As with most documentaries that find their way to DVD, the picture quality is all over the map, with certain segments looking much better than others. Presented in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen, Bowling For Columbine looks really nice in spots, but depending on the source material Moore decided to use, the quality could vary somewhat. Sharpness and detail were above average, as Moore’s handheld camera work seemed fine for the presented material and was rarely distracting or erratic.
The material presented was rarely nothing more than Moore and his interviewee(s) – or a snippet pulled from TV - and as such, the color palette throughout the film remained pretty generic and nonspecific. Bleeding and smearing weren’t an issue and colors seemed properly balanced and contrasted at all times. Black levels were just OK and allowed for decent definition and delineation throughout the film and obviously, they weren’t quite as crisp and detailed as films with much, much larger budgets.
Flaws manifested themselves in the form of flakes and flecks, as well as inconsistencies between the multiple clips used by Moore. Grain was pretty evident throughout the film and I did note a couple of instances of shimmer as well – nothing major however. Major flaws didn’t seem to mar the print and the sheer amount of minor issues and inconsistencies kept the score down a bit.
Not much to say about the image other than it served the material at hand quite well. Good job from MGM and it’s obvious they did the best with the material they were given to work with.
MGM presents Bowling For Columbine in a Dolby Digital 5.1 audio transfer that is as generic as they come. Through no fault of MGM, they present the material as best they can given the original source recording methods. It’s a 5.1 track that sounds like a 2.0 surround track during its best moments and like a monaural track during most others. However, Bowling For Columbine was never meant to exploit your home theater setup.
The vast majority of the film remains firmly anchored in the front surrounds and there are hardly any moments in the film that get your surrounds pumping. Rears surrounds are rarely engaged either, as the main thrust of Bowling For Columbine is dialogue and hot air – and lots of it. Through no fault of MGM, this is one of the more tame 5.1 tracks I’ve ever heard – but I appreciate the effort.
MGM hasn’t added any other spoken languages on the disc, but they have given viewers the option of English or Spanish subtitles.
On the film side of the disc, we get an Audio Commentary with interns and receptionists who worked on the film and while many other reviewers have complained that Moore wasn’t included on the track, I offer up that the film, as well as every other supplement on the disc is a Moore commentary. Believe me, after you’ve worked your way through this disc, you know where Moore stands on most political issues covered in Bowling For Columbine. The commentary provided by the participants Moore chose to include is hit or miss – there are some decent moments and some decent tidbits gleaned – but it’s all very sporadic and not quite as entertaining as it sounds. As far as comments made about the film itself, certain things are left out in the commentary, as the interns neglect to add statements like “Ohhhh … here’s the scene where we edited two or three different speeches from Charlton Heston to make it look like one speech.” or “Here’s where we cooked certain numbers and statistics to make the US look much, much worse comparatively!” or “Remember this? This is when we staged an ammunition purchase at a Canadian Wal-Mart!”, but there’s some interesting stuff included nonetheless and this is definitely worth a listen for those of you who enjoyed the film.
Flip over the disc and we get a few more supplements with the first taking place “somewhere in Michigan”. It’s here we get an Exclusive: Michael Moore on His Oscar Win & Acceptance Speech (15:29). Here, an unrepentant Moore gives us his reasoning behind the insulting and over-the-top Oscar acceptance speech he gave this year when accepting his award. Thankfully, the Academy wouldn’t release the footage of Moore’s speech, so all we’re left with is Moore at a picnic table (how fitting!) with his Oscar. He leads us through the nomination process, the lead up to the ceremony, his speech and the reasons for it, as well as the reactions he received for giving it.
As far as Moore is concerned, I don’t expect him to be repentant for his convictions – he’s more than welcome to have them and voice them – the First Amendment grants him that. Just like the Second Amendment grants me the privilege of owning a gun …
Next up we get Return to Denver/Littleton – 6 Months After the Release of Bowling For Columbine (25:05) and it’s nothing more than footage from the University of Denver in February of 2003, where Moore held an open forum on guns, violence, and other topics discussed in his “documentary”. The expected pot shots at Bush and the current administration are taken, Moore shamelessly quotes the Bible out of context and conveniently leaves out the part about lying, and regurgitates his politics one more time just in case we weren’t listening the fifty million other times he’s flapped his gums in a public forum. If you’re a Michael Moore fan, this is the masturbatory mother lode of his political manifesto.
