Capitalism: A Love Story - Special Edition [Blu-ray]
Blu-ray A - America - Anchor Bay Entertainment
Review written by and copyright: Anthony Arrigo (5th March 2010).
The Film

There are two things a viewer must be well aware of before watching “Capitalism: A Love Story” (2009): that the United States is indeed in the midst if a terrible financial crisis and, that this is a Michael Moore film, so expect that any and all facts presented are going to be heavily skewed. This isn’t to say that I don’t feel Moore made a disingenuous film, but rather that he always has a knack for injecting too much of his personal philosophy (and himself) into his movies to really allow me to make a stronger connection with the material. I’ve found that I’m typically an advocate of the issues he stands behind, at least in regard to his feature films, but I think his methods are too sensational to be taken seriously. His outlandish style is more slanted toward entertainment than actual progress toward change. But I know he (mostly) means well.

Moore’s latest doc-u-tainment feature is ostensibly focused on the apparent failure of capitalism and free enterprise in America, but it comes across as a bit too schizophrenic, too broad of a focus. Moore wants to highlight all aspects of what has happened to the middle class of America, but in doing so he hops all over the place looking for a pull-of-the-heartstrings story to tell. The film gains emotional weight when Moore takes the camera off of himself and places it in front of those who have been hit hardest by the economic downturn. The stories told by the families involved paint of sad picture of what has happened to our system of banking with a lack of regulations. If the film had just been a documentary that focused more on these stories, and featured a lot less of Moore, it would’ve been much more effective. The issue is plainly Moore, who puts on his hushed, emotional tone to narrate the film, but brings out the voice we know all too well when he’s doing something inane, like attempting a citizen’s arrest on the head of Bank of America. It isn’t that he doesn’t have a good idea, but he goes about it so illogically that the humor detracts from the real story it intercuts.

You have to remember the same goes for the people Moore interviews for the film. They quote facts, they pull out numbers, they cite sources, but the fact that these people agreed to be interviewed at length for this film, not to mention the fact that Moore chose to include their lengthy responses in his own film, should caution viewers to not buy everything they’re selling. Many of them do make valid points, and there is data presented that isn’t terribly hard to believe. These people want to see much of the same reform about the government that everyone else wants as well. I just know well enough to remember that Moore’s personal agenda is going to trump anything that’s said, so I try to not accept everything I hear as an undeniable fact. Although, if you’re familiar with Moore’s work you’re likely know to do this already.

The film can at times be a frustrating watch. A lot of what he shows to us comes in the form of news clips, documents and photos; things that are less likely to see biased toward his point. The hubris shown by the heads of financial institutions, and our own government, is incendiary and will likely cause the blood to boil of most anyone watching the film. But there is some reprieve in all of it, though it may not be much. We do get a glimpse of some successful cases where workers or home owners stood their ground and refused to be treated like another statistic, so they revolted; and with the aid of national news coverage and community support, some seemed to win their battles, though winning the war might still prove to be difficult.

The film runs at a lengthy 127 minutes, and I wish it had been cut down to a leaner 100 minutes. Moore sometimes lingers a bit too long on topics he seemingly can’t get enough of, even trudging up former president George W. Bush, and the result is a film that tries to get a little bit from everyone and ends up becoming a hodgepodge of sob stories and skewed politics. I thought he should have focused a little more attention on some of the harder facts we know about what’s been happening on Wall St. and Washington, D.C. rather than wasting time on harassing CEOs who would never go on-camera with him. I was surprised that he didn’t make much mention at all about Bernie Madoff’s scandal, something that seems right up his alley. But a good deal of what he does cover involves real people telling real stories, and those are what makes this film worth checking out.

Video

“Capitalism” shells out for a faithful 1.78:1 1080p 24/fps AVC MPEG-4 encoded which looks very solid. Now, the film shifts many gears, going from handheld, professional HD cameras to home video recordings to news clips to surveillance footage and everywhere else in between. And it all looks very good. The footage Moore’s crew shot obviously looks the best with much more realistic skin tones, fine detail and less artifacts. The rest of the footage is of varying quality, but there was nothing that stood out as particularly bad. Even an old address from President Roosevelt looked great in high-definition. There isn’t much visual flair to the picture, being a documentary that isn’t really a necessity. But there are some colorful moments on factory floors or in a nature environment where the image looks particularly crisp and window-like.

