December 12, 2005

Art? Sacrilege? Bad taste?

To me, it's unspeakable.
Hundreds of carpenters ... had hand-carved thousands of beams from Styrofoam, molded rubber into countless strands of stand-ins for shredded reinforcing bars, and assembled all of this inside a pit erected atop stacks of cargo containers.

At its core, the mockup of ground zero will be full-size, and as close to an exact replica as is practical... At the perimeter, where fragments of the towers' facade are meant to loom in the distance, it is 65 feet high, or about half-scale; smoke and nightfall will complete the illusion....

IN THE COMMENTS: Debate about whether the World Trade Center attack should be recreated on film leads to a comparison with "Titanic," causing Joe Baby to say something that makes me laugh out loud.


reader_iam said...


Words mostly elude. For now, oddly enough, what says it best for me is, ironically, the text of the ad I had to read before I could get to the actual story:

"For Your consideration/The New World"

(of bad taste ... )

Palladian said...


Why do we, as a culture, feel the need to instantly fictionalize the momentous and horrible events of our lives. Most of us can vividly remember that day, and the real emotions of that day; do we need Hollywood to fake it up for us?

I'm glad I don't watch movies.

Henry said...

It's a movie set.

There have been movie sets made of Auschwitz, Hiroshima, and Golgotha.

What makes this one different? Is it that not enough time has passed? Is it because the director is named Oliver Stone? Would the movie be okay if there wasn't a set?

Looking at the picture and thinking of the project makes me uneasy, but I can't really figure out why it's unspeakable.

Art said...

9/11 is going to alter the world's history for generations. Why wouldn't there be a movie of it.

There's reason to be concerned. As with all historical events, those who control the interpretation of the events control the debate.

I'm not wild about Oliver Stone. But I would also be suspicious if Mel Gibson were doing the film.

reader_iam said...


Questions 2 & 3: Yes.

Question 4: Maybe.

Question 1: See response to Questions 2 & 3.

Although your point is well-taken regarding the fact that historical events have always inspired movies.

Goesh said...

- it doesn't sit well with notions of richness of American cultural diversity - give us your poor and muslim fanatics carrying box cutters desiring flying lessons - a monument to naivete, incomplete without a bunch of box cutters glued all over it, but, who listens to me these days anyway?

Palladian said...

I don't think I have any idea about Mel Gibson's political views. Why would he bother you? Because he's religious?

The point is that I don't need anyone to fictionalize 9/11 for me. What's the point? Maybe in 10 or 20 years when there will be a whole generation who has no direct memory of the events of the day. But do we the living really need this, now?

Besides all that, Stone's conspiracy theory addled mind and turgid, laughable directorial style seem to be the worst possible choice for this bad idea. Do you want a "Natural Born Killers" version of 9/11?

Mark Daniels said...

I have no problem with a movie plot revolving around the events of September 11.

My problem is that Oliver Stone is doing it and after his mockery of truth called 'JFK,' he has no credibility for tackling historical situations. If I controlled the purse strings at any of the major movie studios, he wouldn't get a penny.

Mark Daniels

Simon said...

I wondered how long it would take before someone would cynically exploit 9/11 to sell advertising space. Now we know the answer: roughly five years. Funny, I always thought it would be a dreadful sacharine telemovie that went there first.

wildaboutharrie said...

I think it's too soon. Plus Oliver Stone, gah.

But since they're making the movie, they do need a set.

Simon said...

I join Palladian's previous comments, by the way. The appropriate question isn't "why not," it's "WHY?" I mean, what is it that a film can possibly add? A grand Stonian conspiracy theory? 9/11 wasn't the sinking of the Titanic, we don't need a movie to visualize the horror, most of us watched it happen on live television, replayed a thousand times on network news and behind closed eyes. No good, none, can come of putting this on the big screen.

jeff said...

Ignoring the fact that it's Oliver Stone, did anyone get upset at James Cameron for his recreation of the Titanic (in the desert, no less)?

