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Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Earth

This last weekend I was going to go see The Soloist at the Essex Cinemas but when I arrived I changed my mind and decided I’d see Earth instead, mostly because I felt that as long as I live here it would be the only polite thing to do. After all, this planet has given me a lot, and the least I could do is give it my attention for 90 minutes or so. I mean, if you think about it, we all should be very grateful to the Earth for what it’s offered us. Thanks to it we have gravity. Now I usually gripe about gravity because it doesn’t do a thing for my boobs, but I actually appreciate the fact that without it I’d never have so much as a chance of pushing Elizabeth Hasselback down a flight of stairs someday. Earth also gives us the air we breathe, and you just can’t argue the importance of that. Without air my husband would never be able to hear me tell him what to do. You see how important the Earth is.

So I settled in to see the Disney-fied homage to our planet, convinced I was in for a treat because I remembered as a little kid watching and loving the Disney “True Life Adventure” film series that featured documentaries like The Living Desert and The Vanishing Prairie, movies that educated without lecturing, focusing instead on simply revealing close-up glimpses into the lives of those animals and insects who lived in that particular environment. Each movie featured clever narration and catchy music to accompany the movements and actions of the inhabitants of the area being featured.

Now, with Disney adding its magic to footage from the original 2006 BBC documentary TV series
"Planet Earth" filmmakers have created a beautiful big screen look at animal families from one end of the globe to the other, following the lives of polar bears in the far north, elephants in equatorial Africa and humpback whales in the waters near Antarctica. Their stories are intertwined with glimpses of dozens of other animals who reside within the panoramas of these animals whose stories are prominently featured.

Narrator James Earl Jones sheds his grim “Darth Vader” persona for an almost paternal tenderness as he tells the tales of each family. Yes, the lives of these creatures are fascinating to be sure, but in all three instances there are hard challenges and unpleasant realities. Without harping on about the politics that seem to have overcome the reality of global warming in the human community, directors Alastair Fothergill and Mark Linfield (BBC’s “Planet Earth”) simply show how the melting ice has dissolved the hunting plateaus of the big male polar bears, who now have less area to hunt and whose weight can no longer be supported on the thinner sheets that remain, often leaving them to fall into the sea, unable to pull themselves back up unto solid ground because the ice keeps breaking off when they try to lift themselves up onto dry “land.” The elephants, meanwhile, face climatic trials of their own as they are forced to make the migration from their mating and birthing lands in Northern Africa to the southern part of the country when their water dries up in the northern hemisphere as the Earth makes its annual spin around the sun and the water reappears in the southern part of the continent. Not only do the elephants have to struggle with exhaustion and thirst on this thousand-plus mile long trek, but there’s the constant stalking of the babies by lions and other predators. Beneath the sea, the humpback whale and her calf make a 3,000 mile journey from the birthing arena in the warm waters of the Caribbean to the krill-rich feeding grounds at the South Pole. It’s a very long trip for a new little (well relatively little) swimmer, and one who is going to cross right through the home of the Great White Shark, ol’ Jaws himself.

I just got done listing several of the things I Obsessed about while writing about the movie Obsessed. Now I have a whole bunch of other things I’ll be fretting over for years to come thanks to this movie. While it is ‘family-friendly’ in the sense that it mercifully cuts away just before one animal kills another, there are more than enough *ahem* “Circle of Life” moments to bother me and to have the seven year old next to me ask my friend Donna “Grandma, why is the one animal killing the other?” Lunch, Darling, Lunch! We’ll explain where hamburger comes from when we drop by McDonald’s after the movie. You’ll never think of your Happy Meal© quite the same again… but I digress.

I will be fretting about these baby elephants, gazelles, walruses, seals and every other critter that seems to be born simply to be gobbled down by a bigger predator. Where’s PETA when you need them? They should be passing out water to those in need along with energy bars and maybe some fresh fruit as needed. I don’t know what they can do about the krill really because, well, what the hell are krill anyway? Oh, I know what they are, but I’m not sure what PETA could do for the whales short of drop-shipping fresh sushi in from Japan, but you can never be sure about whether the Japanese are serving real tuna in their sushi or if it includes pieces of whale meat because those bastards are still hunting whales every day and if I was a whale I wouldn’t want to be eating my Uncle Francis in lieu of some tasty fresh krill even if I was starving to death.

The best part of
Earth is what you don’t see (at least until the final credits), and that is humankind. The fact that the Earth belongs to more than our species, who is arrogant enough to think it owns the planet and all its resources, is a refreshing change of pace. Indeed, the pace is swift and the stories told without too much syrup, but without the human interruption it is difficult to remember that the tale of the polar bears extends over the course of a full two years as we watch the twin cubs make their first appearance in the world until they finally leave home and go out into the world on their own. Now I’ll worry about mother animals everywhere. Do they feel separation anxiety when the kids leave the nest? Do they miss them terribly? Do they grow bitter when they don’t visit on Jewish holidays and not even call or write once in a while? I’m just saying. Are they all that different than us? I don’t think so. I’ll bet there is a wildebeest out there right now that is positively verklempt that her son didn’t come home for Passover this year.

Everyone who lives on
Earth ought to enjoy seeing Earth. It’s a bright, entertaining, and charming feature with a beautiful score by George Fenton (Fool’s Gold). I know most people think I come from Uranus, but since I have been taking up space on this orb I feel I have the right to weigh in on this subject, and I’d have to say that Earth is one heck of a great movie.

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