Sunday, July 08, 2007

Movie Review: "Sicko"

As my wife and I walked out of a screening of "Sicko" last night at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, the man behind us said: "Well...we all knew all that...but I'm glad he said it."
Did I enjoy the film? Yes? Did I think it was brilliant? No. Do I recommend you see it? Absolutely.
Michael Moore is not a documentary film maker; he is a populist propagandist. He would have succeeded under a Communist regime as well as he does today, in a capitalist one. He takes a point of view; and sells it. Brilliantly and unabashedly.
The essence of "Sicko" is--in case there is someone who doesn't already know (is that statement a measure of Moore's already attained accomplishment and success?): the American for-profit Health Business is sick (as in diseased): Health Insurers, Drug Companies, Doctors, Hospital (especially HMO's), Washington Lobbyists and Politicians (does anyone know anymore where one group ends and the other begins? Forget 'a 'open door' between them...there is NO door), Health Corporate Capitalists, Health Corporate Executives, and poor old George Bush. Always poor old George Bush. Where would Moore be without Bush? Forget Bush...blaming him is too easy a way to ward off our self-responsibility. Bush-ism is a symptom, not the disease.
Moore is offering this for audience's to contemplate: $$$$$$$ corporate indifference and greed have tragically denied 'the people' (that is, the 99% of us...who don't own 80% of America...only 1% does) more, better and cheaper health care. In making his case, he provides brilliant tragic and comic anecdotal evidence of same. His solution: 'single payer' universal health care', a health plan that is offered by every other modern industrial nation in the world; in support of which he takes us on a filmed journey to some of those other countries (France, England, Canada...even Cuba).
Is Moore wrong? no. Is he right? Yes. Is he simplistic and one-sided? Yes? Must he be? Perhaps so. Hitting stupid people (us, the American electorate) aside the head to get them to realize they are being taken for an unproductive health ride often requires a two-by-four and not a pillow (that would be a set of impartial and objective statistics).
"Sicko" is a docu-prop, or 'agitprop' piece, as they used to say, like "Gore's global-warming-warning "An Inconvenient Truth" documentary. Moore's film is not as good. However, it is, in its own way, just as effective.
For the reasons I would rather have Gore as President rather than Moore, I would rather "Sicko" have seen a more focused, in depth, balanced (if such a thing is even possible in a documentary) analysis of the health (or un-health) industry. While Gore is getting funnier (I saw him cracking really witty spontaneous jokes the other night on a 'serious' talk show; and Michael Moore is getting more profound. Is that a tectonic shift?
A final overview: Money, greed, consumerism, and corporate license is at the core of our problems in America; health and otherwise. The challenge: putting a human face of capitalism. Christianity did it in the Nineteenth Century. Communism forced it in the Twentieth Century. What is going to do it in the Twenty-First Century? Islam? (My God! Is that what really behind all the 'fanaticism'? Think about it.)


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