• Roger & Me



    Released by: Warner Brothers
    Released on: October 7th, 2014.
    Director: Michael Moore
    Cast: Michael Moore
    Year: 1989
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    The Movie:

    An eerily prophetic documentary from Michael Moore, 1989’s Roger & Me takes place around the time that General Motors' plant at Flint, Michigan was being done away with. This move was going to mean the loss of tens of thousands of job and was obviously a huge blow not only to the local and state economy but of course to the families that depended on those jobs to survive as well.

    Enter Moore, a leftist muckraker if ever there was one, who decided he’d try and land an interview with General Motors’ then CEO, Roger Smith. Moore was out of work himself at the time and so he grabbed a 16mm camera and a small crew and set out to get what he could get. Of course, Smith wants nothing to do with him but Moore remains determined and when traditional means fail, he starts trying more covert tactics such as sneak attacks at various GM offices and what not. While all of this is going on, the film (which is very cleverly edited and not without an obvious leaning – Moore’s work has never been unbiased, there’s no shame in that) shows the effects of the plant closing and subsequent job losses on some of his friends and fellow residents of the once mighty town of Flint.

    Despite the obvious political slant, there’s a sincerity to Roger & Me that is missing from a lot of Moore’s later and better promoted pictures. This isn’t the blockbuster that Fahrenheit 9/11 was nor does it have the political scope of something like his Bowling For Columbine, it’s a quieter film that works on more of a local level and it was made before Moore become the celebrity that he is today. The picture is all the better for it, as we are able to remain aware of Moore’s bias but basically side with him anyway once we see, through the magic of movie editing, the effects that Smith and company’s decisions have on the populace. From there, our minds have to start speculating about how the recent crash of the auto industry may have been avoided had things been handled differently, which of course brings up questions of union workers pricing themselves out compared to corporate profits, sliding standards of quality and increasing competition from improving international car manufacturers. In terms of this movie though, that’s all future-speak. It does make for interesting food for thought, however. Anyone who has paid attention to the news won’t be able to help it.

    While the film is classified as a documentary, like any similarly themed movie it comes from one point of view and Moore makes his points well. You can see here how the editing that made later projects so compelling was developing and the narration that would go on to become one of Moore’s trademarks plays a big part in swaying us to his point of view as well. Where some find it easy to blast holes in some of his more sensationalist projects (you don’t just let yourself into a Canadian’s home and get greeted with cheer even if there are less shootings there) the research behind and demonstrated effects of the closings and GM’s subsequent dismissal thereof is well researched and pretty sound. This culminates in a powerful scene in which Moore cleverly uses Smith’s speech against him, his lip service playing out against the scenes of urban decay as he delivers a holiday greeting so pandering and shallow that you can’t help but want to smack the guy.

    But then, you can say that about almost every other CEO of a large company then, now and likely forever. The more things change…

    Video/Audio/Extras:

    Warner Brothers presents Roger & Me on Blu-ray framed at 1.78.1 in AVC encoded 1080p high definition widescreen in a transfer taken from a new 4k scan done from the original 16mm negatives. While some of the archival materials used to put this documentary together will always look a little rough and understandably wear their limitations on their collective sleeve, the newly shot footage that Moore put together specifically for this feature looks excellent. Though the image is appropriately grainy, which makes sense given the source, detail is generally very impressive throughout and you’ll be able to pick out all the little bits and pieces of the areas subject to urban decay and also the more impressive bits and pieces of the fancier locations, like corporate office rooms and the like. Skin tones look great, color reproduction is perfect and black levels are very strong. There are no problems with compression artifacts or noise reduction and while the documentary still very much has a raw, unpolished feel to it, this HD facelift is impressive and presents the movie in excellent condition.

    Audio options are offered in English, Spanish and German language options, all in Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono with removable subtitles provided in English SDH, Spanish, German, French and Japanese. The movie was originally released with mono audio, so there’s no issue there but it’s understandable why some might take WB to task for opting out of a lossless audio option (particularly when you consider that they obviously put quite a bit of effort into the transfer). Granted, this is mostly talk, there aren’t any action scenes here or anything, but while the audio is perfectly clear and easily understood, it is still of DVD quality, not Blu-ray quality.

    The main extra on the disc is an all new commentary track from Michael Moore (this is not the same commentary that was included on the previous DVD release). The track is an interesting mix of introspection and retrospection, as he talks about all that has happened to him and to the country and the auto industry since this film was made while simultaneously sharing a lot of interesting stories about how and why he got this movie made in the first place. It won’t win over anyone who isn’t intrigued by Moore’s leanings and personality but those who appreciate what he has to say and how he says it will find much to like here. Aside from that, look for a trailer for the feature, menus and chapter selection.

    The Final Word:

    Roger & Me is a really simple film in a lot of ways but it deals with some complex issues in ways that are easy to relate to and which make the film an interesting one to rewatch, particularly in this day and age where we’ve recently seen the American auto industry explode and then attempt to reinvent itself. Moore’s detractors will have no interest but if you’re a fan of the film or the filmmaker, this is a very nice HD upgrade (lossy audio notwithstanding) with a good commentary.

    Click on the images below for full sized Blu-ray screen caps!