The “Al Gore for President” movie review

When Tina Brown took over The New Yorker, it got hip, edgy and, to me, boring. We continue to subscribe, though, in large part because Mr. Bookworm has always subscribed. And I still read it because it's there, which is how I got to read two movie reviews that give away entirely the new political strategy of focusing on Al Gore. But let's start with a little Bush Derangement Syndrome, which really is the intro to the Gore swoon. (David Denby, by the way, wrote both reviews.)

The first review covers the new Robert Altman movie, A Prairie Home Companion. The movie is about a hometown style radio show doing its final broadcast, because the station has been bought out. Throughout the review, we keep hearing that the show is being bought out by "religious" or "Christian" Texans. It's unclear from the review why their religious or geographic status matter — that is, the review doesn't indicate that these identifiers affect the plot in any way. Indeed, one is left feeling that these are just sort of standard Hollywood bad guy things — good radio show being destroyed by bad Texas Christians. But I'm just guessing. The end of the review, though, makes clear why Denby was so intent on emphasizing their unique characteristics. It gave him the chance to close a limp, lukewarm review with these sentences:

Emotionally, the movie is a queasy and unsatisfying experience. Texas Christians may have done a lot of damage recently, but the only person who will close down "A Prairie Home Companian" is Garrison Keillor. [Emphasis mine.]

To me, that last sentence is pure Bush Derangement Syndrome, appearing as it does out of nowhere, and having nothing to do with the movie or the review. It's just something that the writer couldn't keep inside.

The Prairie Home Companion review, though is just a warm-up. Denby's review of An Inconvenient Truth is even more political. Look at the very first paragraph:

Anyone in possession of a major truth that he can't get others to accept begins to feel that he's losing his mind. [That may explain so much about Al Gore's recent behavior. --ed.] The skepticism he meets turns him into a soreheaded obsessive. After a while, he becomes "pedantic," and then, inevitably, "condescending" and "humorless." [Thus, it's not that Gore is, in fact, pedantic, condescending and humorless. We, the skeptical public created this Frankenstein's monster. In the words of the old song, he's more to be pitied than censured." -- ed.] Al Gore has been in possession of a major truth about global warming for than than thirty years [Gore's prescience was impressive because the era more than 30 years ago was the global cooling fear phase, a phase that occurred when we didn't have the current measurements we do regarding global warming. -ed], and he has suffered the insults of political opponents, the boredom of ironists, and, perhaps, most grievously, the routine taunts of a media society which dictates that if you believe in anything too passionately there must be something wrong with you [The point being that there's obviously nothing wrong with Gore, it's just that the media doesn't understand him -- which really is strange, because I live with the idea that this same media has accepted entirely his view of global warming. --ed.]

Denby then goes on to describe a movie that, if it were about anything other than global warming, would get laughed off the screen. Even Denby acknowledges its faults:

[Gore] appears as the noble-browed warrior of englightenment, brooding over the ravaged earth and the weakness of man, once or twice too often. He mentions family tragedies, which were moving to me, but which strike some viewers as maudlin notes from a campaign biography.

Fear not, though, since "the faults of the movie, semi-excusable as self-vindicating ploys, are nothing compared with its strengths." The strengths, though, make it sound like one of those appalling 8 mm films we slept through in high school in the 1970s:

For long stretches, Gore is photographed talking before an audience with the aid of slides and charts. There are side trips to fissured ice caps, disappearing glaciers — the snows of yesteryear — and expanses of newly parched and broken terrain. The science is detailed, deep-layered, vivid and terrifying. Every school, college, and church group, and everyone else beyond the sway of General Motors, ExxonMobil, and the White House should see this movie. [Get it? Evil corporations, evil oil, and the foul Texas Christian in the White House are incapable of understanding Gore's greatness or simple science. --ed.] [Bolded emphasis mine.]

Denby isn't shy about calling the movie what it is: "It's great propaganda."

But in Denby's mind, what's really great about the movie is how it shows the human side of Al Gore (and you thought he didn't have one). Thus, Gore "speaks in an intimate voice that we've never heard before." When Gore talks about lying by a river, and keeps coming back to that image after global warming holocaust pictures, "it has a greater resonance." Denby claims that Gore has learned to speak in a less annoying way. Listen to this and tell me whether you believe that. The rhythmic up and down of Gore's speech — a rhythm that has nothing to do with emphasizing or deemphasizing actual content — is both soporific and bizarre.

