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That Thing's just plain Sicko!

A few movie recommendations for your pre-4th of July weekend: Sicko & The Thing double feature. Michael Moore's Sicko opened yesterday around the country to varying responses. You get everything from the obvious blind-hatred and an impassioned personal vendetta from the internet naysayers to overwhelmingly positive responses from professional critics. The main criticisms, such as the negative review from The Stranger's Annie Wagner, lament Moore's inability to cover the negative aspects of socialized medicine, of which there are many, and his overall rosy coloring of all other health-care systems that are not ours. I ask, did you really expect anything else from Michael Moore? I found Sicko to be a highly entertaining, carefully calculated, and ultimately effective polemic. At no point was I under the impression that I was getting "all sides of the story." For instance, there is a scene where Moore introduces us to "an average middle class French family." I'm no expert on France, but I can say with some certainty that the family is probably in no way "average middle class." Is Moore dishonest? I don't think so, he's just manipulative with his "non-fiction" films in the same way that Steven Spielberg is with his fictional ones, and they're both masters at their craft. Even though I'm fully aware that I'm being manipulated, I still get sucked in, and I'm sad when they want me to be sad, and angry when they want me to be angry. Furthermore, I don't know what purpose it would serve, as Wagner suggests, for Moore to spend time focusing on the sick and huddled immigrant masses in the Parisian banlieue. After all, the main thesis of Sicko is that the American for-profit, private health care system is flawed, immoral, and in serious need of reform. His citation of foreign health care systems is to offer a glimpse, glamorized though it may be, of some other ways of doing things. If you want to see something entertaining on poor French people there's Mathieu Kassovitz's searing La Haine (Hate) and Michael Haneke's similarly eruptive Code Unknown. If you want to know more about the triumphs and failures of socialized medicine there's myriad websites, books, and opinions out there for one to discover. Moore has never been much of a journalist. He's a populist filmmaker who makes personalized, opinion-fueled documentaries (for those people, particularly the angry masses at Moorewatch.com, that are still clinging to some dictionary definition of "documentary," opinion and documentary are not mutually exclusive. The form has had an inherent bias pretty much since its inception, and Moore makes no attempt to hide his presence in anything he makes). But I guess I can understand where the criticisms are coming from. Sometimes it's frustrating to want more from something that could be a masterpiece. Unfortunately, if you get too carried away by that line of thinking, you end up critiquing the movie for what it's missing, not what it contains: you contemplate the movie you wanted to see, not the movie in front of you. On a similar note, perhaps the most disturbing thing I've seen in response to Sicko is this article that has been on CNN.com's front page for the past two days. It's not so much the specific content, but the fact that this article contains a level of analysis and fact-checking that is rarely seen from this very same institution on far more important matters, such as presidential State of the Union addresses. The article claims "more context is needed" to understand the stated facts in Sicko, yet the same website will unquestioningly report on statements from the press corps and PR departments of governments and corporations. Why is Michael Moore's harmless documentary held to a level of scrutiny that these other institutions are not? Sounds like a conspiracy, but that would imply back room dealings and shady characters. Unfortunately this is just the state of journalism in this country: sick! I can't wait for the 5th season of The Wire! On a far lighter note, the summer of fun begins this weekend at the Grand Illusion's All Monster's Attack series! Week 1 brings you two Things for the price of one! A double-feature starring The Thing From Another World (1951) and John Carpenter's 1982 remake, The Thing. The best health care in the world has nothing to offer this dude: Live music and prizes at the weekend screenings! I highly recommend checking it out, and grab a calendar (there are plenty here at Scarecrow too). Next the G.I. be hosting cast members of Troll 2 for a very very special screening! Don't miss it!

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