Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Last Call at the Oasis (Brockway)

Tropic Sprockets by Ian Brockway

Last Call at the Oasis

Jessica Yu's new documentary "Last Call at the Oasis" is one of the most visually lively films I've seen in some time, despite its sober subject. The film deals with the fragility of water in today's world. It treats water as a great helix as strong as DNA, a liquid bond no less strong than epoxy that literally holds us together, from the mite to the majestic. Every living thing needs water to survive. But we are the only species that blatantly uses water with  such a recreational abandon.
And as this film clearly shows, we may continue to do so at our peril and extinction. Our fate may well be decided between oil and water. Las Vegas is portrayed as a neon vampire relentlessly sucking water from the Colorado River. The concept that hits home is that this wild, life-sustaining force must be reigned in and conquered in order to keep the casino colossus going. According to the documentary, not only will the residents be parched and without water in about four years, but there must be waterfalls for the tourists. The hard edged Pat Mulroy of the Southern Nevada Water Authority appears, advocating putting a pipeline into Snake Valley, Utah. The vital Lake Mead is already declining with its residents getting nervous and protesting against the pipeline which currently is closer to completion. 
Water is a political water-balloon and this is a grave mistake, given that we all depend on such an element, whether we are democrats or republicans. During all the bureaucracy, the US is compared to Africa, given all our water woes.
Erin Brockovich is highlighted too, in her fight for clean water in Hinkley, California. She is immediately coupled with Tyrone Hayes, the charismatic biologist and amphibian expert at Berkeley who is rightly at war with atrazine which is so far known to chemically change the sex of frogs. Both Brockovich (with her frosted hair and resolute expression) and Hayes (with his dreadlocks and singular medieval and cultish earring) can be seen as real life Marvel Heroes in our world, ala Storm and Nick Fury. As true and steadfast X-Men they will never give up and we shouldn't either. The segments showing Hayes and Brockovich offer some of the most unsettling footage to watch, but you will be glad that they are fighting and speaking for water.
Last, but certainly not least, there is the Mel Brooks-like Paul Rozin who is a psychology professor at the University of Pennsylvania. Rozin conducts studies on the psychology of food choices. In the film he advocates that there is nothing wrong with recycled water, specifically water recycled from sewage. The taboo, he says, exists in the human mind, and American scientist Peter Gleick agrees. Singapore already recycles its water. It's only that the American public won't stand for it.
To prove the point and to make a little fun, Jack Black is brought in to pitch a bottle of recycled water to the public with the brand-name of Porcelain Spring, laughingly made from the"most peaceful place on Earth." Perhaps under the circumstances, it would be best to label it a spring from John Waters' exclusive well.
Cringe though we might, there is nothing intrinsically wrong with such water. California plans to recycle by 2019. This may well be our best hope given the pollution and economic dreads. "Last Call at the Oasis" is to be applauded in its diverse tone, from urgent concern to high comedy, and it gracefully rushes to and fro like the movement of water itself. Not only does the film suggest ways to untie our aquatic knots, if we are free thinking enough to try, but we see that we don't have to dispense with our humor in this undertaking. It is possible to be liquid and light, yet still remain steadfast in keeping with the motion of our serpentine rivers and the swell of our numinous seas.

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