Variety Reviews Olson’s Sizzle

Sizzle: A Global Warming Comedy was reviewed by Variety. This is not going to be pretty.

… at least not here on Science Blogs, which was the epicenter for a Lord of the Flies like gang bang of Olson’s film by approximately half of the known reviewers from the science blogosphere. Variety liked it. In fact, they are quite positive about it.

Although I agree with much of what Variety claims, I am not totally in line with the review. For instance: Referring to the Mitch-Denialist alliance:

This is where “Sizzle” shifts into a direction that perhaps Olson didn’t intend or foresee: The skeptics actually begin to win the day, at least onscreen, and Julia Bovey, spokeswoman for the environmentalist Natural Resources Defense Council, comes off as far less convincing than Olson may have hoped.

I don’t think that this is true at all. This is like the scene near the end of Hancock where (SPOILER WARNING) the two main characters are dead. The nadir. The low point. The part where you don’t see a way out. Then they somehow get out of that fix anyway (being dead, being alined with libertarians, whatever).

Also from the review:

The film emerges, more skillfully than “Flock of Dodos,” as an exceedingly clever vehicle for making science engaging to a general audience, and also presents climate-change science in a more complex light than the overtly partisan “An Inconvenient Truth.” Olson admirably exposes himself to the counters of a potent voice like Michaels, who looks as though he could make a helluva good doc himself.

The comic undercurrent through it all is the Mitch-Brian tandem on one end, desperately searching Los Angeles for a celeb participant, and the Marion-Antwone team on the other, yielding a surprising twist with the aid of Olson’s spunky n’ funky real-life mom (memorably named Muffy Moose Olson). Finale in New Orleans is the pic’s only miscalculation: It shuts off the comedy and fails to make any scientific link between warming and hurricanes such as Katrina.

Again, I agree with most of this, but I don’t think New Orleans is a miscalculation at all. The reviewers, having not fully understood the meaning of Julia Bovey and the Mitch-Cato Institute alliance would also mis New Orleans, quite likely.

By the way, many reviewers have noted the hurricane-global warming link or non-link from this film. I want to say a word about that:

The linkage between global warming and increasing hurricane intensity or frequency, and the increased likelihood of hurricanes or tropical storms leaving the tropics, is theoretically very likely, but empirically harder to prove than idea because of the large variation that happens in hurricane activity and a lack of high quality historical data.

Olson both said that there is a likely link and that it was not proven. True. It is too bad that he could not have done more but he did all he could manage.

The Variety Review is here.


  1. #1 Christophe Thill
    July 29, 2008

    “and also presents climate-change science in a more complex light than the overtly partisan “An Inconvenient Truth.” ”

    Ah, those partisan scientific movies… There was the same problem with Nova’s “Judgement Day”. It was really partisan. Why such a bias towards reliable science?

  2. #2 llewelly
    July 29, 2008

    First, note that the reviewers fail to notice Randy’s primary message, which is about how science communication. Instead they notice:

    Perhaps the most startling aspect for open-minded viewers is that rather than bringing the global-warming debate to a close, “Sizzle” reopens it, and only raises more questions.

  3. #3 OmegaMom
    July 29, 2008

    Variety mentioned FOUR TIMES that it raised doubts on global warming. (Once was inference, where the reviewer said that maybe *Michaels* should do a documentary.) So what was the raison d’etre of the movie? Was it to present global warming as a clear and present danger to the general public in a way that didn’t overwhelm them with science-y talk? Or was it to present “inability to communicate with the general public” as a clear and present danger to the science community, with global warming skeptics “winning” in the public eye?

    I haven’t seen the movie, I actually want to when it comes out on DVD, but I think that the Variety review is actually a big minus for Randy. Yeah, Variety *liked* the movie, yeehaw. It’s good entertainment, they say. But the reviewer came away with the POV that the AGCG skeptics won the day. So what was the purpose of the movie?