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544: Wrongs & rights
543: Moore or less
542: Fair games
541: Developmentally challenged

By Chris Betros

Moore or less

Fahrenheit 9/11 comes to Japan. Yawn

Chris Betros is the editor of Japan Today

Unless you've been living on Mars for the past few months, you're just about sick of Michael MooreÕs Fahrenheit 9/11 by now. Having sent temperatures soaring at box offices around the world, the controversial film has finally made it to Japan, opening at Ebisu Garden Place last week and going nationwide from tomorrow (August 21).

Japan is actually a good place to see this documentary, or mockumentary, depending on how you feel about a film that accuses the Bush administration of using 9/11 to manipulate and mislead Americans into a war with Iraq. For one thing, American politics is too remote for most Japanese people, so you can at least be assured of seeing the film without having to listen to loudmouths debating it behind you in the theater. Second, unlike in the US, Europe or Australia, movies are seldom discussed on the editorial pages of mainstream Japanese newspapers or on prime-time news programs. This is the way it's been with films like JFK, Forrest Gump, The Last Temptation of Christ and this year's The Passion, among others. Third, movie reviewers in Japan are not really reviewers, but "introducers."Fahrenheit 9/11 will therefore have curiosity value to most Japanese, who at the moment are more focused on the Koshien high school baseball tournament, the Olympics, and Hitomi Soga's family.

That's not to say there has been no coverage of the 50-year-old Moore or his films. His last documentary, Bowling for Columbine, was quite popular, especially after his subsequent rant at the 2003 Academy Awards. Since Fahrenheit 9/11 took the top prize at Cannes in May, it's been considered "cool" among Japanese to have already seen the film. The sports tabloids have been carrying the odd story on it, and TV Asahi's popular SMAP Station program has featured many segments on Moore. The TV morning and afternoon "wide" shows occasionally run items about him. TV personality Dave Spector has been on his anti-Moore soapbox on these shows and in print for months, and he even managed to get NTV to air an excerpt from NBC Nightly News that cast doubt on the film's accuracy.

It's a pity Moore isn't coming to Japan so we can see for ourselves what he's all about, especially after he told a group of foreign correspondents in New York last month that he hoped the global release of Fahrenheit 9/11 would help to usher in regime changes in countries such as Australia, Britain and Japan. While he made a point of mentioning Australia's Prime Minister John Howard and Britain's Tony Blair, Moore wasn't able to name Junichiro Koizumi or the LDP. (Maybe that's why Koizumi declared, on August 3, that he wouldn't be seeing Moore's Òpolitically biased'film.)

If Fahrenheit 9/11 doesn't generate much debate among the media in Japan, we can always count on the Internet and the legions of anonymous "experts"who inhabit cyberspace. You only have to glance at the discussions on the bulletin board of our own Japan Today (japantoday.com) to see the intensity of the arguments. Unfortunately, the majority of those readers never took debating at school or college. Instead of lucid, well-thought-out, intelligent discussions, we get insults, hatred, bigotry, ignorance and plain stupidity. It's the Moore-ons versus the Repuglicans.

For some reason, the anti-Moore camp keeps harping on the guy's weight. What on earth does Moore's weight have to do with anything? "Lardbucket" and "fat slob" are two of the nicer comments being bandied about. By the way, how come no one ever called Lord of the Rings director Peter Jackson a fat slob? Did anyone see him when he was here in Tokyo this year, or at the Academy Awards? If Moore is overweight, what does that make Jackson?
Both sides (by that I mean editorial writers and TV commentators) should let us watch the movie in peace, not pieces. To the anti-Moore camp, I say, calm down. His film is not going to corrupt me, fool me or make me go and enlist with al-Qaida. It may be a brilliant movie, or it may be propaganda crap. I'll let you know. To the pro-Moore camp, I say, your leader isn't preaching gospel. It's just his opinion. Oh, and it won't make the slightest bit of difference to the US presidential election. All this huffing and puffing reminds me of when JFK came out in 1992. Time magazine and The New York Times led an outraged chorus saying a whole generation would think the film's version of Kennedy's assassination was accurate. Oliver Stone came to Japan yelling conspiracy, claiming the CIA always showed up at his news conferences. He even asked me if I was in the CIA (since I had attended several of his press conferences in Japan). Well, nothing came of that. It'll be the same with Fahrenheit 9/11. It's nothing more than a quick love-fest for Moore that will make him exceedingly wealthy, then it will blow over and the next topic will appear.