Two Documentaries from Alliance
Don't You Forget About Me (December 11/09)
Don't You Forget About Me is a sporadically compelling yet undeniably uneven documentary that follows four Toronto-based filmmakers as they attempt to meet legendary director John Hughes, with the road trip that ensues punctuated by clips and interviews revolving around the impact that Hughes' teen-oriented films have had (and continue to have) on moviegoers and cinema in general. It's obvious almost instantly that the aforementioned road trip stands as Don't You Forget About Me's weakest element, as the foursome's ongoing exploits are hardly as compelling as one imagines they're meant to be - with their climactic visit to Hughes' house essentially coming off as an off-putting, almost Michael Moore-esque ambush. There's subsequently little doubt that the movie fares best when focused on the behind-the-scenes tales proffered by actors who worked directly with Hughes, with the inherently fascinating nature of their respective stories - coupled with soundbites from a myriad of Hughes fanboys (ie Jason Reitman, who calls Ferris Bueller's Day Off a "perfect movie") - effectively compensating for the film's fawning and undeniably repetitious sensibilities. The inclusion of a few unexpectedly poignant moments near the movie's conclusion - ie several subjects explain just what Hughes' work has meant to them - admittedly does ensure that Don't You Forget About Me ends on a positive note, yet it's ultimately clear that fans of the iconic director will find much more to embrace here than detractors.
Food Inc. takes an all-encompassing look at America's corporate-controlled food industry, as director Robert Kenner documents everything from the crops being cultivated on the ground to the consumers affected by the increasingly processed products to the multinational conglomerates who seem to control the marketplace. The film's inherently ambitious sensibilities initially serve it well, with the emphasis on differing yet compelling elements certainly proving effective at capturing the viewer's interest right from the get-go. Kenner has peppered the proceedings with a number of eye-opening tidbits that are as intriguing as they are frightening (ie because most consumers prefer white meat to dark meat, scientists have essentially redesigned the chicken to have larger breasts), and it's also worth noting that the filmmaker rarely pulls punches in terms of exposing the food industry's shameful underbelly (which, admittedly, does ensure that the movie is awfully tough to watch at times, as Kenner takes his camera into such disturbing locales as a seedy poultry farm and a massive slaughterhouse). There reaches a point, however, at which Kenner's almost exhaustingly comprehensive modus operandi results in a progressively uneven atmosphere, with the inclusion of several less-than-enthralling stretches (ie Kenner explores the impact that genetically-altered soybeans have had on the farming industry) ultimately wreaking havoc on Food Inc.'s momentum and ensuring that the film peters out long before it reaches its unexpectedly heavy-handed conclusion. It's nevertheless impossible not to find something of interest within the proceedings, as Kenner generally does a nice job of illustrating the problems within modern food production and the various alternatives that are out there.