Greedy Lying Bastards
Posted by unpaidfilmcritic
I am torn about my reaction to the documentary “Greedy Lying Bastards.” On the one hand I know that its heart is in the right place. As a concerned citizen, yes, I was with GLB. On the other hand, as a film critic, I have to say that it was not the documentary it could have been. GLB needed more in the way of production value and, frankly, for lack of a better term, “umph,” to really get it up to the level of a good “look at what these horrible people are doing” documentary. Some documentaries that I put into this category include “The Art of the Steal” (2009), “a/k/a Tommy Chong” (2006), “The Tillman Story” (2010) and some of Michael Moore’s films.
The subject of GLB is global warming. The film deals with the politics and media manipulation of those who want the populace to think that there is no evidence of global warming and that it is all a hoax. The villains are petroleum interests. The film details how these companies fund fake grass roots organizations (cleverly nicknamed “Astro Turf” organizations) along with what are referred to as “denial scientists” to dispute that global warming even exists. The point is made that doubt is easier to sell than real scientists with facts.
GLB features many, many interviews and statistics. Interview subjects include families in Colorado whose homes have burned to the ground due to extreme draught conditions, plus suffering farmers and scientists who say that global warming is real and going on right now. We are hit with a plethora of personalities, names and statistics – too many to keep straight. The film also repeats many of its ideas over and over. We see footage of the global warming deniers who, according to the film, have been given unprecedented media access and have proven to be more effective than fact bearing scientists.
GLB director Craig Scott Rosebraugh puts himself into the proceedings but proves not to be a charismatic enough narrator and guide to make us really root for him, or identify with his quest. Some documentary filmmakers are very good at this. For example Michael Moore’s first film “Roger & Me” (1989) was about Moore’s hometown of Flint Michigan being decimated by the closing of the General Motors plant. It was personal story that spoke to a larger problem, which, along with Moore’s humor, is what hooked viewers. In sociological terms it began on a micro (personal) level but went to a macro (larger, wider point of view) level.
An important technique for a filmmaker who puts himself or herself into their documentaries is that there must be something personal and compelling at stake. A very good example is documentarian Amir Bar-Lev’s film “My Kid Could Paint That” (2007), in which Bar-Lev wrestles with the dilemna of how he will ultimately portray his subject, Marla Olmstead. Of course, there is Stuyvesant Town’s own Doug Block whose personal documentaries “51 Birch Street” (2005) and “The Kids Grow Up” (2009) revolve around Doug’s narration and investigations of events in his life. The result is that in telling his stories Doug tells all of our stories.
In the case of GLB I mean, yes global warming is an important issue that effects everyone, but still, if Rosebraugh wants to be a participant in his film he has to provide a more compelling reason to be there or just leave himself out of the story. Even after having seen the film I do not know who Rosebraugh is, outside of a concerned citizen who happens to be a filmmaker.
So, while I supported the ideas and sprit of GLB, its presentation left much to be desired. GLB is playing locally at Angelika Film Center, 18 West Houston Street.
Greedy Lying Bastards, Director Craig Scott Rosebraugh, 2013, One Earth Productions, 90 minutes, rated PG-13
About unpaidfilmcriticUp until 2009 Seth Shire spent nearly two decades in the New York film industry as a post production supervisor of feature films. Highlights include working on the films of Martin Scorsese, James Toback and Spike Lee. Since leaving the film industry Seth has expanded into new and varied areas where he has found a great deal of satisfaction. Seth currently teaches in the Sociology Department of CUNY Queens College. His courses include "Mass Media and Popular Culture," "Introduction to Sociology," and "Sociology of Cinema" where he is a very popular teacher. Seth is also the film critic for "Town & Village," a Manhattan weekly newspaper, a position he has held for the past six years. Seth gives back to his community through volunteer teaching at Manhattan's "The Caring Community," a center for senior citizens, where he teaches a very popular course on documentaries called "The Golden Age of the Documentary. In the fall of 2010 Seth taught "Critical Reading and Writing" at Parsons School of Design. He has also taught "Cinema Studies" at the New York Film Academy. Seth lives in Stuyvesant Town, in Manhattan.
Posted on March 12, 2013, in Documentary, New and tagged 51 Birch Street, a/k/a Tommy Chong, Amir Bar-Lev, Angelika Film Center, Craig Scott Rosebraugh, Doug Block, Flint Michigan, Greedy Lying Bastards, Michael Moore, My Kid Could Paint That, Roger & Me, The Art of the Steal, The Kids Grow Up, The Tillman Story. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.