September 11, 2008

Short Cuts: "I Don't Like Remembering"

Today is still a difficult day for me, as it is for many of you. There were a number of people from BU on those planes that morning, including a personal friend of my roommate. But beyond the trauma of that day in Boston, I still can't fully comprehend how much our daily lives are still affected by what happened. Look past it if it makes you feel better, but you have to admit that under the surface, we're in a much different country than we were seven years and one day ago.

I don't do anything special today, and I don't expect anyone else to. I didn't post anything last year and I just as likely won't next year. There's nothing to do, really, but reflect and move on.

One of the reasons I love film is because it can be used as a tool for such occasions. It can provide perspective and bring us into another person's life. There have been a handful of movies that have dealt with 9/11, some directly but most indirectly, and I've found a couple of appropriate clips for this installment of Short Cuts (a year from now, of course, one could potentially use the scene in Man on Wire).

As in Reign Over Me, some of us are living like Charlie (Sandler), and some of us are living like Alan (Cheadle). I think both are normal, and I think both are fine. But whatever your reaction is, whether grief or indifference or something else, maybe that reaction - and not tragedy itself - is worth reflecting upon.

In doing so, we might better understand the full scope of the situation, and in doing that, we might better understand the people we encounter in our daily lives.

Because, as you know by now, the movie experience shouldn't end in the theater.

25th Hour (2002). Directed by Spike Lee (two Spike Lee joints in a row?!); written by David Benioff; starring Edward Norton, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Barry Pepper, Rosario Dawson, Anna Paquin, and Brian Cox.

Reign Over Me (2007). Written and directed by Mike Binder; starring Adam Sandler, Don Cheadle, Liv Tyler, Jada Pinkett Smith, Donald Sutherland, and Saffron Burrows.


  1. Glenn Kenny's remembrance over at Some Came Running is both a very heady reflection for those of us who would love to meet Ray Winstone or Clair Denis and a gut-wrenching memory that will linger perhaps forever. The comments are worth reading, too.

    I worked for a financial management magazine at the time, so I knew people who were in the building and escaped and, sadly, a colleague on the plane that hit the Pentagon. One of the regular posters at the New York Times Opera discussion board, which I occasionally frequented (and he the Movies forum), died, too. I'm sure most people can relate to the hollow, stunned feeling I had.

    Now I have a different reaction--intense anger at our government. The executive branch used a national tragedy as an excuse to deceive a lot of Americans into going into a war that has seen more than twice the number of Americans die as who died on 9/11, as well as perhaps 100,000 Iraqis, many of them civilians. The war was an invasion, not a liberation or a defense of our country that was intended to be a permanent occupation (and may still be). Abu Ghraib showed us the tip of the iceberg regarding the methods our executive branch would legitimize to maintain control.

    I'm sorry to get so political, but this all outrages me on this horrible anniversary. Whatever your politics, we must mourn for ALL the victims that died on that day and as a result of that day.

  2. Thanks for that link, Marilyn. I do know that feeling you and Glenn both describe. There is really visceral pall of sorrow that still hangs over this day for me, part of it because of what happened that morning and part of it because of everything that has happened since. I agree completely with your final sentiments of mourning.

    Obviously I'm not pleased with the political exploitation of the event either, but to be honest I can get just as frustrated with those who still sell 9/11 as having been outright planned by the U.S. government. The conspiracy theories that involve that day are just too much for me to swallow, and I'm personally glad that the public hasn't latched on to those ideas. I'm not taking anything away from those of us against the wars or upset with the whole situation, but generating paranoia (speaking of which, I find this to be very interesting) and/or stoking rebellion within the American public doesn't seem to serve a greater good, in my opinion. The anarchists smashing windows here at the RNC last week are proof, accomplishing nothing and taking all attention away from the organized peaceful protests that also occurred throughout the week.

