day." From the perspective of depicting a happy, lively atmosphere, the cinematography, editing and sounds make great contributions. As we can see, most of the shots consist of short takes that illustrate an urgent and fast pace of scenes that indicate prosperity and energetic life of old Flint. The short takes effectively present the colorful and busy daily life of Flint. We can see the busy transportation in the city, numerous people entering the factory, cars being produced in the plant, and car models proudly posing for the camera in front of newest car. Also, combining the short takes with cuts, the documentary effectively reproduces the grand scene of a parade. In less than two minutes, we see well-known individuals such as the GM president and Miss America, a number of large marching bands in the parade, and crowds of spectators along the street celebrating this biggest event: a scene that shows only enjoyment, no worries. Furthermore, thanks to the medium long camera, we can see the happy faces of the on-lookers, probably residents and workers of the city. Lastly, in these scenes, the brisk non-diegetic background music enhances the atmosphere of happiness. It seems like Flint was the most thriving area of the United States, and the residents of Flint lived a happy, carefree life.
After the shutdown of the GM plants, however, all the good days in Flint became a thing of the past, and Flint deteriorated rapidly. By presenting the suffering and struggling of the residents, the documentary utilizes cuts. Through these cuts, we see people being evicted from their houses because they could not afford their house payments or rent and selling their blood to earn a living. Furthermore, while the non-diegetic sounds that come from the news saying that Flint has the highest violent crime in the country, several cuts show people dead in the street, in their houses inside the city, and even in the countryside, which powerfully uncover the cruel actuality of the circumstances of the city and its surroundings.
Confronting the huge changes, Moore, a resident of Flint, felt obliged to do something. He decides to head to the world headquarters of General Motors and talk to the chairman, Smith. He wants Smith to witness the misery in Flint. In the two times Moore attempted to find Smith in the headquarters, framing helps significantly to present what Moore encountered and relays his feelings to the audience. As the camera tracks Moore entering the building and entering the elevator, the audience feels like following him in the scenes. In addition, because most non-conversational scenes were shot from behind Moore, the audience is put on the side of Moore. Therefore, when the worker comes up to speak with Moore and keeps rejecting his request to go up to see Smith, or the security officer talks to Moore but leaves halfway through the conversation, we have the same feeling of being underestimated as Moore has. During the conversations, which are filmed at a medium camera distance, we can see the contrast between Moore and the workers. In these scenes, Moore holds his hands in front of his stomach, which shows his angst, while the workers are putting their hands in their pants' pockets, indicating their indifference. It's hard to not take pity on Moore. People who are penniless and powerless always have difficulty getting the attention of the bigwigs. In most circumstances, they will be treated as Moore is. Even though Moore has written and called General Motors for a whole year after his first rejection, he still ends up rejected. The bigwigs' indifference to the struggling people is revealed by the framing. They care about nothing but the interests of the company.
Through these scenes, Moore tries to illustrate that an irresponsible decision of the company can destroy not just a family but even a city and severely criticize the indifference of the people. It's not hard to find that all the people he encounters throughout the movie as he tries to contact Roger Smith are awfully indifference. They obey the rules with no humanity and care only when something concerns their interests, such as the secretary who rejects Moore after knowing the efforts Moore has made, or the heartless police officer who expels the family from their house on the day before Christmas for the reason that he doesn't want to work during Christmas holiday. The members of the upper class keep saying people should not focus on misery but on happiness; they refuse to realize how much the people of Flint are struggling because they have everything they need, like the people in the Great Gatsby who dare to suggest people in Flint play hockey instead of drowning in sorrow. However, in the meantime, as I mentioned before, the reality is that numerous people of Flint are dying. The misery of Flint and the indifference of the people reveals the dark side of humanity, which powerfully strike the audience heart.
