A Fresh Look – a review of Fresh, the movie

Ever since watching Food, Inc. and Fat Head, The Movie a couple of years ago, we’ve been on a “food film” jag, hunting down and watching every filmed documentary about industrial food, sustainable farming and healthy diets we can find (and there are quite a few on Netflix).  Fresh, which enjoyed a limited release in theatres in 2009, was just released on DVD and we ordered – and watched – it eagerly.  This is Beloved’s review, and it’s a good one.  A trailer for the film is at the end; please watch it, as well.

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The film Fresh, directed by Ana Sofia Joanes, is indeed a fresh look at the hazards of our industrial food system and the benefits of local and sustainable farming. It is an emotionally compelling look at the contrast between industrial CAFOs (Concentrated Animal Farming Operations) and pastoral heritage farming. Like the documentary Food, Inc., it contrasts the monoculture industrial food system with the medium-sized sustainable farmer representing the local food movement. It picks up where Food Inc. left off by offering an optimistic vision of sustainable farming solutions in contrast to the industrial system. The story is the same: monoculture agriculture promises to cheaply feed the world at the cost of non-renewable resources and tax rebates, where the real price is far more dear than that of higher quality, albeit higher priced, local sustainable food that is being destroyed by the economic and political power of the few companies that comprise the industrial food system. Several of the characters are the same, including Joel Salatin, a renowned sustainable farmer and Michael Pollan, author of The Omnivore’s Dilemma. A compelling story is told through the trials and realizations of conventional farmers and those evolving and succeeding at the next generation of sustainable farming. For those who understand the detriment of the current food industry to our health and our world, this is an inspiring film that offers an optimistic future.  Yet, the concluding call to action is to wait for government resolution to a problem that the government created in the first place.

Several farmers explain their unique position in surviving and defining the shifts in the food industry. The Fox family represents the CAFO chicken farmers who invested in confined mass chicken houses and are being financially squeezed by their relationship with one of the few companies that own the vertically integrated chicken industry.

Russ Kremer came out of college and got “hung up” following his newly learned tactics to drive productivity by converting his family farm to industrial practices that included antibiotic treatments that ultimately lead to a resistance in his pigs and a personal infection that nearly killed him.  He went “cold turkey” when he finally realized that “when you have only one choice, you have no choice” and killed off his entire stock and threw away the syringe. Since then he has built a successful self-sustaining pig farm that hasn’t used antibiotics for fourteen years.

George Naylor, also featured in The Omnivores Dilemma, represents the conventional subsidized Iowa farmer, focusing on mono-crop production based on petroleum and the required chemical fertilizers and pesticides. The imbalance of mono-crop agriculture leaves the topsoil open to erosion – about 50% of Iowa’s top soil has been lost in the last 50 years. Andrew Kimbrell, a public interest attorney, activist and author, states that as we have “lost 90% of our diversity; our soil is being depleted at thirteen times the rate it can be replaced.” Not many people living outside now barren areas (such as the “Fertile Crescent”) understand that top soil can’t be replaced. And while Naylor has so far resisted GMO crops, most have not.

The movie horrifies us with images of these mono-crops being shipped (read, more petroleum) hundreds of miles away to CAFO’s where cattle, crammed together, ankle deep in their own excrement, are fed subsidized grains they aren’t evolved to digest, along with the antibiotics required to keep them alive. As Joel Salatin states:

“…you can go down the line, avian flu, mad cow, salmonella, pfiesteria, Camphylobacter, ecoli, just go down the line and every single one of these things is nature speaking to us today, screaming at our industrialized culture, saying, ‘ENOUGH!’”

Michael Pollan confirms that “monocultures are a dangerous thing… nature doesn’t like monocultures; sooner or later she will destroy them.” Joel further elaborates:

“70% of all the row crops in the United States, which represent most of the genetically engineered crops, the petroleum, the erosion and the negative things in agriculture, are grown for multi-stomached herbivores which aren’t supposed to eat that anyway. Only 30% goes to people, pigs and poultry.”

