' ' Cinema Romantico: Sicko

Monday, July 02, 2007


Before we get into famed documentarian Michael Moore's latest sure-to-be-incendiary film I would like to state for the record that I hated Moore's last film, the infamous "Farenheit 9/11". I hated, hated, hated it. I thought it was nothing but mere propaganda. Oh, it was skillfully made propaganda, no question, but, hey, so was "Triumph of the Will". And let me also state for the record that I'm a liberal that voted for John Kerry in the last election.

I wanted that on the record just so you know where I was coming into this. I'm not a Moore devotee. I don't love everything he does. My opinions on "Sicko" were not foregone prior to entering the theater. Okay, so that's that.

"Sicko" is Moore's purported attack on the state of the U.S. Health Care system. He shows, time and again, people denied coverage for all kinds of reasons and how their lives, or the lives of loved ones, have spiraled downwards because of it. It shows people who sneak across the border to have access to better health care. It takes us to other countries to make an argument for our country having universal health care coverage, much like the rest of the "western world". There are far too many examples to repeat here but they are all stomach-churning and will make you wonder how our supposedly glorious country can allow things such as this to happen.

I, of course, have utterly no doubt that if Moore wanted he could have dug up just as many examples of how our health care system has assisted and saved people. But "Sicko" remains even-handed because it is about so much more than health care. It is about our country in general. It is about America's mindset.

Several posts back, during my second grandiloquent review of the masterpiece "Once", I advised how am I approaching The Age We Will Not Mention. And in the last year I have had many, many things on my mind and I feel as if "Sicko" captures my own mindset. And that's reassuring. Except it's not reassuring at all.

First off, I had my own encounter with the nation's health care system last year and into this year and while, admittedly, I had nothing wrong approaching cancer or two fingers lopped off in a saw, I had a decidedly non-fun illness and went to the doctor many times and had a colonoscopy and while most of it was covered by my insurance, it wasn't all covered. Plus, my doctor misdiagnosed it several times and it was only after a friend recommended a certain over-the-counter drug available at Walgreens for $6 that my illness was completely cured. (Thanks, doc, and keep up the great work!)

So I'll vouch for the fact that health problems can lead to unhappiness. And this country seems to be rife with unhappines. And stress. And an inability to relax. And to take it easy. We're the greatest nation in the ENTIRE WORLD, remember? God blesses US, remember? And we've gotta' work, work, work to keep that up, damn it!

Michael Moore takes his cameras to France and finds not just the Eiffel Tower (though inevitably he does find that) and universal health care but Americans who have moved there who talk of how much better they feel. They talk of how healthy they are. They talk of how life expectancy is higher (it's higher in so many other countries) and how the infant mortality rate is lower. They talk of (gasp!) 35 hour work weeks and more vacation time than a typical American could comprehend and a higher work productivity rate and unlimited sick days and nannies who help out if you have a child.

"Your government comes to your house and does your laundry?" asks Moore. And it's true! And he also wonders why the American government and media is so adamant that we hate the French. And everyone else, for that matter.

Our country could have all these things. It could. And thinking such things - things like wanting universal health care, and a society that promotes less stress and being less money-hungry - will lead to cries how people like me, and Moore, are (get ready for the worst word in the English language!) "idealists". So be it.

Call me crazy (I have no problem with it) but if our country finally implodes I don't think it will be as a result of terrorists, or a President declaring martial law, or global warming. I think it will be because we've finally taken our undeclared motto of All Work And No Play to such an extreme level that we'll all have so much stress and rage bottled up - and no common enemy to unite against - that a revolt will break out against anything and everything.

"Sicko" does not give us the Michael Moore of "Farenheit 9/11". He's not here to say MY political party is right and YOUR political party is wrong. He's here to make a plea to ALL Americans. This is a fantastic film.

"You work three jobs? Uniquely American, isn't it?" - President George W. Bush


Wretched Genius said...

