Reel Matt

This blog started as my movie marathon — watching a movie a day for a whole year — and has continued as a place for me to write reviews about movies, TV, and various other items.



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Zeitgeist: The Movie

Film #388


Mythology and belief in society today, presenting uncommon perspectives of common cultural issues.

Year 2, Film #23

THE REVIEW: As I did at the end of last summer, I feel it only fitting to start up another documentary chain as I head back to school. Treat it as a way to pre-learn for free on your own time before going to required classes that, while very interesting and enlightening themselves, hardly match a one to two hour film. Starting things off is Zeitgeist: The Movie which comes recommended to me by a friend, partly because George Carlin is used in the film. Going into the film I was a bit skeptical. Wikipedia bills it as a, “documentary-style film [that] presents a number of conspiracy theory-based ideas.” A documentary on conspiracy theories. Sounds like it was going to be a repeat of the disaster that was Loose Change 9/11: An American Coup. While I can make many comparisons to that film, or any of Michael Moore’s “documentaries”, I was surprisingly roped in by what this film had to offer.

When I had this chain last year, I was quite vocal on what I look for in documentaries: (1) they have to make a compelling and reasoned argument; and (2) it should be entertaining, though not have that be the sole purpose. The reason I was so harsh on Loose Change 9/11 was because its arguments were neither compelling nor reasoned. It presented many things as fact and cited “evidence” to back it’s claims, but it was very evidently propaganda in its own right while trying to discount the opposing propaganda from the government. The arguments may have been sound, but the way they were presented made it seem like some crazed lunatic spewing lies. Michael Moore films are better in the sense that they’re more coherent, and they are always entertaining. Moore quite clearly is making opinionated films rather than strictly factual historical documentaries, but he’s very passionate about his opinion and that shows.

What got me about Zeitgeist: The Movie is that at the beginning of each of the three sections — religion, 9/11, and the economy — I was shaking my head not going along with anything being said, but slowly began to question the topics presented. Doesn’t mean the film actually swayed my opinion on any of the topics, but it did something better than that: it made me question things. Each section started off as I thought the whole film would be: present some crazy alternate theory to a commonly-held opinion or belief. Part one was about religion and basically was saying all modern religions — Christianity, Judiasm, Hinduism, etc. — are fabricated around the same central story that was originated by the Egyptians with the worship of the sun god Horus. The central figure is born from a virgin mother on December 25 and ultimately dies and is resurrected three days later. As a Catholic of course my initial response was one of dismissal — “This can’t be the real story here.” But sure enough, as the evidence was presented I began to have my doubts. Same thing happened with the 9/11 theory that it was a false flag operation by the U.S. government so they could subsequently start their War on Terror. This section raised many of the same points that Loose Change did — the collapse of building 7, the Pentagon and Shanksville crashes, and prior knowledge — but did so much more convincingly. Again, I don’t think for a second the government was behind the 9/11 attacks or that they purposefully destroyed the WTC (how could they pull of something that elaborate and complex and not be able to pass bills in Congress without debates dragging on for months) but there are certainly some questions that should be answered. As for the economy portion, I was less convinced and felt it was much more opinionated than the rest of the, fairly, impartial arguments of the previous two sections. The film basically argues against a capitalistic society (which the U.S. is) and yet fails to realize that we’re one of the most prosperous nations on Earth. Market failures and depressions happen in a a cycle. Sure, they may be triggered by the wealthy trying to stretch their control over the populous, but that’s just a part of the system. A system, which by the way, happens to also provide “boom” periods of great prosperity (see: the roaring 20s, the dot-com era). If the filmmaker Peter Joseph wants something else, say so. You can’t just say capitalism is bad and then leave. Offer an alternative and why it would be better. Unlike religion and the 9/11 theories, the economy argument is less of a “here’s an idea or thought that may not have crossed your mind about this topic” and more of a “disagreement about a fundamental aspect of our lives”.

Zeitgeist: The Movie has some controversial, yet well-argued (mostly) conspiracy theories that do one thing extremely well: provide doubt. You probably won’t change your opinion on any of the topics they cover (and if you blindly accept their arguments without doing any research/question on your own, you’re just gullible) but the film provides reason to wonder. It doesn’t feel like some crazy, crackpot rambling on nor is it all that entertaining, but it is interesting. And it does pull you in and keep you engaged despite looking like a very high-quality home video.

THE RATING: 3 out of 5