From my perspective, Roger & Me is indeed a first class documentary. After watching the whole movie, it keeps me pondering about how dark this society is and evokes feelings of responsibility for the society. Also, as the documentary is shot from the view of normal citizens, the scenes and feelings are accessible and real. Moreover, as the movie provides a clear position, which stands for the people in the bottom of society, I can see the reality of the poor, which reminds me of I should never forget to care about others when concerning interest. Nevertheless, the technique of the movie is excellent. It uses music to smooth the sad mood of the movie so as to make audiences comfortable while pondering the misery. And it perfectly combines the cinematography and editing to makes scene has its own conflicts and stress, making the audiences feel not bored at all to watch it. I would like to recommend this movie for those who are interested in knowing the reality of society but still want fun.
Acclaimed, award-winning director, Michael Moore, is interviewing a man named Tom Kay, a General Motors (GM) lobbyist and spokesperson, and probably the only GM patriot left in the city of Flint. He says, "General Motors wouldn't be doing any service if it goes bankrupt. It has to do what it has to do ..." Moore replies, "Even if it means eliminating 18,000 jobs?" Moore continues, "Or 30,000? ... How about all the jobs here in Flint?" To which Kay replies, "It could feasibly happen." Well it did. This participatory documentary, Roger and Me, directed by Michael Moore, exhibits the downfall of the U.S. city, Flint, Michigan, after its lifeline, GM, throws it to the dogs. Moore unequivocally states throughout the entire film that GM is responsible for the "death" of Flint. He leaves no room for the audience's view to waver. Moore asserts that GM disrespectfully abandons its founding city in favor of its own acquisitiveness. He does not take this backstabbing gesture, of GM's "bright idea", lightly and expresses his cynicism of GM's betrayal by not only giving sarcastic representations of the situation itself, through aspects of cinematographic properties such as editing and sound, but also through utilizing his own personal thoughts, experiences and narrations in the film.
Being a resident of Flint, Moore is wounded emotionally as the charm of his city depletes. The impact of this "bright idea" is not one he favors, and neither is the person who created it. The movie begins with a brief (almost autobiography) of Moore himself. There are two justifications for this; one: Moore's life and background give us a good basis of understanding the origins and disposition of Flint and two: Moore has an arrogant, egotistic personality, an aspect we recognize as the film goes on. However we sadly also recognize that Flint's disposition is entirely dependent on GM. Without GM, Flint is bound to crumble, as it did. All by the hands of Roger Smith, Flint's foundation was literally ripped from underneath it. Within the span of only a few years, the structure of one of America's most thriving cities entirely crumbled, and Flint was brought to its all time low.
Smith, the then chairman of GM, is the person responsible for the "bright idea", and is hence the person who is at the top of Moore's "hit list". As we are introduced to Smith we realize that entire intention of the film is to also depict Moore's pursuit of Smith. His intention is to bring Smith back to Flint so that he may see what he has caused. This is where the film gets its title, Roger & Me.
Moore translates the film in such a manner that not only gives the audience a full eyewitness view of Moore's pursuit but also shows the parallel downgrade of Flint aside the increasing vitality of GM. He accomplishes this in a methodical manner. To translate this plot and the brutal honesty of the phrase "As the rich get richer, the poor get poorer", Moore repeatedly follows this structure of presentation throughout the entire remainder of the movie after Smith is introduced. He shows us his attempt to contact Smith; we then his attempt has failed and he simultaneously shows us the progressive deterioration of Flint and the progressive growth of GM.
While this may sound monotonous, the film is actually not. The way in which Moore presents the film takes away the monotony of this step-by-step methodology. Because he uses different situations, and introduces different characters each time he decides to track down Smith, present Flint or show GM, the viewer's interest is always captured. In one scene, we see houses in Flint being evicted by a newly introduced character, Police Deputy Fred Ross (who carries a realist, satirical personality of his own) and while in another scene we see citizens of Flint paying hundreds of dollars to stay over night in jail and gallivant through the newly refurbished prison because it is the only newly renovated facility in the entire city. It the only building that is actually still in continuous use because of the increasing crime rate. At one point we see Moore traveling to a country club, where Smith is known to frequent, speaking about game hunting and killing your own prey to be served as food, while in another instance we would see Moore disguised as a GM stockholder at the Annual GM Shareholders Meeting penetrating his way to the microphone to confront Smith. And the list of instances goes on and on. Moore gives his viewers a myriad of situations, views and characters that continuously validate the point he is trying to get across - whether it be finding Smith, showcasing Flint's depletion or speaking of GM's growth. Therefore, although the methodology is repeated each time, it is repeated in a different way. With each repetition we learn something unique and new and our interest as a viewer is always kept. Not only is Moore making his arguments stronger, he is also keeping his viewer's interest in the plot as he tells the story of Roger & Me through this methodology.
