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Documentaries, Oscar, and Michael Moore

[ 91 ] January 9, 2012 |

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has decided to place restrictions on documentaries up for the award. Any documentary must be reviewed in the New York Times or Los Angeles Times in order to be considered for the award. The Academy is justifying this in several ways, including that it will cull out documentaries that are really meant for television. Two thoughts.

1. This television argument is pretty meaningless in the days of video on demand. Given that most people don’t live in New York or Los Angeles, we are almost always going to see these films on a TV or computer screen. Moreover, given that passion can (though certainly doesn’t always) create a good documentary if combined with skill and that this can be done on a limited budget, it seems this is an unnecessary rule that obscures the real reason–the voters are too lazy to watch a large number of films.

2. The big mover behind the rule–one Michael Moore! He’s mad that obscure documentaries are winning the award instead of his work. His work is more “culturally significant” so it deserves to win. Just ask him. Michael Moore–standing up for the little man!!!!

Moore is such a charlatan. While he is capable of good work (Sicko primarily), most of his films are exercises in narcissism, purporting to be about everyday Americans when instead they stroke his own Texas-sized ego. Were Moore to have more than a rhetorical relationship with a fair and just America, he’d support a broadly defined award category because it would allow the poor and underfunded filmmaker to get her work out. Instead, he wants to make bank. I suppose in a capitalist film industry this is what filmmakers do, but can we please stop taking Michael Moore seriously as a spokesperson for the 99%?

……This comment thread is very special. The argument against me here is not on the merits of Moore trying to restrict small filmmakers from consideration for Best Documentary. It’s that HE IS ON OUR SIDE SO SHUT UP!!! I’m sorry but this site is not Firedoglake and I am not playing the Glenn Greenwald. This is not tribal warfare where we cover up the bad things people on “our” side do. Moore is totally wrong on the merits of this issue. Yet the only person to address this point was outraged that I would dare use “she” as the pronoun to describe the documentarian shut out of the award process. No doubt I would have heard the same comment if I had used “he.”

Meanwhile, I need to get back to yet another viewing of “Lions for Lambs.” It’s a terrible movie that is essentially made up of college freshmen reading position papers to each other, but Robert Redford IS ON OUR SIDE so I need to promote how awesome he is!

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  1. Fighting Words says:

    I’ve never been a big Michael Moore fan, basically for the reasons you outlined. I even met him once – before he became really famous. I agree that he’s an egomaniac, and his work suffers because of it. However, it always seemed that he was the one guy who can convey liberal ideas out to people who just don’t care about politics – which is a lot of people. If I had a nickel for every time I heard, “he’s the only one on our side who speaks up.” Granted, I haven’t heard someone say that in a while…

    Also, regarding the Academy Awards for Documentaries, haven’t they always had problems. I think Roger Ebert has been railing against the “Documentary division” (for lack of a better term) since they didn’t nominate “Hoop Dreams” in the early 1990’s?

    • Erik Loomis says:

      The award for best documentary may have problems, but limiting it in this way does not solve those problems. It just makes it easier for people to vote without having to spend time on it. And it eliminates Michael Moore’s competition. If movies better than his don’t get seen, they can’t win!

      • DocAmazing says:

        It just makes it easier for people to vote without having to spend time on it.

        If you’ve ever met anyone who does vote on the Academy Awards, you’d recognize that this describes many, if not most voters. People vote on stuff they haven’t seen; they vote on films that they stuck in the DVD and sorta watched with one eye while editing secreenplays or calling caterers.

        I don’t have a strong opinion about the rules change, but the previous process wasn’t much to brag about.

        • Halloween Jack says:

          If you’ve ever met anyone who does vote on the Academy Awards, you’d recognize that this describes many, if not most voters.

          I try to stay reasonably aware of local politics and politicians, but whenever I vote I end up pulling the lever (really, tapping the touchscreen) for more than one person who I fervently hope hasn’t run on a platform that includes job creation via Soylent Green production.

