"The Corporation" at times borders on parody of the liberal-documentary genre. It's like the filmmakers wanted to pile every usual-suspect thinker and progressive-film cliche into one blowout package. Long head-shot interviews with Noam Chomsky. And Naomi Klein. And Michael Moore. Also, lots of kitschy shots from 1950s newsreels meant to induce ironic audience laughter -- the sort of tired, "Leave It To Beaver" irony that looked witty when Tom Tomorrow drew it in 1994. There were inspiring shots of doomed protesters, the obligatory Latin American Populist Who Will Continue the Fight Against the American-Backed Oppressor, and last but not least, shots of 1930s Captains of Industry with Hitler, just in case you didn't catch the message that Corporations are Evil.
Yup. That about covers it. Any cliches I missed?
Despite all that, I'd highly recommend the film. For all of the not-always-intellectually honest polemicism we're seeing in these films, every one of them contains varying degrees of honest critique that a viewer can keep in mind while being bombarded with endless corporate pitches, political ads, etc. It's a way of making the debate, to borrow a phrase, "fair and balanced." My only fear is that their preach-to-the-converted tone and marketing diminishes their chance to inspire any real dialogue. That's too bad, because often issues like war and globalization don't cut on partisan lines -- there was a section of "The Corporation," for example, in which the filmmakers protested corporate ability to patent life forms by using the exact same arguments Sen. Sam Brownback, KS Republican, uses to oppose embryonic stem cell research. Now that is something that hasn't been tilled into the ground yet.
(Note to self: Call Brownback's office this week. Suggest he ally with Klein, Moore and Chomsky.)
At least this summer we're getting something that's getting people whipped up about debates. Frankly, I wouldn't mind seeing some right-wing documentaries too (for the same reasons I'm glad Al Franken's radio show seems to be doing better). Such films do exist -- a couple weeks ago I pulled a copy of "Waco: The Something-Or-Other" (not its real title, but it was about Waco) from a clearance bin and threw it in my VCR just for kicks. I couldn't resist the cover -- a montage of the White House, the burning Branch Davidian compound, and a black helicopter. I was paying half-attention to the movie while I washed dishes, learning all about how the Clintons were plotting against those poor Branch Davidians, when my VCR went haywire. I ended up completely taking my VCR apart to get to the tape. When I put it back together, I couldn't get it to work again. I had that VCR for 10 years, and that's how its life ended -- as a casualty of Waco.
Coincidence? I don't think it was a conspiracy. But I did see a black helicopter flying over my condo a couple weeks ago.