Sunday, January 19, 2014

Sundance movie three: RRAAAAWWWWWWRRRRRRRRR!

The Dinosaur 13 team including Peter Larson,
Kristin Donnan, and Todd Miller.
OK, I wasn’t one of those kids that could tell you everything you wanted to know about every dinosaur that ever inhabited the face of the planet.  But I did grow up in rural Wyoming.  And there were major dinosaur digs near my home.  In particular, the wooly mammoth is a local favorite. And there are some pretty serious dinosaur museums near my home, including a fancy new museum in my hometown.  I guess then, it’s no wonder that I was drawn to a Sundance movie called Dinosaur 13.  The movie by director Todd Miller is definitely a must see for any dinosaur fan.  And for anyone who likes a mystery.  I should note that the movie is based on the book by Peter Larson, Kristin Donnan, and Robert Bakker

The movie tells the story of Peter Larson, a commercial hunter/collector/seller of dinosaur bones.  There’s a chance that you'll have a recollection of the story as it played out quite prominently in the news.  Larson and his team discovered one of the most complete T-rex fossils ever which they nicknamed Sue.  They made a deal with the land owner to purchase the fossil for $5,000, a fairly fancy sum at the time.  The deal was made on a handshake with a kind of landowner named Maurice Williams.

Fast forward a year or two and Larson and team are raided by the FBI who over the course of three days hauls away all the fossils and associated documentation.  This will begin an incredible complex, lengthy series of legal challenges that will result in Peter Larson going to jail (for what seem like ridiculous charges), Sue being auctioned off at Sotheby's for a total of $8.26 million dollars ($7.6 million of which goes to the less than savory character Maurice Williams), and a blockbuster opening at Chicago's Cooper Hewitt museum.  

The best thing about this movie is the insight it provides into the sometimes shady world of the fossil market including the exciting auction scene.  If I have a critique for the movie, it would be that it feels a little one sided.  The filmmakers noted that they couldn't get many of the government officials involved in the situation to go on camera.  But not having more of those voices makes the credibility of the film suspect. But overall, it's a great movie.

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