    Back to the movies real quick - 25th Hour was actually on last night and I watched it for a few minutes. It was about as mediocre as I thought the first time, but has more comedy than I remember (finding the drugs in Norton's couch). Also, Barry Pepper lives literally across the street from Ground Zero? Ridiculous.

    So we're still awaiting an "important" or otherwise good 9/11 movie, as far as I'm concerned.

  3. Nice post, Daniel. Some of my favorite brave and thoughful responses to our culture's feelings in a post-9/11 world have come from films.

    Oddly, one of the best that I think that tapped into our complex feelings over this was last year's Revolutionary Road. The fact that it did so indirectly, I think, made it so much more powerful to me.

  4. I don't have a post-9/11 film to recommend, but I highly recommend United 93. Despite a reluctance to see it, I found it a healing experience as well as a damn fine movie.

    I don't believe in the conspiracy theories, but when you live in a country run by extralegal means, with a coopted press silenced, and lies replacing policy, I can understand the paranoia.

  5. Thanks, Fox. I assume you're talking about last year's Reservation Road and not this year's Revolutionary Road, with DiCaprio and Winslet? Hehe, kind of confusing. Either way, though didn't get the same feelings as you did from Reservation Road, I am surprised that more people haven't seen it. It just came and went with little attention. I gave it a B- but I didn't think it was horrible or anything.

    You're in good company, Marilyn. United 93 was number one with a bullet out of every movie I saw in 2006. Nothing else even approached it as far as I'm concerned. I saw it was on TNT the other night but found it difficult to watch, especially with commercial breaks.

    I remember I had to build up some courage to go and see it, and it became was easily one of the most emotionally draining theater experiences I've ever had, leaving me shaken for days. My grief was also somewhat compounded by the idiotic couple down the row, laughing and cuddling throughout as if they were watching My Best Friend's Girl. It was truly surreal to relate their actions to what was happening on the screen. I almost wonder if they were aware that it was true story, so out of touch with reality did they appear to be. Wonder what they're doing today.

  6. That reminds me of the high school class that laughed during the shower scene in Schindler's List. I guess it's pretty funny to see all those bony-assed, naked women scrunched together.

  7. Doh! Thank you Daniel... yes, Reservation Road is what I was thinking of.

  8. True, Marilyn, but I might attribute that reaction more to teenage sexual awkwardness or just straight up immaturity than I would to blind ignorance. But at the end of the day there is no excuse, unless you're using it as a joke set-up like Jerry Seinfeld.

    No worries, Fox, I actually had to look it up and make sure because I was confused by the names as well!

  9. No question that UNITED 93 is the best-crafted of the films on the subject, but I can well understand you're wanting to just reflect on this somber day, one that will be repeated anually through the remainder of our lives. I live scarcely three miles from the fateful sight, and like many around here know a few people who perished in the implosion, including the beloved uncle of my sister-in-law, Roco Camaj, a window cleaner. One of my fellow high classmates, Diane Lipari, a jewel appraiser. also tragically perished.
    They are having the third annual remembrance ceremonies this evening in Northern New Jersey hometown, and like last year I will be bringing my family to the somber ceremonies.
    As always, Getafilm is a site that keeps everything in our lives in complete perspective.

  10. I imagine that you and others that I know in and near NYC all have such tragic connections to 9/11, Sam. How you must feel as you go through those familiar streets is beyond me. My condolences, and I'm glad that you've found here at least one place to reflect on today.

  11. Dan, even in school there is constant remembrance. One of the heroes of UNITED 93 (he and two other men stormed the cockpit) was the young father, Jeremy Glick. His mother, Joan Glick, is the speech therapist at my school. I speak to her just about every day passing in the hall. I guess there isn't a day that passes by when any of us see her that we don't remember that fateful morning.

  12. Wow, Sam. That certainly must be a stark reminder.

    I feel like I should watch United 93 again, but I might have to work up for it again as well. I hope more people see it as time goes on.


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