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Bowling for Columbine Review

By Shawn McKenzie 10/28/2002

The date was April 20, 1999.  The town was Littleton, Colorado.  I was living with my parents and sitting on the couch watching TV.  I don’t know what I was watching, but it wasn’t the news or anything.  I was unemployed and thinking about how much I was dreading having to get up and look for a job.  Right as I was about to get up and get my day started, I get a phone call.  It was my mom calling to tell me to turn on the news.  I thought this was a little odd, since I couldn’t believe my mom would take time out of her busy day just to tell me to watch the news.  I actually thought she was calling just to see if I had gotten up yet and was formulating my plan to look for a job.  Anyway, I turned on the news and I couldn’t believe what I was seeing.  I was watching coverage of a police siege on my cousin Kim’s high school, Columbine High.  Apparently, two stupid, suicidal kids with revenge on their minds wanted to kill as many fellow classmates as they could before they killed themselves.  They went into the school with a semiautomatic rifle, two sawed-off shotguns, a handgun, and dozen of homemade bombs.  In the end, they killed twelve fellow students and one teacher, plus wounding several others.  I was shocked, because I just been thinking that this kind of thing would never happen in Littleton.  All the previous school shootings had been in small towns.  Littleton is a suburb of Denver, and Denver ain’t exactly a little town.  Not only was it yet another school shooting, but it was the deadliest one yet.  My mom was worried for my cousin, and between my mom, my uncle, and me, I think I was the calmest, and I was in tears.  It turned out that my cousin had left campus for lunch and came back late, which she wasn’t let back in for obvious reasons.  She said that before she left, she heard some popping sounds that she assumed were fireworks being set off by a couple of idiots.


Why am I telling you this tale?  It is because I recently saw filmmaker Michael Moore’s new film Bowling for Columbine.  The title refers to the fact that the two kids who went on that rampage in Columbine, Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris, had a bowling class that morning before their planned massacre.  The movie premiered at this year’s Cannes Film Festival and was so popular with critics that the jury created a special “55th Anniversary” prize for it.  There is a good reason that it was popular.  It’s because it makes you think.  You may disagree with virtually every point Moore is trying to make (and there were a few points he made that I did disagree with), but you will walk out of the film talking about it.


Surprisingly, as liberal as Moore is as a filmmaker, the movie isn’t an anti-gun tirade.  I was fully expecting it to be, because I was very familiar with Moore’s work.  His 1989 movie Roger & Me was about his attempt to confront GM CEO Roger Smith about his decision to close the factory in Flint, Michigan and downsize all the employees.  His two TV shows, “TV Nation” and “The Awful Truth,” mainly consisted of him and his team of reporters taking on corporate crime and other liberal causes.  Since I am a Libertarian, I disagreed with him most of the time.  Why did I watch?  As much as I disagreed with the points he made, I always appreciated the humor he brought to his work.  I have laughed several times at his work because Moore has a gift of making you laugh while making you think.  He continued to do this in Bowling for Columbine, yet I was still expecting the whole movie to be about gun control.  What I found out is that Moore actually is not attempting to advocate the ridding of guns, but was just trying to figure out why Americans insist on using those guns on each other.  He is actually a lifetime member of the NRA.  The analogy he uses is that Canadians own as many guns as Americans and watch the same violent movies, but their number of gun-related deaths dwarfs those of the USA.


Everyone kept talking about the fact that Moore didn’t answer his own question of why we are a violent society.  I actually think he did answer the question. The reason we are a violent society is that we are always in a state of fear.  That fear leads us to feel like we need to shoot first and ask questions later.  We also feel like we need to strike first before we get hurt.  Moore tries to elevate this to the national defense level, which I disagree with, because I feel we need to defend ourselves from the people who hate our country, but I see his point.  I personally don’t own a gun and I never will, but I don’t agree with taking away gun rights to responsible citizens.


I could go on and on about all the things that I thought about during and after watching Bowling for Columbine, but it would be practically a novel.  I thought it was eerie during the scene where he shows the surveillance footage of the Columbine shootings while playing some 911 calls over it.  Everyone in the theater was very quiet during that scene.  Another one that stood out was near the end when Moore interviews the Vice President and figurehead of the NRA, actor Charlton Heston.  Though I would never refuse his right to speak his mind any time he wanted, he did show some bad taste by holding a rally not long after Columbine and then again not long after a school shooting in Michigan involving a six-year-old girl.  Heston stammered and never gave Moore a straight answer.  Instead, he walks out on Moore…in his own house!  The supposed influential figurehead of the school shootings, goth metal singer Marilyn Manson, actually showed more taste than Heston by canceling a concert out of respect for the school.  Finally, his interview with “South Park” co-creator Matt Stone contained some comments that I had thought about not long after I graduated from high school.  His point was that high school ends eventually, and if you stick it out and finish it, you won’t have to deal with the same crap after high school that you did during it.  That is so true.  I was not a popular kid in high school (oh, don’t look so shocked!)  My classmates tormented me daily, but I never thought of turning a gun on them.  Once I graduated and went to college, the tormenting ended.  If Klebold and Harris had just stuck it out, maybe they wouldn’t have done what they did.


You may or may not agree with anything I have said in this review, but I think there is one thing you will agree with if you go to see Bowling for Columbine, and that is that it sparks debate.  Movies that make you talk and think the way this movie does are worthy of high praise, no matter what your views are.

Ratings System:


Catch this movie at the theater if you can...

Wait until it comes out on video...

Wait until it plays on HBO, Showtime, Starz, etc...

Demand your money back, even if you saw it for free!

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