Monday, July 6, 2009

Double Feature Sunday: Woody Allen and Food Politics

Is "Food Inc." a movie for the average person?

"Food Inc." is the new documentary
* about the way we produce and eat food in America and the latest attack on Nutritional-Industrial Complex. It basically takes Michael Pollan's and Eric Schlosser's writings and reduces them to an easily consumable 90-minute documentary.

Being familiar with just about all the stories in the film, I found it easy to follow and still found myself outraged at the actions of the government and the corporations who are most responsible for our Western diet and all the diseases that come along with it: cancer, obesity, and whathaveyou.

Towards the end, I started wondering if they weren't trying to present too much information or spending too little time on certain aspects. I found myself wanting to hear more about the court cases Monsanto brought against farmers, more from Joel Salatin, or more about what people can do to get involved. I was a little surprised the letters C-S-A weren't mentioned even once.

So I was left wondering if it's a movie that is perfect for elucidating the average viewer who eats at McDonald's and buys groceries at Wal-Mart or if it was simply another sermon to the converted to make us high-fallutin' liberals feel better about spending half our income on fancy food. I honestly don't have a good feel for what the answer to that question is.

And maybe I don't have a great answer to that because so far it has made barely more than a million dollars at a mere 83 theaters** (compare that with 4300 for Michael Bay's latest defecation on celluloid). It still has yet to hit one major outpost in the Corn Belt that I know of, Kansas City. I suspect, though, that the movie is probably intentionally enjoying a slow release so word of mouth buzz can spread. Its $2,900 average per theater puts it way ahead of mainstream movies like "My Sister's Keeper" and "Year One."

So it's proably going to take more time to see if this movie will have any crossover appeal or if it will get lumped in with all the other indie documentaries like "King Corn." I do know that some farmers near where I grew up weren't that impressed. I feel like farmers are the real heroes of the film, but I can see how my grandparents, who grow commodity crops in Pratt, KS, would get upset that Big City-types think that they know what's best for folks on the farm.

So if you've seen the movie, now would be a good time to tell me what you think. And please see if you can't get a somebody who isn't converted to go see the movie and report back.

*Follow link for trailer.

"Whatever Works"[insert pun about how well or not well you think the movie works]

Discolure: I am complete Woody Allen apologist. I may recognize the occasional fault in some of his films but I have enjoyed every single one of them on one level or another.

After seeing the man himself in the stands at the marathon Wimbledon final on Sunday, it was a no-brainer to see "Whatever Works" last night.

There are so many things I love about Woody Allen but almost above all, I love that he continues to work no matter what. Even if he were to acknowledge the existence of writer's block, you wouldn't be able to tell because he would still release one or two movies that year.

I love that no matter what else is going on in the world, I can count on that familiar smile coming to my face as a black screen with plain white type appears, old-timey jazz starts playing and I am informed that Jack Rollins and Charles Joffe were executive producers of the movie I'm about to see (even though Charles Joffe is dead), and I'm about to find out some more universal truths about love, death, and the human condition.

I love that though so many themes and plotlines tend to show up again and again, each film seems to be a different statement from the director about himself. Is the initial tone of this film so much more angry because Woody is pissed about what's going in the world? Is he getting cranky in his old age or is it just because he wanted to write a character who would be easier for Larry David to play? Is there any way his overall theme of telling everyone to stop being so damn judgmental is not influenced by everyone in the world judging him for choosing to ignore society and fall in love with the most unlikely of brides?

I suspect many will deride the movie for not being funny enough, for the characters being a little too caricatured, or for the narration direct to the audience just not working. I don't think Larry David is going to ever be successful at not playing himself, but he definitely excelled in the role as Boris. All of the characters were well cast as well and by the closing credits, they had somehow gone from caricatures to dynamic characters.

For a Woody Allen apologist, this was classic latter-day Woody. In the end, I laughed; I learned something; I didn't feel like I wasted $11.


  1. I enjoyed this post and will check out the movie now. I too will always enjoy the Woodster, no matter the era. Annie Hall still remains one of my all time faves.

    To switch gears but stay on the topic of directors with sometimes a almost too distinct style of film, what are your thoughts on Charlie Kaufman?

  2. Love Charlie Kaufman, even though I didn't really care for "Human Nature" or "Synecdoche." The guy can flat-out write and he might have written my favorite script of all-time, "Adaptation."

    For better or for worse, depending on your perspective, nobody else is making movies like him (though from the "Cold Souls" preview, it looks like somebody is going to try). I only wish he had Woody's work ethic and put out films more frequently.