Among the Jeffies, no category exists for "importance." I tend to hew to the standard categories everyone uses. And anyway, it usually takes a decade to determine importance--it's hard enough to even determine what's good. But in this case, one movie deserves to be singled out. As art, it was only mostly successful--it had slow, draggy parts, and the essential point of the movie was clear in the title; for people familiar with the topic, there wasn't anything new. On the other hand, the themes are knitted together through the metaphor (a river), which isn't the easiest thing to do in a documentary. So, all in all, a pretty good movie, but not the stuff of artistic "importance."
An Inconvenient Truth broke larger ground than art. Thanks to a large, very well-funded coalition of partners from the White House to ExxonMobil, the notion of a phony "debate" about the reality of global warming was alive and well when Gore's movie debuted. As he describes in the movie, reporters dutifully reported this "debate" and gave credence to what was essentially a lie (that global warming was either not happening or wasn't caused by tailpipes and coal factories).
The lie and the debate are dead. The administration now not only admits that global warming exists, but that we're causing it and need to stop. Eighty-five percent of Americans believe its happening. And the "debate" is no longer mentioned in the news articles.
Gore managed to do something no liberal or scientist could do for the past two decades--convince the nation and its leaders that we need to act on global warming. Since the movie came out, the three west coast states have passed legislation to immediately begin addressing it. The Democrats were swept into power in part because the administration was so obviously untruthful about Iraq--and things like economic equality and global warming. They are now in a position to start addressing this critical issue.
Global warming is now a serious issue in American politics, and the question is now how to deal with it. Without An Inconvenient Truth, we'd still be conducting an absurd debate with oil men about whether it exists. In the absence of a serious press whose willing to question the lies of a powerful and pervasive coalition, we need couragous movies like Gore's. In fifty years, we will still be talking about it.
So the special Jeffy goes to Al Gore. He lost the election, but he won the debate. Good man.