War of the Worlds: Some Kind of Monster

By robbiefreeling | REVERSEBLOG: the reverse shot blog June 30, 2005 at 11:05AM

War of the Worlds: Some Kind of Monster
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Filmenthusiast2000 (14:06:14): I may do a WOTW post yet today.
robbiefreeling8 (14:06:34): i was going to do another...i'm writing something...should i not?
robbiefreeling8 (14:06:38): what was the focus?
Filmenthusiast2000 (14:08:25): The lazy 9/11 refs and other general critical follies.
robbiefreeling8 (14:10:06): i was going to talk about 9/11, but i could say something different i guess
Filmenthusiast2000 (14:10:27): No, please, go ahead now.
Robbiefreeling8 (14:10:51): i'm sure yours would be more interesting...do you not have time?
Filmenthusiast2000 (14:11:05): I just think it's great how dated 90% of the critical notices for this movie will be in, like, a month.
robbiefreeling8 (14:12:59): agreed
Filmenthusiast2000 (14:14:49): Nobody's just talking about it in the historical context of, you know, disaster movies (it is one, and a pretty good one); every critic gets caught up on Spielberg/ Cruise and doesn't get much further than that.
Filmenthusiast2000 (14:17:01): It's funny that everyone wrote about how the Twin Towers faceplant looked like "something from a Hollywood disaster movie," but nobody seems ready to say that, that said, maybe the Hollywood disaster movie is a pretty appropriate medium to approach the idea of catastrophe through.
Filmenthusiast2000 (14:18:00): I guarantee you WOTW is more worthwhile than anything that Art Spiegelman, Jonathan Saffron Foer, and Spike Lee have to say on the subject of 9/11, or catastrophe
Filmenthusiast2000 (14:49:21): Yikes, maybe not that second part; I was just playing provocateur; I'm clearly out of my element.
robbiefreeling8 (14:49:30): Jami Bernard in the NY Daily News wrote this:
robbiefreeling8 (14:49:42): "The realism here borrows from the events of 9/11. These aren't Martians, they're sleeper cells hiding among us, waiting to activate."
Filmenthusiast2000 (14:50:34): The sleeper cells comparison I've already read once today--maybe Edelstein in Slate or Zacharek at Salon...
robbiefreeling8 (14:50:44): so you caught the incredibly short-sighted review by Zacharek in Salon?
robbiefreeling8 (14:52:31): Zacharek: "At one point the camera scans a wall covered with fliers of missing loved ones (presumably humans who have been abducted or just plain disintegrated by the marauding aliens), as direct a reference to post-9/11 New York City as you could make. I can't possibly divine what Spielberg intends by that shot. Are we meant to nod solemnly, jolted by the recognition that this alleged bit of summer fun has a real-life parallel? "
Filmenthusiast2000 (14:54:42): As I've said before, this same image is in R.W. Fassbinder's Marriage of Maria Braun, where we see Hanna Schygulla looking for her husband at a post-WWII Berlin train depot, where many of the survivors are wearing sandwich boards with the names and faces of loved ones on them. Are we to assume, then, that Fassbinder was making reference to 9/11?
Filmenthusiast2000 (14:55:55): It shows a profound myopia on the part of critics, who have to take WOTW as a movie about THEIR catastrophe rather than about, well, catastrophe.
robbiefreeling8 (14:56:48): not to mention that Spielberg's been doing this for the second half of his career consistently
robbiefreeling8 (14:57:10): My hands were grasping and scratching at my pantlegs for almost the film's entire duration
Filmenthusiast2000 (14:57:10): You know very well I don't watch Steven Spielberg movies, Michael.
robbiefreeling8 (14:57:42): but I had the same nausea while watching the Normandy invasion of Saving Private Ryan, the liquidation of the Krakow ghetto in Schindler's List, and the carnage of the middle passage in Amistad.
Filmenthusiast2000 (14:59:17): The most puzzling aspect of Zacharek's write-up is her reading of the movie as just a good-time smash-up; of course there is this element in any flick that sets up the big model train set and bangs it into oblivion but... I have to say I found the carnage in WOTW genuinely disheartening, disorienting, and decidedly unpleasant.
robbiefreeling8 (14:59:37): Yeah, it wasn't at all a fun film. Spielberg's most terrifying scene is the when mob mentality finally busts through the safe zone of the family minivan, with that incredible shot of one man clawing his way through shredded windshield glass with bloody fingers.
robbiefreeling8 (15:01:02): Yet the audience tried to pretend it was riddled with comic relief...it was odd, like they didn't know how to reconcile the supposedly disreputable genre trappings with the very serious, sober approach he took
Filmenthusiast2000 (15:04:10): I found myself thinking a lot about the original Godzilla movie--it's, for its time, an absolutely state-of-the-art movie created in response to a state-of-the-art tragedy: Hiroshima, Nagasaki. Perhaps in direct proportion to the profile of Mr. Spielberg, a lot of the old post-9/11 touchiness is showing up in reviews...
Filmenthusiast2000 (15:07:37): "the presumption...seems to be that we have, after a four-year rest cure, regained our consumer appetite for destruction" writes Mike Atkinson in the Voice. Rest cure, you say? But the pundit's line that showed up at the end of 2001--that the real-life disaster f-x of 9/11 somehow invalidated the disaster movie--is idiotic when held up to the example of Godzilla or WOTW...
robbiefreeling8 (15:08:28): well, people are really just projecting their anxieties onto the disaster film because it's the easiest way for most people to look for so-called "responses"
robbiefreeling8 (15:08:57): i mean, are we supposed to be lambasting romantic comedies with Drew Barrymore for not existing in a post-9/11 world?
