Movie Review XIV

by zenquaker

King Corn

Two guys get their hair checked, and find out it’s mostly made out of corn. Perplexed by this, they grow and acre of corn and follow it across America. Sort of. (This is a documentary about the use of corn in the American food supply).

I don’t like the start of the movie, even though it has a few interesting bits and some shots in the town where I grew up. The problem is that it doesn’t really feed into the main point of the documentary [-]. You really could have cut out the first 20 or 30 minutes and not really lost anything from the impact of the film. That’s especially irritating in that they could have used that time to broaden the scope of the film. The ethanol issue is literally brushed off the table with two sentences, and there was no mention made of how the corn subsidies distort the international food supply, and interfere with the ability of poor nation’s to make headway in the international economy. Those topics are maybe a bit off from the main theme, but they could have at least talked about how corn affects the poultry industry (they concentrate on cows).

It has some really interesting points as to how corn is the major ingredient in many foods, and is the major feedstock for the animals that make up the rest of the food [+]. The parts about how feeding cows solely on corn would kill them soon after they get slaughtered are both disturbing and fascinating in a wreck-on-the-side-of-the-road kind of way [+]. The parts about growing the food were okay if not as interesting, but I think they failed in that they weren’t tied well to the rest of the movie [-]. It’s not like they tried to hide anything, and watching the two parts of the movie makes it clear that the government subsidies are tied to distorting our food chain, but it didn’t feel like any work was done to tie the two things together.

I felt a lot of the scenes were forced. Every time they met someone there was a “Hi, I’m so-and-so” scene which seemed so obviously staged [-]. However, there were a couple scenes I did really like. They manage to track down Earl Butz, the originator of the corn subsidies, in a nursing home [+]. Also the random encounter in a McDonald’s drive through with the “CORNFED” license plate guy was rather cool (or at least if it was staged, it was done much better than some of the other scenes in the movie). I also like the way the stop animation with toys lent a surreal feel to some of the more heavily narrated sequences [+].

It also felt a bit biased, although I don’t know about the issue to be sure. Only one person was gung-ho about the whole corn thing, everyone else (even the farmers) were ambivalent about it, or at least their scenes were cut to make it seem that way. The gung-ho scene was rather interesting however, since that was the only representative of a company that makes high fructose corn syrup that would talk to them, and none of them would let them see the actual process.

I’m going to give it one point of oomph because it is a fascinating topic, and certainly made me think about accelerating some of my planned dietary changes.

Final Rating: 6/10

Best Quote: “Well it’s the basis of our affluence now, the fact that we spend less on food.” -Earl Butz