I watched this last night, and I agree that this is certainly not the same Michael Moore as in "Fahrenheit 9/11," a movie I liked but in no way took seriously. I've always found flaws in Michael Moore's arguments, and this film was no exception. However, I still agreed with him in the end. Our system is broken. I didn't agree with his glorification of foreign health care. As a computer tech, I paid close attention to all the elctronic equipment I was seeing in the background during those scenes. Canada had decent equipment, but the French and British hospitals looked like they were still using technology from the early 90's. Oddly enough, Cuba had the most state-or-the-art technology.

Speaking of Cuba....what the hell? Early in the film, while Michael Moore is bashing the United States health system, he shows us that the US is ranked poorly on some study about countries' health systems. In that shot, you can see that Cuba is ranked 2 places BELOW us. Later in the film, when he goes to Cuba to seek treatment for 9/11 voluntees, he narrates that Cuba has one of the best health care systems in the world.
He has an editor, right?

Another huge issue I had was with one of the many sob stories told by a "victim" of the health care industry. She tried to get treatment at a hospital near her. Her HMO told her they didn't support that hospital, and that she should take her daughter to another hospital. She refused. Later, her daughter went into cardiac arrest, and the mother took her to the recommended hospital. It was too late, and the daughter died.

So let me get this straight: your daughter is sick, and because you can't take her to the hospital of your choosing, you instead seek no treatment at all? And then you blame the HMO? I'm sorry, but if the hospital was close enough that you could take your daughter to it when she was dying, then it was close enough to have taken her there beforehand. And no offense, but the first hospital looked like shit compared to the second hospital. I refuse to feel sympathy for a mother who lets her daughter die because she doesn't want to pay bus fare.

Regardless, I don't disagree about HMO's being one of the worst ideas of the 20th century (by the way, the Nixon conversation featured in this film makes me want to dig up his corpse, punch him in the face, and then feed whatever's left of him to angry dogs). And as with any Michael Moore movies, I am always happy that he will undoubtedly get some people talking. And if the only way to accomplish that is with sloppy journalism and false conclusions, then so be it.

Rory Larry said...

We will just leave unmentioned the fact that 35 hour work weeks are killing the French Economy? Have aided massive underemployment especially among immigrants? The same immigrants who rioted like made in France not far back? I think this is the same Michael Moore (but I haven't seen the film yet)

To Brad, I heard an interesting point about the health care rankings. The US is the largest economy in the world, our gdp based on purchasing power parity (ppp) last year was over 13,020 billion dollars (yes thats how many billions it was - or 13,020,861,000,000 - that's rank 1 in the world), Cuba's gdp based on ppp last year was 44.54 billion (they were unranked)

The nation's income is nearly 300 times that of Cuba and yet we are only 2 higher in terms of health care? Does one need an editor for that?

Anonymous said...

When you combine universal healthcare, American feelings of entitlement, our fantastic legal system, and our worsening rates of obesity, the barbarians won't have to destroy the gate. Everything is just going to explode. Not that I'm opposed to it, mind you. Just saying.

Fat/Poor Country Apocalypse.

The Fab Miss B said...

I have yet to see this film (have a feeling it might not be making an appearance in China) but I would like to point out that one of the things that makes our country great is that people have the right to the "pursuit of happiness". How to best pursue happiness is not spelled out for us. Our government doesn't legislate lower working hours or diets or more vacation time. However, this means people have freedom to make individual choices. If you want to take it easy and work less and enjoy your life, you don't have to move to France. You can do that right here (er, there) in the USA. What you can't do is tell your neighbor what is best for him. And that is one reason our country is great. We can each pursue our own path to success and happiness.

Wretched Genius said...

I am not even going to get started on why that statement is so very, very wrong. I'll just say this: try getting a 35-hour-a-week job in the US that gives you even one benefit beyond free food during break and a 15% discount on all merchandise (excluding sale items).