R.L. Fridley, owner of Des Moines-based Fridley Theatres, a cinema chain with 90 screens in Iowa and Nebraska, is making headlines for refusing to show Fahrenheit 9/11. Sure, director Michael Moore's film still is reaching Des Moines audiences by playing in theaters owned by Fridley's competitors. But his comments to the press have made him a hero with conservatives, despite the fact that he's stopped no one in Des Moines from seeing the blockbuster documentary.
"These barbarians (al Qaeda, I presume) have shown through (the attacks of Sept. 11) and the recent beheadings that they will stop at nothing," Fridley said in news coverage. "I believe this film emboldens them and divides our country even more." Everyone is a critic, including the owner of a small Midwestern theater chain, although Fridley has taken criticism to new heights by essentially calling Moore an abettor of terrorists.
Of course, his comments are tame compared to recent commentary in The American Spectator magazine, whose writers call Moore "a special effect fabulist" and compare Fahrenheit 9/11 to past fascist propaganda from Spain, Germany and the Soviet Union.
Let's hope Fridley and every American Spectator letter writer will receive word about the cash prizes being offered at www.republicansreview911.com, an Internet site soliciting Fahrenheit 9/11 reviews from Republicans and supporters of President Bush. First prize for the best review, required to be no longer than 400 words, is $300; two second prizes are worth $100. Conservatives might be shocked at small sums, but I suppose it's the anti-Moore thought that counts.
After all, it's not really about the money but the chance to criticize a film with a clearly liberal, anti-Bush agenda.
I received my postcard from republicansreview911.com at CityBeat late last week. But I'm not entirely sure what the contest sponsors mean by a "Republican" movie review. Certainly it's not enough to criticize Moore's film. Most reviews I've read, even the positive ones, take some issues with his one-sided approach.
Could it be that the folks behind republicansreview911.com and other anti-Moore sites like www.moorewatch.com are convinced there's a community of liberal film critics as biased and left-leaning as the liberal media that employ them? Are we critics, as one conservative columnist hinted, guilty of taking Moore's anti-Bush arguments at face value and unwilling to fact-check the movie?
In an election year where the equally divided red and blue states reflect the political split among voters, some might propose that there are red critics (those who voted Republican in the last presidential election) and blue critics (previous Al Gore voters). Yet, for the most part, Fahrenheit 9/11 reviews have been positive and moviegoers have responded enthusiastically, earning the film more than $60 million through the Fourth of July weekend.
So the red-tinged logic is clear: The good reviews for Fahrenheit 9/11 have nothing to do with the quality of the film: They're simply the latest conspiracy from the liberal film press, which must have its own political agenda. This doesn't explain the gushing reviews for Spider-Man 2 — perhaps it's the fact that Spidey lives in that liberal, Hillary Clinton-loving bastion known as New York City. So it's time to bait the film critics, have them change their adjectives and see the red light.
Here's something I noted last week about Fahrenheit 9/11: In a Springdale multiplex theater, ground zero for suburban Cincinnati voters in a key swing state for the 2004 election, one of the largest Monday afternoon crowds I've ever witnessed watched the fast, furious and frequently funny polemic on the Bush Administration and its case for the Iraqi War.
Now, to give it the type of anti-Moore slant that could earn me $300, I'd change "one of the largest crowds I've ever witnessed" to "a miniscule crowd considering all the hype." I'd change "fast, furious and frequently funny" to "too fast, too furious and not as funny considering all the attention."
I could reverse every phrase, but it wouldn't matter. Somewhere in our great land someone is willing to pen a 400-word review that demands Moore be arrested for treason, and they don't even care about the money.