Death Race 37, Sarah 19; 1 of 24 categories completed
GasLand, a doc about the dangers posed to the national water supply by hydro-fracturing ("fracking"), gets off to a precious, over-edited start, and Josh Fox's grating monotone VO seems either amateurish or too studied. Eventually, it becomes clear that that monotone is almost a defense mechanism; otherwise, Fox (and likely the viewer) would get fed up with corporate malfeasance and outright evil, and start shrieking incoherently. That same flat delivery is what puts over the wittier first-person observations, as when Fox shows footage of an unattended, seeping sludge pit, marked incongruously with the colored flags usually found at a car dealership, and says he doesn't know what the flags do — perhaps it's the pit's grand opening.
Fox gets insightful, likeable people to interview, and is super-skilled at putting them in three dimensions in just a few minutes — like the first guy who lights his water on fire for the audience (and isn't that adjective depressing). He's sporting a luxuriant mustache and a cheery attitude: yeah, it sucks that his tap water is flammable, but that being the case, it's kind of cool that he can light it up and freak people out. It's clear that the natural-gas industry doesn't give a shit what it's doing to the environment or the locals, and that they continue not to give a shit because they figure said locals don't have enough power to interfere with their business. But these particular locals don't seem like they'll back down. It's encouraging, which is nice, given that you've just seen more footage than you wanted to of livestock with their fur falling out.
The movie gets you on its side fairly quickly; you want to meet more of what Fox calls his "new friends," and see how they're doing. You especially want to send a little card to Rep. DeGette for her polite but ruthless interrogation of one of the natural-gas company reps in a Congressional hearing, which makes him look like a liar and a pussy, and is intercut with shots of Fox next to his camera, chewing gum and occasionally spiking a brow all "…right?"
HBO subscribers can watch it any old time; it's on HBO's On Demand channel. Fox's physical resemblance to Elijah Wood in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind starts out unsettling, but then is kind of fun, and with subject matter this bleak, you have to take your amusements where you can. "Enjoy."
Tags: Diana DeGette says "Face!" documentaries Elijah Wood GasLand Josh Fox movies Oscars 2011 Death Race politix shut up Halliburton The Dark Lord Cheney