  2. Cometary says:

    Before everyone gets their hate on Michael Moore, readthis article which has the other side to the rules changes, which include

    1) The entire branch will now get to vote on the documentaries where in the past maybe 200 voters total had that privilege.
    2) Screeners for the documentaries will now be sent out to all members where before they had to view them in a theater during a specific time and vote that day.

    Apparently TV-destined docs were shown in one-week unpromoted, unreviewed screenings in NY & LA to get Oscar-eligible before going to TV. The NYT is often terrible in its entertainment industry reporting (its celebrity slurp jobs are still well done, though.) But anyhow your premise is wrong – there have always been eligibility restrictions, and even with the new rules any movie of Moore’s would have dozens of competitors. The idea that this is an unfair move by him is silly.

    • strannix says:

      Strange, I read Erik’s update about how “the only person to address this point was outraged that I would dare use “she” as the pronoun to describe the documentarian shut out of the award process.”

      But this is the second comment of the thread, and it both addresses Erik’s complaints and doesn’t complain about pronouns. Hmmm…

    • Erik Loomis says:

      I don’t know that having the entire branch vote on the docs is a good thing at all. Again, this seems like another move to push the docs that have big name buzz around them. There’s hardly any restrictions that Academy voters actually watch the films before they vote for them. Restricting this category to people who are going to actually watch the films seems much smarter.

      • Aaron says:

        Isn’t the traditional distiction along the lines of, “Made for TV = Emmy Awards; Made for the theaters = Academy Awards”? It may well be that times are a’changin’, but if the principal purpose of this rule is to stop made-for-TV documentaries from gaming the system in order to qualify for an Academy Award, it’s an understandable step.

        To the extent that Moore is demonstrating self-interest, it seems fair to observe first that if a documentary film maker is pursuing national theatrical release, even if he is producing his film on a shoestring, he’s likely to require a eight to nine figure promotional investment from or in partnership with the distributor. When his film can be squeezed out of competition by a made-for-TV production that is gaming the system, it makes it harder to generate money for production and distribution.

        If you respond, “But what if the made-for-TV production is better,” fair enough – it may in fact be better by any number of measures. But then, a made-for-TV movie, or a movie that enjoyed only limited theatrical release, may be better in many ways than those qualifying for an Oscar. As you know, it’s difficult to get attention for a film for any major award unless it’s been a box office success. Perhaps it would be better for the integrity of the awards to push things the other way – to say, “You really need to offer a level playing field and consider small or unsuccessful movies, even if they attracted few viewers or were only shown on TV” – and you can even argue that the end of the Oscars as we know them would be a good thing, but such an expansion would end the Oscars as we know them.

        I’m not in any way outraged by any of this. I don’t actually care about Oscar nominations and victories. But I can very much understand why people with millions of dollars at stake care about maintaining rules that distinguish Oscar-eligible productions from those that “should be” competing for Emmys.

    • Ed says:

      And the Times is actually pretty good about living up to its commitment to review every picture that runs for a week. I don’t see a problem here. These seem like generally positive changes.

  3. wengler says:

    The ol’ Michael Moore fight.

    He may be everything you called him, but he also used his Oscar acceptance speech to call the Iraq War-on the very week it started- a load of shit. For that little episode he got people not only threatening, but trying, to kill him for the next 5 years.

    So a little credit before the shit throwing commences.

    • Marek says:

      This. Erik, your attack is unfair. Moore is obviously not your favorite “spokesperson for the 99%,” but he’s on the right side and is doing a hell of a lot more than most. Demanding perfect allies leaves one without any.

    • eclipse says:

      That’s definitely a big plus in my book.

      On the other hand, Michael Moore was also a huge proponent of the Naderite, Bush = Gore schtick. It would have been nicer if Moore had recognized Bush’s mendacity way, way after the fact.

