Daniel Gold and Judith Helfand's lively "Everything's Cool" charts the struggle of environmental activists to get out the message about the dire and increasingly imminent consequences of global warming in the face of a steadfast misinformation policy on the part of the government -- a policy greatly intensified during the Bush administration. With wit and passion, Gold and Helfand marshal a plethora of data and developments yet never lose their narrative thread.
Wisely, they cut back and forth between several engaging activists. Foremost are Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist/author Ross Gelbspan and Bill McKibben, author of the groundbreaking 1987 "The End of Nature." Both admit to feelings of despair, with Gelbspan even saying that he feels like "Paul Revere without a horse." Both were re-energized by Hurricane Katrina, an event so cataclysmic that it marked a shift on the part of the American public in deciding to disregard administration "skeptics" and accept global warming as a reality.
Other experts cited include Rick Piltz, whose job was to prepare scientific reports to Congress on the latest research on climate change -- until he turned whistle-blower and became front-page news. And since 2003, climate expert Dr. Heidi Cullen has been providing crucial context for the Weather Channel's climate stories.
"Everything's Cool" is chock full of pithy observations, none sharper than McKibben's remark that for most people "the economy is more real than the natural world."
-- Kevin Thomas
"Everything's Cool." MPAA Rating: Unrated. Running time: 1 hour, 29 minutes. Exclusively at the Grande, Figueroa at Third Street (213) 617-0268.
Overseas, fighting child abuse
Most people who have traveled in third-world nations know the helplessness of witnessing the ravages of extreme poverty, especially as visited on children. One character in "Holly" advises, "You're OK if you ignore them and keep walking." His mistake: "I stopped -- and I looked in her eyes."
Set in Cambodia, the film follows an American dealing in shady artifacts (Ron Livingston) who struggles to keep a 12-year-old Vietnamese girl (played by newcomer Thuy Nguyen) from the sexual slavery she has been sold into by starving parents.
The film is not graphic, but its depictions of child prostitution are deeply disturbing. Still, "Holly" manages to avoid preachiness for the most part, instead offering a fairly gritty view from the ground.
The screenplay by Guy Jacobson and Guy Moshe (who also directed) features effectively lean dialogue, simple but damaging enough. There are painful and harrowing images of children scouring garbage heaps for food and 5-year-olds soliciting in broken English, all captured with a neutral, grainy eye.
Moshe also gets powerfully understated performances from his cast -- chiefly from his leads, Nguyen and Livingston, but also from eternally creepy traveler Udo Kier.
The quandary of the film, the impossibility of the task in total, is captured in a flippant remark by the American's friend (the late Chris Penn): "If you're so worried about these Vietnamese girls, write your congressman."
"Holly" is about what happens when you're too personally touched to leave it at that.
-- Michael Ordona
"Holly." MPAA Rating: R for disturbing sexual situations involving children and for language. In English, Khmer and Vietnamese with subtitles. Running time: 1 hour, 53 minutes. At Laemmle's Music Hall, 9036 Wilshire Blvd. (310) 274-6869; Regal Garden Grove, 9741 Chapman Ave., Garden Grove. (714) 530-9864; Edwards Westminster, 6721 Westminster Blvd., Westminster. (714) 379-1185; Edwards Long Beach Stadium, 7501 Carson Blvd., Long Beach. (562) 429-3321.