This is what lies look like: ‘Merchants of Doubt’ (Sony Pictures Classics)
How do you get people to believe in a lie. Well, when it’s something like climate change, it helps to have a well-paid mini-industry of fakers and dissemblers to help spread the mistruths. Whatever the subject, there’s plenty of so-called “experts” who will tell people what they want to hear.
That’s the subject of Robert Kenner’s new documentary Merchants of Doubt, which opens tomorrow in limited release. My review is at Film Racket:
This is an ugly film, though it has an upbeat spirit. Director Robert Kenner starts off with magician Jamy Ian Swiss giving a deft performance in close-up magic. “My expertise is in deception,” Swiss says with no small amount of pride. Kenner features Swiss so prominently, and laces the film with visual nods to card tricks, because as Swiss states about magicians, “We are honest liars.” The professional charlatans Kenner profiles later would be hard put to make such a claim. The tragedy of the film is that depressingly few people get the difference…
Here’s the trailer:
It’s hard to think of a richer subject for these anti-scientific, fear-mongering times. So there was hope that the new documentary Greedy Lying Bastards, which opened yesterday in limited release, would be going for the jugular. Does it? Yes and no.
My full review is at Film Journal International:
As Craig Scott Rosebraugh’s film ably shows, there are many “charlatans” and deniers who make a decent living confusing the issue of climate change, with surprisingly receptive audiences. One of the stranger moments in Greedy Lying Bastards is footage of Tim Philips, president of the oil-industry-funded lobbying group Americans for Prosperity and seemingly just another bland Beltway spokesman in a suit, being greeted at a speaking engagement like a reanimated Elvis. No such excitement will be waiting for Rosebraugh’s film, an earnest but wholly unimpressive bit of advocacy cinema which fails to tap into the dark seam of anger that its title implies…
You can watch the trailer here:
Matt Damon and John Krasinski’s film about natural gas salespeople and anti-frackers is getting a limited release just before the end of the year; it’s playing in a very few places now but is worth looking for when it expands wider in January:
“You’re the natural gas people.” That’s how folks identify Steve (Matt Damon) and Sue (Frances McDormand). There’s a lot to unpack in that assessment, and Gus Van Sant’s Promised Land is smart enough to take most of its running time to do so, spinning a clever moral comedy at the same time. In those few words are contained just about every element, from hope to greed to fear and anxiety, that makes up the emotive froth of American malaise, circa 2012…
My full review is at PopMatters.
You can see the trailer here: