21 April 2006

What? Too soon?

So, one of the actors who plays a hijacker in that new movie about flight 93 (anyone heard about this? apparently it's controversial) has not been allowed into the US for the premiere.

He's Iraqi, served in the army in the 90's, and plays a hijacker in a movie.

I don't really have the energy for the various ins, outs, what-have-yous in this one.

I do have the energy to recount my feelings upon seeing the United 93 trailer: Disgust. Pure bilous disgust. TOO SOON!!!!! Really, it is too soon to "memorialize" (read: "make money from") these events on film. This soon afterwards, you might seem to be, oh I don't know, profiting from people's considerable emotional distress.

This makes me about as pissy as that Patriot Day nonsense. Thousands of innocent people died in a horrifying manner and the least we can do is show a little dignity when remembering what happened. There is really no need to bring in the effing circus, dancing girls, flame-breathers, baton-twirlers, unicycling bears all draped in the American flag. Why don't we wait ten years before busting out the chest beating brohuha? Or longer? How about that? Maybe we could consider being reeeaaaaalllly restrained and respectful. Maybe we shouldn't come off like a bunch of vultures.

Or, you know, maybe not.


claire said...

yes. you are correct, sir.

i had a long conversation about this with my co-workers. we, apparently, hold the minority opinion in this.

their argument is: a) i don't have to see the movie. (thanks, guys)
b) the families of the people on united 93 all support the movie, so i should too.
c) they're all dumb.

Sheena said...

They make a strong case.

Apparently there's a gas leak in our apartment that's addled our judgement.

But they think it's not too soon? Are they going to see it? Are they soulless?

Cupcake said...

I agree. Too soon. It reminds me of when Law and Order did a "ripped from the headlines" episode that basically copied the night club fire in RI that killed I forget how many people (but including some of my high school classmates).

When the episode aired the local NBC affiliate ran a crawl saying something to the effect of "This episode parrells the Station Night Club fire and it may be too painful for some viewers to watch." I got through about the first 60 seconds before I had to turn it off.

These media ghouls are shameless. Of course, I had the choice to not watch it, but is it too much to ask for people to observe the standards of taste and basic decency?

Flushy McBucketpants said...

Is it too soon? I don't think so. It's been five years. For the record, a small percentage of proceeds are going toward the flight 93 memorial, which I read somewhere is going to cost $30 million dollars... which seems a little exorbitant to me anyway... surely the 2/3 of that could go to some useful humanitarian cause... but I digress. Hollywood studios have a long history of exploiting historically based tragic, yet dramatic events for their own profit. Schindler's List immediately comes to mind and most war films (excluding those involving either Damon Waynans or Pauly Shore). I don't really think of this as much different.

That said, I don't have much interest in watching a plane full of people plummet to their deaths either as a work of dramatized historical events or as complete fiction. It just doesn't sound like either a particularly fun or enlightening way to spend two hours.

Sheena said...

Schindler's List was made a full 45-50 years after the Holocaust.

5 years is much sooner than 45-50 years.

And whether they're donating some money or not, they're still going to make some money off of it, right?

I'm aware that Hollywood tends to be cheap and exploits those easily-located sentiments, but that doesn't mean I have to lie down and take it.

Flushy McBucketpants said...

Apocalpyse Now was made in the late seventies, only four or five years after the Vietnam war had ended. Platoon came out only a few years after that.

Yes, they will be making probably a fair amount of money from the film, DVD, and probably other merchandise...

...lie down and take what? it's a movie. if a movie studio wants to lay down $20 million to make a film, what's the difference? Who is actually being harmed by this?

and anyway, by most accounts, I think it's actually supposed to be a pretty good film... not overly sentimental, or patriotic...

claire said...

i think you might be missing sheena's point a wee bit, will.

no one's saying that hollywood doesn't always do this. that's the whole point. that it does. and it makes me/us sad. and upset.

just because things are done that way doesn't mean it's right.

i don't care if it's a great movie. i think it's too soon. and everyone's got a right to their opinion.

Sheena said...

Apocalypse Now was as much an adaptation of Heart of Darkness as it was a Viet Nam movie. Both it and Platoon were fictionalized stories of the war that exploded the horror of the war and its participants.

While I see your point, I think it's a different thing. These are real people, real events, in accord with what they know to have happened. I'll not compare the three films, because I've obviously not seen United 93, but I think that a recreation of events, five years after the fact, is cheap artistically. One of the many things that make Apocalypse Now an enduring film is that its events are not as tied to Viet Nam as you'd think. It's about confronting the evil within (the heart of darkness, if you will). The backdrop of the Viet Nam war is important, yes, but not the primary focus. I understand what this film purports to do. I'm just not sure that this is the right way to do it.

Flushy McBucketpants said...
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Flushy McBucketpants said...

I guess I just have a hard time seeing it as being insensitive or whatever as it seems to have a pretty strong endorsement from families of those who were on the plane. If anyone's to say that it's too soon, it would be them. And people have been making documentary films about the events literally since the day of. No one seemed bothered by having the actual images of the events displayed.