But as the last quarter of the film approaches, we see that Moore has actually reached the point were he has the chance of successfully speaking to Smith. At the staging of the annual General Motors Christmas broadcast, Moore begins to lead the audience into questioning whether or not he will finally get the chance to speak to Smith, and whether or not he will finally get to achieve his goal. The audience is continuously wondering whether or not the struggle of this entire journey and the struggles the people of Flint themselves went through would finally be worth it. The unexpected answer to this then follows.
Moore presents the entire film in a witty manner, as noted before. But this wittiness is almost entirely achieved through his manipulation of sounds. Moore utilizes both diegetic and non-diegetic sounds in the form of music and voiceover narratives to give a sarcastic temperament to a serious situation. Moore teams up serious film plots with bubbly songs, provides sardonic commentary throughout the entire plot and contradicting the belief and seriousness of the film and city's situation and also introduces the film, whose entire concept is based upon the betrayal of the citizenship of a major city with an almost Brady Bunch style melody. Once again, matching his personality, Moore brings out his cynicism in full force. However, this cynicism is positive as it does make the film quite entertaining, without deterring it from the seriousness of its point.
For example, when Moore interviews his friend and former GM factory worker, Ben, we see our first instance of digress in Flint. He has been laid off five times within fives years by GM causing him to have anxiety over the security of his job. Ben tells us the story of the night he finally broke down. He says:
"I just couldn't take it [...] I flew out the door [...] jumped into my car, got onto Bristol Road [...] and I turned on the radio hoping that might cheer me up, I had tears coming out of my eyes, and I strike write into the middle of Wouldn't It Be Nice by the Beach Boys [...] what a horrible, horrible song to have to hear in the midst of a panic attack."
Moore utilizes this irony of Ben's experience to present a visual perception of the increasing number of abandoned and degraded houses in Flint during the movie. Moore transposes the irony Ben is experiencing by showing blocks upon blocks of abandoned houses while playing the poppy, non-diegetic melody of "Wouldn't It Be Nice" in the background of the scene. Giving this contrast between the depressing deterioration of the Flint houses and a song that speaks about the positivity of life gives the film a sarcastic "play on words" that is not only entertaining to the audience but also provides the film with its characteristic wittiness.
Furthermore, Moore also utilizes the non-diegetic form of voiceovers to individualize the documentary with his personal opinions. The entire documentary is literally the personal thoughts of Moore. There is no other view but his. This is why, as said before, the documentary gives the audience no chance to waver. The film drills only one view into the minds of the audience: the view that Moore carries of GM. The continuous voiceovers throughout the film only preach the view that GM backstabbed the citizens, who have carried it from being a simple start-up business into a billion dollar cooperation, for no apparent reason except its own acquisitiveness (Moore's view). We have no decision but to believe that GM is for everything, without even hearing the side of GM. While the fact that GM eliminating jobs in Flint did cause the downfall of Flint, the truth of a situation is never reveled until we here both sides of the story. Moore gives a one sided view of a two sided story, and this one-sided view is assisted by the fact that Moore's "voice" is the only "voice" we hear.
Also, being that the voiceovers present in the film are personal, another means by which Moore interjects his personality into the film is through the voiceovers themselves. Once again another cinematographic property compliments Moore's personality by adding sarcasm and wittiness to the entire film. Moore's commentary in the film is both satirical and critical. He says things like: "I mean, maybe I got this wrong but, I thought companies lay off people when they hit hard times," and, "... the only bright spot to come out of the whole affair [Ronald Reagan's visit to Flint for pizza with the citizens] was the individual who borrowed the restaurant's cash register on the way out the door." Snide comments like this are apparent all throughout the film. But not only do they add amusement for the audience, as do the song insertions like "Wouldn't It Be Nice", they also still bring across the critical points Moore is trying to make. His points that GM unnecessarily laid off workers and that Regan's visit to Flint to cheer people up during there hard times by taking them out for pizza was such a failure that the only thing to amount form it was a robbery were not lost in translation within his witty remarks. In fact his remarks are what brought these translations through. Therefore not only does Moore use the non-diegetic insertion of music to bring across criticism and amusement in his film, but he also uses another non-diegetic form of sound, voiceovers, to do the same. Moore successfully utilizes the cinematographic property of sound in his film.
