kottke.org posts about documentaries

Kermit mournsMar 30 2009

Australia celebrated Toad Day Out this past weekend, resulting in the deaths of thousands of toxic cane toads.

Cane toads were introduced to north Queensland canefields from South America in 1935 to eat pest beetles. The slimy interlopers couldn't jump high enough to reach the beetles at the top of the cane stalks and, instead, rapidly spread in search of food. Millions of them now threaten many local species and spread diseases such as salmonella across northern Australia.

Ick. The hallucinogenic amphibians were profiled in the documentary Cane Toads: An Unnatural History. Ribbit in peace.

Seems like this would have made aMar 03 2008

Seems like this would have made a better mockumentary.

Rolling Stones singer Mick Jagger escaped an assassination plot hatched in 1969 by the Hells Angels, a new British Broadcasting Corp. documentary has claimed.

The men tried to reach Jagger by sea. "The boat was hit by a storm and all of the men were thrown overboard." They all survived but made no other attempt on his life.

Lengthy update on what Al Gore hasMay 03 2006

Lengthy update on what Al Gore has been up to since the 2000 Presidential Election, including his work on global warming, documented in An Inconvenient Truth (my review).

rating: 4.5 stars

An Inconvenient TruthApr 24 2006

In the 1960s, a young Al Gore had the good fortune to study under Roger Revelle at Harvard University. Revelle was one of the first scientists to claim that the earth may not be able to effectively deal with all of the carbon dioxide generated by the earth's rapidly increasing human population. The American Institute of Physics called Revelle's 1957 paper with Hans Suess "the opening shot in the global warming debates". Gore took Revelle's lessons to heart, becoming a keen supporter of the environment during his government service.

Since losing the 2000 Presidential election to George W. Bush, Al Gore has focused his efforts on things other than politics; among other things, he's been crisscrossing the world delivering a presentation on global warming. Gore's presentation now forms the foundation of a new film, An Inconvenient Truth (view the trailer).

In organizing my thoughts about the film, I found I couldn't improve upon David Remnick's review in the New Yorker. In particular:

It is, to be perfectly honest (and there is no way of getting around this), a documentary film about a possibly retired politician giving a slide show about the dangers of melting ice sheets and rising sea levels. It has a few lapses of mise en scene. Sometimes we see Gore gravely talking on his cell phone--or gravely staring out an airplane window, or gravely tapping away on his laptop in a lonely hotel room--for a little longer than is absolutely necessary. And yet, as a means of education, "An Inconvenient Truth" is a brilliantly lucid, often riveting attempt to warn Americans off our hellbent path to global suicide. "An Inconvenient Truth" is not the most entertaining film of the year. But it might be the most important.

Watching the film, I realized -- far too late to move to Florida and vote for him in 2000 -- that I'm a fan of Al Gore. He's smart & intellectually curious (the latter doesn't always follow from the former), understands science enough to explain it to the layperson without needlessly oversimplifying, and despite his reputation as somewhat of a robot, seems to be more of a real person than many politicians. As Remnick says:

One can imagine him as an intelligent and decent President, capable of making serious decisions and explaining them in the language of a confident adult.

The film has some small problems; many of the asides about Gore's life (particularly the 2000 election stuff) don't seem to fit cleanly into the main narrative, the connection it makes between global warming and Katrina is stronger than it should be, and the trailer is a little silly; this is a documentary about Al Gore and global warming after all, not The Day After Tomorrow or Armageddon. But the film really shines when it focuses on the presentation and Gore methodically and lucidly making the case for us needing to take action on global warming. An Inconvenient Truth opens in the US on May 24...do yourself a favor and seek it out when it comes to your local theater.

Henry Abbott lets us know about FlintApr 19 2006

Henry Abbott lets us know about Flint Star, a documentary film about basketball in Flint, Michigan. "It's amazing to watch. Six year olds who can dribble between their legs and hit a fadeaway. Dribble penetration followed by vicious alley-oop dunks. Flagrant fouls that will make you bark out loud as you're watching the DVD in bed next to your sleeping wife."

Television documentaries are slow, repetetive, and information-poorJul 14 2005

Television documentaries are slow, repetetive, and information-poor. The Brian Greene series on string theory had the same problem.

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