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Sam Davidson's blog

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Movie Review: An Inconvenient Truth

Al Gore is a brilliant man. He’s not brilliant because he unlocked the mysteries of a rapidly warming planet before anyone else. He’s brilliant because he’s running for president in 2008 and cleverly disguising his campaign launch with a feature-length documentary.

I usually don’t read movie reviews before I go see them. If the preview looks good or a friend recommends its, I’m going, even if Rotten Tomatoes thinks the movie is complete crap. I wanted to go see An Inconvenient Truth when I first heard about it 1) because I like documentaries, and 2) it would make my Republican planet-hating friends mad.

With the wife and the in-laws in tow, we settled in for what I thought would be a wonderfully brave look at global warming. I had seen the buzz online and figured this would be an insightful movie that would inspire millions to recycle more and demand better fuel standards. Unless you’re an obtuse oil tycoon, there’s no denying the planet is getting dangerously warmer. The global warming debate isn’t like arguing whether the chicken or the egg came first; it’s like arguing whether or not in 50 years you want to bake your chicken in the oven or fry it on the sidewalk in December – it’s happening, it’s real, it’s here, let’s deal with it.

Sadly, however, the movie isn’t that incredible, Al Gore is terribly boring, and if I wanted to watch a lecture, I would borrow my sister’s course videos from Nashville Tech.

Literally, the entire movie is footage of Gore giving a lecture. His pictures are cool, his graphs are informative, and he even cracks a few jokes. But, he is not an exciting man. Yes, more people need to hear that the earth is warming due to more people using more finite resources. But having Al Gore tell this story nearly sucks the life out of it.

There are a few ‘scenes’ not shot in the lecture hall. These scenes at his farm, of him traveling, or of him telling stories about his past are informative, but not in the way that picks up the pace of a boring movie. They’re informative in a vote-for-me-in-2008 kind of way. Throughout the course of the movie we learn that Gore is a family man, a gun owner, not afraid of hard work, environmentally aware, socially conscious, moral, and can use a Mac. Who wouldn’t vote for a guy like this?

But at the end, Gore comes across like a rich tree hugger. Let me explain.

I’ve got no problem with tree huggers. I hug trees. I love them. We need more. I love the environment. I think we’re destroying it. I want my kids to be able to breathe clean air and have a planet to live on. I recycle. I only have energy efficient light bulbs in my house. I installed a digital programmable thermostat last weekend. Nothing is wrong with tree hugging.

But, there are a lot of people with a lot of causes who only shout from the hilltops. And while we need storytellers who simply inform, in today’s world, words without application is hot air (the kind that’s hurting the glaciers). Because as much as this movie is about telling the truth about global warming, it’s equally not about equipping ordinary people with practical ways to help stop the earth’s destruction. In fact, the only practical advice given in the entire movie is found mixed in with the end credits. And even there, the biggest push is to get people to go to the movie’s website. If you want to appeal to a broad mass of people you’re seeking to mobilize and motivate to jump on your cause’s bandwagon, you’ve got to tell them how (besides subliminally saying, “Vote for me in two years.”).

Secondly, I can’t believe how rich Al Gore is becoming. I have nothing against people making money. I like to make money. I want to make a lot of money and give some of that money away. I want to buy things for my wife and my parents and my kids. I want to leave big tips at little restaurants. Money is good and capitalism allows people access to it. But, Al Gore is an advisor at Google (where many think he was compensated with stock options) and charges lots of money to come at speak at your graduation or bar mitzvah. So why did he charge me, the wife, and the in laws $24 to go see his boring lecture-movie?

So here’s the action-laden, low-on-funds alternative. Watch Kilowatt Ours. It’s by local (Nashville) documentary guy Jeff Barrie. In this quirky and informative film, Barrie pieces together interviews and facts to show the real faces hurt by our abuse of the environment. And Barrie even shows you what you can do in your little corner of the world to stop this thing. And I don’t think Jeff’s running for office, so you don’t need to be skeptical of the source.

In conclusion: An Inconvenient Truth, while shedding light on an important subject, is boring. Now, go plant a tree.