Fascinating topic... Less than satisfying film... Saved by D
dooby | 09/12/2006
(3 out of 5 stars)
"This is a documentary on the rather nebulous topic of stupidity. It's a subject holding great promise which unfortunately this 77-minute film does not quite fulfil. The film is more a diatribe against the stupidity that has become an integral part of American culture than an indepth analysis of the subject. The interviews with thinkers, writers, and commentators, people like Noam Chomsky, Bill Maher and Avital Ronell, are reduced to short soundbites, while the rest of the film is filled with a constant stream of silly antics that sadly represent what constitutes much of American media today. The ideas put forward by the interviewees are tantalising and often fascinating but they are sadly not fleshed out. The problem begins with the very definition of stupidity. How would you define stupidity? As one interviewee, Giancarlo Livraghi, puts it, often a genius may be labelled "stupid" because his ideas are ahead of his time. Why does America venerate stupidity? Is stupidity inherent in American culture? Is it confined solely to western society? Or is it a pan-human trait? These are fascinating questions but they are not tackled in depth. Personally, I don't believe American culture is stupid per se. But it is decidedly anti-intellectual. As is much of Anglo-Saxon culture in general. I disagree with Bill Maher, who points to British media, and by extension British culture, as significantly superior to its American counterpart. From personal experience, I'd say British media can get as low-brow and stupid as the worst in America.
The film is deliberately provocative. It is left-leaning and it is unashamedly anti-Bush. It was released in 2003, undoubtedly to coincide with and perhaps even influence the presidential re-election. Jim Welles, one of the interviewees, makes the charge that religion is the refuge of the stupid. Both he and author Avital Ronell, tie the rise of stupidity to the rise in religious fundamentalism and the political situation in America and the world today. I wouldn't go that far but religion does attract people who are looking for absolutes, and people who are intellectually lazy; people who like things to be spoonfed to them in clear black and white terms. It does not mean that all religious people are stupid. The film's use of numerous clips of Dubya, our "id__t-in-chief," highlighting his verbal gaffes, although undoubtedly funny, was to my mind childish (much like schoolyard name-calling), not to mention intellectally dishonest. Dubya has a problem with words; that makes him dyslexic, it does not make him stupid. Like Jacob Weisberg, the author of "Bushisms," I do happen to think Dubya is stupid. But that is evidenced by his policy decisions, not by his speech impediment. Another strand of thought in the film posits that Dubya, far from being stupid, was actually clever enough to identify with America's stupid masses to get himself elected - in essence, that his apparent stupidity is just an act. Fascinating questions but the answers are not to be found here.
In the end, the film works more as entertainment (or infotainment) rather than as a serious documentary. Its blatant political bias will make it unpalatable to many. If you do watch it, make sure you stay on for the end credits. They're certainly worth a laugh or two. The final song, "History Was made by Stupid People," sung by "The Arrogant Worms," is both hilarious and very catchy, reminiscent of something from Monty Python.
If you do get this DVD, you definitely want to watch the 48 minutes of extended interviews. This is where the meat of the film lies. This is where the ideas are elaborated upon. I particularly liked the segments with Jim Welles, Noam Chomsky and Avital Ronell, the author of the book "Stupidity". For film buffs, Joel Schumacher talks of the dumbing down of film, specifically Hollywood movies.
Other extras include a half-hour long interview with Nerenberg on the Canadian Masterpiece program. Nerenberg also provides a feature-length running commentary. The film is presented in its original 1.85:1 aspect ratio. It is non-anamorphic and is letterboxed into the standard 4x3 frame. Picture quality is fair enough for a documentary but nothing to get excited about. Sound is in 2.0 stereo and is crystal clear but there are odd soundshifts - voices fly from one corner of the soundstage to the other for no apparent reason. No subtitles are provided."
It's alright I guess..
Omar Baddar | 06/28/2007
(3 out of 5 stars)
"It's an okay film. Bits of it were interesting, and I generally identify with the left-of-center orientation of it, but I didn't think it was a particularly well-made film. I think my expectations were heightened by the presence of names like "Noam Chomsky" and "Bill Maher" in it, but in actuality, their comments were marginal in the film. Even the "extended interviews" weren't really all that "extended." Also, I expected better picture and sound quality than offered.
The origins of words like "idiot" and "moron" are explored; footage of drunk people acting stupid is shown; the harm our stupidity is causing to our planet is noted; the dumbing down of the public by business interests is briefly discussed; and that's it. It was somewhat entertaining, so I wouldn't call it a waste of time. But it's not a "must see" or "must own" film either."
A. C. | Schellsburg, PA USA | 06/09/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Watching this film around members of the "bombs 'n' Jesus" crowd will inevitably start an argument and/or physical confrontation, thus putting you in the position of facing "the learned corruption of learning" up close. Which is (for me anyway) a sign that it's a good movie.
Kudos to Albert Nerenburg."
Good topic, Horrible movie
BK | SF, CA | 10/15/2007
(2 out of 5 stars)
"I was expecting an in-depth discussion of our 'lowest-common denominator' media, but instead it was mostly clips of stupid people doing stupid things. It was more like watching the steretypically vapid MTV show that the moviemakers are trying to expose than anything else. The attacks on George Bush and the Jackass crew were uninformative and unoriginal, even though I don't disagree with the main ideas that these are good examples of people whose job's are fueled by idiocy. Except Noam Chomsky, their 'stupidity experts' that give the running commentary have nothing interesting or intelligent to say.
A truly poor film.
I'm giving it two stars only because the topic is interesting, but the movie really deserves one star."