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Post-September 11 Film Viewing, Revisited


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#1 of 59 OFFLINE   Andrew 'Ange Hamm' Hamm

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Posted June 02 2003 - 02:13 AM

My wife and I wanted to watch a movie last night, and she selected Armageddon. We've always enjoyed the brainless pleasures of this film, and I was pretty psyched. We popped some corn, melted some butter, put the mattes on the TV, turned off the lights, and settled down for some entertainment.

About 30 minutes into the movie, we took it out, wondering if we would ever watch this movie again.

It's odd: After the attacks of September 11, I started a thread discussing how unlikely I was to ever want to watch realistic action movies such as True Lies or Terminator 2 any time soon (not to pick specifically on James Cameron and Arnold). I thought that the realistic portrayal of violence that seemed all too possible would be too disturbing to be enjoyable.

But my aborted viewing of Armageddon last night was entirely different. It wasn't really the realistic destruction of New York City, or even the shot of the WTC in flames. It was the humor. It was the immediate juxtaposition between NASA and Pentagon brass discussing the imminent death of all life on earth and the shotgun scene on the oil rig. It was the way the heroes were all drawn as cartoon characters, and the way the storyline was devised for equal parts comedy and action.

It's this kind of movie I can't stomach now: the kind that makes light of realistic tragedy and loss of life. I found myself craving the human interest and real emotional stakes of Deep Impact, a film which has comparable images of mass destruction, but which is written and directed as if that destruction actually has realistic consequences. No "Somebody dial 911!" played for laughs, no ridiculous Steve Buscemi riding the ridiculous gattling gun, no joking around with a loaded shotgun.

Bay and Bruckheimer can't really be blamed for this; it's not their fault the world changed. But I found myself becoming angry as I watched the movie, angry at them for making the bombardment of New York something to laugh at, but mostly angry at myself for ever thinking it was funny.

I'm interested to see if anyone else has had similar experiences. I'm also interested to see if anyone can talk me out of this funk, but I doubt you can.
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#2 of 59 OFFLINE   Brian Kidd

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Posted June 02 2003 - 02:53 AM

Congratulations, Andrew. You have finally discovered the truth about ARMAGEDDON and its ilk. They are mindless and mostly insulting to anyone with a brain.

Popcorn movies have their place. They are diversions from the horrors of real life. Like any genre, there are good ones and bad ones. I agree that DEEP IMPACT was one of the good ones. It had believable characters and realistic consequences. However, I don't think that escapist flims have been ruined by 9/11. All Americans were deeply affected by what happened on that day and the cycle of violence that has continued in its aftermath. That doesn't mean that every film that comes down the pipe has to be 100% serious. Life is serious enough as it is. Movies are make-believe.

Action films are fine. ARMAGEDDON is just a really crappy one. Posted Image

PS You want to see real horror? Just think about touring Children's Theatre with Theatre IV! I still have nightmares about grade school cafetoriums. Posted Image
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#3 of 59 OFFLINE   Mike Graham

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Posted June 02 2003 - 03:37 AM

Ouch, you were awfully harsh on the film. While I didn't like the film either, I think it can't be taken seriously at all, and should be considered like one of those disaster movies from the 60s and 70s: pure popcorn fun.

#4 of 59 OFFLINE   MikeAlletto

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Posted June 02 2003 - 04:10 AM

Nope, doesn't bother me at all. I have the strange ability to separate fiction from reality Posted Image

Once we start getting some 9/11 movies that will probably change but until then I still enjoy a good destroy the whole city disaster movie.
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#5 of 59 OFFLINE   Jeremy Anderson

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Posted June 02 2003 - 09:19 AM

What really got me emotional was watching Spike Lee's 25TH HOUR. The movie opens with shots of the lights used to mark the WTC site and one of the characters has an apartment overlooking the site. It really made me stop and think "Oh... yeah, more than the landscape has changed there."

I suppose it all depends on how close you were to New York or anyone in New York. I live in Alabama and have never been to NYC, so it probably doesn't hit me as much as it might someone else. That being said, my brother in New Jersey had a job interview scheduled in WTC2 on September 12th, so at the time it really got to me. Geographically, however, I think a lot of people are distanced from it simply because they don't live near there, despite it being an American icon.

