Tuesday, August 15, 2006

While watching "WORLD TRADE CENTER"...

...I found myself asking four questions:

1) Is Oliver Stone in such a tough career spot, so desperate for public and critical acceptance, that he really must resort to making a sappy, defanged, wrong-on-so-many-levels 9/11 film?

I mean, Stone is a virtuoso of machismo, paranoia, and hyper-testosterone/cocaine filmmaking. I think this film virtually sidesteps the entire event of September 11th. It asks no tough questions. It explores no moral gray areas. Everyone in the film is an unassailable hero. It seems "patriotic" but lacks actual bravery. It's neutered Stone-lite, and seems like the work of a filmmaker afraid to offend. And as for the actual look of the film, it has all the slow motion and soft focus of a commercial for feminine deodorant spray.

And that last detail, the gooey lushness of the film, is what actually managed to offend me--"World Trade Center" is a pristine work about grisly events.

That, in my opinion, is tacky.

"World Trade Center" is occasionally-persuasive propaganda. It reminded me of another film in that regard: "Triumph of the Will."

2) Why didn't we get to see more of the weird, intense Marine--Dave Karnes--who drove to New York in his Porsche 911 to save the day? He was compelling and haunted, like a character from a Lodge Kerrigan film. His heroism came from a strange, mysterious place. It wasn't completely clear why he did what he did, and that is precisely why he was the most interesting character in the film.

I would have much more enjoyed spending two hours with the Dave Karnes character than with Nicolas Cage's ever-evolving hairpiece.

3) I once heard that Tom Cruise has it written into his contract that he must be allowed to run in at least one scene in each film he does (I guess he likes the way he looks while running...I must admit, he's graceful). No idea if this is true--hope it is. I'm curious if Nicolas Cage has the same stipulation. Granted, he was in a hole for the majority of the film, but oh, that gallant dash to the the stairwell in slo-mo while screaming "NOOOO!!!!" sure brought back charming memories of "Con Air" and "The Rock." Ah, Oliver Stone didn't let down the faithful...

4) Now, most importantly, the question of, "Is America ready to see a film about September 11th?" is not the correct question.

The right question in this case should be, "Are America's film critics ready to drop the hammer on a bad film about 9/11?"

Judging from the pretty-decent reviews of Stone's film, I would say no. Because I don't think it's un-American to criticize a bad movie. No political film--just like political leaders--should be above criticism. And if it's impossible to separate the tragedy of the event from the criticism of the film, then perhaps it is, in fact, too soon.

This all being said, after I groaned through two hours of tearjerking heroism, and felt not moved, but bored, and not manipulated, but annoyed by failed-attempts at manipulation, the credits came up on the screen and most of the theater applauded.

So what the hell do I know?

I guess, perhaps, America just got the 9/11 film it wants and deserves.