DVD Earth Day: The 11th Hour

Earth Day is next Tuesday. So to celebrate the day -- and alert ourselves -- Leo DiCaprio hosts this enviro-doc that's eye-opening and scary yet ultimately uplifting.

I hate the title The 11th Hour. Not the movie. The title. I get what they were going for -- the immediacy of it all, the planet on the brink of destruction... see this before it is too late for us all. All that jazz.

But there are two problems with this. First and foremost this country is in one hell of a funk. Alan Greenspan just announced what we all knew: that we're in a recession. We're in a war that the most optimistic supporters know should have been over ages ago. And nothing, at all, appears to be going the way it should. Every time Hollywood throws a movie at us that tells us how bad it is, we as a nation collectively ignore it (like we ignored this one when it was released in theaters). No one wants to pay 10 bucks to be bummed out. And a title like The 11th Hour screams BUMMER at the top of its lungs.

Then there's the second problem: The 11th Hour is not a bummer at all. It's an uplifting film that lays out the new philosophy of ecology, exposes you to the new sciences working towards making this planet a better place, and opens viewers up to a new way of thinking about how they live their lives and how it will affect future generations. While there are moments of powerful, and sometimes debatable, arguments and images, the film is for the most part an exciting, somewhat spiritual, look at our home and what we think about it. I'm something of a greenie myself (not an activist, but I do my small part) and I found a number of new ways to look at things through this film. This really is a perspective-altering experience.

The film consists almost entirely of interviews with a wide array of people from all over the map -- both figuratively and literally. But don't let the big names on the box fool you. The film was produced and narrated by Leonardo DiCaprio. And although it features such luminaries as former Soviet Prime Minister Mikhail Gorbachev, renowned scientist Stephen Hawking, former head of the CIA R. James Woolsey, and sustainable design experts William McDonough and Bruce Mau, these interviews are pretty brief, with Gorbachev and Hawking each showing up only once. The bulk of the film is instead helmed by less well-known scientists, activists, and think-tank heads from across the political arena. But it is those brief moments with such familiar, respectable faces that gives The 11th Hour so much of its weight.

And this disc really goes the distance in selling its message. The special features -- about ninety minutes' worth -- are cool. They're a series of extended interviews with a number of the interviewees talking about their own specialties. These are all incredibly upbeat pieces about the future, the evolving technologies and extended talks on how this all ties into your daily life.

And if that weren't enough, it comes in an ugly-as-sin cardboard DVD case made entirely out of "100%-certified renewable resources." The 11th Hour isn't playing around. It's serious about its message. But that message really is one of hope and excitement rather than one of despair.

Still resistant to the idea of alternative energies and emerging science? Well, it's time to face the facts. There are three people running for president right now, and all of them are green. Big-time green. Whoever sits behind the desk next is going to be changing a lot of things. This DVD is a great primer to get in the head space of what everyone else is talking about.

The 11th Hour is available now.