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Thread: An Inconvenient Truth

  1. #16
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    Here is my review

    AN INCONVENIENT TRUTH

    Directed by Davis Guggenheim (2006)

    Although the Bible says "ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free", in today's media-dominated corporate America, knowing the truth and informing others about it may only lead to personal attacks, thwarted careers, and deep denial, especially if that truth threatens powerful interests. David Guggenheim's film of Brother Al's Traveling Salvation Show, An Inconvenient Truth, does not hold back, however, from telling us unpleasant truths about the effects of global warming, including the fact that ten of the past fourteen years have been the warmest in our history. Brother Al of course is Al Gore, former candidate for U.S. President in 2000 who lost the election to George W. Bush by a hanging chad.

    The film features a warmer and more spontaneous Gore who, in recreating the multimedia presentation he has shown all over the world, takes a passionate stand on the environmental issue he claims should have the highest priority in our political agenda. In his slide show, Gore displays the disappearing snows of Mt. Kilimanjaro, the shriveling lakes in Africa, and the disappearance of glaciers in Glacier National Park. He asks us to look at unprecedented hurricanes fueled by warming currents in the Gulf of Mexico, temperatures in excess of 120 degrees, and an increasing envelope of air pollution in Los Angeles, Mexico City, and Shanghai, China. The film is a personal essay that includes reflections on his sister's death from lung cancer and his son's automobile accident at the age of six. It is also a spirited call to action.

    While it may be uncertain whether mankind is simply contributing to very long-range climate instability or is solely responsible, Gore presents a strong case that the environmental choices we have made have contributed to the current climate crisis. He also doesn't hesitate to point out that the U.S., with 5% of the world's population, contributes 30% of the total CO2 emissions and that the present administration has filled high environmental positions in his government with representatives from the oil and gas industries. According to Gore, if we do not reverse the current trends, our future may see an increase in deaths from global warming to 300,000 a year, the rise of sea levels that could inundate coastal cities, an increase in heat waves and droughts, new diseases and crop-attacking pests, and an extinction of species and disruption of existing habitats.

    While some may scoff at the dire warnings, history abounds with evidence of sudden climate changes that may have wiped out entire species or even civilizations. While suggesting that political action could force manufacturers to curb pollution and persuade Detroit to manufacture more fuel-efficient cars, Gore's message is mostly directed at each individual and the energy choices they must make. The closing credits also list hundreds of things that each of us can do. Political will, Gore says, is a "renewable resource" and, if given the proper respect, the film can be an important catalyst for change.

    The reality, however, is that we live in a world filled with fear, greed, and corruption and it may require more than correct energy choices to effect change. The crisis it seems is not only in our atmosphere but also in our values, in the things we hold to be important and unimportant, which are reflected in our economic system. We cannot simply sit back and "go gentle into that good night", but must "rage against the dying of the light" whether it takes the form of environmental choices, political action, or simply an expanded awareness of our potential for love and compassion. An Inconvenient Truth entreats us to "reach the candle in the heart of man, waiting to be kindled" and, in our own way, to re-light the flame before it is extinguished forever.

    GRADE: A-
    "They must find it hard, those who have taken authority as truth, rather than truth as authority" Gerald Massey

  2. #17
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    Originally posted by Chris Knipp
    Your comment saying the film is about the message "and the messenger" and that that doesn't make it "flawed" is astute. I wish you'd developed it further.

    Well, Chris, I don't have anything insightful to add. It's just natural to consider the messenger whenever we evaluate any theory or news or other type of communication. We all do this at the micro and macro level. Given a constant text, it makes a significant difference whether we find it on the pages of The Inquirer or The New York Times. I've tried to keep an open mind about the focus on Gore (a small percentage of the total duration) being a flaw because you, mouton and J.R. Jones (Chicago Reader) brought it up. But I haven't been convinced by the rationale provided:

    "The message should have been enough to build the film upon without it also being a publicity vehicle for Al Gore" (mouton)

    "One of these (drawbacks) is its focus on Gore's own personal history". "The film might even be seen, and in some cases is being seen, as a push to get him re-nominated..." (Chris Knipp)

    "Zooming in on Al Gore as a person seems to work against the movie's greatest strength, his ability to frame the problem in a gigantic wide-angle shot" (J.R. Jones)

  3. #18
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    Originally posted by Chris Knipp
    How does climate change strike you as a person who lives in a very warm part of the country to begin with?

    Miami has some very unique qualities as a young, vibrant, welcoming city. It'd be hard for me to imagine living elsewhere. Yet, from May to October, I often find myself daydreaming about doing precisely that. The palpable generalized anxiety regarding the threat of hurricanes and the discomfort one experiences being outdoors are the culprits. There are many cities that register higher temperatures than Miami (Arizona's cities being the hottest in the country) but factor in the humidity and this beautiful city is lonely at the top as the muggiest city in the USA.

