The day I went to see Michael Moore's latest documentary, "Bowling
for Columbine," the Washington, D.C. beltway sniper had killed his
eighth victim and left two others wounded. Moore's film was promoted
as being about violence in America, and I went hoping to learn
something relevant about our national slaughter in general and mass
murderers like the beltway sniper in particular.
The title of this film refers to Columbine High School in
Littleton, Colo. where two students went bowling one morning in 1995,
then killed 13 people and injured at least a dozen others before
turning their guns on themselves. It makes the point that the United
States has the greatest murder rate among the developed nations of
the world, a total of 11,127 killed with guns last year.
As writer, director, producer and provocateur, Moore takes a
rambling tour of the American gun sub-culture, and he shows film
clips of incidents of incomprehensible violence. He talks to firearm
enthusiasts, police, the man and woman on the street and survivors of
violence. Unfortunately, the film takes many turns into
superficiality and glibness. Moore could and should have paid more
attention to the demographics of American violence: How many of the
murders were crimes of passion, committed by strangers, or associated
with other crimes such as robberies. Moore knows, though, that
however informative good data may be, it is lousy cinema.
Despite its shortcomings, "Bowling for Columbine" does have
several arresting moments. It records a truly frightening scene
during an interview of James Nichols, whose brother Terry Nichols
helped Timothy McVeigh blow up the Oklahoma City Federal Building in
Moore takes two students who were wounded during the Columbine
massacre to the corporate Headquarters of K-mart, the retail chain
that sold bullets to the Columbine killers, and they demand that
K-mart stop carrying handgun ammunition.
Moore asks Charleton Heston, president of the National Rifle
Assn., for an interview and gets it. Then he browbeats the NRA leader
about the organization's stand on gun control and his insensitivity
to victims of violent crime.
Moore interviews Marilyn Manson, who had been accused of inspiring
the Columbine massacre; and the outrageous rocker comes across as
thoughtful and articulate. For contrast, Moore also shows carefully
selected clips of national leaders, including the President of the
United States, who appear inarticulate and irrational in discussing
"Bowling for Columbine" is more entertaining than informative.
Michael Moore stumbles on his way to finding the causes of violence
in America; but this week as the bullets fly and innocents die in and
around our nation's capital, it is, without doubt, relevant.
* Dennis Piszkiewicz is a Laguna Beach resident.
'Red Dragon' relentlessly evil, mesmerizing
"Red Dragon" could not have been more complete, not even with some
fava beans and a nice Chianti.
Anthony Hopkins reprises his role as the equally duplicitous and
enigmatic Dr. Hannibal Lecter. Edward Norton has the unenviable task
of playing opposite to the always stunning and captivating Hopkins as
agent Graham and he performs with superb grace and complements
Hopkins' intensity with his own intangible charisma and charm. Ralph
Fiennes plays the red dragon in "Red Dragon," and the audience is
left with a convincing impression that he is nothing but the deadly,
fearsome beast that the name implies. This scintillating combination
of star power is what propels this film into a magnificent
The intimate details of Lecter's heinous crimes, and apprehension,
serve as a delectable appetizer for the film and as character
development for agent Graham. Lecter, a criminal of incomparable
intelligence and insight, becomes the last resort for retired agent
Graham, who is enticed into solving this one last case. Graham feels
compelled by his unique rapport with Lecter and some sly convincing
by his old comrade Harvey Keitel. Graham commences the case
discretely, hoping to remain on the periphery, only to find that the
red dragon becomes obsessed with him. Graham assumes the daunting
role of the dragon slayer, and this dragon is as cunning as it is
Never stumbling or faltering on the complexities of the plot, this
film provides the audience with an extraordinary glimpse into the
aberrant mind while maintaining a rapid pace and respect for the
moviegoers' intelligence. Danny Elfman, the preeminent composer of
film scores, truly captures the audience with a sublime rhapsody that
shifts from calm to bedlam effortlessly. "Red Dragon" is relentless
with its attention to detail and its attempt to please the audience
and it succeeds brilliantly.
* EVAN MARMOL is a Laguna Beach resident. He graduated from UC
Irvine with a degree in psychology and social behavior.