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Go Kart Films presents
Orwell Rolls In His Grave (2005)

"The most powerful special interest in Washington today is the media."
- Charles Lewis, a former producer on 60 Minutes

Review By: Jon Danziger   
Published: August 24, 2005

Stars: Michael Moore, Charles Lewis, Vincent Bugliosi, Greg Palast, Bernie Sanders, Danny Schechter, Tony Benn, Robert MacChesney
Director: Robert Kane Pappas

MPAA Rating: Not Rated
Run Time: 01h:45m:18s
Release Date: June 07, 2005
UPC: 600773602595
Genre: documentary

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
B- B+B-B- B-

DVD Review

If Robert Kane Pappas is right, poor George Orwell is doing revolutions on some sort of moral rotisserie for eternity. Goodness knows things are bad—there are more media outlets than ever, and yet we collectively seem more ill-informed or disconnected from public life than ever before. The problem with this documentary, though, is that it goes all Howard Beale on us, for the entire running time; Pappas is so deeply entrenched in the notion that there's a vast conspiracy that presenting him with any evidence to the contrary is for him only confirmation that you're part of the conspiracy. Then again, just because you're paranoid doesn't mean that they're not out to get you, and our fair and balanced media today have left us in a sorry way, to be sure.

Though a quote on the back of the DVD case from Variety says that the movie "refrains from preaching to the choir," I'd beg to differ. Pappas' film is a pretty disorganized one, and he doesn't seem to be looking to persuade; rather, he's more interested in finger pointing, though admittedly there's plenty of legitimate finger-pointing to be done. His interview subjects are a who's who of the American left—Michael Moore, Bernie Sanders, Robert MacChesney, Mark Crispin Miller, Paul Krugman, Greg Palast—and he trots out every tinfoil hat theory from the past quarter century. He unwisely, for instance, spends a good amount of time on the October Surprise—that is, the speculation that in 1980, Ronald Reagan's Presidential campaign struck a deal with the Iranians, in which the American hostages in Tehran would not be released before the November election in exchange for military hardware for Iran, laundered through Israel. It's a pretty discredited theory, though the simultaneity of Reagan's inauguration and the hostages' release still seems like more than just a wacky coincidence; in the broader picture, though, it provides Pappas' opponents with the chance to dismiss him as a crackpot trotting out an old chestnut.

Which is unfortunate, because the more chilling stuff here, and the more far-reaching, is the more recent. A good amount of time is devoted to the 1996 Telecommunications Act, all but ignored by the mainstream media, which was essentially the government passing out money to a handful of huge media corporations like billions of dollars' worth of Halloween candy. Of course the story went unreported—when the principal beneficiaries of this dubious legislation control the news, they're happy to give us Monica Lewinsky and O.J. instead. Pappas gives a good going over to Bush v. Gore as well, with Vincent Bugliosi chiming in on this one; there's plenty about the right wing apparatus, too, ranging from the Heritage Foundation to Richard Mellon Scaife and his Arkansas Project. Of course on-air pundits are buffoons and blowhards; they're on television, dummy. Pappas also runs us through some lowlights from the George W. Bush years: Enron, Harken, the insidious influence of Clear Channel, the disconnect between 2004 exit polls indicating that John Kerry would be our next President and the final results of the election.

Also problematic is Pappas' inability to resist Nazi analogies. I think it's fair to say that once you compare your opponents to Nazis, you've ground any serious discussion to a halt (cf., Dick Durbin and Guantanamo). So while I'm no great fan of Brit Hume's, it seems like a mistake to compare him to Goebbels. (On hair alone, Brit carries the day over Joe.) Similarly, ominous music with tremulous readings of quotes from 1984 make for clumsy and obvious cinema; Pappas just loves dollying in for tight shots on his dictionary: pundit, euphemism, quid pro quo, etc. There are some bad and greedy people running the oligopoly of corporations that control the airwaves, but calling them out as brownshirts isn't, I don't think, going to go very far in changing hearts and minds.

Rating for Style: B-
Rating for Substance: B+


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.33:1 - Full Frame
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: Pretty straightforward transfer; dull and scratchy, but it's certainly not all about the pictures here.

Image Transfer Grade: B-


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Englishno

Audio Transfer Review: Interview footage varies in quality; Michael Moore's clips are loaded with ambient noise and static, but it's pretty much all audible.

Audio Transfer Grade: B-


Disc Extras

Static menu
Scene Access with 37 cues and remote access
1 Other Trailer(s) featuring Horns and Halos
13 Deleted Scenes
Packaging: Amaray
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extras Review: Thirteen chapters' worth of deleted scenes (01h:15m:06s) focus more on the Telecommunications Act, and offers lots and lots of Robert MacChesney; he and others talk about the dangers inherent in vertical integration. There's not a lot of new ground covered here, but it gives some thoughtful people a chance to speak at greater length. Also, it features this spectacular exchange, courtesy of C-SPAN, from a Congressional hearing, with Representative Maxine Waters giving it to Rupert Murdoch:

Rep. Waters: You're scaring the hell out of me.
Rupert Murdoch: Thank you, Congresswoman.

Extras Grade: B-


Final Comments

A fiercely didactic look at the sorry state of the American media. If you're not already a believer, it's unlikely to persuade you; however, it goes a long way toward the complete debunking of the tired old myth of liberal bias.


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