  4. #19
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    Howard--

    Well done. You make the points better than I do, I think. I like your interpolations and quotations. I'd have to disagree with the way you stated a couple things though.
    While it may be uncertain whether mankind is simply contributing to very long-range climate instability or is solely responsible, Gore presents a strong case that the environmental choices we have made have contributed to the current climate crisis.
    You're offering the wrong either/or here. Those who reject climate change as a problem would not be interested in saying man is "simply contrituting" to anything. Gore (I think) is saying not that we are solely responsible but that we are the major cause. Important difference. I'd also not have begun by referring to the global warming presentation as "Brother Al's Traveling Salvation Show," which seems to me too frivolous for such a crucial topic. As a more minor point, I don't think the closing credits list "hundreds of things" we could individually do. Dozens, perhaps. But your basic point is right, that the emphasis is on individual rather than collective action. In general the film is much better on the problem than on the solution, about which it's relatively unspecific.

    Oscar--

    You didn't exactly answer my question about Miami. Okay, it's the muggiest city in America, but how does that make you feel personally in that context about climate change?

    About the issue of messenger/message, I meant to say that the presence of Gore as the messenger is a "flaw" not to me, but in presenting the issue to less sympathetic members of the public. I'm not saying it's a problem for me, but that it may be a problem for other people. I'm thinking about the film's viability as propaganda for a cause. It would be good if we could have a less politically partisan famous person present the case. Whether or not you're preaching to the choir partly depends on who the preacher is.

  5. #20
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    Originally posted by Chris Knipp
    Howard--

    Well done. You make the points better than I do, I think. I like your interpolations and quotations. I'd have to disagree with the way you stated a couple things though.
    You're offering the wrong either/or here. Those who reject climate change as a problem would not be interested in saying man is "simply contrituting" to anything. Gore (I think) is saying not that we are solely responsible but that we are the major cause. Important difference.
    I simply said that there was uncertainty as to whether or not man was solely repsonsible for global warming or if there was a long term climate instability that our use of fossil fuels was exacerbating. I know that's not how the sides line up but that is what is true for me.
    I'd also not have begun by referring to the global warming presentation as "Brother Al's Traveling Salvation Show," which seems to me too frivolous for such a crucial topic.
    I don't think it hurts the cause to stay light about it rather than go into a panic since I feel there is perhaps a spiritual component to possible physical Earth changes that we are as yet only dimly aware of.
    As a more minor point, I don't think the closing credits list "hundreds of things" we could individually do. Dozens, perhaps.
    Yes perhaps it was a bit of an exaggeration since I haven't counted them.
    But your basic point is right, that the emphasis is on individual rather than collective action. In general the film is much better on the problem than on the solution, about which it's relatively unspecific.
    Agreed.
    "They must find it hard, those who have taken authority as truth, rather than truth as authority" Gerald Massey

  6. #21
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    Global Warming is turning tropical depressions into minor hurricanes, and minor hurricanes into major hurricanes. Hurricanes devastate communities in the Caribbean and along the Southeastern and Gulf coasts of the USA.

    The Mean Season (1985) referred to summers in Miami. Summers in Miami have gotten longer and meaner because of global warming. I love this place. My daydreaming about leaving is only caused by the discomfort I experience outdoors in Miami five months a year.

    The knuckleheads who dismiss global warming won't be swayed by anybody. I don't see how Gore-as-presenter and his backstory would deter neutral individuals (like Chelsea and Joseph before they watched it) from becoming convinced global warming is a huge problem that requires urgent attention.

  7. #22
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    Let's put it this way: the presence of Gore and his detail about his life emphatically covered in the movie (which are fine with me) can be used as fodder to make fun of the issues by opponents. I don't think one can call one's own daughter "neutral." But I'm not talking about neutral parties.

  8. #23
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    Sorry to burst your bubble, daddy, but Joseph and I we weren't neutral before watching the film. We're flaming liberals and hippies!! However, I didn't know as much about the effects of global warming before watching the film.

    By the way, this was Chelsea.

  9. #24
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    Originally posted by oscar jubis
    By the way, this was Chelsea.
    Never would have guessed, since Oscar is so fond of using radiant colors in his posts.
    "So I'm a heel, so what of it?"
    --Renaldo the Heel, from Crimewave

  10. #25
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    Howard's summary:
    While it may be uncertain whether mankind is simply contributing to very long-range climate instability or is solely responsible, Gore presents a strong case that the environmental choices we have made have contributed to the current climate crisis.


    Howard's response when I questioned this summary:
    I know that's not how the sides line up but that is what is true for me.
    Hmmm.....

    From the summary topping
    a web anthology of New York Times articles about global warming:
    The average surface temperature of earth has increased more than 1 degree Fahrenheit since 1900 and the rate of warming has been nearly three times the century-long average since 1970. Almost all experts studying the recent climate history of the earth agree now that human activities, mainly the release of heat-trapping gases from smokestacks, tailpipes, and burning forests, are probably the dominant force driving the trend.

