debbie millman

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Commentary: An Inconvenient Piece of Spinach

Al Gore's movie, "An Inconvenient Truth" continued to do well at the box office in its second weekend; it went into wider release and broke into the top 10 with $1.33 million, though playing in only 77 theaters nationwide. Released by Paramount Classics, the film averaged an impressive $17,292 a theater, compared to $12,410 in 3,070 cinemas for "The Break-Up," which (ironically and pitifully) was the Number One movie of the weekend.

However good "An Inconvenient Truth" is doing at the box office, and however impressive the reviews, I have to say this: I hated the movie.

These are my reasons why:

1) Though this may sound incredibly superficial, Al Gore has a piece of food stuck in his teeth throughout the entire "presentation" part of the movie, which (by my estimation) is over half the film. I sat in the third row of the theater and got way too close to his face to begin with, so you can only imagine my chagrin at having to view what I believe is a piece of spinach lodged in the corner of his lower bicuspid. I googled "Al Gore" + "food stuck in teeth/tooth" and came up with nothing. I can't believe that no one has noticed and/or written about this yet. It is appalling. If movie art directors and special effects folk can make actors look skinnier and taller than they are or create characters like Yoda, then they can get a piece of green gunk out of the former Vice President's mouth before they release a movie nationally.

2) While much has been written about Mr. Gore's stellar use of Powerpoint, I think we need to look at where these kudos are coming from. CNN is not, at least to my knowledge, the arbiter of good design taste. Before everyone starts ooh-ing and ahh-ing over Gore's use of bullets and laser pointers, I suggest they read what Edward Tufte thinks of tons of type on multi-colored slides. Go to Please.

3) Okay, so I am not suggesting here that WHAT Al Gore is saying isn't logical and truthful. It is. But it is certainly not the first time anyone has said it, and certainly not the first time it has been the focus of a nationally released film. Hasn't anyone seen The Day After Tomorrow? Same message, better special effects. I don't mean to be flippant here, but what is the new message? That Republican politicians don't believe the numerous scientific reports and overwhelming planetary evidence? Are we supposed to be surprised at this? This is the same administration that believed that they could get Bin Laden and thought that Katrina would blow out to sea.

4) So, the movie concludes with about a 60 second directive on "what we can do to help save the planet." This includes the following:
--try to get a hybrid car
--turn off your lights and get more efficient light bulbs
--go to his website
--write your local/national politicians
and the most self-indulgent directive:
--tell everyone you know to see the movie.

Now. I did not need to see the movie in order to understand what is happening to our planet. I was hoping to learn more about what can be done and who is coming up with new and innovative solutions to our global problems. I was hoping to learn how I could get more involved, to which I didn't anticipate hearing feeble recommendations about light bulbs and websites. I did not go to this movie to listen to Al Gore make a Powerpoint presentation with a conclusion reminiscent of "oh, it was a dream and Bobby is still really alive." There is no doubt in my mind that human beings are destroying the planet. There is no doubt in my mind that we must change our way of living in the world if we want to preserve it for future generations. But there is no doubt in my mind that this film is politicking at its worst: it does a great job of placing the blame and a dire job of suggesting realistic, innovative, non-cliched solutions.

In fact, what I expect is this: "An Inconvenient Truth" is a well-timed movie release to get Gore back in the public eye. Does it have to do with the upcoming Presidential race? Hmmm. It is clear he has had quite a lot of speech coaching, and his clothes are better. Too bad he isn't saying anything new or offering any new suggestions, and too bad no one checked his teeth as he was getting ready for his redux close-up.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

hello, the food stuck in the tooth got to me also. My husband says I am petty...and maybe it was put there on purpose. O well... I also remember the dirty fingernails of Truman Capote. But, I did like Al's beach front property for me.

6/29/2006 09:54:00 AM  
Blogger two_dudes said...

Before I get going on the piece of food thing, I want to say that I did enjoy the movie and I do think it needed to have his presentation in it.

Regrettably, I know we are hurting the planet, but admmittedly I have been in the apathetic majority that has been confused by the campaign to confuse the truth.

This movie helped me understand the importance of the subject. And I believe there are much more "sheep" out here like I guess I was, than people such as yourself who seemed to know everything going into the movie.

I do agree with you that I would like there to be more in the movie about what we can do.

This was lacking a bit...

But, if there is anything that can be done, it will be initially started by go-getters who will make the effort to find out those ways and then find ways to transfer that information to the ship, perhaps with another movie.

I think this movie can serve to motivate the self-motivated (who are the ones that always start any movement), and it didn't necessarily need to baby-step every sheep in america with a plan they could enact tomorrow.

Now about the food in his teeth. I saw it too. I also thought the same as you about special effects should have taken it away. I think there was 3 times I counted where I saw it.

