Wednesday, August 03, 2005

March of the Penguin Lovers

So I go waddling off to this movie March of the Penguinstwo nights back with my favorite co-worker. I say 'waddling' because the nights events centered around penguins and, prior to the film, we ate scrumptious fattening cupcakes at Billy's Bakeryon 9th Avenue.

My friend and I both love penguins so naturally our response to the release was "we are there!" This might account for the movie's already sensational box office. At $16 million and counting it's one of the most successful docs ever. If everyone (literally) who loved penguins were to go see it I shudder to think how high the box office could go... it could share icy waters with Titanic, because, who doesn't love those cute tuxedoed critters?

[SPOILERS AHEAD] Surprisingly, for a movie about exceptionally cute birds who can't fly, it's also hard to watch at times. Penguins do die. One violent death felt uneccessary to show -exploitive even. Why show that? For When Animals Attack thrills? No thank you. And for every cute awkward floppy moment there's at least two ominous: "but it gets worse!" style doomsday narrative bombs for our favorite wild animal friends to fear. My co-worker cried basically the whole time. But for me the most difficult moment was a slow shot of one egg cracking and filling with ice. Deeply sad.

It's not that March of the Penguin doesn't revel in cuteness --it just doesn't have to work for that part. What it really wants to do is teach. The movie is educational, too... at least in that trivia-game "I did not know that" way. But I couldn't help but feel that the narrative was very narrowly focused --As if it did not want to overburden me in any way with thoughts extraneous to penguin marriage, childrearing and fidelity. Did Rick Santorum edit it? Kidding. (sort of) What I mean is that the movie just kept dropping issues as they came up if they did not relate to the procreative miracle. Were the filmmakers not interested in the penguins who didn't pair up or produce offspring? Or lost offspring halfway through but still seemed to be helping the team survive the winter? I cared about those marchers too. The movie doesn't.

After the movie in all its cool beauty (ice is really photogenic) was over I did feel a little bad for being hyper-critical. So I waddled away slightly embarrassed but happy to have basked in arctic cuteness for 80 minutes. B


adam k. said...

Hahaha... oh Nathaniel, you find heterosexual, monogomous, family-oriented stories boring and oppressive even in penguin movies. God bless you and your overly critical/far-left sensibilities.

Anonymous said...

Nathaniel -- do you know about the new childrens book about the gay penguins who live in Central Park. It's wonderful.


i didn't know about that brad. but that i have to see.

adam, i hope it came across slightly jokey. i didn't really need the documentary to talk about gay penguins (ha ha).

i just felt like they were purposely leaving parts of the story out like they had a pre-written story before they even filmed. I kept seeing these penguins on the sidelines who weren't fitting what they were talking about and there was no explanation as to behavior outside of hooking up and raising an egg.

i just thought it was a little tunnel-visiony is all.

Joe R. said...

I love the gay penguins at the zoo story. The real one, I mean. The part about them "adopting" a rock and "raising" it as their own? Awwww.

adam k. said...

The criticism did come across slightly jokey. I hope my post came off slightly jokey! It's just funny cause it really sounds like the penguin version of the conservative christian worldview/protonarrative of man + woman = baby. No other lifestyles allowed.

Wow, I just typed "protonarrative"... what the hell is that?

Also, a story about gay penguins adopting and raising a rock as their own is quite possibly the Best Thing Ever. Come to think of it, it sounds like the kind of children's book Madonna might write.

Anonymous said...

This is link to the book on Amazon -- "And Tango Makes Three"

Anonymous said...

Except in Madonna's version, she would be the rock.

Anonymous said...

I laughed out loud at the Rick Santorum reference. Ha! And Adam's first comment was a double ha! (Maybe the parent-child storyline had something to do with the original French narration that had voice actors speaking for the penguins in first person, as in "Here I go down to the lake. My parents are right beside me." You can only cover the wide variety of penguin life in 3rd person, methinks.)

adam k. said...

Anonymous nailed it.
This book looks so cute... but tbe story of two gay penguins adopting and raising MADONNA...! Now that is truly the Best Thing Ever. Let's petition her to write THAT into a childrens' book.
Or even better, to make it a music video.

Anonymous said...

I too wondered about those who lost eggs or chicks. Did they stay or wander off? But penguins DO die and I saw no unnecessariness in the death scenes (whichever you were criticizing) because one bird's death affected others. It's not all cute little tuxedos!