Michael Moore Invades Westport

Michael Moore is a powerful filmmaker.

How powerful?

After viewing a preview of his latest film — a scathing comparison of America to the rest of the world in areas like education, prisons, the workforce and women’s rights — followed by words from the filmmaker himself, a Westporter working on Wall Street said, “I feel like quitting my job tomorrow, and really doing something with my life.”

He probably won’t carry through with that pledge. But Moore certainly has made his mark.

An invitation-only audience last night at Bowtie Cinemas just over the Norwalk line was told before a screening of “Where To Invade Next“: “You may not agree with everything Michael Moore says. But left, right or center, you should listen to him.”

And listen they did. The film — which opens tomorrow in New York and Los Angeles for a limited, we’re-doing-this-to-qualify-for-the-Oscars run, then will be released nationally in February after the “Star Wars” hype dies down — is bound to stir controversy.

Michael Moore's bus was parked outside Bowtie Cinemas yesterday. The American flag in the background is completely coincidental. (Photo/Susan Iseman)

Michael Moore’s bus was parked outside Bowtie Cinemas yesterday. The American flag in the background is completely coincidental. (Photo/Susan Iseman)

Moore travels around Europe (and Tunisia), interviewing everyone from an Italian couple with insane amounts of government-mandated vacation time and a French chef in charge of serving elegant food to elementary school students, to Norwegian prisoners (who have keys to their private rooms, and access to knives) and Portuguese police officers (who do not arrest anyone for drug possession).

Moore’s point is that many other countries work far better than ours. ( Example: The US and Papua New Guinea are the only 2 in the world without guaranteed maternity leave for new mothers.)

But — and this is a point he made in both the movie, and a Q-and-A with audience members afterward — every idea he presented originated in the US. From the outstanding Finnish education system (built on the American model) and Norway’s penal system (honoring our prohibition against “cruel and unusual punishment”) to Iceland’s pioneering role of women in government and business (jump-started by our 1970s-era women’s lib movement), the rest of the world has followed our lead.

We’ve just lagged behind ourselves.

Michael Moore at Vespa restaurant last night.

Michael Moore at Vespa restaurant last night.

A Westporter asked Moore — who has made hard-hitting documentaries like “Fahrenheit 9/11” (about George W. Bush’s war on terror), “Bowling for Columbine” (gun control) and “Roger and Me” (globalization) –“What drives you?”

“I believe we’re better than what we are now,” he said. “We can do better. I love this country. I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else. I think we can figure this out.”

“Where To Invade Next” will undoubtedly create controversy — perhaps more than any other Moore film. His comments to last night’s audience may not be heard nationwide, as theatergoers argue over what he’s included — and left out. But the power of film is enormous.

Mark Shapiro — an executive producer of the film, IMG’s chief content officer and a Westporter — arranged for the screening, and a reception with Moore afterward at Vespa restaurant.

On Sunday night, Shapiro was in Las Vegas — specifically, in the control booth as Steve Harvey completely screwed up the Miss Universe pageant.

Moore’s event, he acknowledged, was a lot more meaningful.

Particularly if that Wall Street guy I talked to follows through on his promise.


52 responses to “Michael Moore Invades Westport

  1. Would have loved to have been there. Sounds like a very exciting event!

  2. Thanks for sharing- can’t wait to see yet another poignant film by this gutsy guy.

  3. Sounds fascinating. I am glad you got to attend and meet Michael. I think step one in making improvements is we have to get over the idea we’re perfect (American exceptionalism!) and aspire to once again be the best at everything important – and to do that we must be open-minded about looking at other parts of the world where things are working (like health care).

    • The term “American exceptionalism” is not now and never was intended to suggest that American citizens are “perfect”. Rather, it is a reference to our founding and our form of government. One that has been a beacon of freedom ever since. Through the arc of man’s history, the norm for most humans living on the earth has been tyranny. It is the astonishing and novel framework of this nation that represents the exception. Not its citizens.

      • Absolutely correct. It is an abject failure of our education system and the elites of our country that this is not understood.

        • Unfortunately our President spent his first term going around the world and apologizing for who we are. And what our country stand for.

