Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Flow- How a handful of corporations steal our water

Flow is a movie documentary about water rights.

Its subtitled How a handful of corporations steal our water. Its about resource wars and depredation when food systems are displaced by water privatization. And how the community has successfuly fought in some areas to preserve their water. There are a number of good quotes in the movie like water is a resource and resources can't be privatized! Volatile pollutants come in through our skin through the simple act of showering. Pesticide laden crops are inefficient in water of use of solubility and take 3 to 5 times more water. Birth defects increase near agricultural areas. Industrial toxins have been found in the breast milk of the Inuit. Water privatization is forced on communities by the World Bank.

The movie never came to the theaters probably because the goal is get Article 31 into the UN Charter guaranteeing water as a basic right. I remember being very shocked when I realized that pollutants can seep in though our skin during showers!  I hope Article 31 is successful.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Seven pounds

Seven Pounds is an anti consumption movie in the Hollywood style meaning that not too much is left to interpretation or mystery. The plot is straightforward and dense until almost the end of the movie and then in one marvelous, crash, sequence everything comes together, the motive and character are revealed and the film then wraps up as the ultimate bittersweet love story. The style of the movie is such that its hard to give the story away- saying for example that its about a suicide doesn't really reveal the plot. In this way its much like Chronicles of Death Foretold by Gabriela Garcia Marquez.

Will Smith's character is struck by remorse that he had spent his whole life working to obtain the toys of modern living and not enjoying life with the ones he loved. The act of working ends up destroying his world- typical hollywood drama. And timely too as the state bans texting. He responds by working to right the wrong and give life back. Here the story mimics a bunch of good crash aftermath movies likes Bella which was apparently a true love story, Crash which involved more than just a crash and involves the process rather than the aftermath, Passion Fish which involves a white person learning to live again after a black person teaches her that there is more to life after a major injury crash than wallowing in self pity (Hmmm....), and Monster Ball, the opposite of Passion Fish in race relations.

His acts of atonement for some reason reminded me of WallE cleaning up all that garbage. The poignant part of the movie lies in the recycling of these lives around us. However unlike Sicko by Michael Moore, the health care system seems to be work here, even for people who can't afford anything. Isn't that nice? a real Hollywood touch.

Crashes are a much bigger element in life than in the movies. After all its the movies and in general the Will Smith films feature major car chases in which only the bad guys get injured. Men in Black and Bad Boys were car happy movies followed by I am Legend in which he purposefully gets to run over the bad guys. As if to cement his tough as nails image from his past movies there is scene in Seven Pounds where he donates bone marrow without anesthesia. And of course by the end of movie he has played a larger than life supper hero role is saving seven people. The safe message here undelivered would be that crashes arn't accidents.

But what was the seven pounds in the title all about? Is it MacBeth?

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Collateral damage gets a bad name in Bruges.

In Bruges is a movie that tries to take a shot at the car chase, violent, gangster movies that kids love. The chase scenes here are on foot, the guns are all deadly, and the gangsters are all thoughtful workaholics who struggle with the moral consequences of collateral damage.

Its a wonderful movie without cars. Ray would rather be home in London instead of stuck like a farmer he says in Bruges. Ken loves the old world charm and distance from London while retaining the culture and tradition of a small slow European town. Ken and Ray are here on orders after collateral damage from a hired shooting in London, Ray to take in everyone last wish of seeing Bruges before he is dispatched by Ken on Harry's orders.

While poking fun at Americans, both fat and gun happy, stereotypes (Ray gets in trouble for beating up a Canadian he thought was American- "what's Vietnam got to do with smoking") and skinheads, pouty and stupid, the film takes a serious look at the unhappy uncontrollable consequences of gun violence and the redeeming quality of a woman's attention in a guy centered heterosexual world.

Friday, May 2, 2008

A talking picture

A Talking Picture is a remarkably cute movie with a shocking uncharacteristic ending about the vulgarity and abruptness of the present. The point is our actions today have all the consequences that matter for our lives; not the ridiculous niceties of history that we are force fed in school. We need to be more aware of and act on the present if we are to make a world that is safe for our children and pleasant for ourselves. Emersing ourselves in the past is cop out for not dealing with the present.

Rosa Marie, a history professor, is on her way to Bombay from Portugal to rendezvous with her husband who is an airline pilot. She chooses to go by boat through the Mediterranean's past empires, then the Red Sea; in a voyage through history- monuments and ruins of the civilizations she teaches about in school. Her seven year daughter is a metaphor for her school kids. She represents the blank slate on which the uncertainties of the past get codified by religion and culture; and then stamped on innocent minds by the decent beautiful teachers who make up the knowledge class for all- but particularly the children of the political class who can pay to go to school.

The voyage quickly confronts the empire, energy, and the profits of conquest with visits to the monument of Vasco de Gama and then the ruins of other dominant empires. The politics of oil intrudes briefly in Marseilles France, as the traffic noise intrudes, and ancient empires are steamrolled by the vulgar progress represented by automobile that symbolizes today's thirst for conquest. An old fisherman explains that strategic oil reserves for war and cars are stored here. Cars are a real plague but we can’t turn back the clock he says, much to our detriment as the movie will conclude.

Feet play a role in this movie. The Fisherman’s little dog keeps his boat and himself tied to solid ground; against the tide of history? And ironically Rosa and her daughter walk through history, reading the ground as it were. We can’t live without oil today Rosa acknowledges. But if you look around a low energy future is in walking distance where ever you are the movie seems to say. Like a more idealic and romantic lifestyle of John the fisherman.

