A Different Reality
Christmas at the Movies
December 25, 2002

At long last, Bowling For Columbine - the latest movie by Michael Moore - has found its way to li'l old La Crosse. We'll get to the movie in a bit, but first we have a few things to say about the movie-going experience.

We usually save money by waiting for movies to play at the local "second-run" theatre, but we couldn't count on this particular flick ever playing there. In spite of our list of gripes about the service we get at the cheap theatre, we found nothing to merit the premium we had to pay at the "first-run" place.

Our favorite cheap theatre is in a grand old room with a huge screen, digital sound, cushy seats and tables for your hat and popcorn. If you don't show up on time, you're likely to miss the opening credits... maybe they'll play one trailer, but that's about it. All this for a matinee price of $1.50.

Today we paid a $5 (regular evening rate is $7.25) to sit in cramped worn seats in a room that resembled a tunnel with a little screen in the end. If there was more than one speaker behind that screen, we couldn't tell. And our reward for showing up on time and paying this premium rate was to be treated to five commercials and four trailers, clocking in at a total of about 15 minutes.

Each of the commercials seemed to desecrate something, but we were most disgusted by a car commercial filmed on the streets of our beloved Prague. We recognized the streets that we'd walked just over a year ago as this car tore through at 140+ miles per hour. Many of these streets are narrow, crowded and cobblestoned. The car was shown dodging tourists and trams as it shot through some of the oldest neighborhoods in Europe.

We have two problems with a commercial like this. (It ran for about two minutes.) First, it glorifies this kind of driving. The normal disclaimers of "professional driver, closed course" didn't appear until the small print at the end... small print which was also quick to emphasise that there were no special effects used to make it look like the car was going faster than it really was. They made sure we were aware that, yes, this car really was going that fast.

Secondly, the entire center of Prague had to be SHUT DOWN to make way for that car and the cameras following it around (in vehicles fast enough to keep up with the car being filmed). This at a time when the Metro (subways) were shut down because of the recent floods, adding to the traffic on the surface and making it that much harder to get around. And what about the tourists? Imagine if you had invested heavily in a once-in-a-lifetime trip to Europe, and you only had one day to visit central Prague, only to find it shut down FOR A BLOODY CAR COMMERCIAL!!! The car people probably paid a lot of money for the privilege, but the authorities who allowed it are little more than whores, and we hope the citizens of this fine city call these people to task. To call this obscene is too kind.

Back to Bowling for Columbine. Michael Moore looked at the insane gun murder rate in the United States, and set forth with his camera crew to ask the question, "Why?" Comparing our 11,000 murders per year with the numbers in double- and low triple-digits in Canada and Europe, he tries to find what is different about America to account for that huge discrepancy and comes to two conclusions: fear and racism... and it really comes down to fear. He points out that the violent crime rate has gone down 20% during a period that the reporting of violent crime on TV news programs has gone up 600%. Crossing the border into Canada, he finds the TV news exploring ways to improve the lives of ordinary people, rather than looking for bogeymen in every corner.

This movie will make you laugh, it'll make you cry, and it'll get you pissed off. Not only is it thought-provoking, but it's also far more entertaining than most of the "entertainment" coming out of Hollywood - and that's pretty good for a documentary. By all means, go see it.

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