Sarah 29, Death Race 27 (YEAH THAT'S RIGHT); 13 of 24 categories completed
WASTE LAND (B): Acknowledges patronizing effect of making art out of poor people but maybe calling yourself out for that isn't enough BUT…despite thinking garbage art is SO over, I gave in once I saw the art being created and the emotional weight it carries with the subjects[.] In summary, Rio is a WASTE LAND of contrasts. (Probably sits 4th out of the 4 Best Doc nominees I've seen, but it's a crazy strong field.)
What I like best about Waste Land is the contrasts within the subjects, the recyclable-materials pickers of the largest landfill in Brazil (and possibly the world). Bunking in favelas, trying to see the positives in spending all day hip-deep in trash juice ("at least I'm not a hooker" is a note sounded frequently), they also have an edge to them; they snark. It defies the condescending "behold the dignity of the terribly poor" tone the movie tends to track back towards.
I also liked watching the art being built. I agree with Joe that found-objects art per se is a little sophomore-workshop, but the idea that, by asking the subjects to work on the construction of the portraits, the work then contains everyone who touched it — that's very cool, and it's clearly an experience of importance and power for the subjects. Vik Muniz is a bright guy who no doubt meant well — and did well — by the pickers, and it's not Vik who patronizes them; the way he went about marrying art and community is admirable. The movie makes it feel somewhat pat, though, and I think showing us more of the physical, logistical process of putting together not just the portraits but the project as a whole might have de-saccharined the tone.
It's a reasonably entertaining hour and a half that introduces you to some cool people, but it's not going to punch its weight with the others in the category.
Tags: Joe R movies Oscars 2011 Death Race simmer down freshman Vik Muniz Waste Land