robbiefreeling8 (15:09:46): Woody Allen's been getting hit left and right because he's a New York filmmaker who hasn't "dealt" with the contemporary "reality" of living in post 9/11 New York...as if that's not a subjective concept
Filmenthusiast2000 (15:11:16): I think it's tough for a lot of people to write concisely about the coexistence of gawping and empathy in these big smash-up movies because it's difficult to feel concisely about disaster--there's that element of horror and also that element of oohs-and-aahs that run against one another, and which were present, I think, for a lot of people even ON 9/11.
Filmenthusiast2000 (15:12:48): That was our payback, delivering the goods for everyone who half-wished for a catastrophe at the turn of the millenium--and it was horrible when it actually happened, yeah, but it made for really good TV.
Filmenthusiast2000 (15:13:17): As for Woody Allen not dealing with 9/11, I'd ask you to look a little closer at Anything Else.
robbiefreeling8 (15:14:24): did you see how he was taken to task for his insightful quotes on pagesix?
robbiefreeling8 (15:14:40): "As a filmmaker, I'm not interested in 9/11 - it's too small, history overwhelms it. The history of the world is like: He kills me, I kill him, only with different cosmetics and different castings. So in 2001, some fanatics killed some Americans, and now some Americans are killing some Iraqis. And in my childhood, some Nazis killed Jews. And now, some Jewish people and some Palestinians are killing each other. Political questions, if you go back thousands of years, are ephemeral - not important. History is the same thing over and over again."
robbiefreeling8 (15:14:55): and then this headline appeared on IMDb:
robbiefreeling8 (15:15:05): "Allen Not Interested in September 11"
robbiefreeling8 (15:15:14): Director Woody Allen has dismissed the September 11th attacks as a negligible historical event not worthy of the silver screen."
robbiefreeling8 (15:15:26): I was like, FUCK!
Filmenthusiast2000 (15:15:43): I'm sorry, I tried to read what he said there, but all I saw was "I hate America"
robbiefreeling8 (15:16:07): don't mess with 9/11....especially if you're a widely hated nebbishy New York intellectual with a penchant for your wife's adopted Asian daughter
robbiefreeling8 (15:16:15): oh, and Jew
robbiefreeling8 (15:18:40): Going back to your Spike Lee bash, when 25th Hour came out I was enthralled...just seeing my New York at that point in 2002 seemed like a revelation. So i understand the impulse. So I continued to look for films that "dealt with 9/11" in a "realistic" and "sober" manner....that's what many are still feeling, so I think all of that is just being heaped upon this sci-fi film.
Filmenthusiast2000 (15:21:57): Well, I think "dealing" with 9/11 effectively involves a little more than taking the bull by the horns--what was that fucking Sigourney Weaver and some firefighters lumpen-hagiography? The Guys? It's so omnipresent, so completely a part of our consciousness now, that you're dealing with it anytime you make a movie, anytime you write... It's just kind of there.
Filmenthusiast2000 (15:22:52): I've gotta plead Claude Chabrol's "little themes" motto on this one.
robbiefreeling8 (15:24:08): but Spike Lee made 25th Hour at a time when it wasn't nearly subconscious...it was very conscious. we were walking around a city still plastered with photographs and memorials...so that film is actually an accurate reflection of where we were. The opening credit sequence, with the Twin Towers light beams, was appropriate in its bombast.
robbiefreeling8 (3:29:37 PM): by the way, me and Tom Cruise are getting some hummus after work today. care to join?
Filmenthusiast2000 (3:31:12 PM): I wish to God that was true.
robbiefreeling8 (3:31:24 PM): i just hope the flavor won't clash with his working-class sensibilities. would he go for babaganush?
Filmenthusiast2000 (3:31:47 PM): Hey, remember the end of WOTW?
robbiefreeling8 (3:32:09 PM): when Morgan Freeman voice-over reoccurs?
Filmenthusiast2000 (3:33:31 PM): Nah, the tearful (spoilers:-)) family reunion
outside the row of posh, fully intact Boston townhouses. Who was it who said of Schindler's List (which I haven't seen): "the holocaust was about six million people who died, Schindler's List was about a few hundred who lived."
robbiefreeling8 (3:33:51 PM): some antisemitic jackass
robbiefreeling8 (3:34:08 PM): gee, isn't it horrible to be reminded of survivors of catastrophe?
robbiefreeling8 (3:34:18 PM): it's easily the worst offense a filmmaker can commit
robbiefreeling8 (3:34:37 PM): i mean, forget Solondz, Korine, et al....this is truly awful
Filmenthusiast2000 (3:35:20 PM): Now Michael, come on. Do you think TC's
ex-wife's family paid off the aliens, like the mayor of Savannah during the Civil War, to leave their block intact?
robbiefreeling8 (3:36:17 PM): undoubtedly...one of many logic gaps in an otherwise "air-tight" script
Filmenthusiast2000 (3:36:44 PM): I expected at least for Cruise to pull a rueful Ethan Edwards in The Searchers number and walk away from his reunited clan... Is that too much to ask.
robbiefreeling8 (3:36:57 PM): that's exactly what I said to Jeff
robbiefreeling8 (3:37:04 PM): the framing was all set up for it
Filmenthusiast2000 (3:37:40 PM): I thought he was all set to rub his elbow and about-face; I almost wonder if it was a deliberate Searchers inversion...
robbiefreeling8 (3:38:03 PM): well, WOTW is better, so...
Filmenthusiast2000 (3:38:39 PM): Yes, I suppose we can agree at least on that. War of the Worlds is much better than The Searchers.
robbiefreeling8 (3:39:05 PM): one of us is joking, and one isn't
Filmenthusiast2000 (3:39:22 PM): one of us is an idiot, and one isn't

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