Don’t Look Up

A recent headline from Common Dreams announced that “Don’t Look Up” is now the most-viewed film on Netflix worldwide.

I don’t watch a lot of television, and as I’ve aged, I seem to have lost the patience necessary to sit through most movies, but my children all raved about “Don’t Look Up,” and then my FaceBook feed was filled with people recommending it in glowing terms, so I made an exception.

What was it that Arte Johnson used to say on “Laugh-In”? Veeery Interesting! (young people, Google it.)

The new feature film “Don’t Look Up,” a dark comedy satirizing the complacency and mendacity of elites in the face of an existential threat to human civilization, is now the most popular movie on Netflix worldwide, according to data compiled by FlixPatrol.

The basic story revolves around the discovery of a large comet by academics at a midwest university. They realize that it will soon hit earth, wiping out most of life on the planet. Rather than deal with that reality, and launch an effort to destroy the comet (which turns out to contain very valuable minerals), the government partners with big business in an effort to recover those minerals, and as that effort fails, enlists celebrities and others in a campaign to tell people “don’t look up.”

So they don’t.

Most reports about the film describe it as a commentary on mankind’s reluctance to take climate change seriously, but the social criticism goes far beyond that. The numerous major stars who play roles in this very negative portrayal of today’s American society have produced a story firmly focused on the worst aspects of contemporary culture–the media’s love affair with celebrity and sex, our obsession with credentials rather than competence (the unwillingness of government officials to believe the scientists until their results have been confirmed by professors at “elite” universities was a nice touch)–and so many other distortions amplified by the current media environment.

Meryl Streep, as a female version of Trump, personified the utterly ignorant, poll-driven, self-engrossed politicians that currently litter our political landscape. And Mark Rylance, playing a mega-rich Silicon Valley tech guru, is a cringe-inducing reminder of the real-world, self-aggrandizing tech billionaires who prioritize the elevation of their personal  fame and profit over any concern for society or humanity.

Critical evaluations of the film have been sharply divided. Roger Ebert hated it; Neil DeGrasse Tyson dubbed it a documentary.

I will admit to being somewhere in-between. I found the satire in many places far too broad, evidence of a determination to “hit them [the audience] over the head.” Artistically, Ebert has a point– the film would have benefitted greatly from some judicious cutting. That said, Tyson is also right–in so many unfortunate ways, it is a documentary.

it’s hard to disagree with a commenter to one site who observed that the movie wasn’t limited to a critique of our disinclination to address climate change–“I totally disagree. This flick was a satire about our culture and was right on the money!”

As another commented  “I mean, when hundreds of thousands of people die from a virus and people still claim it’s a hoax… the notion of people not believing scientists and astronomers seems pretty plausible (regardless of the validity of the scenario).. We live in a strange world right now.” No kidding.

Maybe we need to be hit over the head…Repeatedly.

At the very least, the fact that so many people have watched a movie that is a searing if somewhat over-the-top criticism of today’s culture–and the fact that so many of them (even among the critics) strongly agreed with the message–is probably a good sign.


  1. When I read Albert Einstein’s famous 1949 article declaring the US an oligarchy which has captured all major institutions to the point that citizens cannot differentiate the truth from false, I am amazed that it was written over 70 years and Washington, New York, and the media, still talk about Trump and the GOP is a danger to our fragile democracy.

    George Carlin made a fortune mocking our oligarchy and situation, yet most people thought he was just telling jokes and laughed. They were really laughing at themselves being asleep.

    I do believe a new paradigm of wokeness is among us but most Democrats think they are part of this culture but are still asleep. Their ego identifies with the identity of wokeness, but they are still quite asleep.

    So many truth bombs have been dropped in a variety of ways but most people remain comfortably asleep in the world they’ve created in their minds. They are literally trapped inside their heads of make-believe.