But here's the real kicker. Denby assures us that the movie demonstrates that Gore has been purified in the crucible of past experiences:

[O]ne has the impression of a complex personality that has gone through loss, humiliation, a cruel breaking down of the ego, and then has reintegrated itself at a higher level. In the movie he is merely excellent. But in person . . . he presents a combination of intellectual force, emotional vibrance, and moral urgency that has hardly been seen in American public life in recent years.

Watch out, Hillary. It's Saint Al for President.

By the way, I don't actually have an opinion yet as to global warming. I do know that temperatures are changing, and that we (that is, humans) are definitely causing some changes. I also know, though, that the earth's climate has changed many times. Indeed, I've always found fascinating the fact that the mini-Ice Age was probably what resulted in the lavish costumes worn during the Elizabethan era — those layered clothes kept people warm.

Lastly, I know that, with China and India coming up the industrial pikeway, which means they're making increasing demands on oil while they don't have the resources to burn oil cleanly, there's little that changes in America will do to stop larger climate changes. If Gore's right, we Americans are helpless anyway, because China and India are not buying into his scenario. They just think he's selfishly trying to deny them the same industrialization America got to enjoy. So, if Gore's right, no matter what we do here, we can still kiss this planet good-bye.

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Comments

  1. Pastor Ray says

    I can hardly believe that anyone with any education and life experience, whatsoever, would choose to articulate the nonsense and self-absorbed ridiculousness that you do. I urge you to address the festering boil of dissatisfaction that drives you to feel the way you do.

    -Ray

  2. Jim says

    . . . speaking of which, I couldn’t quite ascertain your review of the movie. Oh . . . yes, forgive me, I should have realized that your rant was a review of a review of a motion picture which you may or may not have seen?

    I don’t particularly care for standard fare movie reviews, but I’m as fascinated about the motivations that brought about your iota of attention to a matter that you seemingly have little concern for as I am my desire to pose the question to begin with.

  3. says

    Jim seems to miss the point that you actually SAID you were reviewing a review. Sad.

    Anyway, there’s only one thing we need to know about global warming: It’s much more pleasant to live through than global cooling. Of course, the Algorians can’t recognize that there’s nothing about global warming that is going to “end life as we know it.” Attribute that blindness to Lib Paranoia Syndrome.

    An odd aspect of Lib Paranoia Syndrome is that the Libs are blind to the fact that Mahmoud Ahmadinijad COULD end life as we know it. Odd.

  4. Jim says

    Laer . . .

    . . . perhaps it is you that missed my point. I was inquiring as to whether the author could present their own review of the film. Can you please explain . . . as I seem to have missed the point . . . the validity of a review of a review of a film or any other creation where the reviewer has not even digested the work being discussed?

    While you’re at it, can you explain what your claim regarding Ahmadinijad has to do with reviewing a critique?

    Other than the fact that I do not appreciate agenda motivated criticism . . . I haven’t really revealed enough about myself to deserve your label. Ironically, you have instead revealed quite a bit about yourself . . . and that my friend, is that you are probably a great deal more paranoid than moi.

  5. Zhombre says

    Getting back to Prairie Home Companion: if one substituted “New York Jews” for “Texas Christians” the petty smug provincial bigotry on display would be much clearer. Even Pastor Ray might get it.

  6. says

    Come on, Jim, you’re just playing games with us. Bookworm’s entry was a critique of a piece of writing which happened to be about a movie. She pointed out what the writing revealed about the writer, much as your comment pointed out what Laer’s post revealed about the writer. One does not have to see, or even be familiar with, the underlying subject matter of a wrtiting to hazard an opinion as to what the writing says about the writer. You know that. So what’s the point of your comment?

  7. Jim says

    Quixote

    You draw a good comparison on revelation, but I don’t think you make a good case for this being the point of the original article.