The Film Festival Scrapbook (16:42) is a montage of footage that has Moore and his crew receiving all kinds of awards and accolades for Bowling For Columbine at Cannes, as well as the Toronto and London Film Festival(s). There are also interview snippets from press junkets included while Moore was promoting the film in various locales. Oh yeah, in a shocking turn of events, Moore offers up his thoughts on what’s wrong with America in most of the interview snippets. This is followed by a Marilyn Manson Music Video for “Fight Song”.
A Teacher’s Guide (via DVD-ROM or web links) is presented for those who want to indoctrinate school kids with lies, falsehoods, and half-truths. It’s really scary to think that some misguided teacher might actually use this crap in a classroom. With Moore’s “stamp of approval” on it, you can almost guarantee that it’s not entirely truthful material.
Following is another Moore interview entitled Michael Moore Interviewed by Clinton Press Secretary Joe Lockhart at HBO’s US Comedy Arts Festival (21:04) and if you’ve seen any other extra on this disc, you pretty much get a rehash here, as Moore restates the same drivel we’ve heard on other supplements. The standard and requisite Reagan/Bush Sr./Bush Jr. bashing takes place and in a couple of shocking moments, #1, Moore acts like he’s not part of the “rich” / “elite” class (cough! bullcrap! cough!) and #2, Moore is actually called a journalist by Lockhart. As far as those moments are concerned, Moore’s “average Joe” bit is as tired as the day is long and as far as his journalistic credentials are concerned, Jason Blair at the “New York Times” and Stephen Glass at “The New Republic” were considered journalists too. (If you don’t know who these two are … look it up.)
MGM follows this with a Segment from “The Awful Truth II: Corporate Cops” (7:23) that takes on Harrison Research Laboratories – a lab that tested some harmful chemicals on human subjects without warning them of potential harmful side-effects. This is vintage Moore at his best from his TV show that was never really given a fair shot in my opinion. Some of this footage was used in the film and that’s why it was included here.
Next … uggh! … another interview with Moore. This time, it’s Michael Moore on “The Charlie Rose Show” (24:44). Again, if you’ve ever seen Moore, it’s “Bush is an idiot” and “Guns are bad their owners are nutbags”. Moore quotes directly from the “Liberalism For Dummies” manual and this supplement is no different than any other containing Moore in an interview situation. He rips on the President and his administration, he yaps about his conspiracy theories, and once again, claims to speak for the vast majority of Americans; just not the majority I know. To show just how smart Moore is and how “in touch” he is with the average Joe, he claims that the public outcry from the evil Bush administration will manifest itself with the Democrats will winning a majority in both houses in November (of 2002) – however, if any of you were paying attention, the Democrats suffered one of the worst mid-term defeats ever in 2002. Interesting. Maybe Moore doesn’t speak for the majority of Americans like he loves to claim so often …
The disc’s extras end with Mike’s Action Guide (DVD-ROM material that resembles the fraudulent Teacher’s Guide) and a Staff and Crew Photo Gallery.
Love him or hate him, Michael Moore is good for some controversy and an entertaining film. His “facts”, as well as his methods, have been shrouded in controversy since Roger and Me (which was picked apart bit by bit as well by more than one source) and you can rest assured that when you watch a Michael Moore film, you’re only getting one side of the story - his - and many parts of it are more than likely not factual. Even so, his “documentaries” are usually good for a chuckle or two and his subject matter is always provocative and timely. His latest, Bowling For Columbine, definitely fits that bill.
While I can’t believe I’m saying this – and I sure hate to see Moore benefit one wooden nickel for his shoddy journalism - Bowling is worth a rental at the very least. Even though the “documentary”, as well as its extras, could be relabeled “The Moore Manifesto”, it definitely provokes discussion on both sides of the gun control issue and no matter what side of the fence you’re on, there’s nothing like some intelligent and heated discussion to get the ol’ blood pumping.
The DVD is jam-packed with some great supplements and MGM has given the disc well done audio and video transfers considering what they had to work with as far as the source material was concerned. Another nice job from MGM and here’s hoping that down the road, more deserving films get this type of SE treatment.
You already know if you want this one or not … and it’s doubtful that my review, or the film itself, will sway you from whatever side of the fence you’re already on.