CATEGORIES Hot Topic, Oscars
Michael MooreThere are several definitions of the word "snub" in the dictionary and none of them apply to the absence of Michael Moore's 'Capitalism: A Love Story' from the list of 15 Oscar semifinalists for the year's Best Documentary Feature. Given the movie's reviews, even by critics who'd raved about his past films, it seems likely that members of the nominations committee simply believed there were 15 better candidates.

Nonetheless, "snub" appeared in the headlines above so many stories about the announced doc finalists that a conspiracy theorist might have thought Moore wrote them himself. (He didn't, did he?) Michael MooreThere are several definitions of the word "snub" in the dictionary and none of them apply to the absence of Michael Moore's 'Capitalism: A Love Story' from the list of 15 Oscar semifinalists for the year's Best Documentary Feature. Given the movie's reviews, even by critics who'd raved about his past films, it seems likely that members of the nominations committee simply believed there were 15 better candidates.

Nonetheless, "snub" appeared in the headlines above so many stories about the announced doc finalists that a conspiracy theorist might have thought Moore wrote them himself. (He didn't, did he?)

Obviously, there are people in Hollywood who would like to snub Moore, to treat him with coldness and contempt, to disdain him and even turn their snub noses up at him. I'll bet past Oscar winner and current Tea Party activist Jon Voight would. But Voight wasn't on that committee and I doubt that many politically polarized filmmakers -- left or right -- were. It takes the committee volunteers scores of hours, at no pay, to see and sort through the eligible documentaries and they have to have a great love for the non-fiction form to make that commitment.

I haven't seen all 15 movies on the documentary short list, but from their subject matter, they all seem more urgent than 'Capitalism; A Love Story.' Moore's worst-reviewed film is a hard sell for anyone who can't guess what he thinks of capitalism. Although his previous four documentaries have all been politically charged essays -- against corporate cold-bloodedness ('Roger & Me'), recklessly lax gun laws ('Bowling for Columbine'), Bush/Saudi oil cronyism ('Fahrenheit 9/11'), and a dysfunctional U.S. health care system ('Sicko') -- his latest almost declares itself a personal screed in the title.



Moore has his fans -- I mean people who actually like his on-screen personality -- but for everyone else, the less seen of him in his films the better. It is absolutely cringe-worthy when Moore attacks people with feigned righteous indignation, as he did in his ambush interview of the late Charlton Heston in 'Bowling for Columbine,' and it doesn't ease the nausea when you learn afterwards how fast and loose he has played with the facts.

Harlan Jacobsen, then editor of Film Comment magazine, uncovered a bevy of time and place distortions in the 1989 'Roger & Me,' and the late Pauline Kael condemned Moore for them in New Yorker magazine. Moore continued to massage truths in 'Columbine' and made a fool of himself with his overreaching sense of self-importance with 'Fahrenheit 9/11.' He declined to submit that film, the most popular documentary in history, for Best Doc consideration. Instead, he campaigned for it as the Best Damn Movie of Them All and predicted it would change the outcome of the 2004 presidential election.

In the end, he didn't get his Best Picture nomination, and if anything, the right-win mobilization against 'Fahrenheit' helped George Bush get re-elected. Despite that snub of fellow documentarians and acolytes on the documentary nominating committee, Moore's next film, the 2007 'Sicko,' was acknowledged a Best Documentary Feature nomination.

From the beginning, Moore has been a divisive figure, reflexively adored by the left and loathed by the right, but his movies have gotten a fair shake from the Academy: Best Feature Oscar nominations for 'Sicko' and 'Bowling for Columbine'; the Oscar itself for 'Sicko.' And he almost certainly would have won for 'Farenheit 9/11' if he'd given it the chance.

'Capitalism' is Moore's worst-reviewed movie and it isn't Oscar material. It wasn't snubbed, it was ignored. And rather than wonder if he's being unfairly dissed, maybe we should wonder if he's run out of ideas and worn out his welcome.

'This is a love story, all right,' Salon.com critic Stephanie Zacharek wrote in her review, 'but it has less to do with the flaws of capitalism than it does with Moore's unwavering fondness for the sound of his own voice, and for what he perceives as his own vast cleverness.'