Before I saw Fahrenheit 9/11 I figured I was going to say that Michael Moore reminds me of Oprah, only without the emphasis on weight loss. They seem similar to me because they both tend to bring up important subjects in emotionally manipulative and superficial ways, and then drop them leaving you wondering what that was about and what to do next. Another reason they remind me of each other is that the only Oprah show I've watched in recent memory had Barry Glassner, author of Culture of Fear, as a guest. Barry Glassner and Culture of Fear also figured heavily in Moore's Bowling for Columbine. (In fact, the Glassner-inspired portions of Bowling for Columbine were the only parts of the movie I thought were worth the celluloid they were printed on.)
I really, really don't like some of Moore's dissembling/lying. I was disgusted by the thing he pulled regarding the distribution of this film, implying that Disney's Miramax had promised to distribute the film and then reneged, and then admitting they had never really promised to distribute it in the first place.
I was fairly impressed with Fahrenheit 9/11. But I'll start with the negative stuff. The movie is 2 hours and 9 minutes long, but it felt like it was about 2 weeks long. Moore is still up to a bunch of his old tricks that I find tedious or embarrassing, like chasing Representatives around trying to get them to sign up their children for tours in Iraq, and using the grief of mothers who've lost their children to manipulate the audience (that part of this movie disturbed me quite a bit...I kept imagining her waking up five years from now and being furious that she was used...probably just a projection of course).
But the movie didn't feel as much like a dancing bear as Bowling for Columbine did - most of the political performance art sequences were brief and used in service to larger points, rather than being ends in themselves; and Moore himself mostly stayed out from in front of the camera. He narrated the movie and occasionally was shown interviewing someone, but he wasn't in almost every shot the way he has been in some of his previous films. Although I still had the uncomfortable feeling that Moore was patronizing most of the people he interviewed, even the ones on his side, I didn't so often have the feeling that he was making fun of them. Overall I felt that Moore had matured somewhat stylistically, perhaps related to the fact that he is taking on a larger, more serious subject. And he's using some of his trademark stylistic elements in nimbler ways. I liked some of his use of brief song riffs in this film, especially the use of a certain J.J. Cale tune.
I've shielded myself from much of the mainstream news since 9/11, so most of the TV footage that made up much of the film, was new to me. Made me glad I don't usually watch TV news programs. There's something about watching TV news or listening to politicians' rhetoric that feels like being attacked by bees.
I also hadn't followed the money to the evidence of longstanding financial ties between the Bush family and the Bin Laden family, although I know that information is available in a number of places, including Al Franken's Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them. Moore set up the evidence here pretty carefully. This part of Moore's movie reminded me of a Dickens novel - all these people kept popping up in multiple places and turning out to be distant cousins of multiple other people.
I knew already about pretty much everything else Moore covered, thanks to my access to alternative news sources and lots of intelligent fellow left-leaning sorts. I liked that Moore spend a lot of time showing how the "war on terror" and the terror alerts are being used to manipulate people to be afraid so they'll give up their liberties and be willing to support pre-emptive wars. I'm glad he is continuing to deal with the theme of fear (which BfC also dealt with) because I think it's a really important one.
I liked that Moore continued his efforts to put lots of different kinds of people into his films - old, young, various cultures and classes.
One bit from the "horrors of war" part of the movie was a surprise to me: Some of the soldiers he interviewed had some of the most articulate and emotionally moving statements in the movie. (I don't mean I'm surprised that soldiers are articulate; I mean I'm surprised that Moore chose to portray that.) A couple of them also said some of the most frightening things - he really brought home the extremes that war brings out in people.
So I guess I could summarize that although I still don't trust Moore, I've added a certain amount of grudging respect to my opinion of him, and I'll be watching with a bit more interest to see what he gets up to next.