Sizzle: A Global Warming Comedy

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The new film, Sizzle: A Global Warming Comedy by Randy Olson that will be released in a few days, explores a topic that concerns me greatly, so when asked if I would review it, I was pleased to do so. Sizzle is advertized as a combination of a documentary, mockumentary and reality about global warming, and therein lies its problem : it has no idea what it is supposed to be, and as a result, the audience (me, in this case), doesn't either.

I wanted to like this film, really, I did. But this didn't happen. Even though Sizzle is supposed to clear up some of the confusion surrounding global warming, the film spent 90 minutes stumbling and meandering through interviews with ten top environmental scientists and skeptics about global warming, never coming to any firm conclusions except that global warming is real. But the scientists and the global warming skeptics came across as parodies of the real thing -- especially the Natural Resources Defence Council spokesperson, who was so astonishingly unprepared, poorly spoken and just plain stupid that I still wonder if she was really an actor who simply forgot her lines.

Throughout the film, the interviews were interrupted by one of the fake cameramen (or was he a real cameraman?), Marion, who played the role of the skeptical common man, challenging anyone who dared to state that global warming is real. Yet Marion clearly had an agenda (apathy), so he chose never to question those scientists and corporate puppets who agreed with him, and he happily allowed his complacency to be purchased with booze and cheap cigars.

Worse, no clear connections were ever clearly drawn in the film between climate change and anything else, from the fate of polar bears to Hurricane Katrina, so the viewer is left to imagine what this data might be, or if it even exists. Disappointingly, even Olson -- who should know better -- doesn't question the "woo" asserted by corporate shills and woomeisters that global warming is caused by a variety of phenomena ranging from the sun to space aliens. So the viewer is left more confused than before.

Instead of relying on data, the film ends up making its points based on pure emotionalism. Marion, the skeptical cameraman, who apparently exemplifies the average American, makes up his mind based solely on his emotional responses to the people he is talking with -- if he likes someone, he unquestioningly believes what that person says.

I find that insulting.

Speaking of insulting, I was astonished and distracted by the film's heavy reliance on stereotypes of gays and black brothas. This was not only not amusing but added nothing to the film's message, and I think it will serve to either offend or alienate a large proportion of the intended audience while distracting everyone else. Or maybe gays and bothas aren't part of the intended audience?

I also found the appearance of Muffy Moose, Olson's 83-year-old mother, to be annoying. I know she served as a plot device to signal that a dramatic change was coming in the narrative, but her appearance was redundant since scientist Naomi Oreskes' comments better served that purpose because she simultaneously provided the audience with a desperately needed point of clarity among all the confusion. Basically, Oreskes advizes Olson to show the viewer "the human face of global warming" by going to New Orleans to interview the people who survived Hurricane Katrina. So Olson, who apparently doesn't outline a film before shooting it, cheerfully does this.

And that was the introduction to the eight minute gem embedded in the midst of ninety minutes of pointless mayhem. The survivors of Hurricane Katrina were articulate and thoughtful and they effectively provided an authentic voice to countless millions of silent victims of droughts and fires and floods and storms throughout the world. Their eloquence resonated and left me wanting to hear more about their story -- why didn't Olson make that documentary?

As the film writhes through its death throes on the screen, the viewer is frustrated with the overall waste of time and resources that it represents, the lack of both the promised mockumentary and documentary, wondering what the scientific truth of global warming really is, and ends up sitting in the darkness to contemplate all the traveling and exposed film and other wasted resources involved in the making of this movie and how those contributed to hastening global warming.

Sadly, I found this film to be a waste of time and popcorn, and I suspect that you will, too. I do wish that Randy had included instructions for safely recycling the DVD, though.

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Randy Olson's newest film, Sizzle, bears the subtitle, "a global warming comedy". To my mind, it delivered neither the laughs nor the engagement with the issue of global warming that it promised. Maybe this is just a sign that I fall outside the bounds of Olson's intended audience, but perhaps…
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global warming is hoax!!!!

Sheesh...sounds more like Expelled! than Flock of Dodos. What's happened to Olson??

You wrote: ...especially the Natural Resources Defense Council spokesperson, who was so astonishingly unprepared, poorly spoken and just plain stupid that I still wonder if she was really an actor who simply forgot her lines.

It's troubling to think that NRDC would send such a poor spokesperson to be interviewed for a movie, but at least Olson interviewed some scientists. In the first season of Penn & Teller's cable TV series Bulls**t!, the magic/comedy duo "debunked" the "hysteria" over global warming, extinction, and other environmental crises by interviewing political scientist Jerry Taylor, Senior Fellow at the conservative, industry-supported Cato Institute (where P&T happen to be research fellows), Greenpeace co-founder turned industry hack Patrick Moore, and statistician, author, and self-described "skeptical environmentalist" Bjorn Lomborg. Representing the pro-environment side? Clueless college students, average joes, and intern-quality organization spokespeople - not one scientist from any discipline. The goal may have been to discredit the environmental movement, but all they really did was demonstrate was that naive people sometimes support good causes for flawed reasons. I almost needed a barf bag for Penn's sanctimonious little sermon about critical thinking at the end of the episode (with mute Teller nodding gravely at his side, of course). has a point-by-point analysis of the episode.