But still, there are a lot better reasons to turn off Armageddon. Posted Image

#6 of 59 OFFLINE   Holadem

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Posted June 02 2003 - 10:57 AM

Well I was there on 9/11 and I still love Armageddon.

The 25th Hour however hit me like a ton of bricks.
I was still there when Spy Game was released in the fall of 2001 and when that building got bombed (in friggin beirut no less), the room was dead quiet. Baltimore in the Sum of All Fears also resonnates somewhat, but seeing Ben Affleck running around on a cell phone when I spent most of the day trying to get through to love ones on a virtually useless cell phone always makes me roll my eyes.

I haven't watched the Siege after 9/11.

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#7 of 59 OFFLINE   Joshua_Y

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Posted June 02 2003 - 11:26 AM

I watched Armageddon not to long ago...and Sum of All Fears...and Spy Game...no effect what so ever...ya know why...cause its a movie! Posted Image

#8 of 59 OFFLINE   DaveGR

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Posted June 02 2003 - 11:32 AM

It may be just me,and I dont mean to sound unsympathetic,but they are just movies, To me there is a huge difference between real life and film. Not to say I dont sometimes think of things that happend when the buildings fell over,while watching a film that brings those thoughts to mind,but they dont bother me.

I had friends who died in the towers,but theres a huge difference between a movie and actual events. And also I cant stand it when they started taking out pictures of the two towers after it all happened,I mean COME ON,thats gone to far,to act as if they were never there. Did they not know that they were not fooling anyone? Moronic if you ask me.

At any rate,perhaps some people have different feelings,and perhaps time will help them.

#9 of 59 OFFLINE   Gary->dee

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Posted June 02 2003 - 11:37 AM

The movie that affects me completely differently post-9/11 is definitely the 1976 remake of King Kong. There's a shot of Kong looking at the WTC and he briefly envisions two tall rocks that look like the WTC, which I'm guessing were on the island he was taken from. It's eerie how that moment is like looking at two giant tombstones. Then he climbs the building and smashes helicopters that crash into the building and Jeff Bridges' character is in the opposite tower looking at Kong from a window. But by far the most emotional moment for me is at the very end of the movie after Kong has fallen off the WTC and there's a sea of people crowded around him, slowly milling about. I keep thinking they're the spirits of all those killed on 9/11 at the WTC, they look like lost souls. The closing music by John Barry really adds to it. After 9/11 the 1976 remake of King Kong will never be seen the same way again.

#10 of 59 OFFLINE   Inspector Hammer!

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Posted June 02 2003 - 03:21 PM

Good topic, I think we need to talk about this now, being that it's almost two years since that aweful day, just to see if we all still stand with the same opinion's we formed right after 9/11.

For me, after it happened I thought that i'd never really be able to watch Die Hard again, or any film depicting terrorism as light hearted and fun, much like you with Armageddon Andrew. I even took down my beloved theatrical poster for Die Hard because it had the building in flames on it, it just seemed distasteful to leave it up. However as time passed and I was able to get some distance on 9/11, my mind eased up a great deal and I was able to watch those films again.

What changed? I don't really know, I think it was because after awhile it stopped hurting as much, they say that time heals all wounds, I guess that's true. Another point of closure came last 9/11, the one year anniversary. It helped me a great deal to live through another 11th of September, and because nothing happened, I was able to once again associate that date with peace, rather than violence. After that is when I guess I can really say that my movie watching reverted back to pre 9/11...to an extent.

As for Armageddon, I still really like the film, but I do find that opening scene of New York to be disturbing now. Before 9/11 that scene was cool, now it most certaintly isn't. In fact, the one film that I tried watching recently and was unable to was Independance Day. That film is so not fun anymore.

I guess the most important thing is to not forget 9/11, I know that everytime I start getting too comfortable in my world again, I watch 9/11 the documentary by the Naudet brothers, and it brings me back.

