Entries Tagged 'Articles' ↓
November 1st, 2009 — Articles
Originally published in the New York Times September 27, 1989
America has an irrepressible new humorist in the tradition of Mark Twain and Artemus Ward. He is Michael Moore, the writer, producer and director of the rude and rollicking new documentary feature ”Roger and Me.” Much in the manner of those 19th-century forebears, Mr. Moore celebrates the oddities of the American frontier, once defined by the historian F. J. Turner as ”the meeting place of savagery and civilization, where democracy is strengthened.”
The American frontier of tall tales and garrulous fables has long since been developed into extinction. Mr. Moore’s frontier is his hometown, Flint, Mich., population 150,000, the birthplace of General Motors. As a result of the closing of various G.M. plants and the elimination of 40,000 jobs, Flint has become one of the more embarrassing eyesores in the landscape of what is supposed to be a booming American economy.
All sorts of attempts have been made to save Flint. ”Just when things were beginning to look bleak,” Mr. Moore recalls on the soundtrack, ”Ronald Reagan arrived in Flint and took 12 workers out for a pizza.” Somebody walked off with the pizzeria’s cash register, though it’s unclear whether the two events were connected.
When Money magazine named Flint ”the worst place to live in America,” ABC planned to devote an entire ”Nightline” show to the subject. The program was canceled at the last minute. The television power truck had been stolen.
Depressing figures and nutty anecdotes bubble out of ”Roger and Me” nonstop, leaving the frequently appalled audience roaring with laughter, the kind of response that Twain would cherish.
”Roger and Me,” which does not yet have a commercial distributor, will be shown at the New York Film Festival today at 9:30 P.M. and tomorrow at 6:15 P.M.
The film takes its title from Mr. Moore’s attempts to reach Roger Smith, the G.M. chairman. Mr. Moore’s plan is to take Mr. Smith on a tour of Flint and to persuade him of G.M.’s responsibility in attending to the problems of the unemployed. A modest goal, it seems, though Mr. Moore knows as well as anybody that it’s not a goal that stands any chance of being achieved. It is, however, a wonderful premise for an angry, biased, witty movie.
The portly, beady-eyed Mr. Moore, as sharp and sophisticated a documentary film maker as has come on the scene in years, manifests a down-home wonder at the world’s idiocies. With a toothpick stuck in the corner of his mouth, wearing a down jacket, jeans and the sort of cap that should have the name of a feedlot on it, he stalks the G.M. chairman in the assorted sanctuaries of the seriously rich and powerful.
He shows up at the G.M. offices in Detroit, where he has some hilarious, comparatively polite arguments with security guards and public relations people, who bite their lips as they try desperately to to hang onto their well-paid cool.
He is hustled out of both the Grosse Point Yacht Club and the Detroit Athletic Club. He attends the annual G.M. stockholders’ meeting and successfully gets the microphone, only to be cut off. On the dais, Mr. Smith brags to an associate about the fleetness with which he managed to avoid the embarrassment, not realizing that his microphone is still on.
”Roger and Me” is stuffed with such remarkable ”found” moments, which are not really found at all. They may be unplanned, but only a film maker thoroughly at ease with his subject, and aware of various possibilities, is going to be in a position to find those moments.
They include Mr. Moore’s not terribly warm encounter with Mr. Smith at a reception following the G.M. chairman’s annual ”Christmas message,” a scene cross-cut with the Christmas Eve eviction of an unemployed G.M. worker.
To save their city after the G.M. pullout, the Flint city fathers approve a series of schemes that sound as if they’d come out of the head of Evelyn Waugh, reborn as a Flint booster. They spend $13 million to build a Hyatt Regency Hotel and $100 million or so more for a theme park called AutoWorld, both of which quickly go broke. They attempt to boost morale by bringing in Pat Boone and Anita Bryant to perform for the tired masses. The television evangelist the Rev. Robert Schuller is paid a reported $20,000 to tell his audience, ”You can turn your hurt into a halo.”
