Saturday, June 8, 2013

Chasing Ice (2012)

1 Nomination, 0 Wins

Nomination: Best Achievement in Music Written for Motion Pictures, Original Song - J. Ralph for the song "Before My Time"

Though it missed out on a nomination in the Best Documentary Feature category after being named to the short list with 14 other documentaries, Chasing Ice received a nomination in the Best Original Song category for the song "Before My Time."  The song, performed by Scarlett Johansson on vocals and Joshua Bell on violin, was nominated over efforts performed by such well known names as Katy Perry, Rick Ross, Fiona Apple, and, of course, Matthew McConaughey.

Chasing Ice is the story of Extreme Ice Survey, an organization led by photographer James Balog that uses photography to document the melting of glaciers due to global climate change.  The team has over come some remarkable challenges to install time lapse cameras that provide an alarming visual record of the shrinking glaciers that helps take the problem out of the realm of charts and graphs and into truly terrifying photographs.

Chasing Ice largely focuses on Balog and his colleagues, but occasionally tries to zoom out a bit and take a bigger scope by looking at the larger problem of global warming, briefly looking at the so-called "scientific debate" about climate change.  These moments are done well, but the film is at its best when showing the efforts of EIS and the resulting photographs and footage they recorded.  The unforgettable highlight of the film is the sequence that shows the glacier calving at the Jakobshavn Glacier in western Greenland.  The original footage is 75 minutes in length, the longest glacier calving ever capture on film, and though Chasing Ice is only able to show a few minutes of this event, it's a brutally powerful sequence that will likely affect people's concerns about climate change more than most scientific data.

The song "Before My Time" comes at the end of the film, and it's a moody and haunting song that fits the tone of the film well.  I've listened to the song on its own, and though it doesn't work as well outside of the context of the film, Oscar nominated songs are considered based on how they work in the film, and "Before My Time" is a nice fit.  Scarlett Johansson's voice has a rough smokiness to it that adds to the song's haunting tone, and Bell's violion is unsurprisingly lovely.

I wasn't terribly impressed by the filmmaking in Chasing Ice, and I can see why the film was not ultimately nominated for Best Documentary, but the subject is perhaps the most important subject we face as a species, and the footage made by Balog and his team is essential viewing.

Remaining: 3143 films, 871 Oscars, 5397 nominations

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