One conflict many critics have with regards to Moore and Roger & Me is that Moore utilizes the cinematographic property of editing to "skew" real life. The timeline in Roger & Me is not in chronological order. This makes many critiques believe that this is not a documentary but rather a fiction. They believe that it is not justified as a part of documentary film form, because it manipulates a timeline in its favor. However, my question is that, does it not still tell us the truth?
Although the events in the documentary are manipulated to its advantage the document still tells us the truth. A documentary isn't meant to be an exact copy of the world. As Nichols says in Introduction to Documentary:
"[If] documentary [was] a reproduction of reality, these problems [the issue addressed in the documentary] would be far less acute. We would then simply have a replica or copy of something that already existed [...] documentary is not a reproduction of reality, it is a representation of the world we already occupy. It stands for a particular view of the world, [...]. We judge a representation by its fidelity to the original - its capacity to look like, act like, and serve the same purposes as the original. We judge a representation more by the nature of the pleasure it offers, the value of the insight or knowledge it provides, and the quality of orientation or disposition, tone or perspective it instills. We ask more of a representation that we do a reproduction." (20-21)
Moore is not trying to copy reality. He is trying to represent what happened in Flint during this era. He is not skewing the knowledge of what happened within this era by manipulating the order of the events. He is rather giving his "particular view" of the situation. He presents making his view and his argument on the situation more efficiently and more clearly to the audience by editing the film into the timeline he did. Moore's purpose is not to tell a chronological history, and he is neither misrepresenting the history that happened. He is giving to the audience what a real documentary is, that is, a representation of history that occurred.
Furthermore, Moore does something unique with Roger & Me. He varies away from the classic cinema verité style of documentary filmmaking and becomes a part of the era of what Linda Williams calls the "new documentaries." (383) This causes controversy. As Williams speaks about Thin Blue Line, a documentary film directed by Errol Morris, as a part of the new era of documentaries with the way in which it decides to edit and present its data, she also brings up Moore's Roger & Me as an example of one of these new era documentaries to validate her point. She says: "... on the one hand, [we have] a narrative faith in the truth of what the documentary image reveals (cinema verité) ... and on the other, [we have] the embrace of fictional manipulation." (386)
Errol's Thin Blue Line and Moore's Roger & Me both utilize editing to also "embrace fictional manipulation" in their films. This is what makes them apart of this era of "new documentaries." (383) They stray away from "verité's commitment to film 'it' as 'it' happens." (387) This causes much controversy among critics as this now causes critics to believe these documentaries do not give the truth. They believe that if a documentary favors to not show "life as it is" (387) but rather give a manipulation of the truth giving a more fictional representation of what occurred then it is "anti-verité" (387), i.e. not true. However critics need to realize that this new style of "anti-verité documentaries," is, "an attempt to overturn this commitment to realistically record 'life as it is' in favor of a deeper investigation of how it became as it is."
Moore's Roger & Me is no less verité than D.A. Pennebaker's Don't Look Back. It still "combines improvisation with the use of the camera to unveil truth or highlight subjects hidden behind crude reality." (Wikipedia) It just chooses to not simply copy reality, but to also give a better representation of it by manipulating the verité style film it already holds along with footage on the situation recorded outside the verité style of filmmaking to give a deeper investigation in the situation and further analyze its point. Instead of just copying the situation we are given a better analysis of how the situation occurred.