After photographing a radiant Miss Michigan in a Flint parade waving to crowds standing in front of closed stores, Mr. Moore tries to get her reaction to Flint’s ever-present poverty. Her smile vanishes as she tries to show concern. Does she have any message for the people of Flint? The smile returns. ”Just keep your fingers crossed for me as I go for the gold!” Miss Michigan did, indeed, become Miss America that year (1988).
Mr. Moore is clearly someone who believes that poverty and corporate neglect are sins, and he doesn’t pull his punches. He doesn’t appeal to easy sentiment. He demolishes the television personality Bob Eubanks, of ”The Newlywed Game,” just by letting him talk on and on.
Mr. Moore makes no attempt to be fair. Playing fair is for college football. In social criticism, anything goes, as it goes triumphantly in ”Roger and Me.”
ROGER AND ME, directed, written and produced by Michael Moore; cinematography, Christopher Beaver, John Prusak, Kevin Rafferty and Bruce Schermer; edited by Wendey Stanzler and Jennifer Beman. At Alice Tully Hall, as part of the New York Film Festival. 83 minutes. This film has no rating.
The Bunny Lady . . . Rhonda Britton
The Tourism Chief . . . Steve Wilson
Narration . . . Michael Moore
WITH: Roger Smith, Ronald Reagan, Miss America, Pat Boone, Anita Bryant, the Rev. Robert Schuller, Bob Eubanks, Deputy Fred Ross
November 1st, 2009 — Articles, Memorabilia, Pre-Roger & Me, Trivia
In the late 70’s and early 80’s, City of Flint and civic leaders announced an ambitious plan for the rebirth of Flint, in which nearly $100 million would be invested in building an
amusement theme park called Six Flags’ Autoworld, a gigantic indoor facility dedicated to the history of automobile, a shopping center called Water Street Pavilion (based on New York City’s South Street Seaport), and a Hyatt Regency Hotel & Convention center.
The original idea came from Harding Mott, a son of Charles S. Mott, one of the founding families of General Motors. Harding Mott wanted “a hall of fame” to the automobile to show it’s importance in American Culture. The year was 1969. Fifteen years later, using $25 million in federal, state, and local tax dollars and funds, and $35 million from the Mott Foundation, the vision was realized. The problem was the visionaries couldn’t see past their own nose.
At the time AutoworldFlint had 26% unemployment and the writing on the wall – General Motors was packing it up and leaving Flint – was apparent to some, but not many.
But Michael Moore, co-founder and editor of The Michigan Voice, knew what was going on, and saw right through the charade. The concept wasn’t going to work. It was too expensive, the rides weren’t really rides, and it was all too little, too late.
In September of 1984 Moore published what would inadvertently become the screenplay for Roger & Me in a cover story titled Dance Band On The Titanic. There are several passages in the article that are repeated word-for-word in Roger & Me. The article’s title was an homage to a Harry Chapin song (Chapin’s benefit concerts for The Flint Voice were critical. Moore once wrote: “Without Harry, there is no Flint Voice.”)
The article eerily predicts Autoworld will fail miserably. About the only salvaging feature mentioned was the IMAX movie Speed, which was produced exclusively for Autoworld. Moore wonders, however, why you wouldn’t spend an additional $2 dollars and go to Cedar Point.
September 27th, 2009 — Articles, Videos
Pets or Meat: The Return To Flint, released in 1992, is a short 23-minute sequel to Roger & Me. It apparently aired only once on the PBS show P.O.V., but was also part of a three-short film feature called Two Mikes Don’t Make a Wright. The film included a shorts by Steven Wright and Mike Leigh. Since it was never released on VHS or DVD, any surviving video of Pets Or Meat is extremely rare.
Surprisingly the short does not appear on the Roger & Me DVD, which was released in 2002 after Moore’s Oscar win for Bowling for Columbine. There could be some licensing or clearance issues preventing its release.
