Best Documentary: Gasland
Will it win? Eh, I hope Waste Land wins.
Should it have been nominated? Nah.
Gasland is not a well made documentary. There are no people in it, only evidence. Exhibit Andy, Exhibit Beth you might say. It is 107 minutes long and could have been told in 60. It plays like an op-ed piece, with facts at the forefront and personal quips sprinkled in. Josh Fox, our filmmaker and deadpan narrator, is the closest thing to a human in the film, and he is really only the sum of his quips.
It does have two huge things going for it, though. If I could put it in a subgenre, I would call it a "Fuck You" Documentary. This is because, at every fact the film states, I feel like raising both my middle fingers at the screen and shouting at it. The movie is a parade of corrupt politicians (the term gets nowhere near describing my total lack of respect for Dick Cheney), castrated environmental agencies, hypocritical corporations, congressional loopholes and, most importantly, the sick, dying, diseased, permanently brain damaged citizens that get bought out, ignored or killed by all of that ignorance and corruption. For this alone it is worth watching.
The second is the Mizoguchi-esque image at its center: an innocent man bent over his once-normal sink lighting his tap water on fire. The chemicals and gasses pumped into his well are so concentrated that he can light his fucking tap water on fire with a bic lighter. The movie would be nothing without this image, and Fox obviously knows it. The first time it happens it is absolutely bonkers. I'm yelling at the screen, gasping. Then it happens again and again with different families. And again and again. Which, yes, is important to see and important to think about, but much like the short docs the structure of Gasland slacks off in a lot of aspects, so everything drags and drags. And drags and drags. It's kind of a crime in my mind to not do full justice to ideas and images like this. It's like if the family in "Ugetsu" fled their home, loaded their boat into the river, floated through the fog, ceramic bowls piled high ... then fled a new house, ceramics piled. Then a fled. A boat piled high. Fled in the fog. Fog.