Archive for the ‘Films’ Category

Film: Ponyo on the Cliff by the Sea

May 4, 2009

Ponyo on the Cliff by the Sea It’s not often that I get to sit down and watch an entire children’s film, as what little time I do have for cinematic indulgences is usually devoted to catching up on the latest ground breaking documentaries or anything starring James Franco. However, I recently had the pleasure of seeing Ponyo on the Cliff by the Sea, the newest animated feature film by Hayao Miyazaki, who is unarguably the greatest animator in the history of cinema. Dunny and I are both old and loyal Miyazaki fans, as Totoro, our little blog mascot, will attest to.

Like Miyazaki’s classic My Neighbor Totoro, Ponyo deals with the themes of love and friendship, and humanity’s enduring relationship with the natural world, seen with the simplistic clarity of a five-year-old’s eyes. However, this simplicity does not make the film any less profound. There is a particularly timeless quality to this film – something that is not only universally appealing across all generational and cultural barriers, but has the remarkable ability to pull out your inner child and drop it right back into the best summer of your life.

Ponyo on the Cliff by the Sea tells the story of a little red goldfish princess named Ponyo and a five-year-old boy named Sosuke who befriends her, and Ponyo’s yearning to become a human herself. The plot is loosely similar to that of the classic Andersen fairy tale, The Little Mermaid, but the love that Ponyo and Sosuke have for each other is the pure, unconditional love of a young child for his first best friend. Ponyo is happily swimming amongst a multitude of marine creatures when she is caught in an industrial fishing net scooping menacingly and indiscriminately at garbage and fragile animal lives alike, and is nearly crushed. The immediate bond she and the human boy Sosuke form after rescues Ponyo from a glass jar and cares for her is an utter delight. As you watch the two youngsters frolic, play, and eat ramen together, the film immerses you completely in a euphoric, childlike joy that washes continually over you like the beautiful watercolor scenes on screen.

In a cynical adult world where “naïve” and “idealistic” are practically bad words, this is a film that reminds us of a time, not too long ago, when it was ok to just have fun and feel good. It teaches us that it is human necessity to be nurtured and to be loved, but also how important it is that we in turn must nurture and love the world around us. The trailer (with English subtitles) can be seen here.

Film: The Future of Food

April 29, 2009

futureoffoodOver the last few years, I’ve become increasingly concerned with eating healthier and more sustainably, because in today’s world, it’s hard not to get the message that there is a lot of crap out there infiltrating our food supply and causing us to get older and sicker, faster. I recently watched a documentary called The Future of Food that’s actually available to watch online, and I would highly recommend it to anyone who’s interested in ever eating again. It’s basically an exposé on the world of genetically engineered foods that have now dominated our grocery stores and dinner tables. It really raises a lot of important questions as to the negative impacts on public health, the market and the environment as consumers unknowingly shift towards a dangerous dependence on the multinational corporations that control the world’s food supply.

Originally, systemizing agriculture was supposed to improve food production and solve the problems of hunger at the end of the second World War. Over 97% of the vegetable species grown at the beginning of the 20th century are now extinct, and genetic uniformity that resulted led directly to increased vulnerability to insects and disease. This vulnerability, of course, resulted in an overdependence on pesticides that only increased as time has gone by, drastically driving up the cost of farming both economically and environmentally. Genetically modified foods were then developed to combat this cycle. In the mid 1990’s, pesticide corporations began buying up seed companies in a bid to patent as many genetically modified seeds as they could and ultimately discover (and therefore own) the seeds that will replace them all. One corporate giant in particular named Monsanto secretly tests crops on hundreds of farmers’ lands every year and successfully sues each farmer found growing even the smallest amount of GMO crops, even when it proven that the seeds were dispersed there accidently and the farmers made no profit from them. The farmer must then destroy their entire stock of seeds, thus giving companies like Monsanto free reign over agricultural diversity and allowing them to continue genetically modifying our food with viruses and bacteria and potentially creating dangerous genetic strains that could very well destroy our existing food crops.

The film also made the compelling point that by allowing corporations to patent and own plant species, we’ve opened the door to allowing them to eventually patent and own the animals and even the people who consume them. And these genetically modified seeds are in everything, from your corn flakes and potato chips to the meat of livestock fed on GMOs and even your shampoo. It was both eye-opening and shocking to learn that the vast majority our food is now monopolized by corporations whose focus remains entirely on making on a profit and are not at all concerned with the interests of health and humankind. What’s even better is that the FDA is largely run by Monsanto executives, and the future of our health is influenced entirely by politics and big business. We are now being literally poisoned by corporate greed.