'Fahrenheit 9/11' Gets Standing Ovation
Tuesday, June 15, 2004
By Roger Friedman
The crowd that gave Michael Moore's controversial
"Fahrenheit 9/11" documentary a standing ovation
last night at the Ziegfeld Theater premiere
certainly didn't have to be encouraged to show their
appreciation. From liberal radio host/writer Al
Franken to actor/director Tim Robbins, Moore was in
But once "F9/11" gets to audiences beyond
screenings, it won't be dependent on celebrities for
approbation. It turns out to be a really brilliant
piece of work, and a film that members of all
political parties should see without fail.
As much as some might try to marginalize this film
as a screed against President George Bush, "F9/11" —
as we saw last night — is a tribute to patriotism,
to the American sense of duty — and at the same
time a indictment of stupidity and avarice.
Readers of this column may recall that I had a lot
of problems with Moore's "Bowling for Columbine,"
particularly where I thought he took gratuitous
shots at helpless targets such as Charlton Heston.
"Columbine" too easily succeeded by shooting fish in
a barrel, as they used to say.
Not so with "F9/11," which instead relies on lots of
film footage and actual interviews to make its case
against the war in Iraq and tell the story of the
intertwining histories of the Bush and bin Laden
First, I know you want to know who came to the
Ziegfeld, so here is a partial list:
Besides Franken and Robbins, Al Sharpton, Mike
Myers, Tony Bennett, Glenn Close, Gretchen Mol
(newly married over the weekend to director Todd
Williams), Lori Singer, Tony Kushner, "Angela's
Ashes" author Frank McCourt, Jill Krementz and Kurt
Vonnegut, Lauren Bacall (chatting up a fully
refurbished Lauren Hutton), Richard Gere, John
McEnroe and Patti Smythe, former U.N. ambassador
Richard Holbrooke, Carson Daly, NBC's Jeff Zucker, a
very pregnant Rory Kennedy, playwright Israel
Horovitz, Macaulay Culkin, Philip Seymour Hoffman,
Kyra Sedgwick, Linda Evangelista, Ed Bradley, Tom
and Meredith Brokaw, director Barry Levinson, NBC
anchor Brian Williams, Vernon Jordan, Eva Mendes,
Sandra Bernhard and the always humorous Joy Behar.
If that's not enough, how about Yoko Ono,
accompanied by her son, Sean, who's let his hair
grow out and is now sporting a bushy beard that
makes him look like his late, beloved father John
And then, just to show you how much people wanted to
see this film, there was Martha Stewart, looking
terrific. I mean, talk about an eclectic group!
Now, unless you've been living under a rock, you
know that this movie has been the cause of a lot of
trouble. Miramax and Disney have gone to war over
it, and "The Passion of the Christ" seems like "Mary
Poppins" in retrospect. Before anyone's even seen
it, there have been partisan debates over which way
Moore may have spun this or that to get a desired
But, really, in the end, not seeing "F9/11" would be
like allowing your First Amendment rights to be
abrogated, no matter whether you're a Republican or
The film does Bush no favors, that's for sure, but
it also finds an unexpectedly poignant and universal
groove in the story of Lila Lipscombe, a Flint,
Mich., mother who sends her kids into the Army for
the opportunities it can provide — just like the
commercials say — and lives to regret it.
Lipscombe's story is so powerful, and so completely
middle-American, that I think it will take Moore's
critics by surprise. She will certainly move to
tears everyone who encounters her.
"F9/11" isn't perfect, and of course, there are
leaps of logic sometimes. One set piece is about
African-American congressmen and women presenting
petitions on the Florida recount, and wondering why
there are no senators to support them.
Indeed, those absent senators include John Kerry,
Hillary Clinton and Ted Kennedy, among others, which
Moore does not elaborate upon. At no point are
liberals or Democrats taken to task for not
supporting these elected officials, and I would have
liked to have seen that.
On the other hand, there are more than enough
moments that seemed to resonate with the huge
The most indelible is Bush's reaction to hearing on
the morning of Sept. 11, 2001, that the first plane
had crashed into the World Trade Center.
Bush was reading to a grade-school class in Florida
at that moment. Instead of jumping up and leaving,
he instead sat in front of the class, with an
unfortunate look of confusion, for nearly 11
Moore obtained the footage from a teacher at the
school who videotaped the morning program. There
Bush sits, with no access to his advisers, while New
York is being viciously attacked. I guarantee you
that no one who sees this film forgets this episode.
