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It is the topic of the day (well, that or Rand Paul).  So I thought I (tonight the "I" is would annetteboardman) take a brief moment to look at movies about oil.  Some of them glorify the wildcatters who looked for it, some emphasize the cynical manipulators who destroy worlds as they grasp the oil in their greedy hands, and others (very few) deal with environmental and social circumstances the oil industry impacts.

These are the fictional accounts.  There are many very very fine documentaries out there, but I am a bit obsessed by the view in Giant of how the prairie diappears behind the oil wells.  So this is about oil in fictonal films.

Giant won a best director Oscar and James Dean and Rock Hudson (who was underestimated as an actor, I think) and Mercedes McCambridge were all nominated for acting Oscars.  There Will Be Blood, of course, won two Oscars, including one for Daniel Day-Lewis (and one for Cinematography).  To my taste, a more enjoyable film was 1983's Local Hero.  It is full of moments of great lyrical beauty, as a Houston "wheeler and dealer" tries to buy a beach on which to build a refinery.

An older film dedicated to the glory of the wildcatters is a great big MGM epic, starring Clark Gable, Spencer Tracy, Claudette Colbert, and Hedy Lamarr (Disclaimer: I have never seen it, so this discussion is drawn from the internet discussion).  1940's Boom Town has rave reviews from the viewers at IMDB, but it seems that the politics of it might make me uncomfortable.  It is apparently very pro laissez faire capitalism, not exactly the story of oil I want to hear about these days.  A more cynical presentation of oil's effect on people and countries was 2005's Syriana.  This is my favourite scene, with Matt Damon explaining to Alexander Siddig how the west really is as cynical as he fears.  Unfortunately I couldn't embed it, so the link will have to do.

Let's finish with the spill.  As we come back to it, a very interesting film is the Jimmy Stewart 1953 one about the conflict between offshore drilling and shrimp fishermen who are worried that oil drilling will destroy their way of life.  Thunder Bay does not refer to Ontario in this movie's title.  And finally, for a reminder, take a look at the made-for-tv docudrama Dead Ahead: The Exxon Valdez Disaster.  Or you can watch the news.  Neither will make your day feel any better.  

Originally posted to Friday Night at the Movies on Fri May 21, 2010 at 04:34 PM PDT.

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