In contrast, the Salatin family has turned a barren farm with depleted top soil into one of the brightest stars in local sustainable farming by working with nature to develop a poly-culture community that doesn’t need chemical fertilizers and pesticides. Joel is first and foremost a grass farmer – harvesting solar energy that is converted by ruminants into proteins and healthy fats. Cows, fed only grasses as nature intends, are herded from field to field and followed by Joel’s egg mobiles where chickens feed on the larvae in the cow patties.  Instead of manure lagoons, Joel is rebuilding his top soil naturally.  Where his neighbor, farming only beef, is making $150 per acre, Joel claims he is getting “$3,000 per acre …and we haven’t planted a seed or bought an ounce of chemical fertilizer in fifty years.”

Several success stories illustrate the inspiring optimism of this documentary.

One of the most impressive farmers is Will Allen, an urban farmer who runs Growing Power in Milwaukee.  Starting with 3 acres of inner city land, he has created a poly-culture farm on a small scale that uses no chemicals. In his greenhouses he raises 150 varieties of greens alongside a tank of 4,000 tilapia fish which provides fertilizer for the plants.  His vermicomposting converts 6 million pounds of food waste from the Milwaukee landfills per year into what he calls “black gold” – rich, fertile soil.

Diana Endicott runs Good Natured Family Farms, a coop of 75 independent farms near the Kansas City metropolitan area providing local and sustainable foods to independent grocers that are being pushed out of the market by forces such as Wal-mart (which will soon be selling trans-genetically modified ears of corn). In one heartfelt scene, one of Dianna’s farmers brings the optimism home, tearfully saying,

“I’ve been a family farmer ever since I was five years old… and I have been through a lot of struggles and this is all I have ever wanted to do. But you talk about the greatest opportunities in my lifetime, it’s right now. ‘Cause I know, that’s what the consumer wants. They want MY pigs”.

Indeed, this is a well-executed film that explains some terrifying realities using an emotional appeal to get us to take back control of our food system, and the harsh realities are often offset by an idyllic optimism. But an underlying message of the movie suggests that the solution depends upon more regulation.  John Ikerd, of the University of Missouri, blames industrialization for exploiting labor. Michael Pollan suggests that decentralization of the food supply is critical for national security as less people can suffer from epidemics and crop failures – his solution is to shift government subsidies from the industrial to the sustainable farmer. George Naylor comes across as an apologetic conventional farmer who seems to have surrendered his fate saying by jumping into the sinking lifeboat, “many farmers have done what they had to do to survive and knowing full well that it is not the best thing for themselves or for society.” Naylor hopes he can only hang on until he can ”transition back to something that is more sane once we get the policy that’s going to support an agriculture that is sustainable and supports family farms across the board.” It is also suggested that food deserts should be subsidized so people have access to good food when in reality if they wanted it, it would be on their store shelves. They erroneously believe the government will solve our problems: if we could only get the right people in power, power will no longer be corrupt.

But the movie redeems itself in its message and its belief in the power of enlightenment and individuals. The optimism of the movie is best expressed by Will Allen and Diana Endicott. I agree with Allen that only by educating the consumer is “how you grow a movement.”  Endicott understands that it is the consumer who will make the difference and states:

“Consolidation is growing at such a rate, not just in the food industry, but in all industries, that probably the first and foremost thing…I truly believe that we are trying to sustain is consumer choice.”

Endicott pleads for a modest change and suggests each of us of spend only $10 a month on local foods.  Both are right. We won’t correct the injustice of interference and more controls – we can merely battle this issue with the only fair vote we have: our wallets. How much of your food budget is spent within 100 miles? How much of your food budget is spent on petroleum, chemicals, and diminishing soil resources? Health benefits aside, do you still think the higher price tag of sustainable farming costs more in the long run? As John Ikerd explains, “it just happens, one person at a time, one farmer, one consumer at a time.” Are you next?

Help, I’m Steppin’ Into The Twilight Zone

SPOILER ALERT:  If you are following the “Twilight” series exclusively via the films (or haven’t finished the books), you may not want to read this post, as it (sort of) gives away the end.  And you might be really, really disappointed.

Gretchen, our Fearless Spin Cycle Leader, is an actress in Los Angeles and as such has decreed our spins this week should be about movies, in honor of the upcoming Academy Awards.  There was a time, as an avid movie-goer, that I could intelligently discuss many of the nominated films, but these days we tend to wait for movies we really want to see to come out on DVD; we wait for the rest to go to Netflix instant play.  (All Hail the Big Screen TV!)