More than even "The Passion of the Christ," "F9/11"
is going to be a "see it for yourself" movie when it
hits theaters on June 25. It simply cannot be
missed, and I predict it will be a huge moneymaker.
And that's where Disney's Michael Eisner comes in.
Not releasing this film will turn out to be the
curse of his career.
When Eisner came into Disney years ago, the studio
was at a low point. He turned it around with a
revived animation department and comedy hits such as
"Pretty Woman" and "Down and Out in Beverly Hills."
But Eisner's short-sightedness on many recent
matters has been his undoing. And this last
misadventure is one that will follow him right out
the doors of the Magic Kingdom.
Jacko: Will Sony-BMG Merger Save Him?
The proposed merger of Sony Music and Bertelsmann
Music Group may wind up saving Michael Jackson.
I have known for some time that Jackson's advisers
had come up with a plan under which Jackson's 50
percent ownership of Sony/ATV Music Publishing could
be used as leverage in a plan to extricate the
beleaguered pop star from his financial straits.
Now, because Sony might be forced to sell off its
publishing unit in order to merge with BMG, the
likelihood of that scenario stronger than ever.
Recently the proposed merger of the two music giants
met with frowns from European regulators who saw the
combining of the conglomerates as a huge monopoly.
One way out would be for the companies to sell their
publishing units in order to win approvals here and
abroad for their plan.
In the end, Jackson could wind up owning a merged
version of Sony/ATV and BMG Music Publishing.
Sources tell me this is the newest plan on the
drawing board and one that would resolve at long
last Jackson's huge financial loans and massive debt
pertaining to what is commonly known as the Beatles
The songs of John Lennon and Paul McCartney are the
core of Sony/ATV Music Publishing, but Jackson has
used his 50 percent ownership as collateral for over
$200 million in loans.
Thanks to the Sony BMG merger, Michael may finally
have a way of paying back that loan, plus another
$150 million, all to Bank of America. Needless to
say, Bank of America execs are probably whistling
"We Can Work It Out" to each other.
A third publisher, not presently owned by either
company, could also be involved, I am told.
Earlier, Jackson had hopes of using his stake in
Warner/Chappell Music for a similar deal, but that
fell through when the owners of Warner Music decided
not to sell their publishing company. The third
publisher — whom I cannot yet name — would then
combine to put Jackson and his publishing adviser,
veteran Charles Koppelman, in a unique position.
One problem, I am told, is that Jackson is totally
unaware of the daily strategizing by his legal
advisers and financiers with regard to Sony/ATV.
He is utterly clueless, in fact, about what really
goes on in his financial life. There has been almost
no communication for quite some time between him and
John Branca, the music attorney who manages to keep
track of Michael's Sony situation and hold all the
And where is Michael? For the last couple of weeks
Jackson has been back in Florida, staying in Miami
and spending a fortune while the mansion he rented
in Beverly Hills sits empty.
The rental agreement on that house runs out on June
30, with Jackson still spending no time at his
Neverland Ranch or "in the community of Santa Maria"
where his trial is scheduled to begin in September.
Davis Triggers Velvet Revolver
Wouldn't you like to be Clive Davis? I know I would
at this point.
Davis' latest hit, the first album by supergroup
Velvet Revolver, will be No. 1 this week with almost
350,000 copies sold.
The album appears on the RCA label, which came under
Davis' purview when he took over BMG North America
earlier this year after making his J Records a huge
success following his unpleasant easing-out from
Velvet Revolver comprises Slash, Duff McKagan and
Matt Sorum from Guns N' Roses and Scott Weiland
of Stone Temple Pilots, as well as David Kushner of
L.A. punk vets Wasted Youth.
The wittily titled album, "Contraband," is a return
to regular old rock 'n' roll, with lots of slicing
guitars and heavy drums. As a concept, it hearkens
back to Asia, the supergroup of the late '80s. As a
hit, it's something that every record executive will
wish they thought of.
Davis isn't the only one getting hits these days,
even though it sure seems like it. Over at Epic
Records' Or Music division, Los Lonely Boys are the
breakthrough story of the year, jumping from No. 26
to No. 10. Larry Miller and Michael Caplan really
built this little label up from nothing.
Many congrats to them. Now they should sign Maine's
hot Vacationland and really show the record business
how it's done!
Meantime, just circling back to Sorum: He replaced
Steve Adler in Guns N' Roses after Adler was fired.
Now that story is one I'd like to hear one day. I'm
told there is still a record executive out there,
then an entertainment lawyer, who had a hand in
changing Adler's life.