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Case Number 18034: Small Claims Court

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MoveOn: The Movie

Brave New Films // 2009 // 94 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Gordon Sullivan // January 7th, 2010

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All Rise...

Judge Gordon Sullivan has moved on.

The Charge

We are the people—Represent us.

The Case

Before MoveOn: The Movie I admit (somewhat guiltily) to very little knowledge of the MoveOn.org movement. I had a hazy recollection of their beginning in the Clinton administration, and I'd heard vague rumblings about them during the 2004 and 2008 elections, but I knew very little about them except that they were a liberal, grassroots organization. MoveOn: The Movie did a very effective job of bringing me up to speed on the history of the movement, its major actions, and the controversies for which it has become known.

I don't want to rehash the movie, but for those who share my previous ignorance, MoveOn.org is a grassroots, liberal organization that started with a simple petition during the Clinton impeachment that said he should be censured, and that Congress should "move on." This simple petition was signed by an overwhelming number of people and the movement was born. Since then they've worked on issues ranging from voter turnout to withdrawal from Iraq. They were huge supporters of John Kerry in the 2004 election, did a lot of charity work for Katrina victims in 2005, and were instrumental in drumming up both support and cash for Obama's successful presidential run in 2008.

Director Alex Jordanov followed the MoveOn movement for six years prior to finishing the film, and MoveOn: The Movie combines his on-site footage with interviews up and down the MoveOn hierarchy in addition to news footage and commentary by those outside the organization including supports (like Al Gore) and detractors (like a representative of StopMoveOn). The film follows a roughly chronological order from the movements inception in 1998 all the way through the 2008 election. I was especially impressed by the scope of the documentary. I was certainly expecting to hear from some of the big players, like Al Gore and John Kerry, but MoveOn: The Movie also features interviews with random individuals who man call centers around the country helping to push the movement's agenda. From people between jobs to young college kids trying to make a difference, MoveOn shows a surprising balance in MoveOn's participants.

My favorite part of MoveOn: The Movie is that it makes a cogent case for the increasing shift to the right in American politics. I think that idea gets bandied about in the public with some regularity, but several interviews in the film point out that when you take the entire political spectrum, from ultra-conservative to ultra-liberal the MoveOn movement is much closer to centrist than they get painted in much of the media. They aren't, as one person points out, communists, and, compared to the kind of left-wing politics one can find in Europe, MoveOn is a bunch of screaming moderates.

The film falls down, however, on the topic of balance. Certainly there are a few moments where the opposition to MoveOn are given their say, but when John McCain says in public that the MoveOn people should be kicked out of America, it's hard to take that opposition seriously. I don't know if this is a failing of the director for not searching hard enough to find non-crazy sounding opponents or if they're just not out there. To be fair, the gentleman from StopMoveOn is articulate and makes the excellent point that many, if not all, of the people MoveOn supports are politicians just as bad as the ones they're against. Still, he's in the minority, as most of the opposition tends to look a bit ridiculous in this film.

MoveOn: The Movie obviously didn't have the world's biggest budget, but it looks pretty solid on DVD. There's a clarity and brightness to the picture that fits the story well, and I didn't notice any compression problems. The audio is a simple and effective stereo mix that keeps the interviews audible. The main extra is a pair of uncut interviews, one with Al Gore and the other with John Kerry. Other than that we get the film's trailer and some previews for other releases by Brave New Films.

I pretty vehemently disagree with everything that MoveOn stands for, politically speaking, but after this documentary I have to admire them for getting lots of people involved in the political process. It's no secret that the political situation in America has been precarious in the new millennium and no matter how misguided MoveOn's politics, their attempts to put control back in the hands of the people is admirable. The average person might hope for a slightly more balanced portrait of the organization, but for MoveOn members this documentary does an excellent job chronicling the successes and setbacks of the movement. Anti-MoveOn viewers should probably give this one a pass.

The Verdict

There's a lot not to love about the MoveOn movement, but as a film, MoveOn: The Movie is not guilty.

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Scales of Justice

Judgment: 85

Perp Profile

Studio: Brave New Films
Video Formats:
• 1.85:1 Anamorphic
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
• Spanish
Running Time: 94 Minutes
Release Year: 2009
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
• Documentary

Distinguishing Marks

• Extended Interviews
• Trailer


• IMDb

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