This past weekend I went to see the new conservative spoof comedy "An American Carol," a satire on filmmaker Michael Moore and the fringe left-wing ideologies that are allowed free-reign in Hollywood. While director David Zucker uses Moore as a scapegoat, his clear passion seems to be to underlie the fact that films with liberal message are so ingrained in the Hollywood collective that they are no longer even seen as left-wing by the studio systems that create them or the movie critics who heap praises on them. The film was very entertaining, and I was pleased to see some sacred cows get sacrificed. Michael Malone (Kevin Farely), a thinly-veiled spoof of you-know-who, comes across as a crass, arrogant and ill-informed prophet of socialism and cheerleader for America's enemies. This may also be the first film to skewer the 9/11 Was an Inside Job crowd, which has long been overdue. But despite it's successes, I was left with some feelings of disappointment and at points just plain dirty at some of the messages the film was preaching. Moore's place in history has been secured by the success of "Fahrenheit 9/11" (the financial success at least, as opposed to its political failure) so he seems a natural target for ridicule, but the film barely touches on his methods. Even people who agree with messages disagree with the way he chooses to deliver them ("creative" editting of speeches, taking quotes out of context, ambushing people with the camera and making them look like fools when they're unprepared to answer questions, etc.) So it's to the film's detriment that it never really explores much beyond Moore other than right-wing stereotypes of his persona. Also, the film skates some very thin ice when at once point George Washington, played by Jon Voight, accuses Malone of "abusing his freedom of speech" at one point. That line left me a little uncomfortable. Does Moore really "abuse" the First Amendment? I don't believe that he does. The only people who I think who abuse free speech are the people who claim that want to topple America and everything it stands for (like say, Communists) and then turn around and want all the protections that America offers when it comes to them being prosecuted for something. But even the ACLU would argue with me on that one: a free society must tolerate all forms of expression, even those that call for it's destruction. But where the film does score some good political points is in it's depiction of Malone as part of a system that has unrealistic expectations for America. At one point he is shown by General George S. Patton (Kelsey Grammar) a scene where English Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain is appeasing the Axis Powers by signing over countries such as Czechoslovakia while Hilter, Mussolini and Tojo innocently sing "Kumbaya." It may seem crude, but if Hollywood can crank out anti-war film after anti-war film ("Rendition," "Redacted," "Lions For Lambs," "In The Valley of Elah," and really too many others to name) with a narrow minded view toward corporations and U.S. foreign policy, than there is certainly space in the marketplace for films such as this as well. But what strikes me most about the film, and those other ones I've just mentioned, is the extreme certainty that the filmmakers dealt with concerning the justness of their own political opinions and worldviews. Each movie is absolutely certain that it's views are correct. So I'm reminded or any earlier, nearly forgotten film that might make for decent commentary on today's political climate as well. The 1971 faux-documentary "Punishment Park" would make a great starting point for how the political fringes of society effect the behavior of its moderates as well. Set in the then near future, the film shows a scenario where the escalation of the Vietnam War has caused the government to essentially ban political protest and arrest dissidents. Protesters are given two choices; either serve an extended prison term, or take part in "Punishment Park," a survival exercise where prisoners must travel through the desert while being pursued by various law enforcement officials. It's a rather angry film, and with an obvious liberal bias, but it does pay lip service to the vicious cycle in which moderate protesters and police officers are forced to become extremists based on the actions of the fringe members of the diametrically opposite groups. The angry protesters kill police officers, forcing the police officers to take drastic measures against the protesters, which in turn causes the more moderate protesters to become increasingly violent to survive. The system feeds itself. What really would have been fun would have been if "Punishment Park" was spoofed in today's climate. Characters like Bill O'Reilly, Sean Hannity and Ann Coulter being given guns and allowed to hunt Michael Moore, Jon Stewart and Rosie O'Donnell. Now that would be a movie worth watching! Think of the political statements! Think of the opportunity to make fun of "message movies!" Think of the rampant stupidity! Okay, bad idea. Still, we are less than one month from the Presidential election, and if movies like "An American Carol" and "Rendition" represent the way Americans really feel about each other, we're going to be in deep trouble come Nov. 5 when a bunch of angry people have to watch a bunch of happy people celebrate, no matter which side of the aisle they're on. –Stephen Payne, Editor, Oil and Gas Investor This Week;;