  2. My outdoor thermometer is sitting on 60 degrees this January 1, 2022; if you have been watching the national weather reports they appear to be a dark satire of this time of year in this country. And these conditions have been increasing at an accelerating rate. We have not been “looking up” for decades; instead we have enjoyed favorite stars in movies like “Soylent Green” which should be shown to students in science classes. Instead, people ignored and called Al Gore’s documentary “An Inconvenient Truth” a pack of lies. Will Meryl wake up the Climate Change and Global Warming debunkers with this movie? Did Elon Musk or Captain Kirk see the coming of what we have been ignoring for decades?

    My favorite George Carlin quote is “Don’t sweat the petty things and don’t pet the sweaty things.” A description of Trump’s administration; what they considered the “petty things” left us in a disastrous situation and they continue to support one another by “petting the sweaty things”.

    Happy New Year; we can hope!

  3. Yes. Satire. Perfect. Hit over the head.

    As the old countrified axiom goes: If the mule won’t pull the plow and you smack it upside its head and it still doesn’t move, hit it with an axe handle. If that doesn’t work, use a bigger axe handle.

    In the case of the American public with regards to COVID, the environment and the current anti-democratic coup going on, I’d suggest using a telephone pole on the American public.

    That all said, the surrounding communities to Boulder, CO are pitching in to help the 30,000+ plus citizens displaced and made homeless from the wildfire about 40 miles from my residence. Over 1,000 buildings were destroyed in a blink. The wind-driven fire (100+ mph) caused power lines to fall and ignite the adjacent grasslands. How’s that for an axe handle? Maybe some good will come of it.

    On the other hand, the homeless camps in Denver continue to grow. We had a pissed-off homeless veteran throw rocks through our front glass doors and windows not long ago. And, in other news, the blowback from Rumsfeld’s VA cuts have rendered it useless to combating the thousands of homeless veterans on our streets, most of whom need mental health counseling.

    Happy New Year. Snow in Denver – finally. Put down the cell phones.

  4. Further to aging film critics, this past year marked the 50th Anniversary of Stanley Kubrick’s: “A Clockwork Orange”. Stanley Kubrick’s summary of his film adaptation was less focused on the moral implications of the story, but rather the political implications; he explained it as “a social satire dealing with the question of whether behavioral psychology and psychological conditioning are dangerous new weapons for a totalitarian government to use to impose vast controls on its citizens and turn them into little more than robots.”

    50 years later, Hollywood hits us with “Don’t Look Up”. Are we listening or just being entertained? I have to admit, the character channeling Rush Limbaugh made a point. LOL. Just as our planet was about to become vacuous gas, Rush admonished: “What we should be concerned about right now are all the topless urgent care centers!”

  5. I had a poor job review early in my career where I was criticized for bring in a problem without a recommended solution. I took this to heart and have never stopped looking for solutions.
    While the “Chick Little Approach” to the world seems to be the prevailing attitude. Let’s start by trying to recommend solutions rather than, “not looking up”! Maybe then we can start a dialogue again rather than tearing everything apart. Look back at how much has been accomplished rather than blowing it all up.

  6. The purrfect movie for American culture, 2022 – laughing and entertaining ourselves in crude ways about deeply serious flaws and making big money and headlines about it. As the line from “Where Have All the Flowers Gone?” says….”when will we ever learn?”

  7. My wife and I watched “Don’t Look Up” last night. Immediately afterward I listened to the organizer of the Ball drop in NYC explain why it was perfectly fine to gather 15,000 people during a Covid surge. The rationalizations he used could have come right out of the movie. I laughed until I cried. The ” the world must go on” argument when the world is being existentially threatened is replete in our society today.

  8. Until we deal with our income and wealth divide, nothing else will be resolved. We can’t create a class of people who feel they have no chance to succeed and expect them to care about climate change.

  9. We watched “Don’t Look Up” last night. I wish I had known a little more about it before I picked it as the movie to close out 2021. It was way too close to home, and maybe in 5 or 10 years it will feel like less of a documentary and more like entertaining satire.

    I also suspect there is going to about half of the US population that is going to miss the point of this movie, and are out there right now picketing the equivalent of the topless urgent care centers.

