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Sicko 1Los Angeles, CA, June 25, 2007 — In an after screening Q&A held at the plushly carpeted theater in the Director’s Guild headquarters, moderated by uber-director Ron “Opie” Howard (who agreed to take on this chore because it was the only way he could get a ticket to the hottest event in town), Michael Moore talked about his latest film, “Sicko”, and his prescription for curing America’s health care system. His film veers from humor to pathos, to tragedy to adventure as he dissects the reasons we (the United States) haven’t adopted a system like the rest of the industrialized democracies loosely defined as single payer national health care. His irreverent but heartfelt approach provokes laughter, tears and real intellectual stimulation as he sets off on his quixotic quest with the zeal of Mike Wallace, the biting social humor of Lenny Bruce and the concern for the afflicted of Florence Nightingale.

The most talked about sequence, the one that’s landed him in hot water with the Bush Administration, shows Moore and a raggedy band of middle-aged, formerly middle class, people who’ve been physically and financially ruined by their deficient health care and its costs. Several are suffering from the serious medical affects of too much time spent volunteering for rescue and clean-up duty at Ground Zero after 9/11. We join them as they set out in a flotilla of chartered boats headed for the American base at Guantanamo, Cuba. They’ve heard that prisoners at “Gitmo” receive world class health care. Moore reasons that if Al Queada members can get great medical services from our government shouldn’t these heroes from 9/11 be afforded the same?
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By Bryan Newbury
June 25, 2007

“It is based on a recognition of the astonishing beauty of things and their living wholeness, and on a rational acceptance of the fact that mankind is neither central nor important in the universe; our vices and blazing crimes are as insignificant as our happiness. We know this, of course, but it does not appear that any previous one of ten thousand religions and philosophies has realized it. An infant feels himself to be central and of primary importance; an adult knows better; it seems time that the human race attained to an adult habit of thought in this regard.”

Robinson Jeffers
Preface, The Double Axe and
Other Poems

The words Robinson Jeffers unleashed in 1947 did not endear him to the established order of things, nor the public at large. While there is little to dispute in his logic, when applied to the cosmic order, The Double Axe likely sealed his demise in academic and critical circles. It is not good business to be against war in a time of hyperpatriotism. It is not good business to suggest that centuries of western philosophy and theology have been mistaken. It is most assuredly bad business to tell any audience, especially an American one, to grow the hell up.

It shows a good deal of bravery, but it ignores an essential truism about mass communication: no one likes the truth-teller.

No doubt Jeffers has rolled in his grave so many times over that Texaco has considered attaching a bit to his corpse to drill for some of those waning ounces of black gold. It is a curious debate to be had on whether Jeffers might have known that some sixty years hence, the world’s lone superpower would not only fall short of the mark in terms of cosmic awareness… it would extend its indifference beyond the world around, including the very people that its core philosophy held paramount.

This callous disregard for our fellow man seems to be the dominant theme emerging in the oeuvre of Michael Moore. Distilled to the essence, this is what Moore’s films have illustrated with outrage, humor and poignancy. If it is the indifference to the plight of the American and international working class, as seen in Roger & Me and The Big One; if it is the casual approach to gun violence in our culture of fear that Bowling for Columbine masterfully exhibits; if it comes in the voices of the helpless Iraqis in the jarring footage of Fahrenheit 911, the underlying message tying all of these elements is clearly that we just don’t seem to collectively give a damn about our fellow human beings.

Which brings us to Moore’s latest offering, Sicko.

Much of the media surrounding Sicko would lead the viewer to believe that this is an about face from the combative and, in the eyes of his critics, solipsistic filmmaking approach that has made Mike famous. If one only has the major media to rely on for a general idea, it would not be beyond reason for him to think that Sicko is a completely different ball of wax. Fox News gave it good reviews, for heaven’s sake.

True, Moore has polished his approach. The film doesn’t lose the real story, though in fairness it is hard to think of an example where Moore is more memorable from Roger forward than the subjects of his documentaries. The hubbub of the kinder, gentler Mike seems to be more a result of news outlets looking for an original angle (as opposed to reasoned reportage) and giving offerings at the precipice of the echo chamber. To the delight of his fans, and for some reason without the dismay of many of his detractors, Sicko is actually vintage Moore. His filmmaking has evolved, as is in evidence from the more subdued pacing of this latest offering, but isn’t that to be expected? Though fewer in number, the sardonic historical footage, replete with not-so-subtle allusions to our irrational response to L’ennemi du jour, is still present. The somewhat maudlin moments of empathy to his hard luck protagonists are as often as anything else in the Moore canon. Predatory capitalism’s vicissitudes are logged with the same force. George Bush says some very stupid things.

All the ingredients are there, but it could certainly be argued that Sicko delivers the message better than any of its counterparts.
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Fox News: ” Filmmaker Michael Moore’s brilliant and uplifting new documentary, “Sicko,” deals with the failings of the U.S. health care system, both real and perceived. But this time around, the controversial documentarian seems to be letting the subject matter do the talking, and in the process shows a new maturity.”