  11. #26
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    addressing the messenger issue

    Gore, appearing on Late Night With David Letterman last night, addressed the critic issue that the film promoted him personally.

    Gore stated he went to a lecture in college, during which, one of the first person's to propound the theory, presented it during class. At the time, Gore stated he had never been so moved by anything in his life. When he was first elected to Congress, he went before a committee with the idea of introducing a resolution to study the subject and met with immediate disapproval. Stonewalled in Congress, and by many industry insiders Gore tried to pursuade over the years, he started this lecture tour to help educate others.

    He emphatically stated the message is far more important than his status as presidential wanna be. In fact, he felt his attachment to the message gave it extra publicity, which it has. Therefore, he's at least got us all talking about it. In light of the overwhelming drought in the west this year, the timing could be more apropos.
    Colige suspectos semper habitos

  12. #27
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    It may be more accurate and useful to classify An Inconvenient Truth more as an essay-film than as part of the more general category of documentary. It's really a type of essayistic discourse on film, a personal attempt to work out a reasoned line of discourse on the problem of climate control and on the problem of how to transmit a certain urgency to others regarding the need to solve this global problem. The latter problem has a strong personal point of view (or a single voice, as typical of literary essays), in that the film investigates Gore's developing consciousness regarding climate control and his various attempts and methods of conveying his views (and those of the vast majority of the scientific community) to the public and to the powerful elites. I welcome and applaud the film's strong personal p.o.v. for many reasons, among them the publicity generated by Gore's involvement (as cinemabon states).
    Last edited by oscar jubis; 07-10-2006 at 07:06 PM.

  13. #28
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    It's really a type of essayistic discourse on film, a personal attempt to work out a reasoned line of discourse on the problem of climate control and on the problem of how to transmit a certain urgency to others regarding the need to solve this global problem.
    With all due respect, that's a nice, but rather wishy-washy, way of putting it. Gore is pasionate about the cause, and he's trying to get others to come on board. Essay is a nice word, but it's still a documentary, and a committed one marked by strong advocacy. Why do you think he goes around the world with this lecture? He's not trying to find something, he's trying to convert and galvanize and excite and even scare the hell out of people, and he's succeeding, from what I've heard.

    Many documentaries are biased and many are personal. ONe of my favorites of recent years is My Architect. The possessive pronoun indicates the personal focus and it is very much an exploration of self as well as of Louis Kahn's career. I don't see An Incovenient Truth as any different from Michael Moore's films. We may once have thought documentaries were something about Eskimos, or butterflies, or the digestive system. What is Uncovered--an essay? Documentary is a broad category, distinct from fiction. I think An Inconvenient Truth is very well done and is doing very well, except for the fact that some activists are impatient with Gore's failure to question the system more and propose more protest and activism.
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 12-14-2010 at 01:41 PM.

  14. #29
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    You forgot to say what was rather wishy-washy about my quoted passage. If the only two categories are fiction and documentary, An Inconvenient Truth is, of course, a documentary. But let's move beyond the obvious. The film meets the criteria for inclusion within a more specific and rarer type of film, the film-essay. I propose that the seminal work of the genre is Alain Resnais' masterpiece Night and Fog and that Chris Marker has been its foremost practitioner.

    I was relieved by your bringing up Nathaniel Kahn's film, which indicates you understand what I'm talking about. As the complete title makes it clear, My Architect: A Son's Journey is a first-person oddysey to solve the mysteries of his father's life and to grapple with the problem of how to achieve a sort of communion with a father who was mostly absent from one's life and who is no longer available. My Architect is a film-essay. On the other hand, Michael Moore's films often take the form of essay-films to gain impetus only to abandon the "first-person grappling with an issue" for more generic and no less effective approaches. The Moore film freshest on my mind (because I rewatched it only months ago) is Roger and Me. For about 20 minutes, Moore depicts his experience of living in Flint,Michigan and how he views the way his hometown has changed over the years. Thereafter, he continues to narrate, but the personal and subjective stance is phased out.

    An Inconvenient Truth is very much about how Mr. Gore became increasingly concerned and gradually more knowledgeable about the climate crisis. ("My professor at...", "I called my friend...", "I went on an expedition to Greenland and...") It's also about his struggle to find a way to communicate a certain urgency about the problem and the process of refining his message ("I proposed legislation...", "I met with...", "I attended the conference on..."). A subjective, personal "single voice" is maintaned throughout the film, even when he is presenting pure scientific data, Gore discusses how he came upon the information, how it impacted him, and how it guided him along a path to knowledge, social consciousness, and personal responsibility.

  15. #30
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    Yes, I see what you're saying. Certainly as a sub-category yours has much merit. I'm inclined to think though, that if the issues in An Inconvenient Truth are of overriding importance, which I think they are, then calling the film simply a documentary gives it more weight to the public.

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