Sunday, September 11, 2005
Reality at the Movies
Fahrenheit 911 may well be the only documentary "blockbuster," but enough of these type of movies have done well enough in recent years to wonder...Is the documentary the next great film genre? Sure, you're thinking, there's always been documentaries. I agree. (The groundbreaking documentary Nanook of the North was filmed in 1922 and the legendary Frank Capra documented World War II in Why We Fight.) So why now? Could it be due to the surge in reality-based TV shows? Might it be due to a rev-up on TV of documentaries over the last few years?: VH-1's Behind the Music. A&E's Biography. The E! True Hollywood Story. The History Channel. Clearly, documentaries are NOT just for PBS any longer. Well, whatever the reason, we can't the deny the standalone successes on the big screen of Capturing the Friedmans; Spellbound; Bowling for Columbine; Fahrenheit 911; Super Size Me; and this year's Mad Hot Ballroom; and the breakthrough hit March of the Penguins. If the genre has its first blockbuster in Fahrenheit 911, then it (deservedly) has its first superstar in that film's creator: Michael Moore. Moore has made back-to-back masterpieces with Columbine (which won the Oscar) and 911. If, at the mention of Moore's name you think to yourself, "He is the most manipulative filmmaker ever!" or you think "He is the most influential moviemaker ever!" you are testifying to his brilliance. He makes us think while making us laugh (which isn't as easy as it looks!) Does he have an agenda? Sure!! But all filmmakers do. He's not saying you have to agree with him. But how can we not watch his films? They are consistently among the best that year has to offer at the boxoffice. With Moore making movies, will documentaries continue to surge? I think they will. I don't think they've peaked. I want to see the next movie from the makers of all the films I've listed here. The documentary has come of age and I for one can't wait to see what's next.