A and A's Movie A Day

Watching movies until we run out.

Movie 151 – Home (2009)

Home (2009) – July 29th, 2010

We do enjoy documentaries, and ones about nature and the Earth are always interesting. I don’t think we own nearly enough documentaries, personally, so that’s one of my goals for our collection (along with getting some good Bollywood – any suggestions?). I feel like this is an episode of NOVA crossed with Koyanisqaatsi. It’s beautiful, but then having seen the writer/director Yann Arthus-Bertrand’s photography in books, I fully expected to be mesmerized by the visuals.

So let me start with the positive. Visually, this documentary is amazing. The arial footage is spectacular. The natural world footage, with its amazing colors and fascinating shapes, is almost startling, and I say this as someone raised on nature documentaries. I knew Arthus-Bertrand’s work already, and I knew he would go for arresting shots. There are some beautiful views of the Grand Canyon, and some absolutely stunning shots of salt evaporate islands in the Dead Sea that almost look computer generated. There’s a lot of talk of minerals early on, and so we get some simply astoundingly colored shots with earth colored by sulfur and iron and a variety of others. It’s beautiful. It’s truly a visual masterpiece and even more so when juxtaposed with the shots of human habitations and industry, then shots of the effects the latter has on the former.

To be honest, I think I’d have enjoyed it more on mute, with the Koyanisquaatsi soundtrack playing. The narration is full of information and statistics and science, and that’s all well and good. It’s very informative and certainly puts the visuals in context. But I get the feeling it’s largely preaching to the choir. Who is watching a documentary like this who doesn’t at least know the basics of what’s being explained? Do we need to be told “everything is linked” several times over? I can think of children’s novels that do it more gracefully. I’m not saying there’s not a valuable message here, I’m just saying that I think the people likely to pick this up are people who already know and care. I don’t know how productive it is for the audience for a documentary to be guilt-tripped. Over and over and over, since the narration seems to say the same thing several times in only slightly different phrasing.

We know this stuff. It’s horribly depressing. It’s overwhelming. It’s a morass of anxiety and depression-inducing bad news. And I know it all. Not the numbers, but I know which way the wind is blowing. I try not to dwell on it or I wouldn’t get up in the mornings. Yes, I get it. We’re parasites (Americans in particular). Thank you. The last fifteen minutes is devoted to pointing out that yeah, okay, while we suck and all, we’re working on things. The phrase “It is too late to be a pessimist” is repeated several times, trying to convince me that it hasn’t just spent almost two hours spouting some horribly pessimistic stuff. It’s not enough. It should have been worked into the rest of the movie, with each depressing segment buffered by information about what’s being done and what can be done in the future, but it wasn’t.

I wish there was an alternative soundtrack that gave the information without the guilt. That being said, it is a beautiful movie, as evidenced by the amazing end credits, which go through some fascinating images from all of the locations that were used in the filming, labeling each with the location the shots were taken in. It’s almost worth watching for the end credits alone. It’s really all far more effective to let the images speak for themselves.

July 29, 2010 Posted by | daily reviews | , , | 2 Comments

Home (2009)

July 29, 2010

Home

It’s Wil Wheaton’s birthday today, and NASA’s birthday, so we wracked our brains and searched our collection for something cool and space-themed. What we came up with was this: an introspective and mesmerizing documentary about the planet we find ourselves inhabiting. I hadn’t watched it yet, so I wasn’t exactly sure what it was, but judging from the cover I took it to be a film in the vein of the Planet Earth documentary by the Discovery Channel. But it’s not quite that.

What it is is, in a word, preachy. Sanctimonious. I think it’s intended to be a wake-up call, but the narration is an almost monotonous laundry list of the ails of the world as brought upon the planet by man. We’re inundated with statistics like “One in ten natural rivers now no longer reach the sea in the dry months.” “Since nineteen-fifty the population of the Earth has tripled.” The repeating refrain drums into our heads the headlong acceleration of human expansion. “Faster and faster.” And my problem is not that I disagree with the central thesis of the film – that the current expansion of the human race is unsustainable – but that the way the message is ceaselessly drummed home is so self righteous and irritating.

I have to wonder what audience this narration was intended for. If to my ears, those of somebody who largely agrees with the bleak message being conveyed, this writing seems overbearing and irritating, then how must it sound to anybody who disagrees with the message? It would be simply unbearable. They’d turn the movie off in the first five minutes. So this self-righteous ranting must be aimed at other people like myself with environmental leanings. So the movie is unlikely to have any real impact, since the people likely to be able to bear to watch the whole thing are already making efforts to live in a more sustainable manner.

Luckily, the film is not irredeemably unwatchable. This is because it is filled with a never-ending sequence of jaw-dropping images captured by writer/director Yann Arthus-Bertrand. There’s also a great orchestral score. For much of the movie I simply wanted to turn the narration off and take in the amazing visuals. These are, for the most part, great wide areal tracking shots. Both of unbelievable natural beauty and of human excess and destruction. In one way it does live up to my expectations before I put it in: it shows a vast variety of different locations throughout the entire world. Every continent is represented and many, many countries. I could just get lost in these pictures.

So I don’t feel like I completely wasted the last two hours, even if I did have Glenn Close preaching on and on at me about how we’re destroying the only home we have and everything’s going completely down the crapper. At least it was accompanied by an amazing array of pretty pictures.

July 29, 2010 Posted by | daily reviews | , , | Leave a comment