Posts Tagged ‘tv nation’

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SICKO (2007)

November 25, 2007

Sicko review
Sicko

Matt: Four Stars
Tracy:Four Stars

Length: 124min

Taglines:

This might hurt a little.
Get well soon.
What seems to be the problem?
For many Americans, laughter isn’t the best medicine – it’s the only medicine.

Review by Matt:

Hey USA! Start running a fair and humane health care system, you utter sicko! That’s the message Michael Moore is hollering in his new critical documentary Sicko. Moore’s back in his favourite role as the good hearted iconoclast-of-the-conservative. He leads a support cast of everyday mistreated citizens against the irrepressible villain: the corrupt, capitalist USA. This time Moore has America’s ill and undernourished health system in his sights.

This might sound a bit like a good versus evil fantasy tale. In some ways it is. Michael Moore’s productions always have an element of constructed-ness about them. This has been the case ever since the set pieces he ran in his old television shows such as The Awful Truth and TV Nation (Moore has spoken about ‘racing health care systems’ in mock time-trials in TV Nation and being forced by the network to ‘doctor’ the results so that the USA didn’t show so poorly).

The same sense of constructed-ness is here in Sicko. While I actually enjoy it, I can see how it leads critics to question the veracity of Moore’s films. For example, as Moore pretends to set off to Guantanamo Bay with a boatload of needy patients (to access the Cuban health care system), you wonder how these scenes were really put together. Or as Moore reveals that he anonymously (until the film’s release that is) donated money to help the health of the leading anti-Moore campaigner, you have some trouble believing Moore is genuinely that Buddhist. The film’s style provides a lot of ammunition to vehement Moore haters who can denounce it for not being three-dimensionally analytical about the intricacies of health care systems. It even supplies enough ammo, apparently, to fuel a recent feature length documentary dedicated to Moore-bashing called Manufacturing Dissent. (incidentally, the title parodies a brilliant and essential book by Noam Chomsky, Manufacturing Consent).

For me, Moore’s style is fine. You have to take it for what it is. He’s a showman and he’s trying to be funny, entertaining and satirical about important issues. It’s just that his slapstick is merged into a documentary that also carries heavy criticisms and a deep message. But it’s easy to distinguish the tone in the film, and once you’ve got it, I think the messages that he communicates are sound.

They are big picture messages. Sicko is telling us that the health care system in the USA is sick. It has become this way because of something fundamentally perverted at the core of American society. Moore is pitching a message about compassion and humanity and urging us to think how things can improve. Personally I embrace these messages and I’m grateful that Moore is spreading them to a wide audience in an entertaining and palatable way. In any case, the film stands as a defiant counter-message to the brainwashing conservative propaganda that we’re pumped with for most of our lives – Moore shows some of this in his film too (the rhetoric of politicians and the AMA, advertisements etc). Sicko’s style is partly a reaction to dominant orthodoxies, and its strategy is understandable. Like Marx said, the habit, tradition and accumulated mis-education of generations ‘weighs like a nightmare on the brain of the living’. And, as Howard Zinn says, you can’t be neutral on a moving train. You have to confront those corrupt messages.

Overall, although the veneer of entertainment slightly smears the fundamental messages in Sicko, its humour and staging is mostly funny and enjoyable. It softens a tough topic. The film still outs the corporate, capitalist sicko that is poisoning us like some greedy virus. I’m glad Michael Moore is fighting that cause, and Sicko is another of his good films. We should watch it, think about it, talk about it, and take action.

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