5 films that give you a front row seat to the wonder of nature

Movie Night


Deep Blue

Published: Friday, March 29, 2013 at 4:27 p.m.
Last Modified: Friday, March 29, 2013 at 4:27 p.m.

A worm inches along in life’s race, unconcerned with its pace.

A wolf on the prowl lets loose a haunting howl.

Leaders rise and leaders fall, yet through it all, a tree stands tall.

In all these things God’s touch abounds, everywhere, all around.

Who am I? What is my place? Questions stir in nature’s embrace.

Caught up in our daily struggles in an increasingly jaded society, we’re sometimes blind to the wonders that surround us.

In honor of Earth Day (April 22), and every other day we enjoy the natural world, we bring you these five films, which pay tribute to the beauty and complexity that nature offers.

“Deep Blue” (2005) — If you don’t think you’ll ever go scuba diving, this documentary does all the work for you as it delves into the ocean to expose the delicate, and sometimes violent, ballet that plays out among the species that call the deep blue home. The colors are like those kaleidoscope toys we played with as children, only on steroids. And there are many harrowing moments. When the night feeders come out, you want to yell, “Sharks! Sharks! Everyone hide.” And that other creature may look like a flying rug, but you do NOT want to take the magic carpet ride it’s offering!

By far the most wrenching moment is when a mother whale trying to protect her 3-month-old baby from a pack of whales loses the battle. Yet, on she must swim. Life does not stop in the ocean.

“Microcosmos” (1996) — This ingenious little documentary offers a bug’s eye view of the insect world. Their beautiful colors, somewhat obsessive-compulsive dedication to cleanliness and problem-solving skills are on full display. You see the natural order of things. In one scene there are ants hard at work and in another a bird stops by for some ant hors d’oeuvres.

There’s action (two beetles duke it out like they’re re-enacting the fight scene in “They Live”) and plenty of love (the mystery of how snails mate is solved here).

It really makes you realize how much you miss when your only interaction with insects sends you running in circles while yelling, “Get it off me, get it off me.”

“March of the Penguins” (2004) — In Antarctica, the emperor penguins leave their sea homes behind in March to walk, and sometimes belly-slide, 70 miles to their breeding ground to find a mate. Once they’ve locked eyes on the “one” and successfully produced an egg, a balancing act begins. The males are left to protect the eggs against the brutal cold while the females trek back to the sea to feed. By the time the females return, the little penguins have hatched and it’s up to the gals to protect the tots while the fellas grab some grub.

If humans had to undertake what the emperor penguins do to keep the species going, overcrowding would not be a problem.

“White Fang” (1991) — On a quest to find his late father’s gold claim, Jack (Ethan Hawke) arrives in the harsh Yukon knowing precious little about how to accomplish that. Alex (Klaus Maria Brandauer), who knew Jack’s father, reluctantly helps the young man, but frequently regrets it as Jack’s inexperience makes what is already a grueling existence more difficult.

During the trek, Jack is transfixed when he first sees White Fang, an orphaned cub that is part wolf and part dog. Their paths continue to cross when a grown White Fang later saves Jack from a bear and the young man returns the favor by rescuing the wolf-dog from the brutal world of dog-fighting when the magnificent creature falls into cruel hands. Jack and White Fang enjoy a special connection that is as beautiful as the scenery in this engrossing Jack London classic brought to life.

“The Bear” (1988) — Left alone after an accident kills its mother, a lonely grizzly cub explores a world with such puzzling things as butterflies and frogs before finding a surrogate parent and protector in a behemoth of a male bear that has been shot in the shoulder by a hunter. Once the big bear heals, it teaches the cub the ropes, such as how to catch fish and other prey.

Meanwhile, the man who winged the adult grizzly remains on their trail. As you fall more and more in love with that enormous bear and that cuddly cub, a dark thought flickers: “If it comes down to the bear or that man, I’m rooting for the bear.”

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