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Movie Review: SiCKO

SiCKOAs a lefty liberal, I like Michael Moore. As a journalist (I have more creds than just a blog, I swear), not so much. Lucky for me he's making movies for the masses and not writing for The Washington Post. Otherwise, he'd have been shut down years ago. Instead, we can enjoy his films for what they are - films that while maybe not full of "truthiness" will make people talk and think. As Moore state in the film, SiCKO is not actually about people who don't have health care in America. It's more about people who DO have health insurance and get screwed by it. People who pay the premiums and deductibles and still get denied care. In America, we like to get what we pay for, but when it comes to insurance it doesn't seem to work that way. He tells the stories of an older couple who have gone bankrupt paying for medical treatment for heart attacks and cancer, even though they have good jobs with good insurance. The middle-aged woman who's brain tumor was considered not a medical emergency and died. The young woman who's surgery was paid for by her insurance and then payment was revoked when it was revealed that she had not disclosed a previous yeast infection when applying for insurance. Moore reports in the movie that he received over 2500 emails from people with stories about the horrors of health insurance - many of them from people who work in the insurance industry. The most stand-out story was that of Linda Peno, a former medical reviewer (the person in charge of deciding who gets what care) for the Humana HMO. Ms. Peno stated in a congressional review:
I wish to begin by making a public confession. In the spring of 1987, I caused the death of a man. Although this was known to many people, I have not been taken before any court of law or called to account for this in any professional or public forum. In fact, just the opposite occurred. I was rewarded for this. It brought me an improved reputation in my job and contributed to my advancement afterwards. Not only did I demonstrate that I could do what was asked, expected of me, I exemplified the good company employee. I saved a half a million dollars.
It may be no secret that insurance companies are for-profit businesses and saving money is their game. After all, we're a capitalist society. But is this the right way to go? Moore points out our socialized fire and police protection. Our free schools. Free libraries. Why not free, government-controlled health care? Most are quick to point out Canada's socialized medicine and how it's just...bad. Long wait times to see doctors and get procedures done. Sub-par professionals and facilities. In the movie, Moore visits some Canadians and speaks with them about their speed and quality of care. The Canadians he spoke with were happy with both. He also spoke with British and French people about their socialized medicine and American ex-pats in England and France about their care. All of those countries got glowing reviews. Of course, this is the sort of thing one sees in a Moore movie that one might need to take with a grain of salt. Is the Canadian health system really as good as Moore would have us believe? When every review is glowing one has got to assume there were several opinions left on the cutting-room floor. Two examples of rebuttals for this film come from The Associated Press and Kurt Loder of MTV News. The AP article is sort of rubbish - while it points out that Moore inflates numbers a bit in the film (reporting 50 million uninsured in the U.S. as opposed to 44.8 million, for example) when you're dealing in millions of lives the rebuttal is sort of moot. Whether it's 50 million or 44.8 million uninsured, or $800 million given to health insurance companies from a Medicare bill or $729 million...it's all still too much. Moore also points out that American is 37th in the world in terms of health care. The AP points out that Canada is 30th. Loder is quick to point out flaws in the Canadian and French systems. It doesn't matter what rank Canada has or how French is bungling their medicine. When it comes to actual health care resources, America is top-notch. Doctors come here to train and dignitaries come here for procedures. Unlike Ottowa's "one chemo machine," the American health care infrastructure is in place. Moreover, since we're the last modern western country to delve in to socialized medicine we're able to assess all other failed and successful systems and create one to meet our needs. But can we? Will we? Can we afford it? For my small company, it costs roughly $800/mo to insure one family of three and about $200/mo to insure a single person. This is before any out-of-pocket costs, of course (one employee reports having to pay about $5000 out-of-pocket in 2006 when his family of 2 became a family of 3). The auto industry is crumbling largely in part to the increasing cost of health care for current and retired employees. People are paying for health care in one form or another, so why not alleviate those personal and industry costs and put the money towards a more greater and fair use? One of the interviewees (from England) in Moore's movie makes a seriously strong point - if the government can find money to kill people, why can't it find money to help people? If it costs my company an extra $300 per month in taxes instead of $200 a month in premiums to keep me insured under a government plan and I am guaranteed never to be denied any health care, how could I argue with that? We've all got tales of being screwed by health insurance. I was lucky enough to be brought up under one of America's best health insurance plans as the child of a union auto worker. I never had to fight for any sort of care. But, when I was 18 (still under my dad's insurance as I was in college), I was diagnosed with Temporal Mandibular Joint Disorder (TMJD). Before I got treatment, I was to the point where I had to drink my dinner through a straw because I couldn't open my mouth wide enough or have the power to chew. TMJD treatment, which can be long and expensive whether you have it surgically corrected or corrected through orthodontics, is not covered under most health insurance including mine. Lucky for me, my college fund was supplemented with scholarships and my folks were financially well-off to just bite the bullet and pay for treatment. I was extremely lucky to have been diagnosed at the right time in my life. Had it happened today, no matter what my health insurance status, I'd have been in serious, serious debt. As everyone grows and goes through the working world, we are all in fear of losing health care or losing health. This is our future and it seems hopeless. SiCKO points out that in other countries, government fears the people while in America the people fear the government. In America we're strapped by debt and fear of not being able to get or stay healthy. We're apathetic and scared and we don't vote. We don't discuss. We don't rebel. SiCKO will hopefully turn American thought and discussion back from a losing war in the Middle East to the very real and very domestic problem of American health care reform. Moore's ideas and presentations might not serve as a good template for what can or should be done but SiCKO is definitely a movie worth seeing and hopefully starts the ball rolling on discussions about what can be done.

