Movie Review: "Urbanized"

January 8, 2013

Of the three Gary Hustwit documentaries I’ve seen, this being the third and last, I thought Urbanized was the best by far. It’s like a primer on the most-discussed issues of urbanism today. So while I can’t say I learned much from the movie, Urbanized is a great introduction to this range of topics, and I’m supposed to know this stuff anyway as part of my profession. The visuals are also great: if you’re an urbanism buff, you’ll enjoy trying to figure out which city is being shown before the titles are given; the aerial views comparing cities are pretty spectacular; and there are some fun interviews with people around the world, including government officials in Santiago, Chile; Bogota, Colombia; and in New York City. I should warn the urbanism buffs, though, that you may get impatient sometimes with the pacing, since so much will already be familiar. But it’s still worth a viewing. For everyone else, you will probably learn a lot, including some things that may be eye-opening about the way people live around the world and about the history of city development. Other topics covered include suburbia (think Phoenix); shrinking cities (think Detroit); exploding cities (think China); adaptive reuse (think New York City’s High Line); energy use, environment, and climate change (think… well, everywhere, but especially New Orleans); and community involvement in urbanism. Overall, definitely recommended.