          • Nancy Hunter Wilson

            Interesting. No violent class struggle in the US? Refugees are welcomed? Really?
            American exceptionalism is a thing of the past, with a constitution that is archaic.

            • You should remain in Bugtussle Canada. Your grasp of the concept of exceptionalism is minimal, and your grasp of the US Constitution is tenuous. Exceptionalism does not mean perfection.

              This captures the basis of American exceptionalism.

              “The world is very different now. For man holds in his mortal hands the power to abolish all forms of human poverty and all forms of human life. And yet the same revolutionary beliefs for which our forebears fought are still at issue around the globe–the belief that the rights of man come not from the generosity of the state but from the hand of God.”

              I don’t notice a lot of people struggling to enter China or any other workers’ paradise, do you ?

              BTW do you celebrate Christmas in Bugtussle or do you hold a potlatch?

              • Nancy Hunter Wilson

                Does Manifest destiny ring a bell? American exceptionalism simply means America is the “best”, not perfect but the “best”.
                Funny foreign policy to want to change everybody else.

                • Nancy Hunter Wilson

                  P.S. Your last remark/question reminds me of a neighbor in Houston, who asked whether Canadians celebrate Easter.

  4. Michael Moore goes to subjects we all know need to be fixed but does it with brilliant audacity and humor that drives the message with his unique way of saying things . Thanks Dan for sharing the news about the film with Westport.

  5. Eric William Buchroeder SHS '70

    Consider that “other parts of the world where things are working” might not be working so well if the US hadn’t been so “open-minded about looking at other parts of the world” that were in deep trouble and providing them with ongoing military and economic support not including the great crusade that restored their freedom in 1945. American largesse should apply to Americans.

  6. I would call Mr Moore a bit of s hypocrite. Dan, hopefully you did not pay to see the movie.

    Mr Moore has amassed a fortune of over $50 million while accumulating 9 homes. Somehow he must like the USA, seems like it has served him well.

    Wishing all a happy, healthy and safe holiday and new year. And yes-Merry Christmas for all those that celebrate.

    • It’s no secret that he likes this country — very much. I said as much in my story:

      “I believe we’re better than what we are now,” he said. “We can do better. I love this country. I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else. I think we can figure this out.”

    • Moore makes movies; they are fiction. He makes a good living selling his fiction. Good for him.

      • Fiction is what is made up in one’s mind. Your opinion about Michael Moore is made up in your mind- You are seeing what you want to see and stating that as fact.

        My opinion- Moore makes movies; they are based on the realityaround us that we can and should improve. He makes a good living selling his reality- the American way. Good for him.

    • davidwebster421

      Liking something and profiting from it renders one incapable of critiquing it? That’s an odd and counterproductive position to advocate for in a capitalist democracy. The opposite of love isn’t hate, it’s indifference. It’s great to see that success hasn’t blunted his willingness to go after tough topics without easy answers.

      • I guess we see things differently. I think Moore does not go after tough topics and he does offer easy answers; in the context of a fiction he has created.

        • I was actually replying to Bart, who suggested that Moore’s affection for and success within the US renders him a hypocrite for critiquing it. That’s not a legitimate argument against anything he writes/creates having value.

          You are obviously making a different point, which is that he passes off as documentary what is actually scripted. And I agree he certainly walks that line and sometimes goes over it. But I don’t agree that he only offers up easy answers. Bowling for Columbine (I think his strongest and most prescient work) is pretty diligent about not locking onto simple answers to the vexing question of why we have so much gun violence in America. Obviously I haven’t seen this most recent film so can’t comment on that.

      • Ruth Kalla Ungerer

        My reason for questioning this morning when I learned about the Moore preview was to ask why someone whom I believe has been fairly open to all of varying views, was limited to few. Doesn’t seem democratic to me. I would have loved to have been invited. Guess I am not well enough connected. Doesn’t anyone feel as I do that Michael Moore coming to town would have been an opportunity for those who follow his work or object to it to take part in the conversation on the topics he is raising in his new work?

