Celsius 41.11 -- The Temperature At Which The Brain Begins To Die

2004, Movie, R, 72 mins

Review

CELSIUS 41.11 -- THE TEMPERATURE AT WHICH THE BRAIN BEGINS TO DIE
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As provocative as Michael Moore's FAHRENHEIT 9/11, but nowhere near as engaging, this shrill, repetitive screed, released 11 days before the 2004 presidential election, bears all the hallmarks of having been thrown together in a heated rush. Financed by Citizens United, "America's premier conservative research organization," and produced and written by Ted Steinberg and Lionel Chetwynd (THE HANOI HILTON) — one of the most high-profile conservative voices in Hollywood — it purports to refute the partisan lies promulgated by Moore's incendiary documentary. The labored title makes the connection explicit (41.11 degrees Celsius, by the way, is just shy of a feverish 106 degrees Fahrenheit) without making any particular sense. The film features a series of conservative pundits, many affiliated with the Washington Post and conservative think-tank the American Enterprise Institute, who praise President George W. Bush and denigrate Democratic presidential candidate Senator John Kerry. The bulk of its brief 72-minute running time is devoted to defending Bush against five charges: that he stole the 2000 election; that he failed to do enough to prevent the 9/11 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center (if anyone dropped the ball, the film argues, it was President Bill Clinton); that he is stealing the civil liberties of American citizens; that he lied about Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction to justify dragging America into war in Iraq (he was just misled, along with everyone else who counts); and that he supports international policies that inflame anti-American sentiments in the Muslim world. It also showcases footage designed to counteract the impression that the President is a none-too-bright elitist ideologue — though there's no dodging the fact that he can't pronounce "nuclear" — and argues that Germany and France are inherently untrustworthy because their national agendas don't always dovetail with U.S. interests. It follows at least two lines of reasoning with truly disturbing implications, contending that Vietnam veteran John Kerry's subsequent antiwar activism invalidates his military service and bemoaning the fact that America's justice system demands evidence rather than mere allegations, thereby making it unsuitable for dealing with terrorists. The inevitable conclusions — that free speech is unpatriotic and proof of wrongdoing superfluous when the charges are terrorism-related — speak directly to concerns about the very civil liberties the film claims aren't endangered by the Patriot Act and other post-9/11 legislation. leave a comment --Maitland McDonagh

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