As for post-Vietnam related films, what I was trying to get at was that there were probably a number of veterans and family members of veterans, or family members of military personnel who had been killed, who had no interest in seeing images of the war on screen. I guess I don't know if there was a lot of uproar as to whether or not these movies were insensitive, but somehow I doubt it. And regardless, they garnered a great deal of acclaim.

As for Flight 93, while it seems to be a studio attempt to capitalize on a tragedy, I think you have to compare it to those Vietnam war films. Much like Vietnam war films were a way to simultaneously memorialize and demonize humans put in extraordinary circumstances, it sounds like Flight 93 works to a similar effect, giving us a peek at human behavior at its most desperate. Again, I haven't seen Flight 93, but from what I've read, it's not sensationalizing the events or twisting them to make them somehow more commercially viable. I point to the village voice review:

"Like most memorials, it is respectful, premised on competing obligations to the dead and the living, and eager to stress that the deaths were not in vain. It not only tells us we should never forget but also illustrates how we should remember."


Is it ever too soon for that?

Sheena said...

It really doesn't matter what I write at this point, as this seems to be morphing into one of those blog debates of ours, Will, with no end in sight. Go see the feature-length memorial for $10.75 if you feel strongly about its worth. It will not be how I choose to remember that day.
The movie is "eager to stress their deaths were not in vain?" In my opinion, that slaughter was one of the most pointless in American history. I'm interested in what the filmmaker thinks is the point of their deaths. So that Afganis could be free? So that Iraqis could be free? So that George W. Bush could get reelected? We Americans, in my opinion, have actively shown just how pointlessly those thousands were lost. What have we changed about our world view as a result? Have we become less insular, more measured? Less xenophobic? Have we combatted terrorism at its root (poverty, illiteracy, theocracy in countries like our good friends Saudi Arabia)? What about scaled back our consumption of foreign oil and thus our dependence on theocratic nations like Saudi Arabia?

We did have a golden opportunity to show that these lives were not lost in vain, in those crucial months afterwards. But we missed it. We did, however, establish quite the bustling commerce over remembering the lives lost (apparently, people can actually buy pieces of the towers). This is what disgusts me. And I really do think this movie is just another empty gesture on top of that pile.

I have seen the trailer. I find the whole thing to be macabre. The Voice may find it a decent tribute, but this combined with the fracas over the WTC site leave a bad taste in my mouth. It's a contribution to the business of remembering 9/11.

And indeed, the last paragraph of the Voice review is telling:

"But United 93 slips into propaganda with a concluding title card that declares, "America's war on terror had begun." Whatever Greengrass's intentions, his film's closing moments essentially memorialize 9-11 Bush style, as an occasion for revenge. Painful as this movie is, it's even more excruciating to imagine how it might play in some of the country's multiplexes."

claire said...

also, and this is just a small point, but can you really see ANY critic saying ANYTHING bad about this movie?

i mean, talk about being slammed as unamerican... it would never happen.

I mean, aside from Slant Magazine (or Keith Uhlich), who said, "The stench of death and dread permeates every frame of United 93, but it is nowhere near as strong as the stink of synergy."

Flushy McBucketpants said...
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Flushy McBucketpants said...

A few points:

1. Not having seen it, none of us are really in a good position to argue anything about this movie, but given that...

2. I think what the reviewer is referring to when he writes "eager to stress that the deaths were not in vain" is that by crashing the plane, the passengers saved hundreds of other lives. They did, after all, manage to stop terrorists from flying the plane into a building full of people.

3. If the movie was crass and exploitive, I don't see why it wouldn't have been trashed by the reviewers, garnering comments more like the VV reviewer's line about the A&E movie of the same name ("A&E's recent TV movie Flight 93, weepily eavesdropping on one Final Call after another, indulged in morbid voyeurism."). Film reviewers make a living off panning movies that millions of other people flock to see. I don't think they're particularly concerned about their audience disagreeing with them. They're not politicians, they're critics.

4. I concede that the action described at the end could be a twist on the events solely for dramatic purposes. At the same time though, it doesn't seem out of the realm of possibilty given the situation that the passengers were in.

5. There's a note at the end of the article stating that since the reviewer's initial viewing, the title card stating that "America's war on terror had begun" was replaced with one that read "Dedicated to the memory of all those who lost their lives on September 11, 2001." This change doesn't ring as a rally cry for revenge. Additionally, there's this element to the film as well: "[Greengrass's] point is broadly similar to that of literary critic and plane crash expert Elaine Scarry, who in the 2002 Boston Review article "Citizenship in Emergency" juxtaposed the successful revolt aboard Flight 93...with the Pentagon's failure to defend itself and the nation." So while the end may stir up some sense of patriotism and a "get 'er done" attitude, it sounds like it's tempered with some criticism of the administration incompetance as well.

Joshua said...

I doubt I'll see it in the theater, but I am interested in seeing the movie and will probably rent it at some point. If nothing else, I don't know much about Flight 93-having avoided much of the later coverage of 9/11, so I am curious.

For what that's worth.