I even re-hung my Die Hard poster.
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#11 of 59 OFFLINE   Scott Weinberg

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Posted June 02 2003 - 03:24 PM

Andrew,

I enjoyed your initial post and you've expressed your feelings quite successfully...

...but I gotta disagree. I still dig Armageddon quite a bit. (Note to Brian: I have a perfectly working brain!)

I can certainly see where post 9/11 feelings could prevent one from enjoying what this flick has to offer, but it still works for me.

Another one you may want to avoid for future movie nights is The Towering Inferno. I just saw it recently and it is a little eerie.

#12 of 59 OFFLINE   Inspector Hammer!

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Posted June 02 2003 - 03:56 PM

I also wanted to say how much I disagree with people digitally removing the WTC towers from things. I really would have loved to have that Spider-man trailer, but at least they left the towers in the film, if only quick glimpses of them.
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#13 of 59 OFFLINE   Andy Olivera

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Posted June 02 2003 - 09:15 PM

The images of destruction and such still have the same appeal as they did before(if a little less, because now I have some basis of comparison). What got me was my first viewing of The Siege earlier this year. I found myself consistently thinking, "Thank God they got this finished before 9/11, otherwise we'd never have seen it.". That's what disturbs me.

Note to Brian: I have a perfectly working brain!
The trick is remembering to turn it off before pressing Play. Posted Image
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#14 of 59 OFFLINE   ThomasC

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Posted June 02 2003 - 11:15 PM

I saw all the Die Hard movies after 9/11 for the first time, not because of 9/11, just out of curiousity since "everyone else" had seen it. I didn't start to draw parallels until Die Hard: With A Vengeance because it was New York.

#15 of 59 OFFLINE   Jeff

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Posted June 03 2003 - 12:10 AM

I also turned off Armageddon but it was WAY before 9-11.

#16 of 59 OFFLINE   Andrew 'Ange Hamm' Hamm

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Posted June 03 2003 - 01:14 AM

"The truth about Armageddon," as Brian called it, is in my mind actually the truth about the American cinema and moviegoer. Please take no offense, people who have posted about it being just a movie, but I refuse to see it that way. Even pulp cinema like a Jerry Bruckheimer film is art, and we shouldn't turn our brains off to receive art, we should turn them up higher. The movies haven't changed, but the audience's perspective has. There's no need to be afraid of that or to deny it; the audience is fully half of any artistic paradigm.

We watched Deep Impact last night and it was wonderful and cathartic. The humor was great, it was real and in character and in context, and the jokes were jokes that real people in that situation might have made. The characters were genuinely affected by the happenings in the world, and there were actual consequences to what happened.

My point is not to once again contrast Deep Impact and Armageddon. That topic was covered quite thoroughly five years ago. My point is to contrast what these two movies represent: human interaction under extraordinary circumstances versus oooh aaah ha ha ha ha popcorn-crunching summer fare. There is always a place in the movie theater for the former. The latter I'm not so sure about any more. In the post-September 11 world, I think an argument can be made that there are lines we cannot cross anymore, lines that maybe it was a little obscene to have ever crossed, both as artists and viewers, and I feel ashamed that 3000 people had to die for us to realize it. Remember The Onion's headline? "AMERICAN LIFE TURNS INTO BAD JERRY BRUCKHEIMER FILM."

Interesting note: Best Buy has Armageddon under "Action/Adventure" and Deep Impact under "Drama." Interesting that neither is under "Science Fiction." What a shame. Deep Impact contains many of the things Sci-Fi is best at.

PS: Brian, I bet Theatre IV could still use actors for the Fall tours. I'm back in Richmond; you want me to tell Ford and Bruce you're available? It's no trouble.
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#17 of 59 OFFLINE   BillyH

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Posted June 03 2003 - 01:42 AM

I watched Trading Places yesterday and even there you see great shots of the towers. Maybe shots of them in comedies seem easier to handle, though even there I paused the DVD to just look at them. I think we all will be doing that for quite awhile and maybe its not so bad as it keeps the memory alive, of both the good and the bad. Everyone knows how notoriously short most peoples memories are. Maybe all these films we speak of are actually a greater monument to those poor souls them any of the physical monuments that will actually be erected. They certainly will be seen more often. It is like seeing a snapshot or home movie of a lost loved one. At first it is almost too painful to look at, but in time you cherish these images and are glad you have them.


