- The Washington Times - Friday, November 14, 2008

Man, could Detroit use some good news. If it’s not the likes of General Motors Corp. and Ford Motor Co. staring down a financial crisis, it’s movies like “Flash of Genius,” which tells the story of 1960s-era automotive giants exploiting little-guy innovations such as the windshield wiper. However, this isn’t the first time Motown faced meltdown, nor is it the first time it got a bad rap in Tinseltown.

1. Gung Ho — The Japanese are coming, the Japanese are coming! Not in Zeros or banzai headbands this time, but rather in suits, ties and clipboards. Released in 1983 and starring Michael Keaton, this Ron Howard-directed comedy scored culture-clash laughs with a story of Detroit lunkheads chafing under the frightful efficiency and perfectionism of new Japanese management.

2. Roger & Me — Before he became a world-famous muckraking showboat, Michael Moore was an out-of-work journalist who taught himself to make movies. This, his first (and, in retrospect, pioneering) seriocomic documentary, follows his attempts to confront GM executive Roger Smith about the effects of the closure of the automaker’s plant in Flint, Mich., Mr. Moore’s hometown. The waistline got wider and the deception more brazen, but in 1989, at least, Mr. Moore seemed to be onto something.

3. Tucker: The Man and His Dream — This Francis Ford Coppola-directed melodrama (1988) was a harbinger of today’s “Flash of Genius” with its tale of Detroit elephantiasis smothering innovation, in this case a 1948 sedan with features including fuel injection and disc brakes that eventually would become industry standards.

4. Blue Collar — To hear it from this bleak 1978 comedy starring Richard Pryor, Harvey Keitel and Yaphet Kotto as workers in a Kalamazoo, Mich. automotive plant, Detroit is the place where the American dream goes to die.

5. Who Killed the Electric Car? — Before the price of gas went through the roof and hybrids became the hottest thing on car lots, this 2006 documentary asked the question of how we got here in the first place. Its answer: a powerful alliance of Detroit, Washington, and the oil industry to maintain the carbon-based status quo.

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