The Age of Stupid

The Age of Stupid is a 90-minute film about climate change, set in the future, which had its world premiere in London on March 15th 2009 and was released in UK cinemas on March 20th 2009. The film was released in Australia & New Zealand on August 19th, the global premiere was from New York to 45 countries on September 21st 2009.

The Age of Stupid poster

The Age of Stupid poster

Oscar-nominated Pete Postlethwaite (In The Name of the Father, Brassed Off) stars as a man living alone in the devastated world of 2055, looking back at archive footage from 2007 and asking: why didn’t we stop climate change when we had the chance?

The film doesn’t reveal anything new in its ‘back to the future’ scenario but it sets out to make people think NOW about what might happen next. Its not the sort of film you might ‘enjoy’ as it works as a retrospective documentary with the ‘narrator’ dropping in newsreel footage to demonstrate the stupidity of mankind who could have saved themselves. It concludes that maybe we just didn’t like ourselves enough to bother.

With one diatribe after another, The Age of Stupid is a concatenation of negativity, a Chinese water torture of pessimism. It is meant to make the unaware carbon abuser feel guilty enough to actually do something like ‘stop using aeroplanes’ but is unlikely to achieve this end because, given the choice, they just won’t watch it. I just don’t think you can help people change by calling them ‘stupid’.

The Age of Stupid came out the same week as ‘Lesbian Vampire Killers’ and statistics from the Film Council website show that on its opening weekend, 20th – 22nd March 2009 it showed in just 20 cinemas in the UK compared to 362 for Lesbian Vampire Killers. LVK grossed £1792 per cinema in the first week whilst AOS averaged £5088 per cinema.

The Film Council carried out an official survey on the Age of Stupid at three of the cinemas and were totally bowled over by the results, which are way better than for a normal film: 98% of viewers liked the film (56%: excellent, 31%: very good, 11%: good, 2%: fair, 0%: poor), 98% said they would recommend it to their friends and 75% of them had heard about the film from word of mouth. Here is climate change networking in action. My guess is that most of the people who went to watch it, saw it because they thought other people should be made to watch it.

I read from the statistics that the Age of Stupid was without a marketing budget and the screenings were most probably ‘preaching to the converted’ who think (and talk) about global warming issues anyway. As such, and with such low-density screenings, it is unlikely to have made any impact on getting strangers to the global warming phenomenon ready to accept responsibility for global warming.

It seems a shame that such a film doesn’t have quite the exposure (or lets face it – general appeal) of Lesbian Vampire Killers. In truth if I walked into a cinema where there was a choice of both I would plump for the sensationalist vampire stalking babes over the global warming guilt trip. But then I don’t get out much and already do everything I can concerning this issue, and never see any lesbian vampire killers. You just don’t get them on Bodmin Moor.

Media reviews from the newspapers below show Age of Stupid to be a FOUR STAR film (out of five):

News of the World: “A Deeply Inconvenient Kick Up the Backside… you won’t see a more important film this year”

Financial Times: “lectures us sternly and pitilessly – but also intelligently and provokingly”

The Times: “the most imaginative and dramatic assault on the institutional complacency shrouding the issue”

The Telegraph: “Bold, supremely provocative, and hugely important…. a cry from the heart as much as a roar for necessary change”

Peter Postlethwaite, who has wind power at home, plays the ‘narrator’ in the movie. He said in an interview to the Guardian newspaper that even the most simple things like improving home insulation can make a difference to global warming. He says the evidence for global warming is incontrovertible and that the naysayers are a negative force that should just be ignored. He compared them to ‘holocaust deniers’ before making such a statement became politically incorrect because politicians were caught doing it.

This review of the Age of Stupid was written more than a year after its release and since then the movie ‘Avatar’ has been released (Avatar reviewed above). The contrast between these two movies couldn’t be greater. Both have environmental concerns that they wish to address but do it in entirely different ways. ‘Avatar’ is by far the most skilful and I suggest might actually have some influence on peoples’ behaviour.

The Age of Stupid is a film of finger wagging greenies pointing at the guilty. Interesting as it is as a catalogue of human incompetence at planetary management it sets about the aims of getting people to look at the situation in entirely the wrong way. Finger wagging greenies put everyone off.

Some of the people responsible for The Age of Stupid are responsible for one of the worst environmental self-harm shootings-in-the-foot in the history of mankind. The 10.10 campaign short film ‘No Pressure’. This campaign has entirely admirable aims: An ambitious project to unite every sector of society behind one simple idea: cutting our carbon by 10% a year starting now. Brilliant. Essential.

But their attempt to motivate people into acting on global warming met with scandal. 10:10 teams up with legendary comic screenwriter Richard Curtis, from Blackadder, Four Weddings, Notting Hill, co-founded Comic Relief – and Age of Stupid director Franny Armstrong to proudly present their explosive new mini-movie “No Pressure”.

The film stars X-Files’ Gillian Anderson, together with Spurs players past and present – including Peter Crouch, Ledley King and David Ginola – with music donated by Radiohead. Shot on 35mm by a 40-strong professional film crew led by director Dougal Wilson, “No Pressure” celebrates everybody who is actively tackling climate change… by blowing up those are aren’t.

I put in the link to this video here not to ridicule but because it is an essential part of all our learning processes but 10:10 took the movie down from their site and issued an apology: – it does beg the question though: just HOW are we going to ask people to change their lifestyles in order to effect global warming – if at all?

OK Simon, its all very well being critical – but what would you do to produce a movie that helped us all towards giving up all the stuff we like just so that the Chinese can pollute the planet instead of us? Good question.

cadbury's Smash Aliens

smash it all to bits

I like to think it would be more like ‘Avatar’ than ‘Stupid’. I think it would involve the Cadburies Smash aliens visiting Earth and laughing at us a lot with our potato peeling and the way we take a planet and then just ‘Smash it all to Bits’. It would involve a secret group of underground potato growers persecuted by the authorities – growing real potatoes in proper compost.

I like to think it might involve a force of scantily-clad, lesbian, climate-abuser police hunting down people who used more than their carbon allowance and sending them to government-run, genetically-modifed potato farms not using proper compost.

In short – I don’t know – but I am looking forwards to seeing what people far cleverer than myself will come up with.

Review by Simon Mitchell

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