Bowling for Columbine review by The Grim Ringler

Bowling for Columbine

This is a bit of an odd movie for me to review because I grew up in a small town in the county that Michael Moore talks about during the film, and hung out in and live near Flint today, so it’s odd for me to see this world I see every day on the screen and knowing the entire world has seen a bit of the world I have seen. It’s an odd feeling. Odder still to realize that Moore, loved around the world by a lot of people for his books, movies, and shows, is hated by a lot of the people in Flint as they blame him, in some weird way, for the decline of what was once a very prosperous town. Heck, I worked at an Office Max one Christmas when Moore came in to buy a digital camera. And last fall some friends and I were behind him in line at the local Borders. And both times I left him alone ‘cause the guy was home on vacation and deserved to be let alone. But imagine coming back to your hometown knowing there are thousands that hate you because of some movie you made. Ugh! So that’s where I am coming from when I review this film, and maybe you can understand a bit better how odd it is to see my county, my city (I spent hours on end hanging at a couple ‘punk’ clubs that were in Flint back when I was younger, and even went to college there), and heck, you even see a billboard touting a gun store near my hometown, to see all this and know that suddenly the world just got a bit smaller.

Bowling for Columbine, at its heart, is an examination of the American gun culture, or craze if you will, and whether or not it has played a part in the violence of places like Columbine High School and other American tragedies. And in pursuing this examination Moore talks with everyone from members of the Michigan Militia, James Nichols – brother of one of the two men convicted of blowing up the Federal Building in Oklahoma – two boys wounded in the Columbine tragedy, and even Charlton Heston. And Moore pulls no punches, showing video from the Columbine shooting in order to make you question what it is that leads to the violence we see every day. It seems to be his contention that it is our fear, of one another, of those different from us, and of ourselves, that has lead us to become a so ‘gun-crazy’. Moore even goes so far as to venture to South Central L.A. in hopes of putting holes in the myth that no whites can walk those streets safely, and even goes to Canada to show how ridiculous our fear can be and how our northern neighbors see us – and it isn’t pretty.

This is essentially a film about one man’s crusade to prove that our gun culture and fear have lead us down a path of violence and bloodshed that will haunt us as long as we let this fear rule us. It is a wonderful documentary and an even better piece of propaganda. Moore, great documentarian that he is isvery manipulative – witness him managing to make retailer Kmart stop selling handgun bullets when faced with two victims from Columbine, an army of reporters, and two bags of ammo bought by one of the young victims – and while he is very effective at getting his point across, he is very single-minded. In seeing Bowling, I have to agree with a LOT of what Moore was trying to say, and think he did a wonderful job of pleading his case, a case that has not been heard in recent years. If nothing else, this film is a must-see because it shovels blood down our throats and makes us see things in a shockingly new way. To see the Y2K scare and remember it, and how afraid we all were, and to know nothing happened. To see all the wars we have waged and to see that we have put our worst enemies in positions to harm us is a hard lesson. As is seeing the Columbine footage and to realize that, when people are interviewed about it, these were kids and that these kids could have been anyone. To hear Marilyn Manson speak, and speak eloquently, as one of his denouncers makes bold pronouncements about how evil the man and his music are is a wake-up call. And it is harrowing to see Heston and his NRA followers and their attitudes about their gun rights and their belief that they need to have loaded weapons in order to be free. This is a wake up call to a nation and a world that points at a violent movie and angry music and cries bloody murder yet drops bombs safely from our living rooms and insist we needed to do that in order to remain free. Few movies leave you with the bitter taste in your mouth that Bowling do, a bitter realization that we Americans are not perfect, and that we have a long go to be even close to such a lofty goal. What is scariest for me though, to watch the film was when he shows people act as them, and to see how dreadful we all can be when we think no one is really watching. And to see a montage of newscasts showing all the scares the news tries to put us through – killer bees, killer sharks, killer black people, killer weather, killer terrorists, whatever it is – and realizing that so many times the threat was so small that we were all jumping at shadows because we were told to.

As funny as it is heartbreaking, this is a powerful and oft-times heartbreaking film. Moore knows too well how to manipulate his viewers and knows too well what can make us all squirm. The best trick he pulls may be making us laugh at how sadly stupid so many our beliefs are, and then in mid-laugh he faces you with murder and tragedy. Because if hearing and seeing Columbine doesn’t make you question how we do things in this nation, perhaps nothing will. This is not a perfect film though. It rambles at times and does lose its point a couple times as well. And as I said Moore is single-minded and shows his side and pretty much nothing else. He gets away with it though because in this instance, he isn’t wrong. Not wholly. To see how we treat the world, to see how we are seen, and to see how the NRA treats this country.

This is not a perfect film, nor is it a perfect documentary. If you have ever seen Paradise Lostyou know how powerful a documentary can be, but this is an important film, make no mistake. Few films have the guts to tackle issues as big as Moore has and few filmmakers can give you even half of the facts that Moore does in such a film. Moore, love him or hate him, wants to change the world, for the better, and this film is a means to that end. If nothing else, we all need to see this film to realize what monsters we all can be deep down.


9 out of 10 Jackasses

blog comments powered by Disqus