Thursday, 21 July 2011

Freakonomics Review

Steph's pick for Movie Night at Karl's was the first documentary that we have had.  So it was interesting to see everyone's reactions.  While I don't hate documentaries, I must say that I am not a huge fan normally.  I prefer to get my non-fiction stories from places like Discovery or the National Geographic Channel.  But, a feature length documentary can be good as long as it sticks to facts and doesn't speculate on things like the motives of its subject (ie. Michael Moore's Fahrenheit 9/11 did way too much speculating on motives in order to attack the Right Wing that it lost all credibility with me).  They also need to stay within the realm of reality in order to portray the truth on a subject.  I hate to break it to you, Morgan Spurlock, but eating only McDonald's for 30 days does not prove that it is a dangerous and evil organization and that they need to make sweeping changes.  All it proves is that excess is dangerous.  F-9/11 and Super Size Me were perhaps the two biggest and best received documentaries in the past decade so I'm a bit skeptical when it comes to watching one (An Inconvenient Truth should probably get a mention too for being a big one) (I should also mention that I haven't actually seen Super Size me but I do know that is the premise of it and it only takes a little common sense to see it as ridiculous - I may watch it if the mood strikes me sometime.  If I do, I will review it and admit if I'm wrong).

Given those parameters, I would say that Freakonomics is a very well done documentary.  It uses statistics to study situations with questionable causes and find the truth as to those causes.  On the surface, this sounds like an unbelievably dry topic.  However, the film makers they chose to tell the stories did so in a very entertaining way.  I must give Mr. Spurlock some credit here as his segment on people's names possibly determining their success in life was very entertaining and stuck to facts without speculation or some kooky experiment.  The only one I found a bit dry and out of place was the sumo wrestling segment.  It relied less on statistics to prove any causality and was more of a conspiracy theory story.  The final two big segments on the decrease in crime in the early 90s and whether or not ninth graders respond to monetary rewards to get better grades were also quite entertaining and informative.  If you watch it in a group, you may also find yourself in some good-hearted debate after the movie which I'm pretty sure should happen after a good documentary.

As for the technical aspects of the film, I cannot really comment too much on cinematography, plot and acting because it is a documentary and, therefore, is judged by different rules.  But I will say that I came away glad to have watched it.  I also felt a bit smarter and entertained at the same time.  So, from my perspective, it is a good movie.

Even if you aren't a fan of documentaries, I'd say see it.  It takes dry topics and makes them entertaining.  There were 8 people watching tonight and I think we all laughed out loud at some spots so that's a good sign.  Finally, it isn't too long so you don't lose interest.

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