        Seems to me, the powers to be whomever they may be should have widen the forum for discourse, starting first with letting us know this was happening.

    • Elizabeth Thibault

      Well, lucky for Mr. Moore, he says he loves America. He just thinks we can do better. Being successful isn’t a zero sum game. We can help others up as we ourselves climb the ladder of life. When the group does well, we all do better. it seems that the movie is about highlighting the severe wealth and quality of life gap of America, that we see so clearly here in CT, that isn’t prevalent in much of the developed world.

      I see the spirit of giving and helping others every day from our town residents; I hope we never lose this, because it’s a sign of our humanity and ability to connect with others. (Despite what we may see when witnessing some parking jobs!)

  7. Ruth Kalla Ungerer

    Was the event by invitation only? Would have loved to attend but there wasn’t any publicity, or at least I didn’t see any.

  8. Mr Moore hates America and how it works and was made to work. We’re a GREAT country, in our short 239 years, BECAUSE of the way this Republic was set up. Individual spirit, work ethic and accountability is what human nature NEEDS to accomplish. Unless you’re lazy or in a hand out mode which is prevalent. (I’m not talking about the sick, elderly or people who are infirmed and incapable) Anyone who fundamentally wants to totally change America … I can’t listen to. Go move to France if you think they’re set up so much better.

    • Why would you think trying to make America better would make Michael Moore hate America.

      You think it is obvious to have a qualifier in your staement- “I’m not talking about the sick, elderly or people who are infirmed and incapable”. Why do you get to improve America with that added qualifier to our social conscience( borrowed from what Germany did in the 1880’s) – but Michael Moore is unamerican to suggest our kids should be eating better, getting a better education or that our health care system should be improved!

      I think you are suggesting we are all a little unamerican if we all want things to be a little better!!

  9. I enjoy Michael Moore’s work, but he doesn’t always present a complete picture.

    Having lived in France, and seen how their health care system is set-up, I can confirm that it serves everyone – including tourists. But it does work quite differently.

    Two examples: if you or your child need a vaccine you (1) pay the co-pay (it was $25 euros) to see the doctor and get a prescription for a vaccine (2) take the prescription to a pharmacy to pick-up and pay for the vaccine (probably just a few euros), then (3) go back to the Doctor for your injection.

    Also, when I ran a half-marathon I had to visit a Doctor, and pay my 25 euros, for him to sign my health release form (after a short examination). You have to do that for each race. In the US, you just sign a liability waiver.

    My points are that (1) no system is perfect and that (2) human beings respond to incentives. In France the Doctors are paid per visit, so they set things up to require lots of visits. It’s less convenient than our system, but everyone is covered.

  10. Chip Stephens - Staples 73

    Mike Moore is a rude slob, He makes movies and scenes. like in Norwalk (BTW not 06880) berating and putting down the USA to those outside. He does nothing to improve the ills of US society he envisions, but amasses wealth and fame as a true capitalist . You want to praise those that sought to change the world in a un hypocritical manner, look towards John Lennon who created music that changed the world while criticizing it, Warren Buffet and Bill Gates that amass wealth but give back billions towards health and financial causes. Those like them seek out injustice and ills but seek ways to FIX it creating Hope and Goodwill.
    Mr Moore is a USA hate monger nothing moore than that.

    • Michael Moore has never called you a name. He is a funny fat guy making a living figuratively poking his finger in all our eyes to wake us up to things we should be improving in America. That doesn’t make him a rude slob.

      Are you saying it isn’t okay to be a true capitalist in America or just not Michael Moore. He is definitely not a hypocrite. He just makes documentaries and has figured out how to make money getting lots of people to pay to see what he has to say. Should he be the only one in America who can’t make money?

      You have a choice- don’t go to the movie and see what he has to say or pay and see if what he says has any merit.

      Proud to live in America!! Now lets make it even better!!

  11. Dick Lowenstein

    “I believe we’re better than what we are now,” he said. “We can do better. I love this country. I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else. I think we can figure this out.” That’s the mantra of both the right and the left. The problem is that each side has a solution that denigrates the other.

    • The definition of “better” in this context is not clear. Moore has his own unique definition.

