Reader’s Corner: ‘Extreme Cities’

My review of Ashley Dawson’s Extreme Cities: The Peril and Promise of Urban Life in the Age of Climate Change, was published in the Winter 2017–2018 edition of RainTaxi Review of Books:

[E]ven though logic would dictate transforming low-lying shorelines into storm surge-absorbing wetlands, planners in cities like New York and Miami continue building right up to the water line. Meanwhile, even conservative modeling has seas rising over six feet by 2100. Set against that inexorable future, Dawson’s description of a “feckless capitalist culture of ruinous growth” has the ring of truth…

Weekend Reading: December 16, 2016

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Weekend Reading: October 14, 2016

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Weekend Reading: September 2, 2016

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Screening Room: ‘How to Let Go of the World…’

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The new environmental documentary from Josh Fox (Gasland) starts off as a terrifying plunge into what climate change will be doing to the Earth, and the human race, over the next few decades. But then Fox does something unusual: He tries to find what there is to be happy about in all this terrifying prognostication.

How to Let Go of the World and Love All the Things Climate Can’t Change is playing now in limited release. My review is at Film Journal International:

Josh Fox’s first two films—Gasland and Gasland Part II—were micro-targeted issue documentaries about the environmental dangers of fracking for natural gas, particularly near his home in upstate New York. So it makes sense that his newest film, How to Let Go of the World and Love All the Things Climate Can’t Change, would start off in the same vein. He opens on a shot of him dancing with a charming lack of rhythm to the Beatles’ “Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da.” It’s a way of celebrating the rare victory: After years of activism, fracking was outlawed in the Delaware River watershed…

Here’s the trailer:

New in Theaters: ‘Merchants of Doubt’

This is what lies look like: 'Merchants of Doubt' (Sony Pictures Classics)
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:

New in Theaters: ‘Greedy Lying Bastards’

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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: