Weekly Wire
Austin Chronicle In Person

By Nicole Kleman

OCTOBER 27, 1997: 

Michael Moore at UT

Though his career began when he humbly sold his house to finance a documentary about his beloved hometown of Flint, Michigan, you can never be sure how a box office hit, an Emmy-winning TV show, and a bestselling book can change a person.

Lending his star power to the CinemaTexas film festival on September 25, Michael Moore offered an ecstatic audience a preview of his recently completed film The Big One, though it was apparent that Moore has entirely escaped the typical pitfalls of American stardom as he screened his earnest but slapdash documentary filmed during the Downsize This! book tour. The film he describes as "part Grapes of Wrath, part Pee Wee's Big Adventure" stars Moore, thousands of struggling Americans, and executives who live by the golden rule of business -- profit at any cost. In an effort to counteract the hype about our mid-Nineties economic boom, he crossed the country interviewing downsized workers, hassling dutiful security guards, mocking political press secretaries, and finally confronting a real CEO. Although the themes are familiar to Moore, the commentary remains fresh, trenchant, and irreverent.

After the film, Moore stepped behind the podium in the UT Ballroom where he courteously repeated stories from the film for the hundreds who weren't able to squeeze into the screening. It clearly amused his sense of justice that the lucky filmgoers were now relegated to standing in the back of the room. He thanked the audience for their exuberant feedback, but noted that our amusement was quite different from the reactions of Michigan truck drivers who saw the first U.S. screening. The tone of his voice suggested the importance of his film speaking to his blue collar roots.

The entire ballroom shook with laughter as Moore turned business ethics inside out, advising GM to begin breaking into the crack market. "They can make a $2,000 profit on a two-ton car, but they could make a $40,000 profit off of two pounds of crack." Sure it's illegal, he admitted, but destroying entire communities through downsizing is unethical. He could have easily kept throwing darts at others, but the preacher took the opportunity to poke fun at his choir. He teased Austinites about their penchant for food co-ops, cozy meetings, and the perfectly accented pronunciation of Nicaragua. "Go home and watch the live episode of ER!" he ordered.

If the left is going to regain the confidence of the politically disengaged, he argued, its members must not isolate themselves from their fellow citizens. Thankfully, commercial, popular, and critical success have not taken the Michael Moore out of Michael Moore. -- Nicole Kleman

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