    The author’s casual aloofness toward the subjects of Denby’s criticism does nothing to dispel doubt upon how easily they might have misinterpreted the context upon which a comment, criticism, proclamation, etc. was made. I certainly do not agree with your assertion that one does not have to be familiar with an underlying subject. Are you then suggesting that serious criticism can be based solely upon hearsay or apathy? The author admitted a rather blase concern on the topic of global warming . . . so it’s a little hard for me to give the entry (as you describe it) more credence than a “rant” against a broad spectrum the author finds contrary.

  8. Kevin says

    Which brings up a dilemma–in the event a Democrat could actually win in ’08, who of the current field would be the least of all evils? Hillary, Kerry, Gore, Dean (ahahah–I just had to throw that in for laughs.) I may not like Gore but I downright despise the other’s–it makes my stomach churn just thinking about it…

  9. says

    Jim:

    It’s called a tangent and it’s a useful rhetorical tool. I made a point that Gorian liberals are blind to the benefits of being in a global warming cycyle, then I used the concept of blindness, which I had craftily established, to go to the tangent of also being blind to Ahmadinijad.

    Pretty cool, huh?

  10. says

    Bookworm wrote what she wrote for two reasons. She could do it and she wanted to.

    Any additional requirements, is in the mind of the reader.

    Jim obviously disagrees. His reasons for doing so are his own.

    the validity of a review of a review of a film or any other creation where the reviewer has not even digested the work being discussed?

    Validity is found by introspection and self-validation. You will never find validity in anything, jim, if you rely upon other people for it.

    So what can be said to make Bookworm’s writings valid to you jim? Only Jim knows. Bookworm has her own reasons for why she deems them valid. If jim doesn’t agree, that is Jim’s validity problem, not Book’s.

    This is to attempt to clear up what I call, “intentional ambiguity” on the part of commentators.

  11. Wild Bill says

    You said “I do know that temperatures are changing, and that we (that is, humans) are definitely causing some changes.”

    The fact is that global temperature changes by humans are a drop in the ocean compared to the largest factor affecting global warming – The Sun! When Al Gore can figure out how to dim the sun, manage sun spots or sheild our planet from solar radiation, then I’ll listen to him about doing things to affect global warming.

  12. Jim says

    Ymarsakar,

    I must’ve really touched a sensitive spot . . . I can assure you that I don’t rely on anyone . . . especially someone of your arrogant ilk . . . for validation. This wasn’t a post by a casual commentator . . . as demonstrated by the very existence of this site . . . My point remains, and I can see no reason for it to draw such ire . . . unless of course you are somewhat offended by the concept that it might be wise to know the context of ideas that you might differ with?

    Laer,

    Obviously, you are quite the “master of the obvious.” Very entertaining. Here’s a critique on your commentary and rhetorical tangent: weak. If you want to make an impact, might I advise that you stick to the topic being discussed?

    Regarding your remark about the benefits of global warming . . . let’s hope that your discounting it’s unproven validity are correct. Otherwise, I wouldn’t advise investing in any beach front property, unless you own a construction company, or find yourself on the back nine in a few years sans complete UV protection. I do hope you are right.

  13. says

    But, Wild Bill, that’s the point. There is something that “shields our planet from solar radiation.” It’s called the ozone layer and it is being depleted at an alarming rate. If the depletion goes too far, we heat up. The question is not whether greenhouse gasses are increasing and the ozone layer is depleting. They are and it is. The question is what is causing these events and what, if anything, we can do about it. Bookworm’s point was that even if Gore is right that humans are the cause and even if America takes every step possible to allieviate the problem, the explosive development in other, far more populous nations will overwhelm the American efforts. She may or may not be right about this (I certainly hope not or we may have an unsolvable problem on our hands) but it is a problem to be taken quite seriously.

  14. says

    I was watching the Discovery channel, and they introduced me to methane in the oceans. After the ice age, there was a huge explosion of methane from the bottom of the sea, expanding to thousands of their original volume. Methane, is I believe, somewhat 20 times better at collecting heat than Co2.

    This caused or contributed to the warming after the ice age ended. It can perhaps also be causing it today. But what’s causing the methane to be released, is unknown or they didn’t say.

  15. says

    Jim, anyone that has to ask questions about this or that because they feel something is wrong, is asking for validation. This isn’t specific to you, solipsism aside. Nothing inherently wrong with seeking validation of personal beliefs.

