Sizzle, A Global Warming Comedy, Is Not So Hot

My partner and I watched this movie with increasing incredulity and frustration. She is a former science journalist, and she won’t mind me telling you, gave up on ‘Sizzle’ after 15 minutes.

I sat through it all, and felt deflated after 85 minutes of this eco-baloney – filmmaker Randy Olson sets out to pick up on Al Gore and his ‘An Inconvenient Truth’ movie with its one-sided view; thats fair enough – present both sides of the argument, but why fill this so-called ‘mockumentary’ with half-assed scenarios about pseudo producers and skeptic techies who have sudden breakthroughs and become converts to the global warming (& human responsibility for such) cause as well?

As a cynical but watchful Brit ( the 2 so-called ‘producers’ want actress Kate Winslet to narrate the film because “she does a good British accent which makes her very believable”) I know my brothers and sisters over the water have had it up to here with being preached to about the polar bears, and hurricanes, and extremes of hot and cold.

And many Americans have also had it way up here with a callous and self-absorbed Administration whose priority has been to strip away natural resources (think Arctic drilling) and ignore International attempts to tackle global warming. So I agree that media should be used to bring the 2 camps closer together, and at least engage on the issues, and have the debate. But I feel that Randy Olson has done his fellow Americans a disservice by making a film that critiques everyone as a cultural stereotype – from the strident scientist to the strange scientist, from the White House stooge to the National Resources Defence Council factless spokeswoman (appearing on camera knowing nothing and offering nothing other than vague pronouncements – cmon!): all the while hindered by his hapless camp producers and disruptive crew.

I did like the scene where he discussed polar bears and the loss of their habitats with a researcher, Dr Megan Owen, in front of 2 polar bears fighting in a glass water tank in San Diego zoo. This gave some life and action to the dry words spoken. However, the scenes where the producers hunt for a celebrity to appear in the film, and when Olson introduces his mother into the mix (why?) are inane to the point of making the entire enterprise worthless. The scenes aren’t remotely funny. The film’s redeeming point comes when Olson and the soundman are influenced by Dr. Naomi Oreskes from the University of California (who read 1000 scientific papers on climate change, and concluded that none of the authors disagree than humans are contributing to it – also featured in Gore’s film), and go visit New Orleans, where 2 years after Hurricane Katrina and the breaching of the levees, residents are still dealing with the loss and destruction of their houses, and their way of life.

Even this moving sequence, where Olson and his friend shut up and leave the talking to those they meet and interview, is diminished by the concluding scene that tries to tie up all the themes of the film – the originally skeptic cameraman sees the light and buys a Prius to compensate his sins (read our recent post here about buying a Prius in Israel). So thanks, Randy Olson and the Prairie Starfish Production Company, but not many stars from me.

I cannot recommend his film to readers of this site as a worthy addition to the media resources exploring climate change. I will suggest that anyone wanting light relief from the subject go see it, instead of seeing yet another ‘chick flick’ or action thriller, but be prepared to be bored and irritated.

The weakness of this film made me curious to try and find out more about Randy Olson and his motivation for making this. He is a former marine biologist turned filmmaker, who has made short films about ocean life, and his first documentary, ‘ Flock of Dodos,’ (2006) looked at the perception of scientists and ‘science speak’ as presented in the media. This film looks really interesting, and I look forward to watching this, and reporting back.

Olson also set up the shifting baselines project, communicating through the media about ocean decline. This seems to be a tremendous initiative, well worth supporting and promoting widely. I get the feeling that his credentials and previous scientific work got him access to some of the research Institutes and to some of the scientists that he meets with in the movie. A shame about ‘Sizzle’….but he can be excused for this mild distraction in moviemaking.

Check out the film’s website:

Related Green Prophet stories to this review include ‘Al Gore in Israel’ here, ‘Israeli scientists to freeze Global Warming’ here, and review of Elizabeth Kolbert’s book ‘Field notes from a Catastrophe’ here.

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