10 years

Posted by · 8:45 am · September 11th, 2011

I don’t want to really dig in here or anything. It’s just a mark of time. There was an open sore in lower Manhattan tied up by bureaucracy, partisan nonsense and greed that became embarrassing, a symbol for a country so gridlocked by internal machinations that perhaps the truly poignant thing would have been to leave things undone. Because so much is still undone and unaccomplished and halted that a formerly proud beacon of progress is being lapped.

I hear the aircraft flying in formation above my house. I know as soon as I flip on the TV it will be wall-to-wall coverage, lazy and disingenuous in its stance of looking back, remembering and reflecting. But the only reflection I can muster is on a country that thinks it’s special for the tragedy of 2001. Welcome to the world, America, where terrible things happen every day.

That’s more negative than I really want it to be. But I’ve already mourned. I’ve already reflected. And I’m just bracing myself for a day that is used as an excuse to fill broadcast time and empty column inches (like these). We cover the world of filmed entertainment here, and even in that frame, I find it fascinating that it’s been nearly nine years since a truly impactful piece built on the specter of that day has landed. Paul Greengrass’s “United 93” was brave but clinical. Oliver Stone’s “World Trade Center” was moving but rote. Mike Binder’s “Reign Over Me” was thoughtful but contained.

I will say that, on television, the recently resolved “Rescue Me” was unsung for its portraits of the tendril effect of a tragedy. And it wrapped things up exactly as it should have, without the pomp and circumstance of “reflecting” and “remembering” so much as the dirty reality of forging ahead. I appreciated it for its perspective that ought to be seen as a microcosm for how we should proceed: There’s a job to do. In our case, there are many.

But Spike Lee’s “25th Hour” is one of the fireball pieces of cinema from the aughts, one that I was relieved to see turn up as a favorite for many writers when reflecting on the decade’s best in film. It’s the proper elegy on celluloid for a time and place and that’s the kind of reflection that represents, I think, the mindset we should be in today, all of us looking right in the mirror and coming to grips with our still seething (political) bigotry. It was ahead of its time for that. And since we still haven’t come to grips with it, it’s still way ahead of us.

So by all means, remember. Reflect. But don’t get caught looking behind you when the road ahead is massive and dangerous and considerable. There’s a job to do. There are many.

[Photo: Touchstone Pictures]




→ 34 Comments Tags: , , , , , | Filed in: Daily

34 responses so far

  • 1 9-11-2011 at 9:53 am

    Keith said...

    Well said.

  • 2 9-11-2011 at 10:01 am

    Chase Kahn said...

    This whole weekend, all I could think about was how awful “World Trade Center” was.

  • 3 9-11-2011 at 10:20 am

    Will said...

    Well put. Spike Lee might be a little hit and miss, but this and When the Levees Broke are 2 of the most essential movies about the decade we just lived through.

  • 4 9-11-2011 at 11:47 am

    Tom C. said...

    I disagree about “United 93.” I think it’s easily one of the finest pieces of cinema from the last decade. However, I also love “25th Hour.” So honest and so poignant. I also notice how no one ever seems to look at this film as a 9/11 oriented film, and yet it paints such a phenomenal portrait of a post-9/11 mentality in both New York and America, on the whole.

  • 5 9-11-2011 at 1:18 pm

    tony rock said...

    United 93 is definitely one of the best films of the last decade. World Trade Center is an underrated gem as well. The 25th Hour is a great film but I don’t recall it touching on 9/11 that much. A couple scenes here and there (that riveting convo by the window between Hoffman and Pepper) reflect on it but that’s all I remember.

  • 6 9-11-2011 at 1:21 pm

    tony rock said...

    I actually caught WTC on dvd again recently and I’ve concluded that if you’re not moved while watching it then you don’t have a soul. Not a single thing about that film from a technical or emotional standpoint can be deemed “awful.”

    Perhaps it’s the fact that it refuses to pander to the cynical.

  • 7 9-11-2011 at 1:21 pm

    Chris G. said...

    There’s a great article in a Danish newspaper, called “Where are all the movies and literature of about 9/11?” – Maybe Google translate could do a good enough job.

    It has some interesting points.

  • 8 9-11-2011 at 1:27 pm

    Chris G. said...