Three actresses of note, Irene Papas, Stefania Sandrelli, and Catherine Deneuve offer comments on history past and the role of men in determining its evolution through violence. John Malkovich plays the dominant American who is trying to understand the past, represented by the cultures of the actresses, and metaphorically able to understand their language, while not overwhelming them with the empire.

While collecting the women and offering relationships as is expected by the dominant empire, he is deferential to them. In a remarkable rhetorical twist everyone speaks their language as if the language of beauty and travel and all the escapes of money that result from empire form a universal language through the culture of commerce.

Yet in the end his small act of buying a doll for the little girl will doom the child and her mother as the fundamentalist present arrives full force into the lazy “contemporary” era.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Beowulf the movie, creates a new story by merging elements of the old. Retelling of stories go back forever. Beowulf is itself a retelling of the bee-wolf or bear stories of the polar north.

A Gelt prince comes to rescue the Danes when their mead hall, a first collective cave for their fermented grains, in 507 AD is under attack by a demon from the underworld of swamps and water. Sounds of drunken merrymaking symbolize the new human power over the environment, encroaching on the natural world, which rouses the demon and his mother, a kind of water queen in a womb like lair. The prince comes for honor not treasure; and the three battles that bring him honor in the book are now retold to bring honor dishonor and redemption in the movie.

Beowulf fights Grendel without any clothes or weapons- no trivial task since Grendel, son of the Dane king, feeds on men, and has grown to monstrous size and strength. But Beowulf beats nature down to a manageable size with his fists and Grendel is reduced to a tiny misshapen creature. As he leaves Beowulf traps him in the door jamb and rips of his arm.

The movie takes a misogynist spin on power as both corrupter and defender of society against the natural world. Power in terms of treasure and slaves and armies is resident in men who through their weakness before women birth evil. Women, except for the asexual queen, have a more malevolent roles as corrupters and mothers of men and their evil. When the evil spirit blows out the torches in the womb like lair a treasure torch won from a dragon lights the way for the hero. The woman is reveled as one who conspires for heirs from powerful rulers and provides power for natural treasures. As long as the horn stays with her, Beowulf will be a great and invincible king, father of her child “monster” and shielded for him and his people from the mercies of the elements.

Returning as the hero who vanquished Grendel and his dam (mother, ma dam?) Beowulf tells his tale of conquest to the admiring men and women, simpletons easily deceived by power. This deception has grave consequences as the old king knows. Beowulf, honored, becomes the target of every hot shot hero to be and grows legendary as his armies vanquish challengers while his people bear the brunt of never ending war.

Rich and poor are divide into a cast system maintained by an evil priesthood, sole possessor of the misshapen and maltreated slave, who ‘unwittingly’ retrieves the horn, and returns it, to great punishment, to Beowulf. To this priest comes the new faith of Christianity which Beowulf’s queen converts too. Seeing the horn Beowulf knows the games up; there is trouble and soon everyone hears the shriek of the underworld and feels the thunder and lighting and fires. He admits his transgressions and suits up for the final fight to deliver his people. Ironic since the new queens faith will not do that.

Soon he is fighting a dragon which appears to be a magical creation from the womb or perhaps his son through the dam? There are lot of missing connections at this point. Sacrificing everything he slays the dragon, with knowledge gained from the old king, which evaporates into the mists like magic released. As Beowulf’s funeral pier burns the dam appears out of the sea to tempt the new king.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Movies and messages

No Country For Old Men is a despairing look at people. We have the capacity for immense evil in us. Josh Brolin makes the one false move that gets the killer played by Javier Bardem on his trail. He goes back to the scene of a drug deal gone bad, to give a dying character, a drink of water. He's ambushed and even though he gets out of there, his abandoned truck provides all the information the killer needs to find him and his family.

The Coens in Fargo made the case that the ordinary fellow down the hall was where the horror really lay, not necessarily in the system of class and race and socialism and McCarthy. At the end of the movie the money is gone back to the drug dealers who also kill Brolin. But Bardem having lost sight of the money still goes out to kill Brolin’s wife to keep his word to Brolin. Afterwards he gets into a random car crash which is the only “justice” that’s ever served in this movie. Tommy Lee Jones plays a sheriff who is out gunned in the war on drugs. The state is just another bit player on the road, frequently several days behind the savage capitalists, and in grave danger from both dealers and Bardem, who unlike the state have nothing to lose. Tommy retires before he gets killed himself to ride horses with his girlfriend (wife?)

The trusted truck which hands Brolin to Bardem, and the final car crash, are structural elements that hold this story together. Brolin camps out in motels around the road and Bardem, drives down these same lonely highways with a transponder, and finds him. Brolin could have hiked crosscountry and been totally lost in the west Texas landscape (he is hunting out here at the begining of the movie) but staying in the restricted confines of the road he traps himself and all he holds dear. The road is a metaphor for social blinders that lock us into behavior detrimental to our wellbeing and our possessions end up becoming social handcuffs.

The LA Times in a mediation on violence and the State writes
"While we were all jumping to conclusions that movies couldn't address what was going on in the world because the films about Iraq failed at the box office, we almost missed what was right in front of us -- that movies like 'No Country,' 'Michael Clayton' and 'There Will Be Blood' reflected a real darkness, a grim despair and a sense of mistrust that was very much about our world today," says Mark Harris, author of "Pictures at a Revolution: Five Movies and the Birth of the New Hollywood." " 'The Bourne Ultimatum' is as cynical a movie about our government and covert operations as any film since the 1970s."