On The Screen: DamNation

A few weeks ago, I was seeing the border on a little quilt project and wanted some noise on in the background. I browsed Netflix and selected DamNation. It didn’t take long for me to put down the quilt and just watch the movie.

DamNation discusses the issues associated with the dam removal movement. The centerpiece of the film is the Elwah Dam removal but other major dam removal projects in Oregon and Maine as well as discussion surrounding other dams. I love the Olympic Peninsula so I was particularly interested in the Elwah project. I really am looking forward to finding the time to go up and check out the ecosystem’s recovery progress!

The movie is relatable; filmmakers Matt Stoecker, Travis Rummel, and Ben Knight make the viewer understand the drive behind the movement to remove dams that have a larger negative environmental impact than a positive economic impact. The visuals of dam removal and the restoration of habitats is very impactful.

This movie grabbed me enough that I immediately found a way to insert it into my environmental science class. Perhaps the best endorsement for the film is that my students loved it. It started very positive conversation about how dams fit into our energy future in this country. The video of dam removal seemed particularly impactful.

The movie won awards from SXSW, the Environmental Film Festival in DC, 5Point Film Festival, MountainFILM, Kendal Mountain Film Festival, and more. The accolades are well deserved and this documentary is worthy of viewing by anyone on either side of discussions regarding dams purpose in our society.
All photos courtesy DamNation press page.

On The Screen: Easy Rider

A few days ago, via my Tumblr feed, I came across an article from Outside Magazine about the glories of road trips. In the article, author Mark Jenkins references five classic literary and movie road trips: On The Road, Travels With CharlieZen and The Art Of Motorcycle Maintenance, Blue Highways, and Easy Rider. I have read all of the books he mentioned multiple times but I had never seen Easy Rider.

Easy Rider Movie Poster

Known as a “cult classic,” I was fascinated by Easy Rider. During the first scenes of Wyatt (Peter Fonda) and Billy (Dennis Hopper) riding through the Southwest F and I tried to name the places they were traveling through (and based on the location list at IMDB, we did pretty well). I’m always a sucker for beautiful scenery shots and this was no exception. Aside from the scenery, I was really impressed with how current the film felt to me. Aside from the undercurrents of hating the long-haired hippies, the themes of freedom and stylistic choices felt like a modern independent film. Sometimes it felt a bit contrived but it was that good kind of contrived, if that makes any sense.

Easy Rider Stil

Easy Rider Still

The whole film was summed up by George (Jack Nicholson), in his discussion with Billy about freedom. It’s not a rosy vision of freedom but rather a dark and realistic one.

George: You know, this used to be a helluva good country. I can’t understand what’s gone wrong with it.
Billy: Huh. Man, everybody got chicken, that’s what happened, man. Hey, we can’t even get into like, uh, second-rate hotel, I mean, a second-rate motel. You dig? They think we’re gonna cut their throat or something, man. They’re scared, man.
George: Oh, they’re not scared of you. They’re scared of what you represent to ’em.
Billy: Hey man. All we represent to them, man, is somebody needs a haircut.
George: Oh no. What you represent to them is freedom.
Billy: What the hell’s wrong with freedom, man? That’s what it’s all about.
George: Oh yeah, that’s right, that’s what it’s all about, all right. But talkin’ about it and bein’ it – that’s two different things. I mean, it’s real hard to be free when you are bought and sold in the marketplace. ‘Course, don’t ever tell anybody that they’re not free ’cause then they’re gonna get real busy killin’ and maimin’ to prove to you that they are. Oh yeah, they’re gonna talk to you, and talk to you, and talk to you about individual freedom, but they see a free individual, it’s gonna scare ’em.
Billy: Mmmm, well, that don’t make ’em runnin’ scared.
George: No, it makes ’em dangerous.

Easy Rider sits with me sort of like Zen and The Art of Motorcycle Maintenance did; there’s a lot to relate to and a lot to ponder. Lots has been written about this movie (this original NYT review is pretty neat). It also makes me want to drive through the southwest.