      • proverbialleadballoon says:

        yes, that would have been nice, but in moore’s defense, up until that point his work was not ‘political’ in the sense of drawing up sides; his work showed what damage corporations did to america, with a narrower focus, the little guy vs the corporation and all the politicians that enable the corporation. certainly he had a leftist viewpoint, but its easy to point out his faults and mistakes from twelve years after the fact.

        anyone remember his tv show ‘tv nation’? he hired a lobbyist to lobby congress to declare a national tv nation day. for the tune of five or ten grand, he was successful. that’s the kind of stuff that he was up to, and it might look a bit simplistic by today’s standards, but for the time, who the heck else was doing this on national television?

        or anyone else remember the 90’s for that matter? republicans hadn’t coalesced into a pure form of crazy yet. the left was fighting the fight on lots of smaller, niche fronts, and not simply against a monolithic right orc horde. i hate to throw this cliche out there, but it was a simpler time. the future actually looked bright, there were all sorts of apparent sunrises on horizons.

        and moore’s niche was the fight against corporations. he’s not perfect, his work is heavy-handed and he contrives ways to tie things together. still, he fights the good fight, and the vitriol towards him from the left is self-defeating.

        • Kurzleg says:

          I remember TV Nation. At the time it was one of the few shows I looked forward to seeing because Moore was pushing the envelope. Consistently, he and his correspondents were able to get interviewees to incriminate themselves (in a non-legal sense) without realizing it.

      • marijane says:

        Moore repented his Nader support in 2004…

  4. dave says:

    aaand the left eats its own, again!

    Honestly, “such a charlatan”, “exercises in narcissism”, “Texas-sized ego”. Do you think you’re a frigging saint?

  5. wetcasements says:

    Dude makes films and tries to get a message across. And he has a big ego (agreed that his films would be better if he’d remove himself). Oh, and he’s fat like Al Gore.

    I’m hardly his biggest fan, but it’s always precious to see so-called libruls willing to play punch the hippie.

  6. Never seen any Michael Moore film besides his first, “Roger and Me.” I did watch some of his rather brief television show. His style is not my style, and some of what he’s done and said (as reported in the MSM, of course) rubs me wrong, but I think “Roger and Me” has to remain one of the essential documents of the Reagan era.

    • Anonymous says:

      The thing that pissed me off about “Roger and Me” was his dissing of people who tried to make the best of the new situation: the mockery of the people who had started up a lint removal business. The fact that GM shafted Flint doesn’t give him the right to piss on people who made a small success out of nothing. What, only line jobs at GM are real and making your own success is worthy of sarcastic commentary?

      • Halloween Jack says:

        I’m going to avoid the usual “Did we see the same movie?” schtick and allow that people can have wildly different interpretations of the same event. What I took away from that (and the “pets or meat” rabbit lady) was that, contrary to the Reagan-era meme that endures unto this day among wingnuts that the unemployed just don’t want to work, these people were so desperate to earn a living that they’d try any old damn thing (raising rabbits, enlisting in MLM cosmetic schemes, even those silly lint-rollers) in order to make a living, and that no matter how they tried, it would inevitably be insufficient to replace the jobs lost.

        Believe me, I’ve seen people in some of the small towns around where I live try to come up with schemes to replace the jobs lost to Big Agribusiness, and it’s much of the same thing. That can-do, roll-up-your-sleeves-and-let’s-put-on-a-show-to-save-the-orphanage routine is a combination of subtle (or not-so-subtle) victim-blaming and a diversion so that you don’t throw rocks at the fat cats’ Mercedes and chip the paint as they roll out of town.

        • seeker6079 says:

          Fair enough; it’s been twenty-plus years since I saw the movie. But I was quite the little bolshevik when I saw it and even I was appalled at the derision that, to me, seemed aimed not only at GM for putting people in that boat, but at the people who made those lint rollers.

          • mpowell says:

            I didn’t watch the movie, but I would imagine that there would always be difficulty depicting the futility of efforts to acquire gainful employment in a bleak situation while maintaining the dignity of the people portrayed. It can be done, but it’s not Moore’s style with over dramatic emphasis and mocking to make a point. And whether you like it or not, it’s a style that’s effective at broad political advocacy where subtlety is terrible for that purpose.

