Notes from the back row 

Moore shows what ails U.S. health care

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Imagine you were sick. I mean really sick — like you had Guinea Worm Disease or something equally detestable as having to extract a three-foot worm from an open sore on your leg by winding it’s ugly, gaping head around a stick and slowly pulling it out bit by bit over the next couple of weeks.

No need to get even that serious — just imagine you broke your leg in two places falling off your bike. No biggie right? Now imagine you live in America and are one of the 50 million people with no health insurance or, even worse, the millions more who pay for overpriced and ineffectual coverage.

These poor Yanks are the main focus of Documentarian Michael Moore’s latest film Sicko , which starts Friday at the Village 8.

Beginning with true horror stories of everyday Americans — a mother whose baby died because she took it to the closest emergency room she could, rather than one run by her insurance company, a woman billed for her ambulance ride because she didn’t phone in and pre-approve it before they loaded her inside — Sicko also has comedic elements, but the laughs are accompanied by disappointment, frustration and bewilderment. How is it that the richest, most powerful country in the world can’t seem to provide care for its citizens on the same level as Cuba or El Salvador?

Sicko traces the health care follies of the U.S. back to a post WWII paranoia and fear of communism and follows them right to the present day.

In the film, Moore travels to Cuba, Canada, France, and Britain and hams it up, acting surprised about the free health care systems of those nations. And though his views are a bit condescending and biased he still manages to get to the root of the American problem — why people in the health industry (pharmaceutical and insurance companies) will openly admit to denying coverage to suffering, and dying, Americans. The business of America is business, and if you keep your citizens tired, sick, afraid, and depressed you can tell, and sell, them anything.

Moore interviews Former British Member of Parliament Tony Benn, who sums it up best when he states that Britain maintains its sense of democracy by having a government that fears its people rather than one that grips its people in fear.

Sicko is not the best documentary ever made, but it’s one of Michael Moore’s better ones and it sure makes me glad I don’t live in the self-proclaimed Greatest Country in the World.

Also playing is the latest story of “great” wizard Harry Potter, now in his fifth cinematic episode, The Order of the Phoenix . Things are getting darker still in the popular children’s tale, which is perfect since Harry’s core audience is aging right along with him.

This installation, directed by British newcomer David Yates, feels like a heavy dish of details mixed with a frenzy of teenage angst and forward momentum. On the surface it’s the “boarding school kids rebel against a rigid, draconian system” movie, but there’s a real undercurrent of battle lines being drawn and while it’s hard to tell what’s important in this flick, there’s plenty of envy, guilt, rage, jealousy and sex (okay, it’s just a kiss) and it feels like a set up for a gloomy, dark, and serious battle.

Personally I thought the film’s message of, “Life’s not always fair Harry” was a bit juvenile, but of course I’ve never read a Harry Potter book, (nor ever seen a Guinea worm) so really, what the hell do I know about anything?

AT VILLAGE 8 July 13-19: Sicko; Harry Potter; Transformers; Live Free or Die Hard; Evan Almighty; Ratatouille; Licence to Wed.

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