    People who ask, don’t know. If their questions are real. My point is simple. You should look for answers inside, do that first instead of saying others are responsible for providing you the answers you seek.

    You claim not to seek validation from arrogant people. Yet you are still here questing for answers and whatever else you seek. Might there not be a contradiction in your actions?

    I don’t have sore spots that you can hit, Jim. You would have to understand me greater than I understand you, for you to hit a sore spot. And that’s debatable, even if I were willing to show my cards.

    I’m not confused by the circumnavigational way in which you phrase your sentences, Jim. I look past the superficial, as the soul is far more interesting and critical to my view of things.

    Oh . . . yes, forgive me, I should have realized that your rant was a review of a review of a motion picture which you may or may not have seen?

    you call this searching for context. I call this making people responsible for validating your beliefs, Jim.

    I don’t particularly care for standard fare movie reviews, but I’m as fascinated about the motivations that brought about your iota of attention to a matter that you seemingly have little concern for as I am my desire to pose the question to begin with.

    Here’s my conclusion. People who want to understand each other, makes some effort to understand other people’s motivations before jumping to conclusions. They also don’t contradict themselves, as you did, by saying that you are fascinated with a person’s attention to things they have little concern with. Just as you have little concern with even making the question to begin with, for you are too fascinated with the conclusion than to validate the results through internal parallax. It makes little sense to say that you are fascinated with someone’s motivations, yet not fascinated enough to ask them about those motivations, and saying at the same time that you are seeking the context of the other person’s beliefs.

  16. says

    Correction. The lack of a comma in Jim’s sentence, makes it hard to separate out the segments in that sentence.

    The contradiction statement remains the same. But the justifications change. Jim should not, then, say that he is as fascinated by the motivations as when he asks the questions about those motivations.

    To ask, is to admit that one does not know the motivations. So someone cannot both be ignorant of those motivations and fascinated by them at the same time.

    Jim’s circumnavigational phrasing does take some logic power to unravel, which is why I tend to avoid all that and use intuition. Shorter.

  17. says

    Jim also has a wayward apostrophe (“it’s unproven validity…”). He’s lost all credibility with me.

    Kill all the cows. They fart way too much greenhouse gas.

    Bring back the Dark Ages! Stop Global Warming!

  18. mamapajamas says

    Ymarsakar Says:
    June 9th, 2006 at 11:55 am

    “…It can perhaps also be causing it today. But what’s causing the methane to be released, is unknown or they didn’t say.”

    Try this from the NASA Moppett satillite tracking methane emissions:

    Methane emissions

    The blue regions are pretty much methane “free” (ie: no more than is normally in the atmosphere). The concentrations go from blue to light green to green to yellow to red to black.

    Note where the deepest concentrations of methane emissions are. Those are grass fires on the Sarengeti and the Pampas.

  19. mamapajamas says

    Ymarsakar Says:
    June 9th, 2006 at 1:47 pm
    “Thanks for the link”

    My pleasure :). Of course, South America and Africa aren’t the ONLY sources of methane… some is obviously coming from industry as the light green haze over the northern hemisphere suggests, although the little NASA film strip that image came from indicates that a lot of the “green” over the rest of the world is being carried there from the grass fires by air currents.

    The grass fires in the Pampas and Sarengeti are a part of their natural life cycle: The grass reaches maturity, dries out, and then lightning at some point sets the savannahs on fire. This clears out the old growth and cracks the seeds open so new grass can sprout. Without this, grazing animals in SA and Africa would starve to death.

    And this life cycle happens every few years.

    So the satellite image showing the concentration in SA and Africa is pretty much an ongoing natural cycle. The thing that is shocking about it is the CONCENTRATION of methane coming from the fires. It’s something you will never see an environmentalist confess.

  20. Jim says

    Ymarsakar

    You’ve correctly sited my poor attention to correct grammar. Point taken . . .

    Your definitions and interpretations are hilarious, though. Zero intended circumnavigation going on here.

  21. says

    Of course they are hilarious. When people see Amanie talking about stuff they can’t explain, hilarity is the only explanation to cover up the fact that Amanie might actually be serious about nuclear annihilation as a policy.