P.S. Just found this picture of F’s truck he had when I met him. I’m sorta sad that he got rid of the Easy Rider poster:

Box truck motorhome garage

On The Screen: Craiglist Joe

I heard about Craigslist Joe a few months ago and got really excited and also to see if Joe could measure up to Craigslist F. As a couple who met via Craigslist, found too many cars to count, bought our house, and have bought and sold many miscellaneous items, we immediately assumed that this would be an exercise in trying to build a life from nothing via Craigslist (as in get a job, an apartment, a car, etc.). That wasn’t what this movie was about.

Rather than an exercise in obtaining basic material needs through an alternative means, Joe explores how Craigslist can be a way of drawing people together in an increasingly isolated world. Joe set out on his adventure with nothing but the clothes on his back, a cell phone and a lap top journeying to see how Americans in the midst of a recession could “take care of each other.” He meets people though Craigslist (and in bars, dance classes, and volunteer gigs he found on Craigslist) who let him ride in their cars, sleep on their couches, and dine with their families.

While the movie was not what we expected, we enjoyed following along with Joe’s adventures in meeting people and traveling around the country. We were surprised by his lack of negative experiences (he only had a couple of “no shows” and no real weirdos), occasionally cheered by the people he found, and found ourselves wanting to shake him and give him advice (for example, “If you need to get to New Orleans, any destination on I-10 is probably a good bet”). If you enjoy a good travel documentary that features the good of people (even people you meet on the Internet), check Craigslist Joe.

On The Screen: The Way

Tuesday night we settled in to watch The Way starring Martin Sheen. The movie written (and directed and acted in) by Emilio Estevez tells the story of Tom’s (Martin Sheen) reaction to the death of his globe trotting son Daniel on the Camino de Santiago. The film examines Tom’s growth in the face of death as the inexperienced trekker carries his son’s ashes down the Camino.

The “journey” metaphor is used so often that it is very nearly cliche but the simple truth that a journey can be trans formative keeps it from being so. I found the film’s arms length examination of Tom’s emotional journey (and those of the three travelers he meets along the way) to be well done and interesting and in the end mostly avoids cliche. The characters are fleshed out enough that the viewer feels like they know them but there is still an element of the unknowable surrounding each one. This sense of mystery was enough to have Forrest and I talking about the film on the way home last night; we discussed what each character took from their journey. We discussed what catharsis was achieved by each one.

It made me itch to jump on a plane to Europe (but it isn’t hard to make me crave travel these days). It made me want to take a long, perhaps walking, journey. It made me think about people and the things they seek to escape in their lives. It made me consider ritual (and religion). So all in all, we give The Way the 3Up stamp of approval.

And this tagline? I LOVE IT.

You Don’t Choose A Life, You Live It.

On The Screen: King Corn & Girls

I got sucked into watching King Corn and episode one of Girls last night instead of writing a post… so today you get the quickest of quick blurbs about both.

The short version: Watch King Corn, prepared to feel a bit fatalistic about farming and food production in America. Watch Girls, if only to formulate your own opinion (there’s plenty of cultural criticism pieces on the internet if you’re so inclined).

The longer version:

I really enjoyed King Corn. The two film makers leave Boston and travel to Iowa to raise an acre of corn and follow it through the industrialized farm/food system. There was very little new information I learned in the film and it only furthered my insistence that we need new (less?) farm policy in this country.

I also liked Girls. It is an interesting take on people who are supposed to be my contemporaries. While my life looks nothing like theirs (aka no parental support, decent job, rural vs New York) there are certain things I relate to in the post-college I’m supposed to be an adult but don’t really feel like one sense. I’m interested to see how some of the characters develop over the season.

Edit: I wasn’t completely unproductive yesterday. I had a Skype date with lovely friends. I washed the wheels on my Jeep (Forrest changed his mind about what tires he wanted on there again). So not completely wasted….