There will be no intelligent discussions in this post.

First, let me just admit say that yes, I have read all four Twilight books.  In my defense, it was mostly for two reasons:  to see if the actual writing would improve (it didn’t) and out of morbid curiosity – could the plot line possibly get any more absurd?  (It could.)  The fact that I was amazed at the message these books were sending to their intended audience – adolescent girls – was just an unpleasant surprise.  I’ve also seen the first two films, and to say they lived down to my expectations in a spectacular fashion is something of an understatement.

It was this very plot line that became the subject of a conversation Saturday morning between me and Beloved, as we drove to one of the semi-monthly farmer’s markets available at this time of year.  Don’t ask me how it came up, but we found ourselves discussing the peculiar notion some people of an intensely religious persuasion have that the Harry Potter novels are some sort of plot to turn The Upstanding Christian Youth Of Our Country into black-arts-practicing-Wiccans  (yes, we have odd discussions).  At some point, Beloved said something about the Twilight series being equally reviled, to which I replied:

“Actually, no – it’s been praised by a great many people for it’s strong ‘abstinence before marriage’ and anti-abortion messages.”

Looking appropriately perplexed, Beloved asked, “Abstinence?  Abortion?  What?  Before or after he sucks her blood?”

“Well, he never sucks her blood,” I reply.  “He never sucks anyone’s blood – he’s a vegetarian.”

“How the hell can a vampire be a vegetarian?!?”

“He only sucks the blood of animals, not humans.”

“And that makes him a vegetarian.”

“Hey – I don’t make the news, I only report it.”

“This is for ethical reasons?”

“Yup.”

“Just animals.”

“Yup.”

“Like the cat next door?”

“Oh, no,” I say.  “They hunt dangerous animals – like cougars and grizzly bears – in an attempt to assuage their more bestial nature.” (Note:  don’t ask me how PETA has missed out on this, because I couldn’t tell you.)

“Okay…so if he never sucks her blood, how does it all end?”

“You really don’t want to know.”

“Yes, I do.”

“NO, you don’t.  Trust me on this.”

“C’mon – don’t leave me hanging; tell me.”

“Read the damn books yourself, then!”

“I’d rather not.”

“Then watch the movies; they’re reasonably faithful to the books.”

“I don’t want to waste my time.”

“Well, I don’t want to waste my time telling you about them!”

“You’ve got me intrigued – I won’t leave you alone until you tell me.”

“You’re going to be sorry you insisted.”

“No, I won’t.”

“Oooookaaaaay, but don’t say I didn’t warn you.  Let me think about how to put this, because it’s just THAT stupid.”

Beloved laughs.

“Yeah, you’re laughing now…So, he pressures her into marrying him because he’s ‘old fashioned’ and won’t have sex until he’s married and then he knocks her up – ”

“Wait – he’s a vampire and he can have sex and get someone pregnant?”

“Don’t interrupt.  Anyway, the baby is killing her and she won’t let them give her an abortion and then the baby breaks her spine and he injects his ‘venom’ into her while performing a c-section on her with his teeth and the werewolf guy becomes fixated on the baby and someone tells the vampire mafia that they’ve made a child into a vampire which is against the rules and the vampire mafia comes after them so the ‘good guy’ vampires recruit a whole bunch of other vampires from all over the world to help them battle the vampire mafia but when the vampire mafia shows up there’s no battle and everyone lives happily ever after.”

“…you’re right, I wish I hadn’t asked.”

“I told you so.”

The Big Four-Oh-Oh…Meme Style

NOTE: I had to remove the images from this post because so many people were being ASS HATS and hot-linking to them, which has been chewing up the bandwidth of my SELF-HOSTED blog.  SHAME ON Y’ALL.

This week’s Spin Cycle is about memes.  It is also my 400th post.  Egads – have I been doing this for that long?  Apparently so.

When I read this week’s subject, for the first time since January, when I began to participate, I went “Blech” and considered not playing along.  Or, since Jen said it was relevant, making my Random Tuesday Thoughts post my Spin Cycle post, too, although that just seemed like cheating.