    Look, this behavior is pretty common from what I see, when people don’t want to engage a position they know they can neither explain nor defeat. Explaining it as a joke, is a good way to keep a close mind and not expand.

  22. says

    Book,

    Great reviews of the reviews of the Keillor and AlGore movies.

    One thought however…. Conservative scientific evidence (not the mainstream liberal line) verifies that we humans have as much power to increase global warming as, in my words, a soot-belching Krakatoa would suffer from a butterfly flutter-by. Zero, zilch, nada!

    Unless, of course one, takes an existentialist view that, under the right circumstances, one flap of a butterfly wing can start a tidal wave.. ;-))

    ExP

  23. Pastor Ray says

    DQ comes to Book’s defense, as is usual. We should all have such good friends.

    Having read the exchanges here, I remain as perplexed as ever, as to why Book would write such ignorant nonsense. She’s smarter than what her commentary implies. Frankly, I believe she deploys partisanship as her weapon-of-choice against forces that are personal and private, rather than common.

  24. Jim says

    Ymarsakar

    Don’t pat yourself on the back too hard . . . wouldn’t want you to cough up a lung.

    Your analysis will remain only presumptious, at best. My clearly noted issue with the article however, remains largely unaddressed.

  25. mamapajamas says

    ExPreacherMan Says:
    June 9th, 2006 at 4:28 pm

    “…Unless, of course one, takes an existentialist view that, under the right circumstances, one flap of a butterfly wing can start a tidal wave.. ”

    One of the problems with using computers to evaluate climate change is that it isn’t possible for computers to do that. They can’t and will never be able to account for the human factor, that stray Joe Six-pack who squashes the butterfly whose wings flap and… :D

  26. says

    Wow! The heat from this debate alone is going to affect global warming. I’ve been enjoying watching the give and take, and have been staying out of it. The only reason I got up off the sidelines is that Pastor Ray, with a rather backhanded compliment, seems perplexed about my intent in writing this post.

    I was not critiquing the movies in the review, since I don’t really care about either of them. They both sound rather dull, to be honest. I’ve also stated that I’m just ignorant and perplexed about global warming, although I do believe that we Americans can do little in the face of India’s and China’s increasingly rapid and polluting industrialization.

    My real point, and I thought it was clear from the post’s title, was to point out that these movie review, which really ought to have limited themselves to whether the movies were good or bad, appear to represent a large political paradigm shift from Hillary to Al. That’s all. And I got to be snarky while I did it.

  27. noah says

    The line of yours about India and China not having the technology to burn oil cleanly is either a betrayal of ignorance or misses the point. The supposed problem with burning oil is that it produces CO2. Not “burning oil cleanly” may produce increased particulate pollution but there is some evidence that particulate pollution may DECREASE global warming! In any event producing “soot” from incomplete combustion actually decreases CO2 per amount of fuel burned.

  28. says

    My favorite posts are when Book eviscerates the opposition with a few choice descriptions. Such as when she described the media’s attempt to jinx the people partying over Z Man’s death.

  29. says

    Hey, Jim, rather than attacking without content, how about engaging on the merits? It does not accomplish anything to call a comment “ignorant nonsense” without saying why you disagre with it. We will all learn a lot more if, instead of labeling, we actually discuss the merits of each position. Bookworm admits to being perplexed about global warming and has explained why she wrote (to point out a shift from Hillary to Al). What, exactly, are you attacking as “ignorant” and what would be an intelligent view?

  30. Jim says

    Quixote

    In all due respect and thanks to Ray, Bookworm posted a response which satisfied my appearance on this blog. I acknowledged that Bookworm made no pretense on her position about warming. I’d love to discuss the issue but it had nothing to do with my query.

    Somewhat ironic and worth future consideration is Bookworm’s nod to Ray: “The only reason I got up off the sidelines is that Pastor Ray, with a rather backhanded compliment, seems perplexed about my intent in writing this post”

    Kudos to Ray . . . he got the point across. I did not, and endured a heckuva slew of nonsense in return.

    I’d be more than happy to offer my significant and substantive comments on this topic as many others . . . but perhaps in a forum more conducive to actual contemplation, consideration, and pursuit of greater understanding.

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