          • proverbialleadballoon says:

            as pointed out above, moore wasn’t deriding the people who made the lint rollers. he was saying in effect ‘how is this lint-roller company supposed to replace a multi-billion dollar corporation like gm?’

            it’s been a long time since i’ve seen the movie either, but what sticks with me is the change in tone about halfway through. in the first half, moore does set it up as humorous, as the audience, you _are_ laughing at the absurdity of it all, and laughing at the lint roller guys. but then the tone turns on a dime, and you see how very, very sad the story of flint is, how these people have had the rug pulled out from under them, and how hopeless their situation is. it’s an effective technique, also used in documentaries like ‘american movie’ or movie movies like ‘rear window’, where the light tone is the set-up and the turn to the serious drives the point home.

        • witless chum says:

          I’d wonder if the divide on this breaks down similarly to the divide on whether the Coens were mocking cruelly or fondly joshing rural upper midwesterners with Fargo.

          As someone who grew up in “Say ya ta da U.P, eh” country, I go with fondly joshing.

  7. Incontinentia Buttocks says:

    What most everyone said above about Moore: imperfect as he is as a filmmaker and a political figure, many of his films are politically important (I’d add FAHREHEIT 9/11) and ROGER & ME is cinematically important, too. Yes he’s self-important, but he’s shown real political bravery at critical moments. And he speaks to people who other wise don’t see the appeal of the left. He doesn’t deserve the bashing.

    (None of which is to say that I think the changes in Oscar rules make sense.)

    • Scott Lemieux says:

      Although F 9/11, while quite entertaining, was an incredibly frustrating missed opportunity given the platform he had. Such much Bush administration mendacity to talk about, and he wastes much of the first half of the movie talking about non-existent pipeline conspiracies.

      • proverbialleadballoon says:

        and yet he put out the movie, at a time when every critic was silenced by ‘you’re with us or with the terrorists’. _he was the only person speaking out against the war at the time_. he was booed at the academy awards for speaking out, fer crissakes.

        according to imdb, the movie grossed $24 million on 868 screens its opening weekend. that’s a lot of eyeballs. yes, the movie is flawed, but at the time, micheal moore was the one single person speaking out. i honestly don’t get this thread.

  8. blowback says:

    because it would allow the poor and underfunded filmmaker to get her work out.

    So he’s not just a charaltan, he’s a sexist charlatan. Are all poor and underfunded filmmakers women? Why not use “poor and underfunded filmmakers to get their work out”? Because it wouldn’t make Michael Moore look such a shit?

    • SeanH says:

      Amazing how even on a progressive blog, casually using a female pronoun as a generic provokes outrage.

    • blowback says:

      There are four film mentioned specifically in the NYT article that would not be considered if the new rule was in force.

      The first, Semper Fi: Always Faithful, is credited with two directors; Tony Hardmon and Rachel Libert so “they” would be far more appropriate.

      The same applies to the last, Unfinished Spaces directed by Alysa Nahmias and Benjamin Murray.

      The Power of Two was directed by a bloke, Marc Smolowitz.

      The leaves The Mexican Suitcase was the only film mentioned that was directed solely by a woman, Trisha Ziff.

      There is no mention in this post of any specific films excluded so how was I supposed to know that Eric was concerned about one that was solely directed by a poor and underfunded woman? Should I have got my ouija board out?

      • elm says:

        Or, you know, you could have realized that Erik was using “she” as a generic and inclusive pronoun rather than the more standard “he.” Whether one prefers to use “one,” a singular “they,” the second person, “s/he,” “he or she” or something else is an interesting debate, but it does seem rather odd that you attacked Erik for using “she.” If it was because you were confused about what he meant by “she” that’s different from what I think Erik (and I) thought you meant, i.e. outrage at the use of “she” as a generic.

        • blowback says:

          Since Erik used the singular “documentarian shut out of the award process”, it is safe to assume that he had a particular documentary film-maker in mind. If he didn’t, then he did Josef Goebbels proud!

          • elm says:

            Way to godwin the discussion. Yes, using the singular instead of the plural is akin to being Goebbels. (Not that one could not use a generic singular case as a stand-in for multiple people: look up metonymy, though this is a rather stretched example of metonymy.)

  9. witless chum says:

    I’m happy to ditch Moore for the next-best lefty agitprop maker who gets their documentaries seen by a wide group of people. And wears a Michigan State hat.

