Whenever we rewatch "Roger and Me" or an episode of "TV Nation" or, in general, see Michael Moore deliver a well-timed smackdown to someone who seems deserving, we feel warm and benevolent toward the Michigan gadfly. It’s when he starts in with serious promotion of a new film that our good will starts to crumble. There’s no question that Moore has changed the face of documentary film and raised awareness of the genre immeasurably, and part of how he’s managed that is his cannily audacious way with publicity and his immediately recognizable public persona â€” but goddamn, do we hate the grandstanding.
Yesterday, Moore held a "Sicko"-inspired rally on the steps of California’s State Capitol building in Sacramento with the backing of 1,000 bescrubbed, chanting members of the
California Nurses Association. Joe Garofoli at the San Francisco Chronicle quotes:
"I always set out to make a movie that people will enjoy, have a good time watching on Friday night," Moore told The Chronicle on Tuesday. "I’m asking for a little something here. I’m going to provide the entertainment, but I’m hoping that a certain percentage of the audience will be thinking about the issues that I raised, and a certain percentage of them will go out and do something."
All admirable, practical-minded and, for once, nonpartisan, which Moore himself acknowledges, while pointing out the even ol’ Roger Friedman at Fox News liked the film. So why, the day before, did Moore have to saddle up with Harvey Weinstein and attorney David Boies for a press conference to dramatically cry harassment because of the Treasury Department’s investigation of the in-film trip to Cuba? From Gregg Goldstein at the Hollywood Reporter:
"In my 25 years in the movie business I’ve never seen anything like this, where the government has tried to impact a movie like ‘Sicko,’ " Weinstein said. Moore added that a separate negative of the film, including the 15 minutes of Cuban footage, was sent to Canada in case the government attempts to seize it "like they could seize 10,000 Cuban cigars."
Health care issues haven’t quite the allure of inflammatory investigations of the presidential administration, which explains why Weinstein would want such a stunt. But Moore, it seems, would want anything but to play the aggrieved political martyr, particularly for such a relatively paltry issue â€” the dubious violation of an old trade embargo isn’t much of a rallying point. "Fahrenheit 9/11" was meant to enrage and provoke a receptive audience into actually going out to vote; if "Sicko" is supposed to inform and provoke beyond the usual preaching to the choir, you’d think Moore would keep his hot button self out of the way this time around (as he reportedly does for large chunks of the film) and let the issue speak for itself.
How did you take [the weight] off?
Actually, Roger Ebert told me about this book called the Pritikin diet. In three months, I lost 30 pounds.
At Newsweek, Tony Dokoupil looks into another segment of the film, in which Moore, anonymously at the time, donates $12,000 to the founder of anti-Moore site Moorewatch.com, Jim Kenefick, after he posts a plea for help paying the premiums on his wife’s health insurance.
If you had known it was Michael Moore giving you the money, would you have accepted it?
I think so. It’s obviously not a problem for him that Moorewatch exists, which is kind of commendable if you think about it. He seemed genuinely interested in keeping us online. I can handle the heat generated by being used in the movie as some kind of "gotcha" moment, and in the end, that $12,000 made our lives a little easier. In the end it reduced the stress on my wife, and taking away even one of her worriesâ€”in this case it made it possible for us to pay off everything faster than we’d plannedâ€”is worth a lot. Besides, Mike’s not the devil or anything. It’s not like Joe Stalin made me an offer! He’s a guy who sees value in us being out there, analyzing his work and asking questions.
Update: Ed Pilkington at the Guardian runs down some of the cases.
+ Moore lobbies Sacramento for healing (SF Chronicle)
+ Moore, distrib lash out at gov’t ‘Sicko’ probe (Hollywood Reporter)
+ One-on-One at Cannes with ‘Sicko’ Director Michael Moore (NY Post)
+ Medicine Man: Michael Moore (New York)
+ Poor No Moore (Newsweek)
+ A state of ill health (Guardian)