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Michael Moore and His Movies

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Somebody wrote and asked me what I think of Michael Moore's film, "Sicko." I don't usually do film reviews because I don't know shorthand, which is to say I can't take notes fast enough. I guess I could do DVD reviews but I've never tried. On the other hand. . . .

I went to see "Sicko" a few weeks ago. Here are my impressions:

Michael Moore comes across to me as a physically repulsive, personally obnoxious individual. I think he struck gold when he learned to turn crassness into an asset. He is a perfectly tasteless, imperfect genius whose tastelessness adds enormous power to the statements he makes and at the same time detracts from the overall power of his films.

Moore's movies (I've seen only "Fahrenheit 911" and "Sicko.") are a cross between brilliant satiric bludgeons like Peter Sellers' "The Magic Christian" and such icky, sob-sister stuff as might be dreamed up by the likes of Barbara Walters if Barbara Walters sat down on her pity pot and got badly twisted on Quaaludes. Moore is most effective when he shocks me or when he makes me feel ashamed of myself and of the fact that I'm an American. Moore is least effective when he loses control of himself (not to imply that he ever actually has control of himself) and leaves me in my seat with the infuriating realization (which may or may not be accurate) that it's all contrived and he is playing me for a sucker.

When Moore is effective, I'm outraged by the fact that a poor American woman with a respiratory problem can buy the inhalers she needs in Havana for three-and-a-half Cuban pesos each (that's five cents, American), whereas she has to pay $120 each (American) for the exact same inhalers when she buys them in the States. The revelation makes me want to drive to Washington, D.C., with a bucket of tar and some feathers.

When Moore loses control of himself, he takes some American 911 workers to a Cuban firehouse and films a brotherly love fest between the trim and fit Cuban firefighters and their fat, dumpy American "peers." Moore is so obsessed with the irony he hopes to strike that he screws up his editing and lets me see the understandably cynical Cubans snicker up their sleeves at what is obviously a scripted encounter. I wonder then if Moore actually told me the truth about the cost of those inhalers. The question makes me want to drive to Flint, MI, with a bucket of tar and some feathers.
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On the whole, a Michael Moore film is like the guy who is the life of the party until he has one too many drinks. Before he was making everybody laugh. Then he had one too many and suddenly nobody's laughing because he's no longer funny. He's just a drunk making an ass of himself and he's too drunk to know it. He ends up puking on his shoes.

That's my impression of Michael Moore's films and that's what "Sicko" was like for me. I wanted to see "Sicko" because I knew it would tell me things that every American ought to know. I didn't want to see "Sicko" because I knew that, before the end, I'd get sick of Michael Moore. And I was right.

On the positive side, "Sicko" is definitely worth a look. Michael Moore's tastelessness may or may not make you sick, but "Sicko" will teach you an awful lot of awful stuff about America's awful healthcare industry. The film clips of Dick Nixon are absolutely priceless. You'll be glad you saw it. Sorta.
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I've been a farm boy, a bus boy, a millhand, a Marine, a low criminal, a high crazy, a computer technician, a mechanic, a long-haul trucker, a student, a journalist, a technical writer, a teacher. I earned bachelor's degrees in history and (more...)
 

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