Friday, May 12, 2006

popcorn and politics

With another blockbuster film season under way, Hollywood has never been more political - and every big film lately seems to come with a side of controversy. Already the news is full of advance reports on "The Da Vinci Code" - not the acting or the cinematography, but the protests, boycotts, and angry rebuttals. Maybe those are the new special effects, now that almost anyone can throw together a movie with a digital camera and some basic editing software. Who cares about the same old computer-generated graphics, when you can have real live people picketing in the parking lot?

I'm all for a lively culture, and getting people talking about complex, controversial issues. Still, I think I'll skip "Da Vinci" in favor of some more substantive films this summer. Two of these are being produced by the same film company, Participant Productions. This is the company that produced Good Night and Good Luck and North Country, among others. This summer they have a documentary on global warming, An Inconvenient Truth, featuring Al Gore. All right, he may be no Tom Cruise, but Gore has studied this subject deeply and found a passionate voice as an advocate for progressive environmental causes. David Remnick wrote an excellent review in The New Yorker, noting this:
The catch, of course, is that the audience-of-one that most urgently needs to see the film and take it to heart—namely, the man who beat Gore in the courts six years ago—does not much believe in science or, for that matter, in any information that disturbs his prejudices, his fantasies, or his sleep. Inconvenient truths are precisely what this White House is structured to avoid and deny.

Just as intriguing is Richard Linklater's adaption of Eric Schlosser's Fast Food Nation. We've already seen McDonald's pilloried by Supersize Me, but this should be different - both more dramatic and more comprehensive in chronicling fast food's impact on society. Schlosser's book is classic, well-researched muckraking, and it invites and practically compels the reader to activism (or at least to a personal fast food boycott!) The movie should accomplish this as well - in fact, Participant Productions has created a website which invites film viewers to take the next step into activism. It's at

Can movies change the world? I'm not sure, but it's nice to think that my $9.50 admission and two hours might accomplish something.

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