Saturday, November 13, 2010

[DVD] The Big One (1997)

It's Mr Nike Himself!

One of the earliest Michael Moore documentaries made some 13 years ago, the angle at which he's pursuing here still holds a certain truth with regards to his relentless crusade against corporations, greed and corruption, asking the pointed question why lay offs are still required for major companies still turning in a obscene profits, and we'd get to see, on camera, how the corporate suit types unconvincingly wriggle their way out through canned messages. In other words, making them look stupid because they just can't say what they do in a straight face.

As part of his book tour promoting his latest book Downsize This! across 47 cities in the United States in 50 days (grueling if you ask me), the film takes that one single question and goes on quite a predictable pattern where Moore would fly in the city, meet up with his respective Media Escort that Random House, his book publisher assigns, then try to pull off one of his in-your-face interviews as he and his camera crew marches into whichever corporation's HQ-ed in the city, before recounting his experience to a townhall audience, and showcasing scenes from his book signing where he gets to meet the man, or woman, on the street lining up to get his autograph, and of course to talk to the big guy, and lend their support to what he's doing.

The Big One basically is a road trip film documenting his travels and what he does as he goes on that crusade against corporations, especially those which have recently announced profits, yet go through a large lay-off exercise. He brings volunteers on his rounds just to prove a point that they aren't lazy or choosy, and will work if given the opportunity to do so, even at minimum wage. It's not the least surprising how Moore, with his already growing reputation then, gets road-blocked time and again by security or middle management who get sent to intercept and entertain Moore, since the head honchos naturally prefer to sit in their comfy offices and avoid the heat.

The surprise of course comes when Phil Knight, CEO of Nike, decides to grant him an audience on camera as well, though is nothing but tongue tied when questioned about his company's policy in locating their factory outside of America, and really side-stepping issues thrown his way. It's understood that nobody will like to commit anything without careful thought, but it sure does take the cake when witnessing these men, who make handsome profits, finding their rationale and excuses all shot down soundly, since their sole pursuit is undeniably, to keep making more money for their shareholders. But unlike Roger & Me, Moore gets fairly successful here in putting someone who's a somebody, on camera.

In some ways The Big One plays out like a comedy since there's plenty of stand-up moments where Moore entertains the crowd with jokes and making light of some really serious bread and butter issues regarding people's livelihood. Singapore's mentioned twice in the film, early on when Moore talks about how McDonald's gets money to promote McNuggets here, and the other when he offers Phil Knight a trip to Indonesia via Singapore Airlines no less. But I suppose if the same issues were to be discussed and addressed here in the same approach Michael Moore does, there's no doubt what will happen to the local filmmaker.

Don't expect a lot of issues brought up being taken on a detailed macro-approach or level, or extensively researched like his later films since this is fairly early Moore's filmmaking career, and it somehow felt like something done on a spur of the moment, and still much centered around the individual. While the war is not won in one film, at least the little battles the everyday man go into, which gets tracked and documented in this film, does show a ray of sunshine in an otherwise bleak Inc. world we live in.

The Region 1 DVD by Miramax Home Entertainmemt comes presented in Dolby Digital Sound and a Full Screen format. Caption and Subtitles are available in English for the hearing impaired, French and Spanish. Scene selection is available over 16 chapters in this 91 minute film.

No extras are packed into this documentary DVD, other than a Theatrical Trailer (1:40) which spoofs Men in Black and introduces Michael Moore as the messiah of truth (quite egoistically put across if you ask me), and a series of Sneak Peeks which tells of Miramax 25th Anniversary (2:05), and trailers for Shall We Dance (1:47) and Finding Neverland (2:23), with a play all function available.

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