I'd Like to Thank the Vatican...
Michael Moore fesses up to his Oscar day 'mistake' -- going to Mass first.
By Michael Moore
[Michael Moore won an Academy Award for "Bowling for Columbine."]
March 27, 2003 - Los Angeles Times
A word of advice to future Oscar winners: Don't begin Oscar day by going to church.
That is where I found myself this past Sunday morning, at the Church
of the Good Shepherd on Santa Monica Boulevard, at Mass with my
sister and my dad. My problem with the Catholic Mass is that
sometimes I find my mind wandering after I hear something the priest
says, and I start thinking all these crazy thoughts like how it is
wrong to kill people and that you are not allowed to use violence
upon another human being unless it is in true self-defense.
The pope even came right out and said it: This war in Iraq is not a
just war and, thus, it is a sin.
Those thoughts were with me the rest of the day, from the moment I
left the church and passed by the homeless begging for change (one
in six American children living in poverty is another form of
violence), to the streets around the Kodak Theater where antiwar
protesters were being arrested as I drove by in my studio-sponsored
I had not planned on winning an Academy Award for "Bowling for
Columbine" (no documentary that was a big box-office success had won
since "Woodstock"), and so I had no speech prepared. I'm not much of
a speech-preparer anyway, and besides, I had already received awards
in the days leading up to the Oscars and used the same acceptance
remarks. I spoke of the need for nonfiction films when we live in
such fictitious times. We have a fictitious president who was
elected with fictitious election results. (If you still believe that
3,000 elderly Jewish Americans -- many of them Holocaust survivors
-- voted for Pat Buchanan in West Palm Beach in 2000, then you are a
true devotee to the beauty of fiction!) He is now conducting a war
for a fictitious reason (the claim that Saddam Hussein has
stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction when in fact we are there
to get the world's second-largest supply of oil).
Whether it is a tax cut that is passed off as a gift to the middle
class or a desire to drill holes in the wilds of Alaska, we are
continually bombarded with one fictitious story after another from
the Bush White House. And that is why it is important that
filmmakers make nonfiction, so that all the little lies can be
exposed and the public informed. An uninformed public in a democracy
is a sure-fire way to end up with little or no democracy at all.
That is what I have been saying for some time. Millions of Americans
seem to agree. My book "Stupid White Men" still sits at No. 1 on the
bestseller list (it's been on that list now for 53 weeks and is the
largest-selling nonfiction book of the year). "Bowling for
Columbine" has broken all box-office records for a documentary. My
Web site is now getting up to 20 million hits a day (more than the
White House's site). My opinions about the state of the nation are
neither unknown nor on the fringe, but rather they exist with
mainstream majority opinion. The majority of Americans, according to
polls, want stronger environmental laws, support Roe vs. Wade and
did not want to go into this war without the backing of the United
Nations and all of our allies.
That is where the country is at. It's liberal, it's for peace and it
is only tacitly in support of its leader because that is what you
are supposed to do when you are at war and you want your kids to
come back from Iraq alive.
In the commercial break before the best documentary Oscar was to be
announced, I suddenly thought that maybe this community of film
people was also part of that American majority and just might have
voted for my film, which, in part, takes on the Bush administration
for manipulating the public with fear so it can conduct its acts of
aggression against the Third World. I leaned over to my fellow
nominees and told them that, should I win, I was going to say
something about President Bush and the war and would they like to
join me up on the stage? I told them that I felt like I'd already
had my moment with the success of the film and that I would love for
them to share the stage with me so they could have their moment too.
(They had all made exceptional films and I wanted the public to see
these filmmakers and hopefully go see their films.)
They all agreed.
Moments later, Diane Lane opened the envelope and announced the
winner: "Bowling for Columbine." The entire main floor rose to its
feet for a standing ovation. I was immeasurably moved and humbled as
I motioned for the other nominees to join my wife (the film's
producer) and me up on the stage.
I then said what I had been saying all week at those other awards
ceremonies. I guess a few other people had heard me say those things
too because before I had finished my first sentence about the
fictitious president, a couple of men (some reported it was
"stagehands" just to the left of me) near a microphone started some
loud yelling. Then a group in the upper balcony joined in. What was
so confusing to me, as I continued my remarks, was that I could hear
this noise but looking out on the main floor, I didn't see a single
person booing. But then the majority in the balcony -- who were in
support of my remarks -- started booing the booers.
It all turned into one humungous cacophony of yells and cheers and
jeers. And all I'm thinking is, "Hey, I put on a tux for this?"
I tried to get out my last line ("Any time you've got both the pope
and the Dixie Chicks against you, you're not long for the White
House") and the orchestra struck up its tune to end the melee. (A
few orchestra members came up to me later and apologized, saying
they had wanted to hear what I had to say.) I had gone 55 seconds,
10 more than allowed.
Was it appropriate? To me, the inappropriate thing would have been
to say nothing at all or to thank my agent, my lawyer and the
designer who dressed me -- Sears Roebuck. I made a movie about the
American desire to use violence both at home and around the world.
My remarks were in keeping with exactly what my film was about. If I
had a movie about birds or insects, I would have talked about birds
or insects. I made a movie about guns and Americans' tradition of
using them against the world and each other.
And, as I walked up to the stage, I was still thinking about the
lessons that morning at Mass. About how silence, when you observe
wrongs being committed, is the same as committing those wrongs
yourself. And so I followed my conscience and my heart.
On the way back home to Flint, Mich., the day after the Oscars, two
flight attendants told me how they had gotten stuck overnight in
Flint with no flight -- and wound up earning only $30 for the day
because they are paid by the hour.
They said they were telling me this in the hope that I would tell
others. Because they, and the millions like them, have no voice.
They don't get to be commentators on cable news like the bevy of
retired generals we've been watching all week. (Can we please demand
that the U.S. military remove its troops from
ABC/CBS/NBC/CNN/MSNBC/Fox?) They don't get to make movies or talk to
a billion people on Oscar night. They are the American majority who
are being asked to send their sons and daughters over to Iraq to
possibly die so Bush's buddies can have the oil.
Who will speak for them if I don't? That's what I do, or try to do,
every day of my life, and March 23, 2003 -- though it was one of the
greatest days of my life and an honor I will long cherish -- was no
Except I made the mistake of beginning it in a church.