However, I was trying to figure out perhaps "why" it was not removed? Obviously it could be seen by anyone putting the film together.

I came up with 2 possible reasons:

First, perhaps it was the same thing as what happens at a typical lunch. Although I always try very hard to mention to people when they have something on their face or in their teeth (because I want them to do the same for me, and I
believe we are all human and most of the time to stuck up to remember this fact), it is still hard to do.

Maybe everyone working on the film was too embarrassed to bring it up to Al, or get caught working on it when he walked in the room. Perhaps nobody wanted to ask him, "Is it okay if we use special effects to remove the food from your teeth?" And maybe they felt they would have to ask because he might be mad for doing something "fake" on him like he's special or something if he found out later.

Or perhaps, that's exactly it. Al might have decided that it was better not to be fake and show that he is human and can make errors just like the rest of us do everyday at lunch, and that it might look worse if it got out later that he had had special effects dental work.

As far as the presidency goes, if he really is who he says he is, and he really cares about this issue, and having him as president would help fix this obviously impending problem, and he is putting the movie out now with the hopes that our seeing it will help put people in the government that will care, even if that includes him, then I'm fine with that.

What's the worse that can happen? We put the one somebody that has the most public voice saying he actually cares about this issue and wants to do something about in the white house. He gets there, and does nothing and we see he's a lier. How is that any worse than what we always have gotten and will most probably get next time in a president?

At least with Al we would be getting what I saw as the most sincere politician on a real issue that matters that I have seen in a long time.

Now don't get me wrong, I am only saying this in the light of our "scare-voting" election system. Since I know I have to continue to vote against the greater evil by voting for the other candidate given the election system, I feel it is a trap against voting for an independent like many others.

What would be great is if Al Gore ran for president and him and all the other Congress we voted in were also running on a campaign promise to change the constitution to allow instant run-off voting in major elections. For more information on instant run-off voting, I think Nader has some information on his web-site.

But for all you people who at least want to know what it is and don't know:

Instant run-off voting is instead of voting FOR somebody you vote for SEVERAL somebodys putting them in the order you prefer.


On my election ballot I put:
1) Ralph Nader
2) Al Gore
3) Daffy Duck
4) The Antichrist
5) George dubya

Well in this case no one would have to be afraid that they had to vote for the democrat because they hated the republican or vice versa. If the majority of america put the independent candidate first, he would win, if not, the they would go to the number 2 slot, and so on, till they had the largest percentage of votes cast.

You would really be able to put anybody on the ballot like daffy or damien. I just did that for fun and to place "W" in his rightful place on the ballot. There would still be some amount of petitioning or whatever to make you be a possible choice on the ballot.

take care,

7/02/2006 01:52:00 PM  
Anonymous MN said...

I would hate to think what you would have to say about Abraham Lincoln if he was on TV :)
He was not in any way considered attractive, yet a great leader in our history. I personally think he was a fine looking man. Character is what gets me always.
Personally, i think maybe you could just write a letter to the film editors. But maybe, you are too passionate about the issue presented that you want it to be portrayed perfectly. I get that.

I thoroughly enjoyed Gore's movie, even applauded with others at the end.

I didn't want to see the movie at first because as much as I like documentaries, I wanted something cheerful. I am glad I did. It was well done.

It does make you wonder. Too often the press just throws out the term "global warming", but to actually see it talked about in depth, with pictures to back it up, was quite interesting. There needs to be a follow-up film that focuses on the solutions, what countries are doing what and what we can do realistically.
And I want to see pictures of all those oil company CEOs on that screen as well. I know there are people getting rich and couldn't care less how. I want to know. I am glad he is doing something about it. I think he came off as quite sincere. Whether he is trying to be public again...hey why not. Let's see what he hs to offer.
Thanks, take care, MN.

7/02/2006 03:50:00 PM  

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Location: new york city, United States

Debbie Millman has worked in the design business for over 25 years. She is President of the design division at Sterling Brands. She has been there for nearly 15 years and in that time she has worked on the redesign of global brands for Pepsi, Procter & Gamble, Campbell’s, Colgate, Nestle and Hasbro. Prior to Sterling, she was a Senior Vice President at Interbrand and a Marketing Director at Frankfurt Balkind. Debbie is President of the AIGA, the largest professional association for design. She is a contributing editor at Print Magazine, a design writer at and Brand New and Chair of the Masters in Branding Program at the School of Visual Arts in New York City. In 2005, she began hosting the first weekly radio talk show about design on the Internet. The show is titled “Design Matters with Debbie Millman” and it is now featured on In addition to “Look Both Ways: Illustrated Essays on the Intersection of Life and Design,” (HOW Books, 2009, she is the author of "How To Think Like A Great Graphic Designer" (Allworth Press, 2007) and “The Essential Principles of Graphic Design” (Rotovision, 2008).

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