    And of course, the link:

    http://translate.google.com/translate?sl=auto&tl=en&js=n&prev=_t&hl=en&ie=UTF-8&layout=2&eotf=1&u=http%3A%2F%2Fpolitiken.dk%2Fkultur%2FECE1387913%2Fhvor-er-filmene-og-boegerne-om-11-september%2F

  • 9 9-11-2011 at 1:33 pm

    Rashad said...

    I agree Kris. I’m so over 9/11 and the maudlin coverage of it. I swear, all it would take is one suicide bomber in a city or a car bomb somewhere and this country would lose its mind.

    For me, Munich and War of The Worlds are the best post-9/11 films that take terrorism on as their subject matter.

  • 10 9-11-2011 at 2:00 pm

    John-Paul said...

    Rashad, nice call on Munich. I think that may very well be the film that best deals with post-9/11 emotions, even if it’s not directly about it (but of course, the final shot makes certain that you get the connection). It’s not a perfect movie, but I honestly think it’s still too soon after the event to expect a work of art to capture it in a truly profound way. More time needs to pass. It was over 10 years after the Holocaust before a film really touched on that in a meaningful way, but that film (Alain Resnais’s Night and Fog) was a short documentary. It was much longer before a fictionalized film was made that touched upon something related to it…in fact, it probably wasn’t until Schindler’s List. So I think it’s still way too soon to start talking about profound films that deal with 9/11.

  • 11 9-11-2011 at 2:54 pm

    Chris138 said...

    Munich and 25th Hour are my favorite post-9/11 movies for sure. And while the day was definitely tragic, I think it’s overkill to be showing footage all day of the planes hitting the towers and then collapsing. I think that sentence you wrote, about terrible things happening in the world everyday, sums up my feelings on the subject completely. Good post.

  • 12 9-11-2011 at 3:14 pm

    movieguy1 said...

    “There’s an open sore in lower Manhattan tied up by bureaucracy, partisan nonsense and greed that has become embarrassing, a symbol for a country so gridlocked by internal machinations that perhaps the truly poignant thing is to leave things undone. ”

    That sentence is simply flat-out inaccurate. As someone who lives and works in the area and who visited the memorial itself this morning, I would suggest not regurgitating a criticism that–while valid for much longer than anyone would have liked–hasn’t been valid in at least two years.

  • 13 9-11-2011 at 3:27 pm

    Elazar said...

    If future archeologists inspect the cultural artifacts left by our society they might think 9/11 was about as important an event as the coming of Lady Gaga.

    For me, 25th Hour remains the only film that truly touches, deeply, on what 9/11 is to Americans: a stinging feeling of betrayal by an ungrateful world, and then, the realization that we ourselves are far from perfect.

  • 14 9-11-2011 at 3:36 pm

    Sam said...

    Some of you are utterly pathetic. “I don’t like looking back” is just an excuse to put your head in the sand. 9/11 wasn’t a tragedy; it was mass murder. And some of you Left-of-center individuals will never wake up.

  • 15 9-11-2011 at 4:29 pm

    Lena said...

    Sam, bravo. Three thousand innocent souls were murdered just because they showed up for work that morning or they boarded a plane. And some of the oh so cool, too hip to look back intellectuals on this board feel they’re over it. Give me a break. 9/11 was mass murder. I guess if you are not connected to it in anyway then why commemorate it? Please.

  • 16 9-11-2011 at 4:33 pm

    Mike_M said...

    Odd day today (and weekend for sure). Luckily I was doing a lot of work on my new house this weekend so I wasn’t watching the non-stop coverage, but my father-in-law was in the 2nd tower 9 floors below where the plane hit, made it out, but I know it has be surreal for him, luckily he can watch the Yankees and Football.

    Back on topic, I need to revisit 25th hour, been meaning to do it for some time, but gotta find the DVD, it is somewhere in my house.

  • 17 9-11-2011 at 4:35 pm

    Kristopher Tapley said...

    movieguy: Maybe it was worded too strongly. Maybe it’s the length of time that it stayed there festering but it feels like a symbol of stagnated progress to me, regardless.

  • 18 9-11-2011 at 4:47 pm

    Rashad said...

    Sam: It has nothing to do with looking back. Every single year they look back. The problem is that they look back and do so in a manipulative way. Prey upon emotions to promote an agenda. How many civil liberties is it okay to give up because you’re afraid? The people that need to wake up are those that think America is just the innocent bystander in all of this.

  • 19 9-11-2011 at 4:47 pm

    Sam said...

