Friday, December 15, 2006

Chain gang

Ann Hornaday's Washington Post article about "supply chain" movies describes a new and increasingly popular kind of horror movie. Films like "Fast Food Nation," "Blood Diamond," "Syriana," and "Black Gold" as well as documentaries like "Super Size Me" and "Darwin's Nightmare" show those of us lucky enough to be at the top of the consumer food chain what goes in to bringing us those burgers, engagement rings, gas station fill-ups, and four-dollar lattes. Think of them as one big Kathy Lee Gifford intervention. Let me put it this way. In "Fast Food Nation," a teenager spits into a burger just before it is served to an executive from the chain's corporate headquarters, and that's the least unappetizing thing that happens to it.

Hornaday points out that the success of these movies is not measured in box office but in consciousness-raising.

In a recent telephone interview, Zwick said his criterion for success is based on consciousness, not box office clout. "The 19-year-old kids in the multiplex who don't know [anything] about Africa, if they take away a certain number of iconic images or ideas about issues, that will be success for this movie," he said.
Politicians and corporations can be embarassed into change by movies even if they don't make the top 10 in box office returns. Hornaday notes that WalMart has made some changes following the documentary criticizing its practices. Today's Post reports that the State Department has had to respond to the issues raised by the film. Anyone who sees the movie won't think of bling the same way anymore. I predict that the visibility of "Blood Diamond" will encourage jewelers to include documentation of their compliance with the Kimberley principles that ensure the gems were legitimately mined and sold alongside the "this is what she wants" slogans in all those holiday ads.


Reel Fanatic said...

Hola Nell .. I like Ann Hornaday quite a bit as a reporter, but there's just no way I can believe that Mr. Zwick looked at his first-week fifth place finish and said, "Well, at least a few kids learned about Africa." It's all about the money, of course, though maybe a bit less for Linklater

Nell Minow said...

You're right RF -- that's why Leo and Jennifer are in the movie, as well as all of those chases and explosions. I heard the original script was just a chase and Zwick insisted on adding in the issues stuff -- put the pill in the applesauce and hope the audience doesn't get scared away by the idea of being preached at.