Knocked Up and why I never need to enter a theater again

knockedup_resized.jpgI could turn this into a simple review of Knocked Up. I could say that, while funny, well-cast and full of Katherine Heigl hottness, its needless and mostly uncritical obsession over celebrity culture (and the repeated celebrity cameos) dulls it faster than an evening watching C-SPAN. I could point out the major disconnect of the main character's obsession with celebrity nudity with the fact that we never get to see any of Katherine Heigl's naughty bits, despite two sex scenes and a tub scene. I could list all the ways that Judd Apatow, Seth Rogen and all the supporting characters are interconnected in such a way to make Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon devotees cream their jeans. But no, the reason Knocked Up has me swearing off paying $8 for a theater ticket and another $8 for popcorns and sodas (yeah, things are cheap here in Vermont sometimes) is because I've already seen it. Sure, it's a largely original movie, and I'm not going to claim Apatow stole the ideas for it from an previous work (barring, perhaps, the Miracle of Life, that sex-ed film we all had to watch in the eighth grade). But if you've seen just one trailer for the comedy, then you've seen the whole damn movie. Nearly every comedic scene of that movie was in the trailers, either online or on TV, from Rogen's "You're prettier than me" comment to his buddy's attempt to help with the birth and subsequent warning not to go in the birthing room. While they were indeed worth a chuckle when first watching the trailers, nothing about those scenes evolved into something funnier in the theater. And everybody else in the audience noticed it too - hardly a laugh at the scenes already played over and over again in the trailer. The scenes that did elicit laughs never would have had a chance in the trailers, such as the constant ridiculing of the roommate who bets he won't shave his beard for a year or Ben's worry that having sex while Alison is pregnant will mean that the first thing his child will see is his cock in its face. And this phenomenon didn't just ruin Knocked Up. A good half of the movies my girlfriend drags me to nowadays suffer from the same syndrome - let's call it premature cachinnation. Theoretically, that's not what a trailer's for, to give the whole movie away. Instead, a trailer should entice you with just enough of a sneak peek behind the curtain to give you an idea of what the movie is about and just enough information to decide whether it will be worth your $8. But hey, I don't mind saving my money and hitting up the Apple trailers page. It's another dime the MPAA and the celebrity-industrial complex won't be getting from me.

What Wouldn’t Jesus Do? The Five Funniest Videos of the Son of God

In honor of the passing of Jerry Falwell, who made a mockery of Christ's teachings, we present the best mockeries of Jesus himself. Actually, that's a bit harsh - these aren't really mockeries, more like satire. 1. First off, in Passion of the Christ 2, Judgment Day, we see Hollywood logic extended to Mel Gibson's blockbuster. A box-office hit deserves a sequel, and any self-respecting sequel needs twice as many explosions. [youtube]EWuji6TADXM[/youtube] 2. Family Guy pairs Jesus with Chris Tucker. Finally, some recognition that Jackie Chan is equal to one-third of the holy trinity. [youtube]NqH2dGettBw[/youtube] 3. Monty Python's Life of Brian is, of course, the classic elseworlds version of Christ. Brian is almost, but not quite, Jesus. In this scene, Brian tells us that we're all different: [youtube]qANMjwLmo6Y[/youtube] 4. A modern-day Jesus feels strongly that he will survive. [youtube]fN1dPtEph2U[/youtube] 5. Finally, UltraChrist gives us the most probable scenario. Jesus, returned after nearly 2000 years, finds today's youth just don't relate to him. So he casts away his robes for spandex and becomes UltraChrist! This may also be the only movie depicting Jesus vs. Hitler, Jesus vs. Richard Nixon, and Jesus vs. Jim Morrison. [youtube]uWAkNr_gGh8[/youtube] Did I miss any? put a link to any other great Jesus-based comedies in the comments below. By the way, I disqualified at least one video for cheating - Yakety Sax makes anything funny.