  10. Loved the movie. It is a MUST WATCH film. But please NOTE: Roger Ebert passed away in 2013. continues with a parade of Ebert-wannabes, although none of them have the style, background or writing talent of Ebert. Reviewer Nick Allen reviewed (and panned) Don’t Look Up for the website.

  11. I’m reminded of hunting for the migratory Canada geese in the mid-50s. Bag limit of ONE!! Concern at that time was the existence of the fowl. Today the non-migratory Canada goose lives abundantly throughout the mid-West in our lakes and ponds and parks. The reason they have become non-migratory, the ponds and lakes no longer freeze. Yet, the aging populace denies the dare I write, environmental warming ignoring the FACTS. Half the USA populace believes the politician (60+% in Indiana and Ohio) and call the scientists liars.

  12. Great satire in this film and great metaphor. I saw the Streep character as our previous president–who’s name I neither speak nor spell–complete with dumb comments, poor moral accountability, and the Maga-like hat. The enemy in the metaphor, IMHO–is not only climate change, but also Covid. And the very final scenes, after the credits–provide even more food for thought and conversation.
    We should talk and have that long-awaited Margarita, dear Sheila.

  13. Weather does not prove climate. Climate shifts over hundreds of thousands of years. People are not going to be able to see those shifts in their 80 to 90 year lifespans. So, one day, if your thermometer has an unusually high or low reading, that does not mean there has been a change in the climate. Though I would point out climate change has happened constantly throughout the life of Planet Earth. So, you need to clarify as to whether the climate change is out of the ordinary, whether it was caused by man, and the consequences of that climate change. People shouldn’t assume today’s climate is the ideal and that any variation from it will have only negative consequences. In making policy decisions, one thing that would help is if we could keep science and politics separate.

    One thing we need to be a lot more worried about, and more prepared for, is the absolute certainty that the Yellowstone Super Volcano will erupt. Probably 1/3 of Americans will die within a week. Others will die from the health consequences of breathing the volcanic ash which will blanket the country. (Breathing volcanic ash is like breathing in shards of glass.) The eruption will be cause temperatures to plummet dramatically worldwide and crops will die. A worldwide famine will result. It won’t be an extinction level event, but as many as 1 billion people may die. It will make the consequences of global warming look like a picnic by comparison. We could do a lot to get ready for this certain event, to save lives, but thus far we’ve done nothing. Disaster planning for such an event would carry over for other natural catastrophes.

    I saw the movie. Yes, a comet, meteorite or asteroid 8-10 kilometers wide hitting the earth would be an extinction level event. That though happens only every 20 million years and there’s not, yet, much we can do to defend ourselves from it. Yellowstone though erupts about every 600,000 to 750,000 years. It’s been about 640,000 years since the last eruption.

  14. I agree with you Sandy that people will not care about the environment if we do not care about their needs. The wealth gap is not helping us address climate change.

    I speak often about creating narratives that will help people be part of the change we need in order to implement creative solutions. I consider Mother Earth to be a gift from our Creator/Creatrix. For those of you who are atheist, I am aware that as we destroy earth’s ecosystems, we destroy the survival of the human race. We are part of the interdependent web of life.

    Some have said that the way we treat the earth is a reflection of the way women are treated in a world dominated by men. The aggressive exploitation of earth and the desire to dominate Mother Nature is fueled by an excess of testosterone. Mother Nature is now fighting back.

    I think if we are going to save the earth, the leaders of faith traditions must find a way to convince the adherents of those traditions to regard the earth as a divine gift, to inspire in them a deep reverence for life that goes beyond the anthropocentric ideology. The Buddhist prayer “May all sentient beings be happy.” inspires a deep reverence for all creatures.

    We must also find a way to help corporations in a capitalist society wake up to the fact that they must create a sustainable energy infrastructure that enhances the health of the earth’s ecosystems. I recently saw that the wind mills are now being built with sensors so that they stop when birds approach them. I also saw an architectural wonder. It is facility that collects plastic from the ocean, grows food for the workers, and runs on solar energy. It looks like something out of the Star Trek world.

