Jack and Meg aren't the only Michiganders rocking America this week, as MTV News Executive Producer Jim Fraenkel will tell you.
No matter how long you've been in "the business," (and, for me, it's approaching 15 years), once in a while you still see something that's just cool as s**t, or what my colleague, James Montgomery, would more likely call "awesome." Friday night was one of those occasions. It happened on the landing at the top of the escalator at Loews Lincoln Square Theaters (for those of you less familiar with New York City, megaplexes in Manhattan are built vertically due to a lack of surface space on an island that's home to more than 1.5 million people - 25% of whom, by the way, have no health insurance).
My boyfriend and I were there, on a double-date with LOGO-tastic couple, Jason Bellini and Will Wikle, to see the 11 o'clock showing of "Sicko," Michael Moore's latest indict-umentary (watch our exclusive interview with Moore here). Even before we reached the second level, the ruckus was apparent. A forest of LED screens were aglow as seemingly hundreds of patrons hoisted cell phones and digital cameras high over head, hoping to snap an image of someone in a red and white baseball cap at the center of the human swarm.
"There he is," said my buddy, Will. And there, in fact, he was: the auteur, provocateur himself. The adoration was palpable as the movie mob erupted in spontaneous fits of applause and ovation for the filmmaker who slowly made his way through the hooting and hollering throngs. On this night, Michael Moore was a rock star.
And then, seemingly as quickly as it began, the excitement had ended. Until, that is, about 45 minutes later. By then, we had taken our seats and were waiting for the lights to dim when, inside the theater, a rumble turned into a roar. Moore was back. And by the time he had waddled down the aisle to take his place in front of the screen, the crowd had leapt to its feet. This was one of those Only-In-New York moments that catches you by surprise. Unfortunately, I did not have a reporter's pad and pen handy, meaning that I'll have to do my best to convey what was said without the benefit of direct quotes.
One I do remember was Mike's response to the standing ovation: "What if the movie sucks?" he asked with a chuckle. He went on to explain that he had been at the theater to watch the previous screening from the back row. Getting a movie made is a difficult process, he told the crowd, and he merely wanted to experience the finished product with a real live audience. After discovering he was in the house, management asked if he would stay and introduce the film for us lucky bunch of unsuspecting late-night ticket holders. BONUS!!!
The appearance, it turned out, was a homecoming of sorts for Moore who recalled that, while living in the neighborhood for some twelve years, this was the theater "we" (he and his wife) used to attend. With that, he talked about the importance of a good laugh now and then, even in the bleakest of times and situations, and then thanked us from the bottom of his heart for being there in the very first theater, on the very first night, of the new film's run.
And what about the film?
Well, three years after "Fahrenheit 9/11" set box-office records, "Sicko" finds Moore taking the temperature of the American Health Care System. Less partisan than its predecessor, as you've probably already heard, the film is no less incendiary. Both the tactics and the tone are vintage-Moore: coddle viewers with humor, throttle them with reality (or at least his version of it).
The Bottom Line: When the credits finally rolled, "Sicko" received an ovation as rousing as the one Moore, himself, received before it began. Look for a spike in Canadian citizenship applications after the film opens wide next week.
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