Sunday, December 18, 2005
This Year's Good Movie
The best movie I saw in theaters this year was Grizzly Man. Granted, that's not saying a whole lot since I didn't see that many movies, but despite the lack of competition, Grizzly Man is really good. It beat out other critically acclaimed movies like Good Night and Good Luck (good), March of the Penguins (good), The Squid and the Whale (bad) and King Kong (very good).
Grizzly Man is the latest from German filmmaker Werner Herzog. It's a documentary about Timothy Treadwell (above), who was a struggling actor (supposedly he was the runner up to Woody Harrelson for the role on Cheers) turned outspoken supporter of the wild grizzly bear population in Alaska. "Documentary" is a strange way of describing the film because the movie isn't so much Herzog's footage of Treadwell, but Treadwell's footage of himself.
In the 1990s, Treadwell began filming himself and the grizzlies during his summers in the Alaskan wilderness. Treadwell was his own one-man filming machine-- cameraman, narrator, star. He named the grizzlies, talked to them, touched their feces. He befriended them, and some would say, became somewhat of a grizzly himself. He was a combination of sweet naivete, self-promoting actor, angry animal activist and madman. In his footage, he presented himself as a lone man in the wilderness, when actually he was accompanied by his girlfriend for several summers.
There is a sad ending to this story, which is disclosed at the beginning of Herzog's film. In 2003, Treadwell and his girlfriend were attacked in their tent at night by an old and hungry grizzly. Audio tape of the fatal attack exists (Treadwell managed to turn on his video camera during the attack, but didn't remove the lens cap), but Herzog chooses not to include it in the film. We can only imagine the horror of what happened.
This is a fascinating movie about a fascinating person. It presents interesting themes (e.g., man vs nature, man as performer) without being preachy or judgmental. Chanchow highly recommends it, especially if it is re-released in theaters this holiday season.
Postscript: I just remembered that I saw Kung Fu Hustle this year, which I may have like as much as, if not more than, Grizzly Man. A must see!