Greedy Lying Bastards
Rated PG-13 for brief strong language. One hour, 30 minutes.
Publication date: Mar. 8, 2013
Review by Peter Canavese
And so we come to "Greedy Lying Bastards," a movie obviously content to preach to its choir. The audience for director Craig Rosebraugh's documentary -- an eager liberal crowd -- is right in sync with Rosebraugh in embracing the brazen prejudice of that title: the pre-judgment of the film's subjects before the present presentation of any facts. We've already made up our minds whether that title is accurate or not as it concerns the film's literal poster boys (including Bush and Cheney), so why bother to watch the movie?
"Bastards" makes a case that is demonstrably true, if better made elsewhere: that lobbyists for special interests, and the elite of billionaire people and corporate "people," are hijacking our political system and media to stonewall efforts to arrest global climate change. While one could also take potshots at political spending by liberal billionaires, at least they don't say "nah nah, I'm not listening!" when it comes to the science of climate change.
The film reserves special ire for the Koch brothers and ExxonMobil, whose CEO Rex Tillerson the director pursues Michael Moore-style (achieving minimal "climactic" results), but also perp-walks science-denying pundits. The director proves most effective when plainly stating the laughably misleading names and actual sponsors of corporate-funded "astroturfing" organizations, those seemingly grassroots groups designed to obfuscate and arrest political progress.
But Rosebraugh spends much too much time whipping up emotional appeals (the self-evident harm of families left homeless by climate-change disasters), and is willing to obfuscate for his own purposes, as when fancy graphics suggest smoking guns where there aren't any (a riff on Citizens United and Clarence Thomas that's circumstantial old news treated as conclusive new math). Yes, where there's smoke, there's almost certainly fire, but if Rosebraugh has nothing new to bring to the table, what's the point?
Even if Rosebraugh could attract a far-right audience to his movie (and, let's face it, that ain't happening), its tone and spirit are in no way inviting to those who hold opposing viewpoints. And the film isn't a worldbeater as either rigorous reportage or dazzling showmanship (two qualities Moore has winningly combined). So perhaps "Greedy Lying Bastards" will be of most use as a time-capsule documentary of sorts, a snapshot of ire against money in American politics at a global turning point.