"In place of the self-obscuring voyeur of verité realism, we encounter, in these other films, a new presence ..." (Linda Williams 383). This presence being extra evidence presented to further validate the situation occurring in reality. The film is "fictionally manipulated" (edited by Moore) with extra non-verité style film to give more background and understanding on the situation. Instead of simply only objectively watching reality, receiving only a secondary source understanding of the situation and the information (like with cinema verité), we are receiving a first hand, primary view of the situation by receiving additional information that has been manipulated into the film to back up its understanding while still keeping its truth. We are given a deeper representation of what happened. This does not skew the truth of the film but rather enhances it with deeper meaning. "In Morris' [and Moore's] abandonment of the voyeuristic objectivity [of cinema verité] he [and Moore] achieves something more useful to the production of the truth." (Linda Williams 384).
What gives the film its ability to show the parallel downgrade of Flint aside the increasing vitality of GM is Moore's use of the editing device, crosscutting. Also known as parallel editing. It is a method by which the editor cuts from one location in a scene to another location, within that same scene, to show events occurring simultaneously. The way in which Moore utilizes crosscutting in the film gives the impression that while Flint is only getting worse, GM is getting richer - as said earlier in the essay. As one of the world's largest, and most profitable organizations, GM, is increasing by each day, while Flint in spiraling into an economic depression with each second. The most powerful example of this editing technique to bring across the parallel viewing of two separate situations simultaneously is seen on the day of Christmas Eve.
Moore immediately opens by saying, "Deputy Fred told me he had three evictions scheduled for this day, and at the same time in Detroit, Roger Smith was beaming his Christmas message to every GM factory throughout the world." We immediately cut to an upbeat Christmas melody at the General Motors Christmas program in Detroit, and then back to Deputy Ross, ominously stepping up the steps of a house in Flint, to evict it. Smith is then introduced and begins his speech. He says, "the thing that strikes me about Christmas is that ... for a few weeks out of our year, our whole environment is transformed ... the lights ... lift us out of winters gloom." But as he preaches this positivity of Christmas, we cut back to Flint, to a shot of the woman, whom Ross is evicting, screaming profanities at the top of her lungs as her belongings are being thrown out the door. The scene continues like this. While Smith is propagating the ideas of human compassion, the warmth homemade Christmas dinners, and the happiness of Christmas carols, we cut back to Flint to see the site of the woman getting more heated and the situation of her eviction only getting worse.
Moore manipulates the cinematographic property of crosscutting to his advantage and uses this device, to convey the main purpose of the film, throughout the entire film. He presents bipartite timeline that's gives us a full understanding of the entire purpose of the movie.
As said before, the quote, "as the rich get richer, the poor get poorer," emulates a large area of main purpose of the entire film. As the rich (GM) get richer, the poor (Flint and its citizens) get poorer. But the purpose of the film is also to convey the idea that the reason the rich is becoming richer and the poor is becoming poorer is because of GM's decision to execute it's "bright idea". Moore restates this bright idea, which leaves the poor jobless in favor of GM's greed, in the film:
"First, close eleven factories in the U.S., then open eleven more in Mexico, where you pay the workers 70 cents an hour. Then use the money you've saved by building cars in Mexico to take over other companies - preferably high tech firms and weapons manufacturers. Next, tell the Union you're broke, and they happily agree to give back a couple billion dollars in wage cuts. You then take that money from workers, and eliminate their jobs, by building more foreign factories."
He explicitly states his belief that this "bright idea" not only backstabs the citizens, of GM's founding city, Flint, Michigan but also caused Flint's downfall. Within the span of a few years, Flint went from being one of America's most thriving cities, to one of its worst cities to live in. Moore makes it clear that that his view of GM has forever changed to that of a chauvinistic company who would step on the people whom established it for a couple more dollars. In a nutshell, Moore translates the purpose of the film to be to portray "the regional negative economic impact of General Motors CEO Roger Smith's summary action of closing several auto plants in Flint, Michigan, costing 30,000 people their jobs at the time (80,000 to date)," (Wikipedia) while also depicting his quest to bring Roger Smith to Flint to see the repercussions he's caused. And to, furthermore, give a representative timeline to the events that have happened during the years of the debasement of Flint and the enhancement of GM, to give the audience a deeper understanding of the situation and the era itself.