    Just as soon as we locate that person…

  10. David B. says:

    I assume this is sarcasm, as a story about a change for academy award nominations hardly justifies “charlatan” and “Texas sized ego,” so will laugh accordingly.

  11. timb says:

    Don’t care for his polemics myself, but it seems to me the only people who really think Moore speaks for the 99% are cable news producers, right wingers, and himself.

  12. Publis says:

    Haven’t been able to stand him since I watched him stump for Nader back in 2000, then wrote a hilariously self-important and defensive (although, apparently hand-written which I have to give him credit for) email back to me in December 2000.

  13. david mizner says:

    Moore-bashing, how original.

    Seems like a stupid, elitist change to me, but sorry, I can’t quite make the leap from Moore-supports-this to He’s-a-charlatan-who-is-unqualified-to-be-a-activist-for-the-99-percent, but hey, Moore-bashing is a favorite sport for obscure progressives who like to shoot daggers at leftists who’ve actually managed to gain national platforms, so have at it.

  14. Spud says:

    Moore’s style although popular, has brought down the level of seriousness among documentary filmmakers. Without Moore and his methods, we would not have that stupid doc with Ben Stein about how atheists are allegedly keeping creation science from being heard.

    I think its less piling on Michael Moore and more Film execs beating up on public TV and cable.

    The majority of small documentary films they are trying to exclude are ones which would pop up on cable or PBS. In the last decade or two they have produced some very good work on small budgets.

    What is happening is fewer documentaries are being released theatrically because of increasing distribution costs. By limiting it to essentially anything released in a theater (hence reviewed by NYT and LAT), they are trying to assert the cinematic aspect of the Oscars. The documentary film as a film is slowly being supplanted by video. This is a vain attempt to hold back the ocean.

    Moore still produces for the big screen, but the numbers of people who still do are dwindling. The same scorn you would pile on Moore would also apply to Erol Morris or Werner Herzog

    • Erik Loomis says:

      Are Morris or Herzog also leading this charge to restrict the small filmmaker? If so, I would pile scorn, even though I like their work far more than Moore. If not, why would I pile scorn upon them?

      • Spud says:

        Mea Culpa, they aren’t going out of their way to create the restrictions like Moore. Moore is acting as a shill for the studios.

        Morris and Herzog would be major beneficiaries of this sort of policy as would Moore.

        • wengler says:

          Given a documentary by Moore, Morris, and Herzog, I’d watch the Moore one first every time.

        • Delinda says:

          Being a beneficiary of a policy you didn’t campaign and work for is different from being the prime-mover for a policy that would specifically benefits you.Why even bring up Morris and Herzog in this discussion? Erik is not railing against all documentarian EVER who would benefit, just the one who worked for the policy.

    • Halloween Jack says:

      Do you really think that right-wing propaganda films started as a reaction to Moore? Seriously? I’ve seen a few films try to ape Moore’s style and failed to get a fraction of either the critical or commercial success of Moore’s films (including Expelled, the Ben Stein flick you mention, despite its being explicitly marketed to creationist-friendly organizations). In fact, the only recent documentary that has been pushing any kind of right-wing agenda that has gotten mainstream success has been Waiting for Superman, and I don’t think that you can blame that one on Moore; the creator is David Guggenheim, who, of course, is best known for An Inconvenient Truth.

    • See the story of Vietnam: A Television History for the right-wing noise machine in action before Roger and Me.

      • Spud says:

        Do you really think that right-wing propaganda films started as a reaction to Moore?

        Not started, but definitely influenced. Moore gave lazy documentarians of all stripes a swift kick in the behind. He showed how it can be profitable, popular and blatantly political in nature. His style has become the norm for politically charged documentaries.

        The reason people who ape Moore’s style fail so frequently is the reason most imitators fail. They can copy some aspects of the style, but fail to give it any kind of personal panache. [Like with Expelled]

        As annoying as Moore is, you get the feeling he is not working off of a checklist. They are his honest views of the subject.

        • The point is that loopy right-wing propaganda would happen without Michael Moore. I agree that they ape his style because he’s good at it, but the means to make movies are within reach for everybody with a few thousand dollars, and motivated people will make movies.

