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Roger & Me - Blu-ray Review

Title: Roger & Me


HTS Overall Score:67

Michael Moore. Is there a name in cinema/journalism that is more controversial? Michael Moore’s nasal voice and bland speaking tones have given him a rags to riches conversion, allowing him to be given an award for best documentary (Bowling for Columbine) and has created a loyal fan base (and just as rabid a group of detractors on the flip side of that coin). Michael has garnered large quantities of scrutiny over his techniques as he is not exactly known for fantastic investigative journalism, but rather using his films as a sounding board for an agenda, whether that agenda is accurate or not. Even the most rabid fan of Michael Moore agrees that his movies are just that, movies and not actual investigative documentaries meant to reveal and disclose 100% fact, but rather as a plot device to get his views and beliefs across, for most of his documentary pieces are extremely stages and cut n spliced to create a storyline that he wants presented.

For his first film, Michael Moore still has a bit of the journalist in him and he’s gone to great lengths to document the destruction of Flint Michigan, his own hometown, and the subsequent destruction to the economy that occurred when General Motors pulled out of the town. Moore had never shot a film before, and the closest he had come was working in several fringe news arenas, so he had to actually learn how to operate a 16mm camera and film the entire thing from scratch with a green crew. This end result is the course of three years of study where Michael Moore tried his hardest to track down and interview the CEO of General Motors, Roger B. Smith, and take him back to Flint to see the devastation caused by his company’s decision to close down factories and outsource the work to Mexico.

The heart and soul of the movie is to portray what has happened to the city after this strategic withdrawal from the auto industry in Flint and the impact had on said lives affected by the change. Moore spends a large amount of time following around the people of Flint, chronically their reactions to the layoffs, on both sides of the wage fence. There is a lot of vehemence and frustration at being left out in the cold from the workers who no longer have a job, but Moore uses an interesting technique of trying to pair those interviews off with the carefully groomed responses of the upper crust society still living in the damaged city. This very effectively creates the sensation of anger and frustration at the perpetrators of the “crime” of the layoffs, generating a sense of sympathy and camaraderie with them. Another effective filming technique was Moor following around Deputy Fred Ross as he evicted the lower income families affected by the dive bombing economy and their frustrations depicted on screen.

I’m not a wild fan of Michael Moore, I’ll say that point blank. The man is less a documentarian and more of a political activist who uses his films to shape the opinions of others rather than just displaying the facts of the situation (Ironically painting the upper class as villains while living in a 3 million dollar mansion himself). However, I have to say that no matter what side of the love/hate fence you are on regarding Mr. Moore, the man does have an innate ability to shoot compelling footage and creates a film that is hard to turn your eyes away from, even if you’re just about ready to throw something at the screen. Being his first foray into the world of film making, “Roger & Me” still shows the journalist side of him before he went fully activist and the passion he had for the subject matter is translated on screen in a mesmerizing way. I don’t agree with all of his conclusions, but the man does ask some very poignant questions and gives plenty of food for thought, especially considering the economy today.

Do we know whether GM did the right thing? As a staunch conservative (sorry, had to bring just a HINT of politics in this thread) I have mixed reactions to the points brought up. The spokesperson and lobbyist for General Motors is obviously being painted as a fool, but he brings up some rather interesting points, such as in a free market society we can’t be guaranteed safety, security and what not. Sometimes hardships will happen, and while that may seem harsh, it is reality and one of the risks in a free enterprise society. On the other hand, the age of companies caring for their employees and being loyal to their employees is a thing of the past (I say this generally, for not every business subscribes to this mantra, especially among smaller businesses), and pretty much every American knows it. Capitalism and subsequent business decisions are a delicate balance of taking care of profit margins, and taking care of your employees at the same time. It’s been proven time and time again that happy employees do better work and create long term profits for companies, but seemingly most corporations big wigs have forgotten that, as we had forgotten that during the creation of Union and anti-trust laws back in the 30s.


Rated R for Language

“Roger & Me” was shot by Michael Moore using handheld 16mm cameras and were definitely not shot by a professional. With the film’s limited release this year they had to go back to the original negatives, for some of the source material was starting to degrade and a full 4K restoration project was needed to bring the elements back to their previous glory. 16mm is not a commonly used film stock, and it can look a little rough at times, but this restoration goes a long way towards showing just how beautiful 16mm can look when properly handled. The colors show fantastic “pop” and the movie has a lovely filmic texture given by a nice, healthy, grain level, which adds to the gritty realism that the film is trying to portray. Black levels are nice and I see no instances of digital manipulation or compression artifacts for the 91 minute film.

The old stock footage used from back in the days isn’t going to look any better, for the old VHS era, or tape quality sources just can’t be polished into looking like quality film, but the actual camera work by Michael Moore and his crew look razor sharp, capturing with perfect clarity the desperation and anger felt at what seemed like a giant betrayal to the city of Flint, Michigan. While 16 mm stock isn’t going to present a grain free image, I do admit that the movie is given more of a documentary flair with the stock being used and Warner Brothers has eeked all the detail they could from it in an exemplary manner.

While the visual are spectacular, the Dolby Digital 2.0 mono track is nowhere as good as the video. Given a 192 kbps lossy audio track isn’t a deal breaker for the film, as the movie’s audio is just the interviewers and interviewees discussing back and forth, it is disappointing that Warner didn’t use the extra space available on the disc to bump up the track just to make sure we were getting all we could out of the limited audio track. Still, the fidelity is decent and the we get what we came for, hearing the dialogue as Moore Narrates the captured footage.


Extras New to the Diamond Edition
• Commentary with Director Michael Moore
• Trailer


It doesn’t matter whether you agree with, or wildly despise, Michael Moore’s tactics as the questions posed are still ones that every person should gestate over from both sides of the fence. Where does responsibility of a company end and the responsibility of a worker begin and vice versa? Where is the economy headed in the long term with the switch over from industrial work to the age of information and intelligence? How can we adapt? And what will happen? Filming tactics aside, these are all very relevant questions in this unstable time period that we’re in now and certainly makes for riveting cinema. With the excellent 4k re master from the 16mm elements, this is the best that “Roger & Me” will ever look. The poor audio is rather disheartening, but not unexpected due to the source elements and shoe string budget that started the project. While I’m not a person who will watch the film over and over, I do recommend it for at least a rental to ponder the questions laid out above.

Additional Information:

Starring: Mary Roger, Michael Moore, Roger B. Smith, Rhonda Britton
Directed by: Michael Moore
Written by: Michael Moore
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 AVC
Audio: English, Spanish, German DD 2.0
Studio: Warner
Rated: R
Runtime: 91 Minutes
Blu-ray Release Date: October 7th 2014

Buy Roger & Me Blu-ray on Amazon

Recommendation: Rental

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