GUNDA – movie review

GUNDA
Neon
Reviewed for Shockya.com & BigAppleReviews.net linked from Rotten Tomatoes by: Harvey Karten
Director: Victor Kossakovsky
Writer: Victor Kossakovsky, Ainara Vera
Screened at: Critics’ DVD, NYC, 11/28/20
Opens: December 11, 2020

Poster

Why is Joaquin Phoenix a producer of this movie? That’s a no-brainer. As a vegan (no meat, fish or dairy) he is one among a fair number of actors who allege to be against breeding and eating animals, including Alec Baldwin, Alicia Silverstone, Betty White, Casey Affleck, Ellen DeGeneris and many others. They are putting their mouths where their beliefs are, projecting their love of what most of us consider “product” or “objects” but which they presumably consider subjects with their own lives. Like we human animals, these four-legged and two-legged fellows and even a one-legged chicken in this movie also like to mate, to suckle their babies, to protect their families, and to do what they have been created to do. (Dogs sniff, roosters makes the sun rise, piggies cool off with mud baths.)

“Gunda” may not be an animal rights movie like “The End of Meat,” “From the Ground Up,” “Death on a Factory Farm” and “Food Choices” but makes its points in ways more subtle than what PETA’s Ingrid Newkirk considers effective. (Newkirk’s statement that “A rat is a pig, is a dog is a boy” may be insightful but is not likely to win converts.) Victor Kossakovsky, who co-wrote and directs, focuses regularly on documentaries like “Russia from My Window,” which shows things in St. Petersburg that usually go unnoticed. He does not speak atop a soapbox here, in fact no human speaks at all. “Gunda” is black-and-white, dialog free, and sumptuous.

The film was shot on farms in Britain, Spain and Norway. While three types of farm animals are on display, the pigs are the stars, the animals that hog the limelight, that ham it up to the extent that they can. As seen in high-contrast black-and-white throughout with not a single human in view, “Gunda” shows an enormous sow at the moment a litter of piglets emerges, a dozen or so, button-cute. They compete to drink mother’s milk, happy that she has a generous number of teats, and she in turn takes care of her brood. They follow her around like ducklings paddling after their mom. Sometimes she nuzzles them with her large snout. They all have the run of the farm, and yet often prefer to go indoors through an opening that could barely fit the mom, who has to bend in the middle to squeeze in. They are a lot better off and happier that they are not among the 90% of pigs that are factory farmed, unable to move a muscle as they lie in their crates.

They are an intelligent animal, more so than dogs, and in some cases make good pets who learn quickly and do not bite. Though the farm is the best place for pigs, every morning, noon and night here is like the previous morning, noon and night, month after month, year after year, which may be the origin of the term ground-hog day.

As for the cows and the one-legged rooster that take up the attention of the filming crew, they are, what’s the best word, “meh.” So…if you really really really want to know what it’s like to be pig or a farm animal in general, since you can’t actually be “pig for a day,” the next best thing is to watch the movie. I can’t think of any other film like it, which doesn’t mean it will get your pulse pounding or have you in stitches.

93 minutes. © 2020 by Harvey Karten, Member, New York Film Critics Online

Story – B
Acting – B+
Technical – B
Overall – B

 

THE GAME CHANGERS – movie review

THE GAME CHANGERS
OPS Films
Reviewed for Shockya.com & BigAppleReviews.net linked from Rotten Tomatoes by: Harvey Karten
Director: Louis Psihoyos
Screenwriter: Mark Monroe, Joseph Pace
Screened at: Critics’ link, NYC, 9/9/19
Opens: September 16, 2019

The Game Changers Movie Poster

 

With its sharp, rapid editing, colorful action photos, and testimonies of people in the sports field, “The Game Changers” comes across with a thesis that’s not only convincing and entertaining but perhaps the one movie this year that could change your life. Director Louis Psihoyos is known here for his stunning 2009 movie “The Cove,” which might have garnered some death threats by exposing Japanese who trap dolphins (“Who is this foreigner to tell us how to run our country?” replies one opponent). He now puts quite a positive spin on the value of changing to a plant-based diet. While subjects like Arnold Schwarzenegger rivet attention, urging vegans and vegetarians not to ask people to change over quickly from meat products to plant foods (try one meatless day a week, he suggests), other athletes who have made a full correction to abolishing meat, fish, eggs, and cheese seek to prove to us that they are stronger, have more endurance, and most important have stiffer erections than those of us in the majority who cannot imagine giving up the carnivorous pleasures.

“The Game Changers” is not one of those PETA-style broadsides showing naked models saying captions “I’d rather go naked than wear fur.” Nobody is hit over the head with how evil we are if we damage our own bodies while destroying the ecology through supporting the livestock industry. The folks who populate the movie keep the pressure low but imply “Just look at me and what I can do, and I do this not only while avoiding steak, eggs, cheese and milk but actually because I have sworn off these products.

Comments by rough, tough athletes are frequently segued to scientists like Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn who do not simply tell us about the dangers of meat but do so with videos and graphs, the most impressive being two pictures shown by Esselstyn’s son Rip, one of arteries clogged and looking as though serial killers have mutilated them beyond description and contrasting this with a picture arteries that are bright and clear.

We have been worshipping meat for nutrition as well as taste, proclaiming the virtues of a Big Mac or a Popeye Fried Chicken, but chickens, cows, lambs and pigs are only intermediaries who have consumed vegetation and who pass on to us the protein in those plants. The two most impressive subjects are sprinter Scott Jurek who set a new world record in running a one-man marathon across the entire Appalachian trail, and Patrik Baboumian, who likewise made the Guinness Book of Wrold Recrods by lifting over one thousand pounds and walking several feet while doing so.

As for experiments, the most involving finds three football players who are first give meat and told to get a night’s sleep with two bands placed around each of their penises and the next day given only plant food. The study found that the plants increased both the size of sleep-time erections and their hardness. So when PETA says that vegans are sexier, here’s the beginning of actual proof that a plant based diet is good “for people who have penises and for those who like people who have penises.”

“The Game Changers” arrives at theaters just days after the opening of Morgan Spurlock’s “Super Size Me 2: Holy Chicken,” which is not about super-sized penises but about the world-wide dangers caused by the poultry industry. Both films are among the most important you may see in 2019.

86 minutes. © 2019 by Harvey Karten, Member, New York Film Critics Online

Story – A
Acting – A-
Technical – A
Overall – A-