          • Spud says:

            The point is that loopy right-wing propaganda would happen without Michael Moore.

            Which was a kinda strawman point anyway. It would have happened, but not with the same style, methods or public visibility. Moore paved the way.

            Moore made the stodgy political documentary more appealing to the general public. He dumbed the form down considerably.

            Most political agitiprop these days would not even be on public radar without Moore essentially creating a new market for it.

            For example, Expelled would have probably been a microbudgeted digital video filmed by college students, playing only in the basements of fundamentalist churches.

            • Marek says:

              Like “The Silent Scream”? Of course, right-wingers never figured out how to get people to watch their movies before Moore “dumbed down” the genre.

              Get a grip.

            • Bruce Baugh says:

              Given the prior existence of the Rush Limbaugh show, just to take one example, I find it very hard to believe that Moore has had any significant influence on right-wing style.

              A refined version of this argument would touch on the adoption not of Moore’s style, but of elements from Saturday Night Live, Second City, and the like, in the ’80s and ’90s for late-night TV, including late-night right-wing talk blathering.

              The very refined version would therefore argue that the unintentional villain here is not Moore but Del Close.

    • wengler says:

      As good as Frontline is, it was never going to win an Academy Award.

      It is possible to interpret this rule change in a way that would benefit documentaries created for theatrical release.

  15. sleepyirv says:

    “Charlatan?” Maybe I’m the only one but such a charge deserves to be followed through. Being egotistical and narcissistic is not evidence that Moore is a charlatan.

    Why do anti-Moore lefties always use the same talking points as the wingnuts? You don’t have to like him but at least don’t repeat the charges of those who think people left of Paul Ryan are dangerous criminals.

  16. Halloween Jack says:

    Shorter new documentary Oscar rule: Fuck you, Roger Ebert.

    • proverbialleadballoon says:

      wait, what? is that serious? roger ebert consistently writes from a liberal standpoint, on his online movie revue blog.

      is this thread serious? ‘let’s tear down two of the most vocal mainstream liberals in this country! yay! let’s go hamsher on this sh!t! everyone who agrees, cut off your nose!’ it would be so much better if there were _no_ liberals to push back, of course, because the ones we have are flawed.

      • Halloween Jack says:

        I was referring to the fact that, as a movie critic based in Chicago, Ebert would have no say on whether or not a movie would be eligible.

        • proverbialleadballoon says:

          oh, ok, sorry. the thread was heading in a ‘the left in disarray’ direction and i got caught up.

          as a chicagoan myself, you get used to/never get used to always being skipped over in the ‘places where it’s going on’ discussion, especially regarding culture and the arts. it’s the source of our second-city/ second-place chip on the shoulder, and why everything here has to be the world’s biggest this and the world’s most that. uh, hello, we have the world’s second highest municipal gdp people…hello…is this thing on?

          and yeah, it’s ridiculous that arguably the most influential film critic in america would have no say in the matter.

    • calling all toasters says:

      And the War on Straw has a new front.

  17. sleepyirv says:

    Eric- The add-on is classic misdirection. There have been substantial comments in this thread. The most important being Cometary’s which sets the case out for the change. In my mind, you can either a) talk about the decision and explain why the Academy’s reasoning is wrong or b) Write about Moore’s real crimes compared to imagined.

    • Erik Loomis says:

      The add-on directly addresses the comments. I talked about why the Academy’s reasoning is wrong in the post; moreover, the Times story makes it pretty self-evident. And Moore’s crime is playing the 1% bully to poor documentary filmmakers who can get their films seen through the way the academy works now. If you don’t see that as a problem and a hypocritical move, I don’t know what to tell you.

      • elm says:

        Well, you not only talked about the change to the rules, you criticized Moore’s films and his personality, so you have to expect people to write their disagreement with those assessments. You also ignore that Fighting Words and Cometary make substantive comments and IB defended Moore as a leftist but agreed that this move is wrong. Others also questioned how responsible Moore is for this and whether you are imputing too much from one incident.

