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By Matt Singer

IFC News

[Photo: “Sicko,” Weinstein Company/Lionsgate, 2007]

Provocative, entertaining, educational and utterly infuriating, Michael Moore’s “Sicko” exposes a deeply ingrained illness in the American healthcare system. Symptoms include indifference to suffering and bloating of stockholders’ wallets. According to Moore’s frank diagnosis, the insurance companies care too much about their profits and not enough about their customers. One former insurance company staffer who had a crisis of conscience explains how things worked in her office. A denial rate was tabulated based on the number of claims each caseworker rejected. Whoever denied the most treatment (or, in the industry’s terminology, the most “payment”) received a bonus. In some instances, she is quite certain that her denial of payment lead to someone’s death.

Moore examines our system and also puts it in relief, by traveling abroad and seeing how others in the Western world manage their own healthcare industries. He finds, to his great shock (some of which seems a bit too staged for the camera), that you can get good care without paying a dime beyond your tax dollars in Canada, England, France and elsewhere. In contrast to what we’ve been taught for decades by the insurance industry and helpful materials like the classic record “Ronald Reagan Speaks Out Against Socialized Medicine” (!), these systems are thriving, and doctors can still make a good salary and live in good homes, patients can still make choices about what doctors to visit, and taxpayers can still afford to go on vacation even when they have to help pay for a nation’s clinics.

Though he has increasingly become the single most polarizing filmmaker (if not public figure of any arena) in the entire country, Michael Moore has made a film that could probably convince any relatively open-minded citizen of its basic arguments, regardless of their political affiliation. That’s not to say it doesn’t take a couple cheap shots. Even though Moore explains that his movie is not about the 50 million Americans who have no health coverage, he spends the first twenty minutes or so of the film chronicling some of their worst horror stories. His mock-soothing narration is often so naively earnest it’s borderline painful. And, of course, he can’t resist the occasional Bush joke, as when the Commander in Chief hilariously bemoans that OB/GYNs can “no longer practice their love” with women across the country.

But there are also no scenes of CEOs squirming on-camera and Moore himself doesn’t appear in the flesh until nearly halfway through the film. The focus, instead, rests on regular people with regular, frequent problems, all caused by our healthcare system. The most notorious, and perhaps the most moving, are those of 9/11 rescue workers who, essentially left for dead by the insurance companies, are taken by Moore to Cuba for what was surely a scrupulously controlled tour of the island’s hospital facilities, apparently amongst the best in the world. One volunteer paramedic whose lungs were devastated by the toxic dust she breathed in for weeks at Ground Zero finds her $100 inhaler — she goes through about two a month — cost just five cents each at a Cuban pharmacy.

“Sicko” might not be Moore’s best film (I’d still vote for “Roger and Me”) or his most impassioned (“Fahrenheit 9/11”). But it’s undeniably his most persuasive. It might not change the American healthcare system, but, then again, it might. If it is one-sided — and it most certainly is — then let the insurance companies make their own movie. If it moves audiences as much as Moore’s, we’ll call it a draw.

“Sicko” is now playing in New York, and will open nationwide on June 29th (official site).

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The Best Of The Last

Portlandia Goes Out With A Bang

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The end is near. In mere days Portlandia wraps up its final season, and oh what a season it’s been. Lucky for you, you can watch the entire season right now right here and on the IFC app, including this free episode courtesy of Subaru.

But now, let’s take a moment to look back at some of the new classics Fred and Carrie have so thoughtfully bestowed upon us. (We’ll be looking back through tear-blurred eyes, but you do you.)

Couples Dinner

It’s not that being single sucks, it’s that you suck if you’re single.

Cancel it!

A sketch for anyone who has cancelled more appointments than they’ve kept. Which is everyone.

Forgotten America

This one’s a “Serial” killer…everything both right and wrong about true crime podcasts.

Wedding Planners

The only bad wedding is a boring wedding.

Disaster Hut

It’s only the end of the world if your doomsday kit doesn’t include rosé.

Catch up on Portlandia’s final episodes on demand and at

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Your Portlandia Personality Test

The New Portlandia Webseries Is Going Your Way

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Carrie and Fred understand that although we have so much in common, we’re each so beautifully unique and different. To help us navigate those differences, Portlandia has found an easy and honest way to embrace our special selves in the form of a progressive new traffic system: a specific lane for every kind of driver. It’s all in honor of the show’s 8th and final season, and it’s all presented by Subaru.

Ready to find out who you really are? Match your personality to a lane and hop on the expressway to self-understanding.

Lane 10: Trucks Piled With Junk

Your junk is falling out of your trunk. Shake a tail light, people — this lane is for you.

Lane 33: Twins

You’re like a Gemini, but waaaay more pedestrian. Maybe you and a friend just wear the same outfits a lot. Who cares, it’s just twinning enough to make you feel special.

Lane 27: Broken Windows

Bad luck follows you around and everyone knows it. Your proverbial seat is always damp from proverbial rain. Is this the universe telling you to swallow your pride? Yes.

Lane 69: Filthy Cars

You’re all about convenience. Getting your car washed while you drive is a no-brainer.

Lane 43: Newly Divorced Singles

It’s been a while since you’ve driven alone, and you don’t know the rules of the road anymore. What’s too fast? What’s too slow? Are you sending the right signals? Don’t worry, the breakdown lane is nearby if you need it.

Still can’t find a lane to match your personality? Check out all the videos here. And see the final season of Portlandia this spring on IFC.

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Last-Minute Holiday Gift Guide

Hits from the '80s are on repeat all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC.

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GIFs via Giphy, Photos via The Everett Collection

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