Sprawling from Grace

"Good"

Sprawling from Grace Review


Once Upon a Time in the West could actually have been the birth of the New Urbanist movement, since Claudia Cardinale's murdered husband planned an entire town mixing commercial and residential areas around a transit hub. And this is the plea of David M. Edwards's straightforward documentary Sprawling from Grace, detailing how dependence on the car and the use of oil has distorted the urban landscape into sprawl, congestion, and depletion of resources.

Edwards mounts his case with a battery of talking heads, all proponents of shifting paradigms regarding city planning models -- including Michael Dukakis, Mark Falcone, John Hickenlooper, Patrick McCrory, Randy Udall, and James Howard Kunstler. Interspersed with the heads are shots of traffic congestion and urban glut, along with clips from aptly-chosen educational films. The most hilarious of the bunch is a clip of a little boy looking into the sky. A narrator wonders what a little boy should wish for and suddenly the kid is wearing a cowboy get-up and inside a new Chevy. The child wants to be, intones the narrator, "A powerful man with a powerful car."

The first half of the film illustrates how deluding and brainwashed Americans have become with their reliance on cars and how this love affair with the automobile has now reached its terminal stages. Edwards checks off the signs of doom -- collapsing infrastructure, depletion of oil resources and the end of cheap gas, newly urbanized countries (India, China) adopting the same failed U.S. suburban highway miasma, the ever-rising costs entailed with maintaining a car and keeping it tanked up with gas.

Then after a musical interlude by Kate Bush, Edwards offers suggestions for change -- using coal, solar, wind and hydroelectric technologies, remapping urban centers by mixing residential and commercial and centering towns around a light rail transit hub, weaning people off their reliance on cars.

Edwards offers a hopeful vision of utopian town centers and he has all the experts to back him up. But Edwards is speaking to the converted and it would have been refreshing to hear opponents of his glistening vision (where's Pat Buchanan when you need him?). George W. Bush does make an appearance in the film gleaned from one of his State of the Union messages and sounding like an announcer from the Futurama exhibit at the New York World's Fair, speaking of Americans throwing off their addiction to oil and relying on synthetic fuels and ethanol. Here is where Edwards could have had a naysayer trumpeting the importance of making gas out of corn. But Edwards is mute.

His point is that synthetic fuels are not the solution but getting away from the mindset of automobile use is. And this idea Edwards hammers home with gusto, emphasizing the need to stop deceiving ourselves about the importance of cars and go back to the way things were before the late 1940s and 1950s mushroomed into car lust and highway glut. As Kunstler pointedly remarks, "If America could harness the energy of blowing smoke up its own ass then we could solve the energy problem."

Choo choo goes fast, saves gas, still smells.



Sprawling from Grace

Facts and Figures

Run time: 82 mins

In Theaters: Friday 6th June 2008

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 3 / 5

IMDB: 7.1 / 10

Cast & Crew

Director: David M. Edwards

Producer: David M. Edwards, Nancy Hart-Edwards

Contactmusic


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