I simply don’t care that much for memes, although I’ve participated (most of the time) when I’ve been tagged.  I always seem to end up telling the same silly facts about myself over and over.  In fact, I was in such quandary over what to post that I seriously considered just putting up the new pictures we were sent of Little Guy and starting my own meme – the “Annoying Grandparent Meme.”

Then I found this one while blog surfing.

Friends and neighbors, it’s the Ten Favorite Movie Characters meme and I was so excited when I stumbled across it that I could barely contain myself.  So here they are – my Ten Favorite Movie characters, in no particular order.

*Warning* There’s some strong language in a couple of these.  If you’re offended by gratuitous use of the Eff Word, you might not want to read any further.  Just sayin’.

Edna Mode

The Incredibles

Voiced by Brad Bird


It was hard not to just list every character in this film, but I figured I’d better pick just one. Reportedly based on the famed Hollywood costume designer Edith Head, Edna’s part is fairly small. But she has got to be the funniest character in it – she certainly has almost all of the best lines.

“Supermodels – ha! Nothing super about them. Spoiled, stupid little stick-figures with poufy lips who think only about themselves.”

“I cut it a little roomy for the free movement. The fabric is comfortable for sensitive skin… and it can also withstand a temperature of over one thousand degrees!! Completely bulletproof… and machine washable, dahling, that’s a new feature.”

“What are you talking about? You are Elastigirl! My God! Pull yourself together! What will you do? Is…is…is this a question? You will show him that you remember that he is Mr. Incredible! And you will REMIND him who YOU are! Well, you know where he is… Go! Confront the problem! Fight! WIN!! And call me when you get back, dahling, I enjoy our visits.”

Evelyn Couch

Fried Green Tomatoes

Kathy Bates


It was hard to chose between Ninny Threadgoode – I just adore Jessica Tandy, especially in this film – and Evelyn Couch, but I just related so much to Evelyn’s character. And Kathy Bates is great in this role.

“I can’t even look at my own vagina.”

“Face it girls, I’m older and have more insurance.”

“I’ll slip tiny bombs into Penthouse and Playboys so they explode when you open them. I’ll ban all fashion models who weigh under 130 pounds! And I’ll give half the military budget to people over 65 and declare wrinkles sexually desirable.”

Darth Vader

Star Wars, The Empire Strikes Back, Return of the Jedi

David Prowse, voiced by James Earl Jones


It’s Darth Vader. ‘Nuff said.

“I find your lack of faith disturbing.”

“Don’t be too proud of this technological terror you’ve constructed. The ability to destroy a planet is insignificant next to the power of the Force.”

“No – I am your father.”

Khan Noonien Singh

Star Trek II – The Wrath of Khan

Ricardo Montalban


Star Trek II – The Wrath of Khan is simply the best film of the series, hands down. It came out in the summer of 1982 and Ex-husband and I saw it six times in the theatre. Ricardo Montalban’s scenery-chewing reprise of his role from The Space Seed episode of the original series has a lot to do with why it is so good; he’s a superb villain.

“Ah, Kirk, my old friend, do you know the Klingon proverb that tells us revenge is a dish that is best served cold? It is very cold in space.”

“I’ve done far worse than kill you, Admiral. I’ve hurt you. And I wish to go on hurting you. I shall leave you as you left me, as you left her; marooned for all eternity in the center of a dead planet… buried alive! Buried alive…!”

“Let them eat static.”

Rose Sayer

The African Queen

Katharine Hepburn


The African Queen is my favorite film of all time. The relationship between Humphrey Bogart and Katharine Hepburn is one of the most compelling on screen. Humphrey Bogart won his only Oscar for this movie, but Katharine Hepburn makes the film.

“Nature, Mr. Allnut, is what we are put in this world to rise above.”

“I never dreamed that any mere physical experience could be so stimulating!”

“I must say I’m filled with admiration for your skill, Mr. Allnut. Do you suppose that after I practice steering a bit that someday I might try? … Now that I’ve had a taste of it, I don’t wonder you love boating, Mr. Allnut!”

Rick Blaine

Casablanca

Humphrey Bogart


One of the reasons I didn’t pick Bogie’s part for The African Queen is because of this film. Humphrey Bogart is tough, debonair and vulnerable all at the same time and the movie is damn near perfect. I love it. I could go on and on with the quotes on this one, but I’ll spare you and keep it down to three – and not the three you’d expect.