For me, I simply thought the movie was good. It had its high and lows, highs being that I learnt about an impactful era within history, and lows being that I found Moore to be utterly annoying. I personally do not favor arrogance. I believe that when someone is passionate about something, they will go through anything and do anything in their power to achieve their goal. If my heart were set on bringing awareness towards something I would execute try and execute my tasks it to my best potential. If I had to contact the head honcho of a billion dollar cooperation, so that I can bring awareness to what I feel passionate about then I would be prepared, in everyway, to make sure that this executive has every means of contacting me as I do him. I wouldn't walk into his office and give his representative my discount Chuck-E-Cheese card.
Moore gave a GM representative his Chuck-E-Cheese card. I personally thought that this in and of itself was a complete act of disrespect towards the sensitive situation of Flint and the people in Flint. If Moore were passionate about bringing Smith back to Flint he would have shown Smith's representative more respect. Even if he was to at least write his number down on a piece of scrap, he would've have shown some level of respect to the representative.
Furthermore, with the disrespectful and arrogant way in which Moore treats people, I can see why his progress in contacting Smith was so static and failed. If you are approaching someone for help the right way to ask and approach them for this help would be to show your gratitude for any amount time they have to help you or any amount of simple of help they can give. Not by ordering them around and throwing commands at them while they graciously sacrifice their time to help you. Moore disrespectfully commands the people he approaches for help, on his journey to contact Smith, as if he is their leader. For example he discourteously barks at the female receptionist of the Gross Pointe Yacht Club, rudely interrupting her telephone call, arrogantly demanding, "Where's Smith?" and "Are you calling him?" After she cheekily responses, in combat to Moore's cheeky addresses, "Why don't we call his office?" Moore responds, toothpick in mouth, "We can do that." The receptionist rolls her eyes.
I don't blame her, or any other person in the film, for showing Moore this disrespect, as it is well deserved. If you are going to ask someone for help, you should express your gratitude and show him or her your respect. Even if you are not asking for the help of someone, you should at least show the gratitude of treating him or her as another human being. Be aware of an individual's esteem. Give respect and it will be given back to you.
Moore could've handled the situation in a much better manner. I believe if he showed this respect he would've gotten farther. I know personally that I wouldn't want Moore speaking to me. If that is how someone is going to ask for my help, in return I will have nothing to offer. This is why Moore continuously failed. I put no blame on the associates of GM, who he disrespected, for impudently turning him down. Moore needs some lessons in how to communicate with other individuals.
However, I must applaud Moore for how effectively, uniquely and amusingly he brought across his point. The comedic manner in which he presents the film, its characters and its situations, to the parallel plot of his journey in finding Smith alongside his showcasing of the repercussions GM's "bright idea" cause on both GM and Flint, translates into an amazing and captivating film worth the eyes of the audience.
While the wittiness of Roger & Me did not particular fascinate me or attract me personally, if you like sarcasm this is a movie for you.
Although it is a good film, it is not something that I would make my prerogative to see again. However, if you are interested in the topic of documentaries itself, Moore's Roger & Me is definitely a must watch. According to Rotten Tomatoes, it is the 26th best documentary in the world.
Roger & Me. Dir. Michael Moore. Perf. Michael Moore, Roger B. Smith, Janet Rauch, Rhonda Britton, Fred Ross, Ronald Reagan, Bob Eubanks. Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc., 1989. Web.
Williams, Linda. "Mirrors Without Memories: Truth, History and The Thin Blue Line." Rev. of Thin Blue Line, dir. Errol Morris. Web. 29 Oct 2013.
Nichols, Bill. Introduction to Documentary (Second Edition). Indiana University Press, 2010. Print.
---. "Roger & Me" 5 Oct. 2013. Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Web. 30 Oct 2013.
---. "Cinéma verité" 17 Oct. 2013. Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Web. 30 Oct 2013.
