The Friday movie roundup – June 9

The week’s major release is “Cars,” the latest computer-animated family film from the wizards at Pixar. It is without question the “worst” Pixar film so far; I put the word in quotes because it’s still a B- film, which is hardly bad. But it’s not nearly as good as what we’ve come to expect from Pixar. Here’s hoping it’s an anomaly and that they haven’t lost their mojo.

The critical consensus seems to be along the lines of what I just said, though I’ve seen some rave reviews, too. I wonder if some people aren’t going easy on the film because it’s Pixar. Believe me, I WANTED to love it. I tried with all my might. Just couldn’t do it.

Elsewhere, Robert Altman’s “A Prairie Home Companion” opens in semi-wide release today (760 theaters; 1,000 is considered “wide”). Fans of Garrison Keillor’s radio show will probably like it the most, while the rest of will find amusement in a few scenes and otherwise won’t have much to say about it.

I saw it in March at the South By Southwest (SXSW) Film Festival in Austin. It was my first time at the fest, and indeed my first screening of the fest, at the beautiful Paramount Theatre. My chief memory of the actual experience is that we had terrible balcony seats, with our view partially obstructed by the people in front of us. If the show had stayed on the radio, it wouldn’t have mattered, but noooo, they had to go and make a movie.

And opening a bit wider this weekend is Al Gore’s documentary “An Inconvenient Truth,” which is fascinating and informative and alarming. It played at Sundance this year, where I failed to see it, and had two or three Portland screenings that I also missed before finally catching one last night. To be honest, we could have used a little global warming in the theater, because it was freezing. But I digress.

I wanted to talk a little about the reaction to this film. Even before I saw it, I was finding it remarkably immature how people had turned it into a political thing, with conservative pundits coming out of the woodworks to discredit the movie. Why? Because it’s by AL GORE!! And Al Gore is well-known for being a liberal Democrat! Why, he even ran against our beloved and infallible George W. Bush in 2000! That makes him the ENEMY, you know.

I honestly believe that if a non-politician had made “An Inconvenient Truth,” there wouldn’t be nearly as much eagerness to refute it. It’s another example of why I’m turned off by American politics, this attitude of “if the ‘other side’ says it, we automatically have to find fault with it.” (And yes, both sides do it. A liberal would sooner die than admit Sean Hannity has made a good point about something.)

The thing is, I don’t see why the issue of global warming has to be an “other side” thing. How did the environment become a partisan-politics issue? Though it may seem otherwise, Republicans and Democrats actually live on the same planet (Earth), and the condition of that planet affects both groups. So why do conservatives dismiss global warming warnings so vehemently as “scare tactics”? I agree, some people go nuts with it (there are always people who become obsessive over their one pet project), but that doesn’t mean the basic ideas aren’t solid.

For a while, the conservative line was that global warming wasn’t real. Now it’s evolving into: global warming might be real, but it’s not because of anything we did. It’s the planet’s natural progression, the same as there were once Ice Ages and so forth.

And maybe that’s true. I mean, the vast, overwhelming majority of scientists say we ARE at fault and we CAN stop it before it’s too late. But maybe they’re wrong. The vast majority of scientists once thought the Earth was flat, too, I suppose.

So my question is: Why all the anger and vitriol? Even if Gore’s movie is dead wrong and global warming is unpreventable — well, isn’t it STILL a pretty good idea to cut down on our use of oil, and to do the various other things that promote a healthier environment? I mean, if someone made a movie that insisted everyone needed to cut off their toes or else the planet was doomed, then yeah, some skepticism and debunking would be in order. To follow that plan unless we were absolutely CERTAIN it was necessary would do a lot of damage. But what’s the downside to reducing our carbon dioxide emissions and our dependence on oil? Even if the science is all wrong, aren’t the recommendations good ones anyway?

People insisting global warming is either fictional or unpreventable reminds me of when I was an LDS missionary, and we would tell people considering joining the church that if they did so, they would have to refrain from sex outside of marriage. Sometimes they would say they didn’t believe God had issued any commandments on the subject. And why did they believe that? Because they didn’t want to stop having sex! Believing something requires action (or no action, in this case), so sometimes it’s easier to find excuses not to believe.

At any rate, it’s absurd to dismiss “An Inconvenient Truth” because of the messenger. The movie itself isn’t political; Gore makes a couple jokes in passing about the election, and that’s it. As he says in the film, saving the planet is a moral issue, not a political one. It’s the right thing to do, and in theory, both “sides” are interested in doing the right thing.

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I’ll be in Las Vegas for the CineVegas Film Festival tomorrow until next Friday, and then on to California to visit the ancestral Snider homeland. “In the Dark” will come out next Friday as usual, but the only major review will be “Nacho Libre.” “The Lake House,” “Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift” and the “Garfield” sequel all open that day, too, but I’ll have missed the screenings, unless I happen to get in good with one of the Vegas critics between now and then.

It has been my custom to write daily reports from the film festivals, but my experience at last year’s CineVegas suggested there wasn’t nearly as much “atmosphere” to report on as there is at Sundance and SXSW. Still, keep an eye on the blog. If something happens that’s worth writing about, I will do so.