    • Dick. You and I don’t agree on much- but I definitely agree with you this time. This President went too far left and Bush went too far right. And we cannot seem to get to an election with someone will lead from the middle. And now we have the Insulter in Chief.

      Wishing you and your family a happy, healthy and safe new year. And to all!!

  12. Mr. Moore himself is a sign of a major problem in this country. He’s obese.

  13. Nancy Hunter Wilson

    He’s an educator. He discusses problems that don’t have perfect answers, solutions. If you’re not interested in his class, don’t sign up.

  14. We all see things differently peppered by our own experiences which are unique. Moore is one man speaking for himself and those who think they believe exactly as he does. Anyone can make a case for anything. Choosing words and camera angles carefully, it’s possible to make a saint look like a sinner and a sinner look like a saint; make a country look like hell and make another one look great. Making us look terrible or ridiculous to the rest of the world is about the last thing we need right now. We are at war.

    • Michael Moore is just a guy who sees obvious problems and makes a great living documenting and bringing them to everyones attention. He ‘s the kid who yells the emperor is not wearing clothes. It is the American way of doing business. He is a messenger with a message and getting paid for it.

      Whether it was GM building crappy cars compared to the Japanese and Germans, too many people dieing because of shootings compared to most other nations, the inequalities and unavailability of our health care system compared to most developed countries and the incredibly expensive pharmaceutical industry- someone has to raise the nation’s consciousness that there are problem’s.

      We can disagree about solutions. But we should be able to agree and talk about the problems waiting to be fixed. And do it without calling each other names or telling someone if you don’t like it – to move someplace else.

      Remind me – are we at war with ISIS, Islam, Europe, Mexico, or amongst ourselves? And what does that have to do with all of us demanding better food choices in our schools for our children, wishing for less gun deaths in our streets and homes, praying for basic health care for all of us (including but not limited to our elderly, sick and poor) as well as humbly requesting less outrageously priced medicines that can bankrupt even our wealthiest citizens…

      Just a few thoughts

      • I think we, as a nation, do not agree on what constitutes a “problem”. That is why we have elections.

        • I think we both agree these are a few of the most pressing problems

          Climate change is going ruin the planetvs no such thing as climate change- there has always been climate change

          Abortion rights vs right to life

          Stem cell research to cure diseases vs ??? We shouldn’t go there

          Gun deaths vs NRA /gun rights

          Obamacare vs large numbers of uninnsured Americans

          Closed immigration policy(including no mexicans and no muslims) vs give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breath free

          Keystone pipeline vs the environment

          Hmmmm- we agree there are problems!!

          • You have your list, and other individuals have theirs. I don’t think anyone has a monopoly on the composition of the list.

            • Nancy Hunter Wilson

              Please add yours. Otherwise, how do we understand each other’s concerns? Maybe there is light at the end of the tunnel?

      • Hear,hear, Steve. Excellent points, well presented.

      • Obama said less than two weeks ago that we have been at war since 9/11.

  15. I have been trying to stay out of this ‘food fight’ but when you mention things like Obamacare you got my attention. Just ask my employees what they think-and the huge price increases they have faced. And just ask some who went on it only to find out the deductibles they have to pay. Or the fact the government will now subsidize insurance companies because they are all losing money-or even worse-cancelling the programs in certain states.

    And the Keystone pipeline to save what-some birds? We will not get off fossil fuel in my children’s lifetime so we lose the opportunity for jobs and get off the depencene of the Middle East.

    If we could only focus on real solutions together instead of signing legislation only by 1 party.

    Kind of like what is going on in CT. Pass a budget only to have to deal with deficits 4 months later and only 1 party approved.

    Wow. I could go on.

    • Coming in at the tail end?? And we’ve been here before!!
      Carry on!! Try to stay focused on Michael Moore!
      Have a Happy Healthy New Year!!

      • Steve. Wishing you and yours a happy, healthy and safe new year. Onto 2016!!!!

        Some good conversations in 2015. And thanks to Dan who makes it happen. You are the best Dan, and I look forward to the many stories coming.

  16. Amen Merry Christmas