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The Day After Tomorrow (2004)
Hollywood does the Environmental Awareness Film
When global warming triggers the onset of a new Ice Age in Roland Emmerich's "The Day After Tomorrow "(2004, 124 min., U.S.), tornadoes flatten Los Angeles, a tidal wave engulfs New York City and the entire Northern Hemisphere begins to freeze solid. Starring Dennis Quaid, Jake Gyllenhaal, Ian Holm and Emmy Rossum.
This film truly is a typical Hollywood version of an environmental film. Using nature as the protagonist and the several familiar subplots of boy gets girl, Dysfunctional family comes together to save parts of the world. Workaholic dad steps up to the plate and against extremely adverse conditions manage to rescue his son and his friends. Who in the first place should never have left the posh apartment? However, in Hollywood reality those characters always lack common sense. Sitting the audience, I want to scream at the stupid characters "No don't go" but they always do. The science exaggerated to heighten the drama and music and sound seamlessly float in and out of your awareness.
The views of the storm from the space station really give you the sense of the magnitude of the storm. The Computer Generated Images (CGI) and visual effects combine to create a terrific impression of the scale of destruction. Specifically the tidal wave that hits Manhattan, the masses of people fleeing over the Rio Grande south to Mexico all make impressive effects and create to the drama and intensity of the film.
Professor David Ingram mentioned the political underlying narrative that establishes similarities to the Bush administration's position on global warming. He mentioned that the film was released in 2004 coincidentally was an election year. His other insight into the film was a liberal discourse, an American Jeremiah appealing to reason and appealing to emotion. There were a few moments I found myself not lost and captivated by the story, graphics and the action. In all I give this film a grade of B+. (That is a strong B++ leaning toward an A-)
Fast Food Nation (2006)
Soft on the Fast Food industry
"Fast Food Nation" (2006, 116 min., U.S.), directed by Richard Linklater, creates an ensemble of fictional characters that are connected in various ways to fast food, and examines the health risks and the environmental and social consequences of the industry. From the intro and blurb, I expected to see more facts and stats. More blood and guts! The information Professor Griggs provided in her discussion prior to the film was more entertaining and informative than this movie. Here is a nice Hollywood style format story approach to a national food crisis. Do not just sit back and take it lightly. I really expected less of a narrative story line and more of an industry expose. Personally, I felt the film was 'soft' in its approach to the cattle farmers and showing the destructive practices of the fast food industry.
What we did not see is the side of the fast food industry by the people that are their main customers. There was not one soccer mom with the car full of kids rushing off to some game. There was a montage in the opening showing people sitting in the restaurant enjoying a nice leisurely meal. That scene was very unrealistic. They did not show the live of SUV's, Minivans and old beat up cars idling in the drive-through line. They did not show the people who eat there because that is all they can afford.
This film gets a passing grade, which is better than the grade my fast food dinner received prior to coming to class that night. What the film does show is the human cost of how these large corporations treat their employees. Abuse is rampant, sexual, physical, mental all take a toll on the psyche of the employee. The illegal immigrant workers endure extremely gross and unsanitary working conditions because they can make more here in the US than they can in other countries. Most everyone in the film is afraid to rock the boat, do not bit the hand that feeds you. Even the marketing guy is afraid to take a stand on this because he has a family to support. The screenplay does address the many conflicts each of the characters faced and showed progression thought the film. Over time all, the characters changed dramatically from the innocent beginning of the story. I guess placing the kill floor scene at the end of the film works if it was in the beginning we would have lost half the audience in disgust. However, really, the smell is wretched and I feel they did not show that enough. This film gets a C+.
Arid Lands (2007)
You must see this film!
"Arid Lands" (2007, 102 min., U.S.) takes us into a world of sports fishermen, tattoo artists, housing developers, environmental activists, and radiation scientists living and working in the area. It tells the story of how people changed the landscape over time, and how the landscape affected their lives.
The images in the opening are very powerful at establishing the sense of place. The contrast of the old camper lost alone against the background of the barren landscape. It looks very surreal just sitting there in the middle of nowhere. The music fits the scenes and helps set the mood of the film. From a filmmaker's point of view, the film offers a nice interesting view into the lives of the people affected by the growth and change in the area. The irony throughout the film shows both sides of the fence on many issues, the dam, the water, and the clean up, the national monument. However, no real conclusion drawn, no one sided viewpoint is presented as right. The viewpoint simply offered up in images and words of the people and the viewer left to determine their own conclusion.
Plutonium produced at the Hanford site from 1943-1980 has produced so much environmental waste that the clean up will last about another fifty years. This is the largest environmental clean up site in the world.
The Yakama Indians were most affected by this because they are not sure if the plants they use were contaminated. They use the plants and fish in the rivers for their food. One of the scientists interviewed said, "One cultures grocery store is another cultures wasteland." This is how the government justified taking the lands and using them for their own purposes. The government at the time did not recognize the value of the landscape because it was not majestic, special, or unique enough. The land viewed as disposable by the government. The Indians were removed to a reservation. Before they left their homeland, they buried their fishing equipment in the sand because they thought they would be going back that the move was only temporary. A dam built flooded the village. What is my emotional response to this film? It is nice but it just shows the surface of an ambivalent society that is caught up in the materialism of today. The townspeople have lived with the monster next door for so long that monster has become in their view not so dangerous to them or their lifestyle. I suppose I am shocked that the average people do not care what they are living next to the biggest nuclear waste clean-up site in the country.
The old angler sitting in the boat had a very funny revelation. "Some the highly educated people are stupid because they don't understand what they are doing?" The contrast created scrub Seth vegetation site. President Clinton declared the area around the Hanford site a national monument and in turn preserving the natural landscape. In contrast, another interviewees impression of the area was the "Gray Zone" Everything is gray. Scott Williams is a wine maker whose parents were both from the Manhattan Project.
This area is a victim of urban sprawl and municipal greed. A new landscape has been created exploited by groups pursuing their own agenda. How toxic is the landscape, what are the risks to live in the areas downstream from Hanford? Tiger Sexton the tattoo artist and the shop owner have a casual attitude at atomic tattoos about the town and the toxic cleanup. I find myself continually asking, "What are the test results?" Clean up has fueled a boom economy. The failed projects and the contaminants spread further every year. What are the health risks? Cancer rates, Birth defects, where are the stats? This economy is of the top three in the state of Washington because of the high paying clean up related jobs.
The amphitheater voted the best in the country. The scientist said that when you sit and watch the band the background is the river valley and the Indian burial grounds and sacred lands. It is a contrast of life and death and again a surreal experience. The economy is changing from production to consumption. Another contrast is the Pastor who is building a waterfall into his church so he can open the doors and have the people experience the rush of a great waterfall. This is a human created landscape. Humans will always transform the landscape Randy Cosby a developer blasted the ground with explosives to level it for home sites. Sundance ridge a three and half million project. He says, "He is stuck between a rock and a hard place". The scientists call this generation of kids the video babies, everything the students know they have learned from the television or videos. Urban sprawl "Pro Growth" adds to the tax base. One of the interviewees said, "People tend to think in 4 year spans, you have got think farther ahead." Robin French who has an orchard talks about watering the cherry trees to get a good crop. The scientist talks finally about taking the kids out to experience the world of nature first hand not just from the TV. To go out and look at the stars and watch them move across the sky.
My questions for the filmmakers: Did you pay any of the people you interviewed? Did you interview any of the people involved in lawsuits? If so, why did you not include them in the film? How long did it take you make the film? How long to edit it? How much money did you spend making the film? What camera did you use to shoot it? When are you planning to screen it in Hanford? I give this film an A.