Pop Culture: The Green Invasion

From eco-friendly films to progressive podcasts, Plenty picks the best in summer entertainment

These 10 Hollywood pictures deal with today’s biggest eco issues, including pollution, global warming, and endangered species. Some, to be sure, are subtler (and more scientifically accurate) than others, but all deserve baseline props for bringing green to the mainstream. Don’t see your favorite blockbuster on the list? Visit plentymag.com and sound off on the Plenty blog.

ECO ISSUE: Drinking water
While investigating the murder of a public official, Los Angeles detective Jake Gittes (Jack Nicholson) uncovers a corrupt land development scheme in which access to water is controlled by the wealthy and powerful—and has an affair with the murdered man’s wife, Evelyn Cross Mulwray (Faye Dunaway). In the end, the power struggles over the city’s water supply become a metaphor for Mulwray’s gruesome family history, which is revealed in a nerve-wracking plot twist.

The Day After Tomorrow
ECO ISSUE: Global warming
Greenhouse gasses result in tornadoes, hurricanes, tidal waves, and an Ice Age—all in the course of this one movie. You may not really care whether or not climatologist Jack Hall (Dennis Quaid) can rescue his son from ravaged New York City, but the postapocalyptic images of Gotham are certainly sobering.

Erin Brockovich
ECO ISSUE: Pollution
Julia Roberts stars in this biographical film—destined to become a chick flick classic—about a tube top–wearing single mother who takes on a corrupt corporation that has been illegally dumping toxic waste. It’s David vs. Goliath, but with more cleavage.

Gorillas in the Mist
ECO ISSUE: Endangered/threatened species
Another biopic—this one stars Sigourney Weaver as Dian Fossey, a scientist who traveled to Africa to study and help save the mysterious mountain gorilla. Veering between scenes of tenderness (like the moment when Fossey’s favorite gorilla first touches her outstretched hand) and violence (Fossey stages a fake lynching to freak out would-be gorilla poachers), the sometimes melodramatic film depicts a woman whose commitment to conservation was remarkably deep.

Grizzly Man
ECO ISSUE: Endangered/threatened species
Werner Herzog’s complex portrait of grizzly bear activist Timothy Treadwell, who lived with and was ultimately killed by one of the animals. Treadwell had no real wilderness training, yet he seemed to fit in better among the bears in Alaska than in human society, as Herzog reveals in telling interviews with Treadwell’s parents, friends, and lovers. Grizzly Man both sympathizes with and questions the man’s choices.

ECO ISSUE: Pollution
In this big-budget Indiana Jones wannabe, Matthew McConaughey stars as Dirk Pitt, an explorer who must find and shut down a nuclear waste facility that is threatening the earth’s ecosystem. Remember kids: Toxic waste dumping is bad!

Medicine Man
ECO ISSUE: Environmental destruction
Sean Connery (of “you’re the man now, dog” fame) stars as a cancer researcher searching for a cure in the Amazonian jungle. His progress is thwarted when bulldozers are sent to clear-cut the area. Medicine Man is sometimes dismissed as preachy, but it’s probably hipped more than a few couch potatoes to the importance of rainforest preservation.

ECO ISSUE: Oil industry
This complex film starring George Clooney reveals how big oil is entangled in our lives, both socially and politically. And it helps us understand why oil—and our continued dependence on it—can be such a thorny issue.

The Toxic Avenger
TROMA; 1985
ECO ISSUE: Pollution
A nerdy teen falls into a vat of toxic waste and morphs into a disfigured but kind-hearted crime fighting superhero. This gross-out classic is mostly campy fun, but it does explore issues involving corruption and big business greed.

ECO ISSUE: Global warming
Kevin Costner’s water-logged look at a globally-warmed world in which the polar ice caps have melted and flooded all of civilization, leaving people to float on salvaged materials in search of dry land. Unfortunately, most people laughed this one off before any messages about the greenhouse effect could sink in.

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Issue 25

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