??The film starts with Moore introducing his family as workers of General Motors. As a young man, he goes to San Francisco to avoid factory life, but finds out that the life there is too overwhelming. After he returns to Flint, GM announces the decision to close the local factories and open new ones in Mexico for less labor cost. Facing the situation of thousands of worker getting laid off, including his own relatives, Moore decides to confront chairman Roger Smith to show him how disastrous this decision has been to the workers and eventually convince him to give a alternative solution. However, after several hours of driving to Detroit, he is blocked by the guard at the lobby of GM's building because he does not have an appointment. He tries to argue with them but is still rejected. Determined as he is, Moore goes to Smith's favorite restaurant and club to see if he could maybe catch Smith there. Nevertheless, he is not even allowed in without a membership. From there, Moore begins to explore the impact of the plant closings on the workers. Many of them go to work for Taco Bells, but are fired because they can not catch up with the fast working mode; a woman claims that she is selling bunnies for pets and meat because she has got too many of them to manage; a guy has been evicting people from their homes because they are not able to pay for their rentals on time; a cop says he gets less paid now compared to working for GM but happier. Meanwhile, the government builds a 'Auto World', hoping to bring more people to Flint. It closes after some time because there are hardly any visitors. The condition in Flint keeps getting worse: violence and crime rate is rising up so that the city has to build a new jail in order to hold the criminals. A party is held the night before the jail was open: couples could pay $100 to spend the night in a cell. It was the time that the rich were getting richer and poor were getting poorer, and it can not come to a stop...
??One of the memorable character is the guy who thinks himself as the cousin of Superman and decides to save the town. He is an African American dressed in a Superman T-shirt, with a black cloak on the back. He squats in the middle of the road with a riffle in his hands. While squatted, he moves little by little towards the sidewalk when suddenly a person behind the car shoots him. Several people catch him afterwards and call for ambulance. Soon after the shooting, a witness states in the interview that "He just wanted us to call him Captain 'Dah' or 'Dah-dah' or whatever." I believe this man is somehow crazy wearing the superman suit and carrying a riffle, but he wants to make a change to the current situation. He might be from the lower class who has been through really terrible things; he might bring the rifle just to kill the 'bad guy'. It seems nothing wrong that people will get scared of him and shoot him. But to me, he is a overly naive (behaves like an elementary school student) and exaggerated model of all the poor people. I would rather believe he has no harm for people, but only wants to be the guard of his city. Then how about the criminals? I even feel like them should not be the ones to blame on because it is not their choice to become criminals. I remember the scene when people are evicted from their homes helplessly. The society forces them to find a way out and some of them surrender to commit crimes.
??What really reveals the difference between the rich and the poor is the "party in jail" scene. The film shows cuts of several couples wearing costumes and exaggerated make ups. Clearly, they think of this place as a big party rather than its primary use as a political weapon for criminals. Instead of being shameful, they took pictures with their names and made finger prints just like all criminals do. Singers are playing music, and people are laughing and talking at high volume and pitch, which all indicate that they are enjoying themselves in the jail. How are they feeling so comfortable spending a hundred dollars only to stay in jail overnight? How come staying in jail become a means of entertainment to them? It sounds ridiculous to me that people are actually showing up with excitement. When a couple are interviewed about why they want to come to the party, they simply answer, "Just for the experience. Yes, I have never been in jail before." I doubt if anyone wants to be in jail ever; I can even imagine how dark and wet and disgusting it is. It's so sarcastic that there are people trying to convince the citizens that Flint is a good place to live in while it is said to be the 'worst' city in the States, and here these people are having fun in jail. There is a untouchable gap between the poor and the rich, and they have now way of crossing it.
??The documentary shows the sufferings that Flint people had been through and Moore's struggle to see Roger Smith. Most of all, it serves as a comparison between the poor and the rich. The tragedy in Flint reflects the American society at that time, when the rich are getting richer and poor are getting poorer. The gap between them is huge and influential.
??Personally, I will give a 7 out of 10 for this documentary because it tells a complete story of what had happened at that time and of Moore's own experience, and I can clearly conceive the message that Moore was trying to convey. Apparently this documentary was based on his subjective emotion, so it might not reflect the real history. Nevertheless, I find it worth watching even not as a documentary, but as an interesting movie.