    As I watch leaders repeatedly fail to proact to save us from this existential crisis, I become aware once again that the human race is not good at taking the long view. The back log in the supply chain is a symptom of our inability to take the long view. We are tooaddicted to short term gratification no matter what the consequences, just like someone hooked on heroin or cocaine.

  15. Dan L.,

    I know a lot about the Canada geese we all see around our neighborhoods. The geese were disappearing in the early 20th Century. The Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918 established regular hunting season for Canada Geese, but the hunting and the drainage of wetlands made them almost go extinct by 1962. What brought the geese back were the development of retention ponds in housing developments. That’s how they got their wetlands back. Now the Canada Geese population has exploded, but yet the laws limiting the hunting of geese have not been changed. Apparently goose meat is very tasty and would feed a lot of people.

    According to an Indiana DNR publication, Indiana’s goose population is 120,000. Not sure the date of that publication (“2007” is in the URL address), but that seems ridiculously low. If it’s less than 1 million Canada Geese in Indiana, I would be surprised.

  16. Sitting here this morning in the middle of theTexas panhandle with the wind chill below zero, I am really glad my propane tank is full. That is the problem I don’t know how to survive in this environment without using carbon based fuels. We were all born into this arrangement . I watched to movie too , it reminded me of what the Buddha said “Greed , Hatred and Ignorance rise endlessly”. I can’t for unpack that sentence for anyone else because each person has had different life experiences which makes it impossibly for two people to think alike , but just putting it out there. Dr.Bill Rees a Professor from British Columbia has a different way of looking at our problem. He is a member of Canadian Association for The Club of Rome and has presented his work on youtube. I found it very enlightening .Having read and enjoyed this blog and the comments for awhile with respect to everybody just wanted to share this. Being 72 today I remember being on a Coal Train going through ranch land in Eastern Colorado and saying out loud , can you imagine being on your pony with nothing on but a loin cloth chasing wild buffalo, we aren’t really living here inside a condrolled environment we can’t even feel the wind on our faces. No comment from the other two men in the cab just the look of your crazy man! Happy New Year to All crazy or not.

  17. Unfortunately the film is an accurate, and sad, commentary on the shallow, superficial, narcissistic ways of Amerikan culture these days (and there are certainly others around the world that have similar “values”.) Our political and business “leaders” have spent the last 50 plus years ignoring the cries of the scientists telling them that we are headed for disaster, but the business of America is business so its always profits before people. Now here we are facing the near-term human extinction, the feedback loops are all in motion and the tipping points have been past years ago. There is no “fixing” the mess we are in now so prepare for total ecological and economic collapse in less than 10 years. And possibly the worst part is that all these right-wing climate change denying morons are really going to be pissed when they realize they’ve been lied to for so many years, and they have lots of guns so guess who’s going to suffer the consequences? Don’t look up, indeed!

  18. Somehow when individual accomplishment gets too big, collective accompaniment goes to hell.

    A comparison:

    On the pandemic and climate change, which are both collective problems and require collective solutions individual accomplishment has exceeded all expectations in identifying problems visible only to science and the very complex mitigations necessary collectively like mRNA vaccines and the total upgrade of our energy system from source to final use. Individual accomplishment that exceeds all expectations severally blunted by collective bumbling.

    On the other hand look at the scientific and engineering marvel called the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) that you can follow almost up to the minute progress at:

    See what we are capable of accomplishing individually and also capable of collectively and massively screwing up?

    Why, why, why?

  19. We were watching the national news on how the cruise ship lines were combatting the CDC’s recommendation of not going on cruises. Some now guarantee a full refund or credit if you get sick within 14 days of your cruise.

    If they would also supply an on board coroner and burial at sea it would be quite a perk.
    My wife suggests their new catch phrase might be “What a way to go!”

    Same with global warming and comet hits. We can always find a ready audience willing to invest with the correct marketing. Anything for the economy.

  20. Watched the movie when it came out. Made me exclaim various things during the show.
    Nasty vicious totally deserved condemnation of our oligarchy and its subjects.
    Yes, the billionaire was an amalgam of Silicon Valley types we all know.
    Streep was definitely Drumpf. I haven’t been able to find a MAGA-style hat saying don’t look up. Someone is missing a great opportunity!
    Lemons from lemonade? I’m planting flowers since it’s wet now in the SFBay area.

