17 January 2010

Food Inc./Zombieland

I've been a bit under the weather since returning home, all achy bones and respiratory infection. So I stayed in last night, spending my Saturday night watching a double feature: Food Inc. and Zombieland. The movies couldn't be more different (though I guess they share a common theme of eating mammals). And after watching the two movies back to back, I can understand exactly why people eat the way they do: mindless pleasure and instant gratification is much more enjoyable than measured restraint and rectitude.

Firstly, Food Inc. This documentary explains the inherent issues in mass producing food, especially within a government system full of cronyism and regulations that were established to protect individuals, but manipulated to serve big businesses, who are constantly handjobbing most departments of the US government that are involved in regulating the food industry.

Fortunately the movie isn't so sermonizing that it isolates viewers; unfortunately it also doesn't offer any solutions. The movie uses imagery and basic information that generally speaks for itself. Conditions in feed lots and slaughterhouses are squalid. We know this. Food is processed to be unnaturally preserved. We know this. Nutrition values in most foods are waning due to their manipulated DNA. We know this. Fast food, modified food, processed food- it's all cheaper than eating organic food. We know this.

The general "green" movement has gained a lot of attention since the 90's. While some of it is so extreme as to be marginalizing, the majority of it is a welcome attitude where people have historically been driven by price incentives. But unfortunately, price is always going to be the main incentive for most people, and so the issue here is not awareness; it's the other green movement- dollar bills. While the movie discusses this, it definitely offers little in the way of solutions. Buy organic! Shop at farmers' markets! Read labels! That's all well and good, but until enough people do this to drive economies of scale in favor of more healthy eating, the majority will be eating Rodeo Burgers and Bacon Splattered Chicken Chips.

The movie has good intentions, and while its solutions are not the most inventive, it's still worth watching. Some segments are startling (if you eat beef, it's pretty damn likely that you're ingesting ammonia). It's also enough to make one livid with the US government and major food producers. Unfortunately it just doesn't empower enough to make much of a difference.

As for Zombieland. It is, as I said, mindless entertainment. But where other 2009 big budget action comedies (The Hangover, namely) are completely contrived and asinine, Zombieland's humor is enough to pull it through. While it's somewhat predictable, it's still just generally fun to watch. I like Woody Harrelson and I like Jesse Eisenberg. I like zombie movies and I like funny. Where could I go wrong?

I will say, however, that Shaun of the Dead, of which this movie is obviously derived from, is a much better film. The humor is just simply fresher. But it's been a number of years since that came out, and in Zombieland's case, the big budget, constant action, and production values help to make up for its contrivance.

There is effectively no point to this movie. It's eye candy, through and through. But who cares? After the hard-hitting and frustrating message in Food, Inc., this was exactly the type of comic relief necessary to balance my viewing and make my little double-feature a very enjoyable evening.