Audio

The English Dolby TrueHD 5.1 surround sound track mixed at 48kHz/24-bit sounds a whole lot better than I thought it might. I expected about two hours worth of dialogue and not much else, but there are some moments added by Moore that kick up the track a bit. A few explosions here, some applause and fanfare there; it’s these moments that flesh out the track and give it a little bit of life. The interviews sound great - crystal clear, loud and well-balanced. I counted less than five moments where my LFE sprang to life, so don’t expect much action in that department, but this is a track that isn’t nearly as docile as I expected.
There are optional subtitles for English for the hearing impaired and Spanish.

Extras

Anchor Bay/Starz Entertainment has decked out this Blu-ray with a 2-disc set full of Blu-ray exclusive featurettes and a digital copy of the film.

DISC ONE:

“Harvard Professor Elizabeth Warren on How Wall Street Got Away with Murder” (1080p) is an interview featurette which runs for 8 minutes and 20 seconds. This is an extended interview with Warren where she tries to better explain how things got so bad on Wall St.

“Sorry, House-Flippers and Banks – You’re Toast in Flint, MI” (1080p) is a featurette which runs for 5 minutes and 32 seconds. Moore talks with one of Flint’s county treasurers about some of the new, radical measures they’re taking around the city to try to improve its appearance.

“Congressman Cummings Dares to Speak to the Unspeakable” (1080p) is an interview featurette which runs for 7 minutes and 2 seconds. Moore has an extended discussion with the Congressman about capitalism and what it’s turned into.

“NY Times Pulitzer Prize Winner Chris Hedges on the Killing Machine Known as Capitalism” (1080p) is an interview featurette which runs for 8 minutes and 43 seconds. Hedges provides an in-depth look at capitalism and how it relates the people of our nation. He sees it as a disease that has corrupted imperial politicians.

“The Rich Don’t Go to Heaven (There’s a Special Place Reserved for Them!)” (1080p) is an interview featurette which runs for 8 minutes and 2 seconds. Moore sits down with Father Dick Preston to have a further discussion about the inherent evils of capitalism. Ok, I’m sorry but bringing in a priest to discuss the evils of capitalism makes about as much sense as bringing in a witch doctor. I don’t need piety mixed in with my politics, thanks.

“What If, Just If, We Had Listened to Jimmy Carter in 1979?” (1080p) featurette is a national address which runs for 8 minutes and 59 seconds. Then-president Carter gives a stirring speech to the nation about his idea system of values for us to follow.

“The Omnivore’s Dilemma? It’s Capitalism” (1080p) is a featurette that runs for 6 minutes and 20 seconds. This piece looks at the impact of capitalism on people who process food for growers and consumers and those who grow their own at home.

“Commie Taxi Drivers – “You Talkin’ To Me?” – in Wisconsin” (1080p) is a featurette which runs for 5 minutes and 43 seconds. The Union Cab Co. is equally owned by all of its workers, which allows for everyone to profit and be successful at their job.

“How to Run the Place Where You Work” (1080p) is an interview featurette which runs for 11 minutes and 9 seconds. Moore sits down with a professor to discuss the innermost workings of… you guessed it, capitalism! As you might have guessed, many of these extra features are becoming increasingly redundant.

“The Socialist Bank of – North Dakota?” (1080p) is a featurette which runs for 4 minutes and 43 seconds. The Bank of North Dakota operates differently than most privately-owned banks in that it doesn’t profit off of letting customers borrow its money, and it’s a highly successful $4 billion bank.

“The Bank Kicks Them Out, Max Kicks Them Back In” (1080p) is a featurette which runs for 11 minutes and 50 seconds. We get a look at Max, a man who has spearheaded a campaign in Florida to get people back into the homes that they were evicted from.

Finally there is the film’s teaser trailer (1080p), which runs for 1 minute and 15 seconds, and the theatrical trailer (1080p), which runs for 2 minutes.

DISC TWO:

This is a digital copy of the film available for Windows Media devices only. It will not work with iTunes or Apple devices.

Packaging

The 2-disc set comes housed in a standard Blu-ray keepcase with both discs on a hub opposite each other.

Overall

The film carries a heavy bias, but it makes many valid points and shines a light on how despicable some of the heavyweights on Wall St. and in the U.S. government can truly be. The film has some good interviews with real people presenting their cases, and is aided by a strong A/V presentation and a slew of extras.

The Film: B Video: B+ Audio: B+ Extras: B Overall: B

 


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