        • proverbialleadballoon says:

          what elm and sleepyirv said. mocking your commentariat for disagreeing with you is some pretty weak sauce. and claiming that you are not getting hamsher on this sh!t is a lame defense for getting hamsher on this sh!t. should we throw overboard every mainstream liberal with flaws, keep things nice and pure? does moore’s seeming mis-deed in this case disqualify everything else that he’s done?

          • Delinda says:

            That’s not an accurate argument Erik used, Hamsher and co specializes in throwing overboard anyone they consider not progressive enough (progressiver-than-thou?). Erik, you need a better argument.

      • sleepyirv says:

        Your argument in-post is that more people are going to watch documentaries on a TV/computer which is neither here nor there. The rules don’t ban movies being banned from being shown on TV for a certain length of time (The Academy is stupid enough to do that) just that they need to be shown on a movie screen in the only markets that even show documentaries anymore. They’re trying to close a loophole.

        The suggestion here is that the Academy become something it’s not because of changes in film making. It makes far more sense for them to die as they are than change its purpose so they can nominate great ipod videos.

        What good documentaries that were nominated in the past would have been hurt by this system? And why is it the Academy Awards job to help small documentaries when that goes entirely against ethos of the organization that is mostly for Hollywood self-congratulation.

        • John says:

          Indeed, this. The Academy Awards are basically about Hollywood advertising for itself. If they want to change the rules to make the documentary system a better advertisement for themselves, they have every right to do so – and it’s reasonable to demand that eligible films have been reviewed by some major source.

  18. strannix says:

    I don’t even see the evidence for Moore’s malfeasance here, to be honest.

    Yes, the article cites Moore as a driving force for the new rules, but as Cometary said and Erik conveniently ignored, the new rules have some other elements that actually sound like changes in the right direction.

    Secondly, the NY Times piece doesn’t quote Moore or his motivations at all. At one point, it throws Moore in with a bunch of unnamed critics of the old system, and that’s where Erik got his “culturally significant” bit. But notice how Erik pretends this is Moore’s quote when it’s not.

    Having imagined Moore’s crimes against filmmakers, Erik then conflates those with a very generalized, unspecific screed against Moore. It’s a worthless, paranoid rant, to be honest. The logic therein:

    1) Moore has an ego!
    2) Look at how I’m imagining him to be hurting documentary filmmakers!
    3) Clearly he’s unqualified to speak for the 99%!

    Sorry … but no. This is pure bullshit.

    • witless chum says:

      Cosign.

      Andrew O’Hehir of Salon seems in favor of the new rules

      Under the current system, secret committees of 10 or fewer volunteers from the Academy’s documentary branch view groups of films and vote on them, creating the possibility that some tiny knot of dissenters — perhaps one or two voters — can sabotage a film’s Oscar hopes by giving it low marks. “That first round of voting, to go through all the eligible films and get to the short list, just seems really weird,” says Schnack. “You have small groups of people, each of which only views a small portion of the films. Instead of voting for their passions, they can end up voting against what they dislike. I think it’s pretty much true that one person can sabotage a film.”

      Under Moore’s proposed new rules — at least as summarized in an admirable explainer by Dana Harris of indieWIRE — the documentary “shortlist,” and later the list of five nominees, will be selected in a vote by the Academy’s entire documentary branch, which reportedly has 157 members. “That restructuring, where the entire branch gets to vote and not just a small committee, strikes me as an incredibly good thing,” says Schnack. “That might be the single biggest change.”

  19. newa ngag says:

    If you’re ruling out affirmative action for liberals, then I’m going to have to pretty much quit reading your rather drab obsessive overly long usually, masturbatory droppings here at LG&M. I’d given you a chance because you’re among breadth-of-wit likable geniuses. You’re not one of them, and therefore by your rules I can’t read you any more. G’day, ol chump.

  20. calling all toasters says:

    Portrait of a charlatan:
    1) Has made the most successful documentaries ever.
    2) Has contributed more to awareness of documentaries than anyone.
    3) Has changed the perception among filmmakers as to what documentaries can do, helping to inspire a massive outpouring of liberal documentaries over the last decade.

    But he has campaigned to make sure HBO documentaries like “When the Levees Broke” don’t get nominated for Academy Awards any more.

    Oh, wait.