    “Maybe it’s the length of time that it stayed there festering but it feels like a symbol of stagnated progress to me, regardless”
    – So, you’re just a cynic. Good for you that you can stay above it.

  • 20 9-11-2011 at 4:48 pm

    Kristopher Tapley said...

    It’s not about being “hip,” Lena (Jesus). It’s personal philosophy. Subscribe or don’t but don’t try to define my state of mind in such superficial terms without knowing the first thing about me. And that Sam brings partisan politics into the discussion (someone had to) is, to use his phrase, “utterly pathetic.” (And yes, Sam, I’m cynical. Good reason to be these days. You don’t have to like it.)

  • 21 9-11-2011 at 5:03 pm

    Sam said...

    Rashad and Kristopher:

    Instead of spewing vague platitudes, just come out and say that the 9/11 remembrance makes you sick. That anytime citizens of the U.S. take pride in the heroes who gave their lives for others, that day, you see it as a gross demonstration of “xenophobia” and “jingoistic” behavior on the part of those who love this country. Just admit it.

  • 22 9-11-2011 at 5:05 pm

    Kristopher Tapley said...

    No, I won’t come out and say that because that’s not how I feel. Nice try, though. And typical.

  • 23 9-11-2011 at 5:14 pm

    Speaking English said...

    I think two of the best post-9/11 movies are “Caché” and “No Country for Old Men,” both indirectly tapping into the violence and paranoid uncertainty triggered by the event.

  • 24 9-11-2011 at 5:16 pm

    Kristopher Tapley said...

    I find those parallels to be incredibly abstract. I appreciate them for as much but they don’t come to mind for me.

  • 25 9-11-2011 at 5:20 pm

    Speaking English said...

    Alright, that’s fine. I just feel like there was a long line of films since 2001 that have reflected quite extensively a grim, hopeless world filled with threat and fear, similar to the paranoia-laden films following Watergate in the 1970s. I actually wrote a paper about this in high school, also including the enormous array of superhero films released during the time.

  • 26 9-11-2011 at 5:25 pm

    James D. said...

    25th Hour was in my top ten of the last decade, but the 9/11 imagery is such a small part of its greatness. The bond between Cox and Norton, and the emotion in the imagined future, is what nails it for me.

  • 27 9-11-2011 at 5:25 pm

    Rashad said...

    lol Sam you must really think you’re talking to some anti-America liberal when I’m the farthest thing from that. It’s typical for you to go there, but it just aint true. The constant bombardment of faux-patriotism and maudlin reflection is manipulative and annoying, especially when it’s run 24/7 on tv. If that makes me a bad person, oh well I’m a bad person.

  • 28 9-11-2011 at 6:18 pm

    Conor said...

    Eh. I really do agree that the coverage is too sentimental, and at times cringe worthy. But clearly, some people take something away with it and find it therapeutic, and I don’t see what’s wrong with letting them indulge in that. But while the coverage to the thousands who died is disproportionate, the day still deserves recognition for its effects in international relations, war, money (trillions in defense spending for example) and, though it’s largely the effect of the aforementioned media, American culture.

    At the least, I don’t think you’ll have to worry about coverage THIS comprehensive for a while now. :)

  • 29 9-11-2011 at 9:15 pm

    Chris G. said...

    I know some people (Hello Red Wine) are probably gonna hate me for this, but I always thought that The Dark Knight was one of the films that dealt with the post 9/11 world in a refreshing way, touching upon themes of terrorism, torture, policing and crossing lines, without most people even realizing that this is what it’s about.

    Thoughts?

  • 30 9-11-2011 at 10:12 pm

    KatieHall said...

    Thank you, nicely written.

  • 31 9-12-2011 at 12:38 am

    The other mike said...

    Wow a lot of self loathing liberals outing themselves on this site. Smh. I was very moved by the families reading out names And shouting out their lost ones so to just roll ya eyes at that wow. Where is our humanity people.

  • 32 9-12-2011 at 1:19 am

    Kieran S said...

    Hear, hear, Kris.

  • 33 9-12-2011 at 5:25 am

    JJ1 said...

    I am also very moved by the reading out of the names. I’m ‘fine’ with the yearly festivities.

    What I found ridiculously manipulative & sappy this year was that godawful remix of the remade ‘Heaven’ song interspersed with the young child crying out for daddy (who was lost in 9/11). Cringe-worthy.

  • 34 9-12-2011 at 7:37 am

    Mayukh said...

    Thank you, Kris.