“It is no measure of health to be well adjusted to a profoundly sick society.” – Jiddu Krishnamurti, just one of the many great quotes these two documentaries are packed with.
This might not be a favourable comparison to some but – trust me I mean it well, I think – these reminded me a lot of What the Bleep do We Know? and its sequel Down the Rabbit Hole. I don’t have a lot to say about either, so I’m combining them into the one review.
Don’t let the lack of wordage here make you think I thought as little of them – there’s information in these four hours that make them certainly worth watching at least once by every man, woman and child on the planet. Many, as I did, will find a lot information they already had from other sources – for me personally, I’m a total liberal anyway so I gobble up information like this, I watch Colbert, the Daily Show, South Park, I listen to This American Life and Radio Lab, so a lot of what’s said here has already been “revealed” to me either in pure fact as here or just as part of a joke.
What has to be said about these documentaries, as often happens with these kinds of things, kind of hangs around that very word “documentary”. Like the What the Bleep films, the whole thing is just so one-sided and utopian (ahem … “weapons of mass creation,” I mean, come on …) you’d be a fool not to take them with a very large and healthy scoop of salt and skepticism. When, as here, they use footage of and quotes from Carl Sagan, the requirement for a baloney detection kit should be even more of a no-brainer. For if you watch movies like this, that basically tell you exactly what you want to hear – that your life sucks merely because of the failings of others and an evil superpower – and lap it up without question, you’re kind of playing into the core problem they’re addressing. I say this because I’ve read a lot of reviews that took the one-sided argument exactly that way.
One thing I found wrong with the first movie, which is perfectly – even exhaustively – methodical in putting forth its 9/11 argument, is that it gave no real thoughts regarding what exactly we’re supposed to do with all this information. Luckily, this is fixed in the Addendum which closes with a shopping list of ideas, kinda like those at the end of “The 11th Hour” or “An Inconvenient Truth,” or ways in which we might fix this. Many have pointed out that none of these ideas have really been thought much beyond the idea(l) stage. The fact remains though that however one-sided or idealistic these docs may be, if you’re gonna be one-sided and idealistic, there are worse things to be one-sided and idealistic about than what these movies are suggesting. They do manage to convince you that it’s possible. They’re more visually interesting than the average documentary to boot – the second one vastly improving on the first. And anything that includes footage from Network and lines from Carl Sagan – even if, as was the case in Frost/Nixon you may as well just watch the interview, you may as well just watch Network and read Sagan, LOL – really, I just can’t argue with.