??The film starts with Moore introducing his family as workers of General Motors. As a young man, he goes to San Francisco to avoid factory life, but finds out that the life there is too overwhelming. After he returns to Flint, GM announces the decision to close the local factories and open new ones in Mexico for less labor cost. Facing the situation of thousands of worker getting laid off, including his own relatives, Moore decides to confront chairman Roger Smith to show him how disastrous this decision has been to the workers and eventually convince him to give a alternative solution. However, after several hours of driving to Detroit, he is blocked by the guard at the lobby of GM?s building because he does not have an appointment. He tries to argue with them but is still rejected. Determined as he is, Moore goes to Smith?s favorite restaurant and club to see if he could maybe catch Smith there. Nevertheless, he is not even allowed in without a membership. From there, Moore begins to explore the impact of the plant closings on the workers. Many of them go to work for Taco Bells, but are fired because they can not catch up with the fast working mode; a woman claims that she is selling bunnies for pets and meat because she has got too many of them to manage; a guy has been evicting people from their homes because they are not able to pay for their rentals on time; a cop says he gets less paid now compared to working for GM but happier. Meanwhile, the government builds a ?Auto World?, hoping to bring more people to Flint. It closes after some time because there are hardly any visitors. The condition in Flint keeps getting worse: violence and crime rate is rising up so that the city has to build a new jail in order to hold the criminals. A party is held the night before the jail was open: couples could pay $100 to spend the night in a cell. It was the time that the rich were getting richer and poor were getting poorer, and it can not come to a stop...
??One of the memorable character is the guy who thinks himself as the cousin of Superman and decides to save the town. He is an African American dressed in a Superman T-shirt, with a black cloak on the back. He squats in the middle of the road with a riffle in his hands. While squatted, he moves little by little towards the sidewalk when suddenly a person behind the car shoots him. Several people catch him afterwards and call for ambulance. Soon after the shooting, a witness states in the interview that ?He just wanted us to call him Captain ?Dah? or ?Dah-dah? or whatever.? I believe this man is somehow crazy wearing the superman suit and carrying a riffle, but he wants to make a change to the current situation. He might be from the lower class who has been through really terrible things; he might bring the rifle just to kill the ?bad guy?. It seems nothing wrong that people will get scared of him and shoot him. But to me, he is a overly naive (behaves like an elementary school student) and exaggerated model of all the poor people. I would rather believe he has no harm for people, but only wants to be the guard of his city. Then how about the criminals? I even feel like them should not be the ones to blame on because it is not their choice to become criminals. I remember the scene when people are evicted from their homes helplessly. The society forces them to find a way out and some of them surrender to commit crimes.
??What really reveals the difference between the rich and the poor is the ?party in jail? scene. The film shows cuts of several couples wearing costumes and exaggerated make ups. Clearly, they think of this place as a big party rather than its primary use as a political weapon for criminals. Instead of being shameful, they took pictures with their names and made finger prints just like all criminals do. Singers are playing music, and people are laughing and talking at high volume and pitch, which all indicate that they are enjoying themselves in the jail. How are they feeling so comfortable spending a hundred dollars only to stay in jail overnight? How come staying in jail become a means of entertainment to them? It sounds ridiculous to me that people are actually showing up with excitement. When a couple are interviewed about why they want to come to the party, they simply answer, ?Just for the experience. Yes, I have never been in jail before.? I doubt if anyone wants to be in jail ever; I can even imagine how dark and wet and disgusting it is. It?s so sarcastic that there are people trying to convince the citizens that Flint is a good place to live in while it is said to be the ?worst? city in the States, and here these people are having fun in jail. There is a untouchable gap between the poor and the rich, and they have now way of crossing it.
??The documentary shows the sufferings that Flint people had been through and Moore?s struggle to see Roger Smith. Most of all, it serves as a comparison between the poor and the rich. The tragedy in Flint reflects the American society at that time, when the rich are getting richer and poor are getting poorer. The gap between them is huge and influential.
??Personally, I will give a 7 out of 10 for this documentary because it tells a complete story of what had happened at that time and of Moore?s own experience, and I can clearly conceive the message that Moore was trying to convey. Apparently this documentary was based on his subjective emotion, so it might not reflect the real history. Nevertheless, I find it worth watching even not as a documentary, but as an interesting movie.