  21. Stag Party Palin says:

    Great Grump! Fightin’ words about Oscar rules? Is LG&M turning into Variety? Complaints about Moore’s ego in the film biz? Hey, I live in LaLa land – all you have to do is meet some of the creeps that inhabit Film World and Michael Moore will seem as cuddly as a stuffed panda.

    Why not more threads about important stuff, like Paris Hilton?

    • Richard says:

      And the rule change itself is trivial. The Academy requires all nominated movies to play commercially in LA or NY before the end of the year. As a result, a lot of movies open for very limited one week runs in order to quality with a bigger opening several months later. The same rule applies for features and documentaries. The documentary makers have found a way to get around this by having a company show dozens of documentaries in the last week of the year and claim that this “commercial” opening qualifies them for an oscar. As a result, the list of eligible movies is in the hundreds, rather than the dozens (ensuring that most of the eligilge movies won’t be viewed by the group that selects the nominees). The academy wants a way to shorten the list (and has obviously decided that there is no practical way to revise the definition of what constitutes a commercial opening). So they want to limit it to the movies that get reviewed. In my opinion, this gives too much power to the LA and NY Times but, off hand, I can’t think of a solution that is better at accomplishing that purpose.
      Moore is in favor of the proposal (as are many others). BFD. What that has to say about his ego (other than the fact that he, like most filmmakers, wants to get awards which leads to more exposure to his movies) is beyond me. ALL filmmakers want to get exposure for their creation. Its not like he wants to ban other documentaries. I’m not a huge fan of Moore but his support for this fairly modest change doesn’t deserve Erik’s screed.

      • strannix says:

        If Stephen Colbert had a left-wing character to match his current right-wing persona, he’d be a lot like Erik. Just imagine their conversations about documentaties:

        Righty Stephen: The claims in An Inconvenient Truth must be valid, because it was a box office success! The marketplace has spoken!
        Lefty Stephen: Michael Moore is a charlatan, because he has too much of an ego to stay obscure! He wants to be successful so he sure does not speak for me!

  22. Stjust says:

    Review of Sicko:

    <emMoore asks, “Who invented this system?,” and in a superficial account, traces the origins of the present for-profit health care set-up to the Nixon administration and its policies in the early 1970s. This is a critical point, and Moore stumbles badly.

    </emTo answer his own question, instead of the facile solution of relying on a bit of audiotaped conversation—about the benefit of the “free enterprise” approach to health care—between Richard Nixon and John Ehrlichmann in 1971, Moore should have considered the matter in a more profound manner.

    <emThe debate over universal health care has a long history in the US. During the Progressive Era, in the first decades of the twentieth century, a campaign was waged by the reformist American Association of Labor Legislation for health insurance. The effort was defeated by the combined opposition of the medical profession, the insurance companies and the American Federation of Labor, which worried that a government program “would weaken unions by usurping their role in providing social benefits.”

    </emA national health insurance scheme was never introduced and during the Cold War era the AMA, the insurance industry and others took advantage of the climate to denounce such a measure as “socialized medicine,” hinting darkly about the “communist menace.”
    http://wsws.org/articles/2007/jul2007/sick-j07.shtml

  23. Ed says:

    I am not playing the Glenn Greenwald.

    No kidding.

  24. wengler says:

    This seems like a very Academic Historian vs. Popular Historian fight.

    The academics get mad because in their worldview good has to be as boring as possible. Also if the author doesn’t have a PhD and a university press publisher, then it shall be disposed of without a glance.

    Also a suitable reference: blogger vs. journalist.

  25. Johnson Q says:

    Shit Eric. I’ve been reading you for a long time but you lost me on this one. This sounds ridiculously petty on your part.

    People like you are the reason why the effing 1 percenters and their right-wing shills will always be on top. Because the left will always be too busy eating their own young.

    Congratulations.

    • witless chum says:

      People like you are the reason why the effing 1 percenters and their right-wing shills will always be on top. Because the left will always be too busy eating their own young.

      Also, they have all the money and power. But mostly Erik Loomis.

      That’s a way dumber argument than either of Erik’s beefs with Micheal Moore.

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