OK, starting early, with movies that I imagine will get nominated, until the actual nominations come out. I think An Inconvenient Truth is a pretty safe bet to get a Best Documentary nod, so here I go.
Al Gore comes off as a pretty good lecturer, professorial in a good way, knowledgeable, a bit self-deprecating, full of information. It’s good to see a movie where intelligence is treated as a good thing. Gore offers information, and assumes we will care about what he has to say … he doesn’t talk down to his audience, which doesn’t mean the film avoids any audience-grabbing tricks. Gore in this movie is Michael Moore without the self-promotion, and without obvious hyperbole. An Inconvenient Truth is more likely to convert a disbeliever than Moore ever would. I’d rather watch a Michael Moore movie, but the point of these things isn’t primarily to be a good movie, but to make a point, and An Inconvenient Truth makes its points quite well.
My limited knowledge in the area of global warming tells me that Gore is rarely if ever completely wrong in the movie, but he does seem to exaggerate to make his case (something that is more obvious when Moore does it). Ronald Bailey does a good job of showing that the consensus Gore alludes to isn’t quite as overwhelming as he suggests (“Gore As Climate Exaggerator”). But the general concept, that we are causing global warming and something should be done, is at this point inarguable. One area where Gore might want to change the tone of his lecture, though, is when he refers sarcastically to “skeptics.” He sets up a straw-man argument that ends up comparing skeptics to apologists for the tobacco industry. Given that his movie is so full of science, that it promotes a scientific perspective that is quite refreshing, it’s too bad that he decided to pick on a group of people who in fact do more to promote logic and reason than do most.
Most of this is nit-picking. The film makers seem to be getting the response they desired, the film informs on an important issue, and isn’t nearly as boring as you might expect.
One more nit, though. Nuclear power makes exactly one appearance in the film, in a quick shot of a reactor as Gore discusses things that go wrong. My expertise on nuclear power is even lower than on global warming, if that is possible, and I would very much like to hear what Gore has to say about what seems to me to be at least an alternative energy source worthy of consideration. Gore is no luddite … I’d trust his take. I know that the words “nuclear power” are almost forbidden these days … I can recall asking about nuclear power once back in my Bad Subjects days, and the first and only reply amounted to “it’s a pile of crap, don’t ever bring it up again.” So, go for it, Al … explain to us why nuclear power wouldn’t help the global warming problem. Based on the fine film An Inconvenient Truth, Gore has the chops, as a teacher and as a promoter of scientific thinking, to spend a convincing extra five minutes on the subject.
A final note: when I wrote about The Queen, I explained how much time I spent in awe of the simple facts, such as that the Queen drove a car, or the Queen slept in a bed just like anyone else. I got the same feeling watching An Inconvenient Truth. Damn, I found myself thinking, Al Gore is driving a car! Al Gore uses a laptop! That looks like a Treo in Al Gore’s hand! It points out how American politicians are about as detached from everyday life as is British royalty … I couldn’t imagine the former Vice President of the United States doing his own work. As someone who has been less than kind to Al and his missus and his 2000 running mate in the past, I must confess, I was wrong about Al Gore. Tipper and Joementum … I’m still pissed at them.