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The important thing to remember about Michael Moore films is that they are more akin to "editorials" in a newspaper than they are a balanced, researched article. He himself never makes any bones about the fact that he is making an argument, presenting his side, and hopes to sway your opinion - which is what an editorial does. So, although his films are typically researched and do contain factual information, they do not include ALL of the facts on a given subject. He cherry picks the information that best supports his argument.

This brings up an interesting idea about the art of film itself, the difference between formalism and realism. Films can be characterized by the way, and to the degree, they manipulate their audience. That scale has realism on one side, and formalism on the other. A purely realistic film will pick one neutral camera angle, film a single scene, and make no cuts to another camera angle. You see, once you cutaway to another angle you are changing the point of view and influencing the audience's perception. Even the placement of the camera, the angle from which you shoot the scene can have a psychological effect on the viewer. If you shoot from high above the actor, you're putting the audience in a position of power, and they feel they have more right to judge the characters on screen using their own moral and ethical codes. However, if you place the camera low to the floor and shoot up at the characters, the audience feels intimidated by them.

When you start making those decisions, the scale slides further and further towards formalism, or the further manipulation of the audiences thoughts and feelings. The more decisions you make to convey a particular point of view through camera placement, editing, sound design, the more formalistic your film becomes. Typically fiction films occupy the side of the scale that is formalism, and Documentary Films tip the scales to realism.

But as most film scholars will argue, it's impossible to remove the filmmaker's point of view entirely from any film. So every film, regardless of its intention, will have some degree of formalism to it. Even newscasts that strive to present only the facts of events must choose to leave something out for the sake of time. Those decsions, no matter how carefully made, do have an effect on the viewers' perception of the event and pushes an agenda, even if slightly.

Michael Moore's documentaries purposefully slide down the scale to formalism. He consciously chooses to influence his audience. That doesn't mean his film don't sit on the realism side of the scale, they just reside closer to the midway point.

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Q: Are Michael Moore's films reliable
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