As far as Armageddon vs Deep Impact goes, I say they are both great flicks. One is not superior over the other, just different. Arm. is pure escapism whereas DI is more touching. The real tragedies here(AS far as video goes) is with the Criterian Arm. exception, neither is in anamorphic wide screen, though that didn't stop me from acquiring them both. Hopefully HighDef will be here soon, though I wonder how aggressively the studios will re-release some of these titles, esp. since the great unwashed masses are so enthrall with simple DVD?

#18 of 59 OFFLINE   Chuck Mayer

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Posted June 03 2003 - 01:52 AM

Ange,
Lines are exactly what must be crossed, especially by artists and the audience. I don't want to lose mu summer popcorn fare, because I enjoy it. It doesn't make me heartless, or silly, or absurd. I am not going to pipe in some cheesy "If we can't watch Pirates of the Caribbean, the terrorists win!" It has nothing to do with that. It has to do with what movies represent. They CAN be both, and more. They have to be both, and more. I watched True Lies the weekend of September 9, 2001. With my wife. I love Cameron. Absolutely love him. He's a very sharp man. And while watching it, I even got a bit nervous. I lived 8 miles from the Pentagon, about 9.5 miles from the Capitol. And I thought about that on September 9th. I thought about that on September 11th, as I tried to wrap my little brain around the events. But True Lies is just a movie. Even Schindler's List...it's just a movie.

I am not saying they aren't art. They are. Every one, some good and some bad. But limiting the art isn't an answer.

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#19 of 59 OFFLINE   DaveGR

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Posted June 03 2003 - 04:31 AM

Right on Chuck. They are just Movies/films no matter what way you want yourself to look at it. True,movies such as Deep Impact or Armageddon still do have some artistic integrity. Still the fact is, they are movies nonetheless. As far as lines being passed,that doesnt make any sense in the realm of art or films. If no lines were passed you would still be watching silent horrible cowboy pics. As far as in the art world besides film,and including film,Crossing lines is what art in the 20th century has been. Look at any major artist in the 20th,and Id venture to say ,ANY century,that they were crossing lines in one way or another.

While they were crossing these proverbial lines,there is no doubt in my mind that they stepped on toes,and rubbed people the wrong way. For example look at Picasso's Guernica,Considered by many to be his best piece,considered by many at the time as tripe,and im sure they said he crossed the line.
That is art. And with art you can choose what you like and dont,but to say a movie shouldnt have did something some way,and they crossed the line, Well I just Cannot agree with that.

#20 of 59 OFFLINE   Andrew 'Ange Hamm' Hamm

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Posted June 03 2003 - 06:02 AM

The "line" I'm talking about is using human tragedy as a vessel for mindless entertainment. Bay and Bruckheimer are famous for films with high body counts, low emotional commitment, and no consequences. My argument is that maybe this was never okay, and it took a genuine human tragedy to open our eyes to the fact.

I don't have a problem with seeing images of the World Trade Center; I watch old episodes of Sports Night, Friends, and Mad About You, which are just loaded with WTC establishing shots. My problem is with a storytelling style that treats mass human destruction as an excuse to give the audience a good time. I think you'll also note that Hollywood agrees with me: look at the films of the past 21 months and you'll find very little in the way of "fun" mass-destruction films.

I don't believe that art is necessarily about "crossing lines" at all. Art is the symbolic representation of human experience, and sometimes the best representation of human experience is quite conventional and requires no lines to be crossed at all. Innovations for innovation's sake usually end up swept into dusty corners of the history books while artists who build on the innovations to create something really honest take the fore. Regarding "limiting art" not being the answer, I think the verdict is in from the post-September 11 filmmakers: the artists are "limiting" themselves.

And I have to say that I completely reject the idea that anything is "just a movie." To me, that absolves the filmmaker of any responsibility for his material. Film is art; some of it just works on deeper levels.

I'm glad this discussion is turning out to be so intelligent and civil. That seems to be against the trend around here the past couple years.
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