Featuring many of the “stars” from Roger & Me, including the Bunny Lady (Rhonda Britton), the Amway Lady (Janet Rauch), Deputy Fred Ross and The Tourism Guy (Steve Wilson), also make significant appearances. The film shows the events after Roger & Me was an international sensation. Moore appears on Letterman; The Tonight Show (with Jay Leno guest hosting); and CNN’s Crossfire with Pat Buchanan. Clips from Entertainment Tonight and Siskel & Ebert show just how much Moore was on his way to becoming a media sensation.
Shot on a consumer video camera, the movie has a look and feel that would evolve into TV Nation, which won the Emmy for Outstanding Informational Series in 1995. It was renamed The Awful Truth which is available on DVD and a must-see.
As you watch the film you’ll see many scenes which provided ideas which became Bowling for Columbine and Captialism: A Love Story. All of Moore’s movies have a running thread of the working class vs. the wealthy, and Pets or Meat does not disappoint.
We were able to obtain a copy of this rare short film many years ago. Although its a low-quality VHS copy, it is watchable. Enjoy.
February 11th, 2007 — Articles
It was February 11, 1987 that Michael Moore set out on the first day of production to make a movie (working titles included Dance Band On The Titanic and Hometown) about the GM layoffs affecting his town. The date was already historic; it was the 50th anniversary of the winning of The Great Flint Sit-Down Strike.
During production Moore never thought a movie about laid off autoworkers would go down in history as a documentary whose influence cannot be calculated. It changed GM. It changed how corporations deal with public relations , it changed Flint, and it changed America. And thus the world… one simple little movie. Moore made perhaps the first entertaining theatrical documentary. As Moore states in the Production Notes: “I wanted it to play like Pee Wee’s Playhouse, not Hotel Terminus.” It went on to become the highest grossing non-concert documentary until his other movies, and another oddball – one about Penguins – came along.
Roger & Me still ranks in the top 20 grossing documentaries of all time. (Moore’s Sicko, Bowling for Columbine, and Capitalism: A Love Story are all in the top 10).
It had an angle and attempted to explain to the viewer, with humor and sadness and drama that something is wrong here, let’s do something about it!
Most documentaries up to that time attempted to just observe and report. Roger & Me busted through the rules of journalism and dared to be funny, witty, and have something to say.
The film is also known for being first to mention corporate offshoring, that is, eliminating American jobs and replacing them in Mexico or elsewhere. As that other famous Roger, Roger Ebert, said in his review for Siskel & Ebert “Here is the movie a lot of people were waiting for… a ruckus, angry, funny, unforgiving counter-attack against corporate greed.”
John Pierson, at the time Michael Moore’s legal representative who helped sell the movie to Warner Brothers, states in his book Spike Mike Reloaded “When [Michael Moore] walked into my life in August, 1989, he was definitely in the right place at the right time with the right… movie.”
When the film began to generate buzz on the film festival circuit, people smelled something in the air, and it wasn’t the paint fumes from the GM Truck plant. Major studios began to make offers. A few grand, then a few hundred grand, then millions. For a documentary about laid-off autoworkers. In 1989.
Flint was no strange to history-making, from the Great Flint Sit-Down Strike, to appointing one of the very first black mayors in America, to the first open-housing ordinance. Flint had been on the national radar before but here was a blip that came at 24 frames per second and attracting sell-out crowds wherever it went.
When the bidding war ended, Roger & Me was sold to Warner Brothers for $3 million, and Moore immediately setup a foundation to help artists like himself get their first start. He’s since given over $750,000 to Flint-area charities and foundations.
Moore frequently comments that Roger & Me is a movie that just won’t go away, commenting that “…it’s always 1989.” Our attempts here on Roger-And-Me.com are mostly to provide academics, curious persons, and fans with a platform and deeper look into one of America’s best documentary films was made.
This website is our humble efforts at paying homage to our favorite movie of all time. Enjoy.