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World Trade Center

 
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beltmann
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Joined: 26 Jun 2003
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Location: West Bend, WI

PostPosted: 08.20.2006 10:44 pm    Post subject: World Trade Center Reply with quote

What?s most surprising about World Trade Center is how Oliver Stone has relied on a tried-and-true Hollywood template to make a fairly square, apolitical movie. The story of what these two men experienced is surely inspiring, but for me Stone?s conventional approach finally limits the movie?s capacity to say something profound or important about what happened that day. Since 9/11 is merely the backdrop, we get the sense that this survival story has been set at Ground Zero for arbitrary reasons--even though it?s based on real-life facts, there?s not much space between World Trade Center and, say, Earthquake or The Towering Inferno. There?s certainly nothing wrong with celebrating bravery and patriotism, but when compared to the tougher, more exploratory United 93, Stone?s movie feels a bit cartoonish. Such controversial films can sensitively and intelligently deal with international trauma in ways that transcend re-enactment, and extend our understanding of the intricate human elements buried beneath the mere ?facts? of history. For me, the limitation of World Trade Center is that it doesn't quite live up to that promise: While it enlarged my emotional comprehension of what it might be like to be trapped and dying under rubble, it didn't say much about what it meant to be trapped and dying on September 11, 2001.



To the men trapped, that distinction obviously makes no difference. But to a viewer like myself, who had hoped that Stone would use this event to pinpoint the political or metaphorical meanings behind the experience, it makes a world of difference. An acquaintance argued, "Seems to me that's a theme that folks who weren't trapped beneath rubble on 9/11 would struggle with." Well, that's it precisely--I'm one of those folks, and so are most of those paying to see this movie.



By refusing to place this event in a larger political or metaphorical context, Stone gives us only a fairly routine rescue movie, one that might have been set anywhere, anytime. (There's not even much suspense, and the viewer never really shares their sense of exertion or claustrophobia.) The film doesn't feel much different from one of those flagwaving war movies from the Forties. While that's perfectly fine, when compared to movies that aim to do more, it ends up feeling a little less worthwhile, at least to my taste. I'm not questioning the validity of Stone's choices, only suggesting how this movie could have been more interesting to me.



Still, if the very existence of World Trade Center provokes conversations about the ethics of memorializing tragic events, then I would argue it has already performed a valuable service. And while the movie was a little too conventional for my tastes, I'm also open to the possibility that such traditional, uplifting storytelling might yield exactly the 9/11 movie that a lot of other people need right now.
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Danny Baldwin
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Joined: 26 Jun 2003
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Location: San Diego, CA

PostPosted: 08.21.2006 2:27 am    Post subject: Re: World Trade Center Reply with quote

beltmann wrote:
What?s most surprising about World Trade Center is how Oliver Stone has relied on a tried-and-true Hollywood template to make a fairly square, apolitical movie. The story of what these two men experienced is surely inspiring, but for me Stone?s conventional approach finally limits the movie?s capacity to say something profound or important about what happened that day.


I suppose I found that the style restricted its ability to function as the same kind of movie as [i]United 93, but I think it's just as important of one. I think that the comparison is really apples to oranges despite the common setting and underlying theme of heroism. United 93 for me worked best when seen as a commentary on the battle between good vs. evil itself (albeit explored in far more complex terms than those that I have expressed), whereas World Trade Center functions best a human drama studying the lives of those a part of such a conflict. Melodramatic, perhaps, but I think that melodrama has the ability to work (the film reminds me a lot of those of Ron Howard). If United 93 presents the situation in more complexity in the Darwinian and political sense, then World Trade Center takes on the moral/philosophical/emotional approach. I respect both films equally for their intentions and their approaches to those intentions.



beltmann wrote:
Since 9/11 is merely the backdrop, we get the sense that this survival story has been set at Ground Zero for arbitrary reasons--even though it?s based on real-life facts, there?s not much space between World Trade Center and, say, Earthquake or The Towering Inferno.


I suppose that's highly subjective and I could see the debate arise in regards to it, but I was deeply drawn into its emotional-dynamic and found the movie to be highly affecting. I suppose I may have been moved more than I would be by say, a WWII movie about the same thing, simply because the event is in recent memory, but I'm not sure that really invalidates World Trade Center's impact on me as a viewer.



beltmann wrote:
To the men trapped, that distinction obviously makes no difference. But to a viewer like myself, who had hoped that Stone would use this event to pinpoint the political or metaphorical meanings behind the experience, it makes a world of difference.


Again, I'm not sure if there's anything wrong about a movie taking on a simple POV to illustrate more complex values/emotions. Stone may not choose to speak about politics (or, debatably, metaphor) in his approach, but I thought that it was equally as involving and stimulating as pictures that have taken different routes to similar subjects (United 93, of course, seems to be the easiest "comparison").



beltmann wrote:
The film doesn't feel much different from one of those flagwaving war movies from the Forties. While that's perfectly fine, when compared to movies that aim to do more, it ends up feeling a little less worthwhile, at least to my taste. I'm not questioning the validity of Stone's choices, only suggesting how this movie could have been more interesting to me.


But those "flagwaving war movies from the Forties" got to people then, didn't they? Again, perhaps I would think this to be a more shallow movie under other circumstances, but it worked for me through a historical vantage point.[/i]
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beltmann
Studio Exec


Joined: 26 Jun 2003
Posts: 2341
Location: West Bend, WI

PostPosted: 08.21.2006 5:41 am    Post subject: Re: World Trade Center Reply with quote

Danny Baldwin wrote:
I respect both films equally for their intentions and their approaches to those intentions.


As I said, I don't question Stone's stylistic choices... but if United 93 and WTC are apples-and-oranges (and I think they are), there's still the problem that the apple is much better at being an apple than the orange is at being an orange. There's nothing wrong with melodrama as a form--in fact, it's among my favorite genres--but WTC doesn't strike me as a particularly noteworthy example of the genre, especially with its tin ear for dialogue and its dull, paint-by-numbers characterizations. Was I moved? Yeah, sure, but a wise critic once advised to never trust your tears. Just because we fell for a movie's manipulations doesn't necessarily make it great cinema. I've welled up at a lot of lousy movies, including ones far worse than World Trade Center. (And my eyes remained dry at the end of United 93, a film that nevertheless affected me in deeper, more resonant ways than WTC did.)



Danny Baldwin wrote:
But those "flagwaving war movies from the Forties" got to people then, didn't they?


Sure, but mostly by appealing to the most base, shallow, jingoistic impulses within audiences. Maybe that's exactly what viewers wanted at the time, which is why I already conceded that WTC might be "exactly the 9/11 movie that a lot of other people need right now." But like those movies from the Forties, I suspect that WTC isn't going to date well.



I don't mean to call WTC a poor movie overall; actually, I think it's pretty okay as an inspiring yet routine rescue movie. But that brings me back to one of my original points: The fact that it is set on September 11 feels secondary to its main mission of reviving familiar genre cliches. While United 93 plunged me into its chosen events of 9/11, WTC merely and gently set me down in the world of, say, Dante's Peak. That's the difference between a fresh apple and an orange that's been sitting out in the kitchen since 1944.
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