Joe Baby said...

Oliver Stone is the Hollywood equivalent of a teenage drunk/bully, whose parents keep buying him larger and more expensive cars.

Simon said...

"Ignoring the fact that it's Oliver Stone, did anyone get upset at James Cameron for his recreation of the Titanic (in the desert, no less)?"

I don't see how that's a valid comparison. How many people watched the Titanic sink on live television? How many people physically witnessed it? How much time has passed since the Titanic sunk? A movie about the sinking of the Titanic - even one which piled on the shmaltz in a misbegotten and entirely superfluous attempt to make the audience feel emotionally involved - did actually have something to offer. It showed people what happened, on a human level, in a horrific tragedy of human arrogance, permitting us to experience that event in a way that would have been impossible for any more than a few hundred people to have experienced previously. No film about 9/11 fits that criterion.

Joan said...

Jeff, comparing Cameron's Titanic to Stone's WTC isn't comparing apples to oranges, it's comparing apples to hand grenades.

This quote struck me:"The hard thing is, everybody knows it so well," said Mr. Roelfs, speaking both of the geography of Lower Manhattan and of the contours of ground zero itself. "There's not much creativity here."

At least the designer redeemed himself at the end of the piece by noting, "...suddenly you stand in the middle of it, and God - it's awful." That makes him come off as only half as idiotic.

My big problems with this are 1) it's too soon and 2) it's Olive Stone.

Joe Baby said...

Oh, I'll never forget the sinking of the RMS Titanic. I was watching a horrible film when it happened.

P.S. I'll never let you go.

Simon said...

Incidentally, lest I be accused of inconsistency, I hate unnecessary (and usually crap) remakes of perfectly good movies - The Italian Job, Planet of the Apes, The Producers (a movie of the musical based on the movie, no less), that Johnny Depp monstrosity that butchered Charlie and the Chocolate Factory...Unnecessary, insulting and pointless excuses for putting asses on theater seats without having to write something new (or at least, to ADD something to the original, as Titanic added something to A Night to Remember, for example).

Henry said...

reader_iam, thanks for the response.

I am totally certain I won't see this film, for reasons #2 and #3.

I heard ages ago that Oliver Stone had been hired to direct a 9/11 movie. The idea sounded very stupid to me but it wasn't emotionally disturbing.

So I think #4, the replica of the ruined towers, is what gets under the skin and turns the story from bad farce into something more visceral.

I don't know how one can explain that visceral response, except using religious terms.

Ron said...

Palladian: Yes, I think we need Hollywood to fake it up for us; that's their job. With any luck they make art -- even commercial art -- out of it, and I think that's important for all the reasons art is important,even about tragedies that we've seen with our own eyes.

Of course, having said that, and seeing that Stone is the director...well, maybe "to hell with art" is the right response.

Harriet Miers is closer to Oliver Wendell Holmes in her profession than Stone is to being an artist. Maybe, with luck, I'll rise up to the level of 'hack.'

Nevermore said...

Didn't Black Hawk Down come out roughly 5 years after the event happened -- an event that the world watched (in part) live on CNN?

Any problems with Schindler's List? We already knew the camps were horrible without the film, after all. How about Saving Private Ryan? Platoon? We sure saw a lot of Vietnam on TV.

To use Palladian's words, we "fictionalize the momentous and horrible events of our lives" in order to see a different side of the event. BHD brought an event into focus that I already knew about but now have a deeper appreciation for.

Most of you seem to think that Titanic was a terrible movie, but I -- along with the Academy, the critics, and billions of moviegoers -- thought it was an extremely good film. But you guys must right. ;)

** NOW, ALL THAT SAID ** It's Oliver Stone doing this 9/11 film, so you know it's going to suck. That's the only complaint I see with this film, and it's a big one.

Goatwhacker said...

I don't have a problem with the idea of a 9/11 WTC movie being made. Although many did watch it live, the coverage was sort of sanitized after the first couple of hours. While for many the memory remains painful, for others it seems almost forgotten. Maybe we need a reminder once in a while.

