SCREENING THIS WEEK as the first of four documentaries in the Living Room Theaters' "Thrive: A Sustainability Film Series," Earth Days—a rehashing of the early environmental movement from the '50s through the first Earth Day in 1970 and the following decade—isn't only uninformative. It's also dangerously scatterbrained.
In traversing the holiday's history, director Robert Stone swings along like a child on monkey bars, as though the only way to advance the narrative is to hit every single rung—yet he never stops long enough to fully grasp any of them. You will learn things you already know (hybrid cars should have come out sooner!) and you'll be offered paper-thin explanations as to why (car companies were stuck in their ways!). Even the treatment of the first Earth Day is full of holes as to why it was a success.
This lack of focus turns an impressive group of talking heads—including former Secretary of the Interior Stewart Udall, former Congressman Pete McCloskey, and The Population Bomb author Paul Ehrlich—into environmentalist stereotypes: impotent idealists, still dwelling on missed opportunities and their roles in the sea changes that almost were (and the naked gardening that actually was).
There's also a wealth of stock footage to back up individual points—you'll get to witness everything from mushroom clouds to a PSA starring the Fonz to, yes, even that Indian-sheds-a-single-tear commercial.
Next up in the Thrive series, Fuel (starting Oct 30) looks at our nation's oil dependence (the New York Times calls the film "informative," thank god), and following that, The End of the Line (Nov 20) makes the argument that overfishing will cause mass fish extinction by 2048. Finally, narrator Martin Sheen's soothing oratorical style should help viewers digest the affluent-countries-screw-poor-ones message of The End of Poverty? (Dec 4). Here's hoping that the rest of Thrive's films won't make me want to smother myself in a pile of leaves.