American factory farming in Food, Inc.
by Robert Kenner
an hour before taking my 7th grader to see Food, Inc., he
asked if he could have some Dunkin Donuts Munchkins. Upon
leaving the theater, he noted that he didn’t think he wanted
to go to McDonald’s anymore.
Buttressed by devastating critiques from authors Michael Pollan
(The Omnivore’s Dilemma) and Eric Schlosser (Fast
Food Nation), Food, Inc. shows us the intricate
web that has been spun around our entire food system, beginning
with government subsidies and the emergence of corn as the
single most predominant starch in our food systems (and those
of the animals we eat). It’s an amazing history and socioeconomics
lesson, although I suspect that it’s preaching to the choir
and unlikely to initiate the massive changes in consumer behavior
needed to force big business and government to stop the madness.
Director Robert Kenner is careful to let the farmers, the
poor families, the workers and the advocates tell their stories,
and this is where the movie finds its heart. A mother and
daughter team lobby Congress for Kevin’s Law, which would
empower a single food-safety agency to oversee food processors.
The bill, caught up in the tug of war between moneyed corporations
and consumer-protection activists, is named for the toddler
who died after eating e coli-tainted hamburger, and
whom we witness frolicking on the beach shortly before his
demise. A seed cleaner is forced out of business, and others
are silenced into submission, by a monopolistic law giving
Monsanto unprecedented power to control the seeds farmers
use. Secret footage documents workers toiling away in dangerous
processing factories; such shots underline the relation between
how society treats human labor and the products we end up
serving to our families. Kenner interlaces the personal with
evidence of how, even in light of increasing instances of
food recalls and related illnesses, we seek to add more science—more
ammonia or bleach, if you will—to the system, rather than
make meaningful changes.
The film includes hopeful patches, such as a farmer in Virginia
who allows his cows to grass feed, and has developed a seemingly
profitable niche, with people traveling 50 miles to buy his
admittedly more expensive beef. The idea of hidden costs is
nicely handled (in a way that smarts) as a struggling Latino
family demonstrates how cheap it is to feed a family of four
at Burger King, as opposed to buying fresh vegetables. And
there are moments throughout when even those who think they’ve
gotten the message feel that twinge of guilt for having bought
tomatoes at, say, Wal-Mart. Then again, there are moments
that provoke more interesting debate, such as when the former
owner of Stonyfield Farms yogurt reasons that only by working
with Wal-Mart can society effect positive change toward better
food and eating choices.
I know the frustration inherent to this debate. That little
victory I referred to at the top? It was short-lived; about
15 minutes later, my son was on the phone to his father, who
was at the grocery store, instructing him to add chocolate
sauce to the shopping list.
step on them, they’re heroes: G-Force.
Guinea Pigs Are Not Amusing
by Hoyt Yeatman
Guinea pigs are a comical sight when they scamper, a visual
that’s photographed to humorous effect several times in G-Force,
the tale of a rodent task force genetically engineered for
espionage. In its mix of live action and CGI, the guinea pigs
and their mole technician (they also have bugs for reconnaissance)
become less winsome and more annoying as the film’s live sequences
give way to increasingly zany action scenarios.
The force’s mission is to prevent a corrupt billionaire (Bill
Nighy) from world domination by infiltrating his cappuccino-machine
company. For a first strike, a covert fly flies up his nose—a
sight gag probably best appreciated by very young audiences.
There’s an especially obnoxious interlude when the task force
comes under the scrutiny of the FBI, and the rodents are sent
to a south-of-the-border pet shop, where they make the acquaintance
of a deranged hamster. The action is frenetic, insistently
colorful, and is noticeably under the Jerry Bruckheimer imprint.
Because of the inane dialogue and unappealing voicing (including
Penelope Cruz and Nicolas Cage), the pigs lack personality,
except for leader Darwin (Sam Rockwell) and his exasperated
congeniality (particularly evident in a flirtation with a
female task member). That the film’s humor holds little interest
for parents, however, may be less of a concern than its emphasis
on technology and spazzy plotting.