Hollywood Elsewhere: “I have to say that I went into this documentary with limited expectations, but I came out teary-eyed.””It’s not just an eye-opener, in short, but a movie that opens your emotional pores.”
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A U.S. federal judge has thrown out a lawsuit by an Iraq war veteran who claimed filmmaker Michael Moore used the veteran’s image without permission in the anti-war documentary “Fahrenheit 9/11.”

The film showed Iraq war veteran Sgt. Peter Damon, who had lost his right arm near the shoulder and much of his left arm, lying in a hospital gurney at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Maryland, saying that he feels pain but that pain-killers given him “take a lot of the edge” off of it. (more…)


In an open ed piece in the LA Times, Michael Moore made this pledge to “disheartened conservatives:”

1) We will always respect you. We will never, ever, call you “unpatriotic” simply because you disagree with us. In fact, we encourage you to dissent and disagree with us.

2) We will let you marry whomever you want (even though some among us consider your Republican behavior to be “different” or “immoral”). Who you marry is none of our business. Love, and be in love — it’s a wonderful gift.

3) We will not spend your grandchildren’s money on our personal whims or to enrich our friends. It’s your checkbook too, and we will balance it for you.

4) When we soon bring our sons and daughters home from Iraq, we will bring your sons and daughters home too. We promise never to send your kids off to war based on some amateur Power Point presentation cooked up by men who have never been to war.

5) When we make America the last Western democracy to have universal health coverage, and all Americans are able to get help when they fall ill, we promise that you too will be able to see a doctor, regardless of your ability to pay. And when stem cell research delivers treatments and cures for diseases that afflict you and your loved ones, we’ll make sure those advances are available to you and your family too. [Read More…]


Old timers tell of a mystical place not far from here. Health care is provided for all citizens. People take in idyllic winter scenes whilst enjoying jelly doughnuts and long johns with maple icing. It has a large frontier and a few major cities. Even in these cities people are polite, stand five feet behind you in the ATM line and leave their doors unlocked day and night. There are seven million guns for ten million families, yet homicides from firearms are an eighth that of the United States. There is magical wildlife, though no one has gone so far as to suggest pixies and unicorns.

Those of us who had heard tales of this frozen utopia were reasonable to be skeptical. If such a place indeed existed, why were we not emigrating in droves?

Then came Michael Moore’s third feature film, Bowling for Columbine.
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Minutes into Michael Moore’s first feature length film the viewer is introduced to the two themes which will reoccur for more than a decade. The first is the plight of the American working class and the maniacal nature of predatory capitalism. The second, as Moore’s first employer outside his hometown of Flint, Michigan tells him, is that Michael Moore and California are a “mismatch.”

After a Bay Area magazine gave Moore the sack and sent him home in a complimentary U-Haul, which we will soon learn is something of a state mascot in Reagan-Bush era Michigan, he becomes witness to the rapid decay of a city which once boasted the most manufacturing jobs in the world.

Roger & Me also acquaints us with Moore’s soon-to-be notorious filmmaking style. A disheveled fat man in a ball cap tilting at corporate windmills, playing out an amusing picaresque equal parts Quixote and Columbo. Moore is determined to interview General Motors chairman Roger Smith and somehow convince him to visit Flint so he can look into the eyes of the 30,000 people whose livelihood he shipped to Mexico.

The subject comes naturally to the filmmaker. His father, along with Dinah Shore and Pat Boone, worked for GM. His uncle was involved in the 1936 Flint Sit Down which resulted in the birth of the United Auto Workers Union in February 1937. Throughout the course of the story he comes across friends and classmates who have been adversely affected by the plant shutdowns.
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Michael Moore had an eventful festival.  He screened twenty minutes of Sicko as well as clips of Slacker; Slacker is planned as a direct to DVD release covering the aftermatch of the 2004 election.  If you were at the festival and happen to catch the screening feel free to post a comment.  Would be great to have some feedback from actual viewers.


Word from Toronto is that Michael Moore and Mel Gibson were going to share Time’s “Person of the Year” in 2004.  Moore revealed that Mel Gibson backed out of the award after meeting with  Time representaives in California.  Rather than award it to Michael Moore alone, Time instead gave the award to George Bush.


The health care industry is not taking Michael Moore’s new documentary on their practices lightly.  According to Advertising Age:

  • Pharmaceutical manufactures  Pfizer, AstraZeneca and GlaxoSmithKline have instructed employees not to speak to Moore.
  • Families who Moore interviews have a 100% rate of getting free medicines after being interviewed and making it know.
  • Health care industry representatives consistently using phrase “one-sided” in describing Moore’s past films.

The pharmaceutical industry might have reason to believe they are Moore’s primary target.  Rumor has it that Moore has setup entire fake business offices to film how far doctors will go when they interact with Moore’s “drug reps”.  The relationship between doctors and drug reps has been long documented on TV and in print.  Atlantic Monthly recently did an article reporting the extremes, but also acknowledging that the most extreme incentives and gifts for doctors have been scaled back.  Whether Michael Moore can bring new information to this corruption is questionable.  Whether he will bring a bigger audience to the issue is not in doubt. 

Michael Moore has indicated that Sicko will be released in 2007.  Miramax will be distributing.