Movie Review Double Header

To start off the big summer movie season I saw two of the most hyped movies, Spiderman 3 and 28 Weeks Later. Both of these were supposed to be action-packed movies with a thrill a minute. Needless to say I was not impressed by either. First Spiderman 3... when exactly did they decide that the needed to make Spiderman more Emo in this movie? Were they doing market research and said "hey lots of kids today are whiny bitches let's make Spiderman more like that so people relate more to him." The main problem with the movie is that there were too many villains and no plot line. We get the the New Goblin, Sandman and Venom and yet the stories for all of them are beyond lame, and none of them are really bad guys they're just misunderstood. Heck Sandman even killed Spiderman's Uncle and he still forgives him, lame. The special effects were cool but they weren't enough to make of for all the cheesy lame scenes. The film opens with Mary Jane singing some lame song on Broadway, oh boy cuz all those comic book fanboys love musicals, yuck. When Peter Parker does he little Saturday Night Fever strut down the street you know the movie is totally garbage and the only reason it was made is because the studio execs knew it would make money. Of course a lot of people will say oh it wasn't that bad, really? These are the same annoying people who complained that X-Men 3 was the worst movie ever and that they hated it. Was X-Men 3 worse than Spiderman 3, no of course not they're both part 3 did you really expect them to be that good? Spiderman 3 is horrible don't see it, buy it or rent it. Watch the 70's Spiderman show its much better than this crap. Secondly, 28 Weeks Later. So all of the infected people in England have died and the American Army moves in to clean everything up and they start bringing people back. Of course everything goes wrong in a predictably retarded way. The main characters kids come back to see him and they run off from the safe zone back to their old house to get a picture of their mother because a) its apparently easy to sneak out of a heavily guarded military compound especially if you are a teenager and b) plagued landscape be damned they need a photo (or they can't wait a little longer until the zone is cleaned to get it because obviously it isn't that far if they can get there by scooter. So they get to the house and find their mom who they thought was dead is their and she's infected but she's not showing symptoms because of a rare mutation, blah, blah, blah. They take here back to th military base where the one doctor wants to study her to find a cure because they need a cure for a disease that they eradicated or something. The general just wants to kill her because if shes dead they wont need to find a cure because the disease will be gone, duh. So while she's quarantined her dumb husband sneaks in, because obviously the last infected person on the island wouldn't have guards or cameras watching her no, and makes out with her. Then he gets infected and kills her and escapes. He kills a bunch of other soldiers who apparently can't kill someone running at them with their guns because, yeah. Then they lock up all the civilians in a room to protect them, of course their is a back door to the room, because why wouldn't you put them in a room with an unguarded door, it makes perfect sense. Then evil dad breaks in and infects everybody and all hell breaks loose. Other crap happens that whatever, and eventually the kids whose mother was infected and whose dad started all the trouble escape with a soldier. He has some change of heart and decides along with the doctor that these kids need to be saved to find a cure. Even though the army just fire bombed the city and killed most of the people that needed to be saved but whatever. Long story short all the people die except for the dumb kids who get a way on a helicopter and the one kid, the boy is infected but hes immune like his mother. Of course the last scene is stupid because we see the helicopter in ruins and infected running across Paris. So not only did they not find a cure but they have now infected mainland Europe, congratulations. My speculation is the boy made out with his sister and she got infected and started killing everybody, but we can save that for the DVD extras. Overall the movie was totally pointless and had so many stupid logic flaws it was just dumb. Its better than the first movie but the first movie sucked so who cares. At least they didn't say that these people were zombies like in the first movie, when their just "infected". All of George Romero's Dead movies had a point and lots of social commentary. These movies are trying to do that but fail miserably and just end up being a lot of people running around and puking blood, oh boy. Rent Night of the Living Dead or Dawn of the Dead (the original) and do yourself a favor if you want to see a real Zombie movie. Well so far the summer movies have sucked, big surprise so I'm sure the upcoming ones will suck as well, but people will see them cuz what else is there to do.