  21. Worrying about the Yellowstone Supervolcano is the equivalent of topless abortion centers.

  22. Don’t Look Up is about our ignorance and powerlessness in a system that thinks itself more important than the truth.

  23. Are Americans, or so many Americans, the only ones blind enough to buy Newt’s garbage about there being no such thing as acid rain?
    Or, Inhofe’s idiot scene with the snowball in congress? Are we just so interested in watching TV rather than looking up?
    We had company here, last night, and one of the guys displayed an encyclopedic knowledge about TV movies. He impressed me with
    his, apparently, spending THAT much time sitting on his behind, and feeding his fairly vast belly. We are the most entertained nation on the
    planet, I have read.
    Al Gore’s book, and the film, came out in 2006, smack in the middle of the GWB farce of a presidency, and gained little serious traction, sadly.
    It would be nice if this new movie made a difference, but it may just be too late, in any case.

  24. I thought Roger Ebert was long deceased… was there another version of this movie??

  25. My favorite part of the movie was when, they finally realized they’ve been hornswoggled. After they were bombarded by The Nut Jobs, not to believe What they were being told, DiCaprio Yells at one of their rallies, just look up there it is right there just look up! They all start booing and then one guy actually looks up and said There it is, we’ve been lied to, lol!

    It’s one thing to be deceived, It’s a completely different thing to be willfully ignorant. If only it was as simple as it was in the movie.

    It makes no sense that the Uber wealthy and the politicians who do their bidding, feel That somehow they would survive a cataclysmic global event. Even one They have engineered themselves. They haven’t quite grasped the idea that If there’s a global cataclysm, If everything goes down the toilet so to speak, It doesn’t matter how much money you have or who you’re connected to, everyone’s on this same boat called Earth.

    I am almost completely sure, lol, smh, They figure that The ones who are going to perish are going to be those that they consider the lesser ones. In other words, once all of them are gone, they can remake the planet in their image. Everybody is mortal, everybody dies! When the planet is gone, What good is a stack of money going to do? life in some sort of bunker? How long will it take before they start killing themselves off to make the food last longer? Or maybe the air? Or maybe the water?

    Go figure.

  26. Climate change – and yet Paul, you refuse to separate your politics from the science which overwhelmingly supports the concept of anthropogenic climate change. All of your objections about the history of climate change on earth have been examined and do not account for what we see. A recent Science report explained that super cold snap in Texas as a result of the melting of the polar ice caps. Many more reports and articles (articles are longer; reports shorter – all peer reviewed) have repeatedly supported anthropogenic climate change. I know I won’t convince you, but such is the way it is –

  27. ALL–about Roger Ebert. Yes, he’s dead–but there is a large staff still doing business (reviewing movies and television programs) as

    I should have been more explicit….

  28. I too watched Don’t Look Up on New Year’s and had no idea I was part of a universal audience! Thinking about the film afterward, I thought that’s a satire on so many things. The film is a dark tragedy because nobody wins, not even the President’s fly-away coterie because when they return to Jurrasic earth 22,000 years later, they are just as vulnerable to demise as they were in comet days. More Interesting to me was the formation of those who announced and believed the scientific facts. They were an emotionally battered group, but they came together and had a last supper before the comet hit. They were a small diverse group who had formed bonds of affection and commitment that would sustain them through their final moments. They were fully human in the best sense, choosing to be a community, literally and humbly holding hands over supper, and prayerfully asking for The Creator to help them face extinction.
    That scene didn’t seem to bite. If it was meant to be satirical, I thought is was kindly played. So, now my opinion of the film shifted from “all is lost” to the idea that coming together respectively and affectionately offers deep comfort. This behavior doesn’t answer or address all the questions and problems. But it’s a foundation piece for people and agencies to live as individuals, corporations, states, or nations. Wondering if anybody else read that last supper scene along these lines.

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