“Are my eyes really brown?”

“Yes, it’s very pretty. I heard a story once – as a matter of fact, I’ve heard a lot of stories in my time. They went along with the sound of a tinny piano playing in the parlor downstairs. ‘Mister, I met a man once when I was a kid,’ it always began.”

“They got a lucky break. Yesterday they were just two German clerks. Today they’re the ‘Honored Dead.’”

Grandpa Hoover

Little Miss Sunshine

Alan Arkin


This is another film where it’s hard to pick one character as my favorite, but I think Alan Arkin’s character of Grandpa Hoover deserves the mention – he certainly has some of the best lines. But the whole movie makes me just roll around on the floor laughing. Again, I could go on and on with the quotes, but I’ll keep it to three.

“A real loser is someone who’s so afraid of not winning he doesn’t even try.”

“Are you kidding me? It was a fucking paradise. They got pool… They got golf… Now I’m stuck with Mr. Happy here, sleeping on a fucking sofa. Look, I know you are a homo and all, but maybe you can appreciate this. You go to one of those places, there’s four women for every guy. Can you imagine what that’s like?…I had second degree burns on my Johnson, I kid you not.”

“Listen to me, I got no reason to lie to you, don’t make the same mistakes I made when I was young. Fuck a lotta women kid, not just one woman, a lotta women.”

Melvin Udall

As Good As It Gets

Jack Nicholson


Beloved loves this movie; he loves any movie with rude old curmudgeons (On Golden Pond is another of his favorites; Gran Tarino is yet another). As for me, despite the fact Helen Hunt is in it (I cannot STAND her), I love it because of the ensemble cast, especially Greg Kinnear and Cuba Gooding Jr. It’s also another film that is hard to keep from quoting over and over again.

“Never, never, interrupt me, okay? Not if there’s a fire, not even if you hear the sound of a thud from my home and one week later there’s a smell coming from there that can only be a decaying human body and you have to hold a hanky to your face because the stench is so thick that you think you’re going to faint. Even then, don’t come knocking. Or, if it’s election night, and you’re excited and you wanna celebrate because some fudgepacker that you date has been elected the first queer president of the United States and he’s going to have you down to Camp David, and you want someone to share the moment with. Even then, don’t knock. Not on this door. Not for ANY reason. Do you get me, sweetheart?”

“Where do they teach you to talk like this? In some Panama City “Sailor wanna hump-hump” bar, or is it getaway day and your last shot at his whiskey? Sell crazy someplace else, we’re all stocked up here.”

“It’s not true. Some have great stories, pretty stories that take place at lakes with boats and friends and noodle salad. Just no one in this car. But, a lot of people, that’s their story. Good times, noodle salad. What makes it so hard is not that you had it bad, but that you’re that pissed that so many others had it good.”

Phil The Weatherman

Groundhog Day

Bill Murray


Bill Murray is one of those actors, like Eddie Murphy, that really only knows how to play themselves. That’s okay, though, when the right movie comes along. For Bill Murray, this was the right movie.

“I was in the Virgin Islands once. I met a girl. We ate lobster, drank piña coladas. At sunset, we made love like sea otters. That was a pretty good day. Why couldn’t I get that day over, and over, and over…”

“Don’t drive angry. Don’t drive angry!”

“When Chekhov saw the long winter, he saw a winter bleak and dark and bereft of hope. Yet we know that winter is just another step in the cycle of life. But standing here among the people of Punxsutawney and basking in the warmth of their hearths and hearts, I couldn’t imagine a better fate than a long and lustrous winter.”

Jules Winnfield

Pulp Fiction

Samuel L. Jackson


Pulp Fiction is another one of those films where the entire cast is so good you hardly know who to pick as your favorite. There are so many memorable characters with so many memorable lines. But Samuel L. Jackson? He’s my favorite, both in terms of memorable lines and what happens to his character over the course of the film. Roger Ebert says this movie is about redemption – Mr. Jackson’s is the most profound.

“Yes you did. Yes you did, Brad. You tried to fuck him. And Marcellus Wallace don’t like to be fucked by anybody, except Mrs. Wallace.”

“Normally, both your asses would be dead as fucking fried chicken, but you happen to pull this shit while I’m in a transitional period so I don’t wanna kill you, I wanna help you. But I can’t give you this case, it don’t belong to me. Besides, I’ve already been through too much shit this morning over this case to hand it over to your dumb ass.”

“The path of the righteous man is beset on all sides by the iniquities of the selfish and the tyranny of evil men. Blessed is he, who in the name of charity and good will, shepherds the weak through the valley of darkness, for he is truly his brother’s keeper and the finder of lost children. And I will strike down upon thee with great vengeance and furious anger those who would attempt to poison and destroy my brothers. And you will know my name is the Lord when I lay my vengeance upon thee.”

Who are your favorite movie characters?

Monsters, Eeek

Monsters, Inc.When Beloved’s out of town, our schedules don’t change much.  I don’t cook as much or as elaborately.  The Young One needs a little more prodding to do his chores.  I work longer hours.  The dog whines for attention a little bit more.  The house is quieter.  But, for the most part, things ramble on as usual.

Except at night.

I’ll be the first person to admit that I have trouble sleeping when Beloved’s not home.  I have trouble settling down and have trouble staying asleep; I also tend to get up earlier in the mornings.  Beloved calls it “empty bed syndrome” and claims he suffers from it on the nights insomnia (and his snoring) send me to the sofa in the living room.  And it could very well be what it is…at least partly.

It also could be that I’m afraid of the dark.

I know it’s silly; I know it’s irrational.  Especially when you consider that whatever monster under my bed would probably eat me whether I was alone in my bedroom or not. But the dark doesn’t bother me when Beloved is home, even on the rare occasion I go to bed before him.  I just have an overactive imagination – possibilities have always intrigued me, often far more than reality does.  And my imagination tells me that my husband will keep all the icky monsters away.

Either that, or the man just doesn’t give me enough time to worry about whatever might be living under our bed.

I don’t think much about my fear of the dark until I find myself alone in it; then it kicks into overdrive and every scary movie I’ve seen and scary book I’ve ever read begins traipsing its way through my brain.  It’s times like that when I wish I’d never watched movies like The Ring.  ‘Cause that little girl crawling out of the television at the end of the film?

She is out to get me.

I don’t think Beloved was aware of my fear of the dark until recently when I mentioned that I make sure the closet door is firmly closed and the bathroom light is left on at night when he’s out of town.  I mentioned this with some trepidation, because the man is RABID about lights left on all night, but he was more amused than anything.

Really??” he asked.  His imagination is somewhat different from mine – he’s perfectly fine with the possibility of cosmic strings and magnetic monopoles, but pubescent young women chucking film directors out of windows and down long flights of stairs?  Pshaw, he says.  I, on the other hand, was tempted to cancel my account with Verizon after reading Stephen King’s Cell.

Ah, well.  I’ve lived 46 years without being eaten by a monster, or even threatened by one, and I’m sure I never will be.

Let’s just keep that bathroom light on and ignore the smell of garlic, shall we?

Lal-Appaloosa

AppaloosaDear Ed Harris:

We purchased and watched Appaloosa, the movie you co-wrote, directed and starred in, on DVD Friday night.

I would like my $12.99 and 2 hours back, please.

It had, well, YOU in it.  Viggo Mortensen.  Jeremy Irons.  Lance Henriksen.  It was based on a novel by Robert B. Parker.  It had the potential to be absolutely drool-worthy on so many levels I can’t even begin to go into them.  What is was, though, was a 2-dimensional piece of doo-doo that has been done before – and done to death, I might add – with Rene Zellweger as a Wild West nymphomaniac in school-marm’s clothing thrown in for…what?  Shits and giggles?

Do me a favor and go back to making movies like, I dunno, The Abyss?  At least it was mildly entertaining to watch Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio chew up the scenery and Michael Biehn go whacko…for nearly four hours (bless James Cameron’s self-indulgent little pea-pickin’ heart).

At any rate, Ed – hon, sweetie.  Please understand that I am quite sincere in my request that you never, ever, EVER make one of the Spenser novels into a movie.  ‘K?  Thanks.

Love,

Jan