The problem I have is that Oliver Stone will probably inject his own facts into the movie. I predict a scene with GWB and OBL sitting in the Halliburton board room laughing.

Susan said...

I don’t understand why everyone is so upset that a movie is being made of 9/11. This is what “we” do – we talk about, write books about, make movies about those things that are important to us -- things that have affected us. (We also talk about, write books about, and make movies abut things that are absolute crap, but that’s beside the point.) It helps people cope; it helps people understand. Movies can serve as jumping off points for deeper conversations about the event and implications. I’ve never heard a psychologist say, “Don’t talk about it. Keep those thoughts and images repressed.”

And just because people saw the towers fall on TV doesn’t mean they understand the events of that day. You really think that someone on the plains of Nebraska or Colorado or fill-in-state here “lived” 9/11?

On the other hand, I think Oliver Stone is a poor choice for a director given his prior mangling of nonfiction events.

wildaboutharrie said...

Susan, am I wrong? I do think everyone "lived" it.

Make the movie in 10, 15 years. Let Ang Lee direct.

Nevermore said...

Speaking for myself, when I was sitting at my comfortable desk sipping tea and watching the horrors on TV from cameras that were miles away, I most certainly was not "living it" like the men and women trapped in the rubble who are the subject matter of this film.

Thumbs-up for Ang Lee, though.

Pooh said...

I usually like Oliver Stone's movies (NBK very much excluded). That being said, I'm skeptical about what he can bring to a 9/11 film. I'd probably rather have Bruckheimer/Bay doing it - it would be gauche, but more or less accurate.

The problem with such a provocative choice as Stone is that it really doesn't matter what movie he makes, it will be seen as revisionist conspiracy-theorizing. (Of course, for the uber-cynical, such controversy puts asses in seats...)

As far as the film itself, I tend to agree, its too soon, but two years from now (or, my guess, July 4 or Sept. 11 2007) when it is released it might not be.

I see a 9/11 opus as a chance to rebuild some of the unity that we had in the months following 9/11. It can and should be a movie about American heroism - those that commandeered the plane in Pennsylvania, the FDNY, the gay priest who died ministerting at ground zero, the people who came from all over the country to do what they could with rescue operations. In these times, it seems like we could use a reminder that the things that unite us are greater than those that divide us. That's what a 9/11 movie should be. Maybe Stone has that in him, I hope so, but I'm not sanguine.

Pogo said...

Re: "I see a 9/11 opus as a chance to rebuild some of the unity that we had in the months following 9/11."

You're not sanguine about Stone telling this story?? Crikey, the man's a buffoon. I had a visceral reaction of horror when first I heard of this plan. The set convinces me I was right.

The very last Stone movie I saw was JFK. Stone has become an idiot wrapped in stupid inside an imbecile. Prepare for Alexander-like peurile buffoonery. maybe the popcorn might be good, but you'll wish you'd have stayed home and picked at your scabs (or even someone else's scabs, for crying out loud) instead of giving Stone any of your precious time.

Pooh said...

So I'm guessing you don't share my taste for occasional understatement.

To be clear, I was making seperate points: 1. Stone is almost certainly the wrong man to direct this film (precisely because he inspires reactions such as Pogo. And he's half a hack these days. I forgot he directed Alexander...)

2. I don't think that it is too soon for a 9/11 picture for the reasons I stated above.

Pogo said...

Sorry, Pooh, I just find that Stone and understatement seem oxymoronic. Subtle, sophisticated, and enigmatic are similarly ill-suited when discussing the man. He is golf pants in human form.

Did I mention that I don't like the man?

Pooh said...

He is golf pants in human form.

Are you trying to get me in trouble at work (both for laughing and for mocking of the golf...)

Joan said...

Susan asked: You really think that someone on the plains of Nebraska or Colorado or fill-in-state here “lived” 9/11?

Well, I'm in Arizona now and was on 9/11/01, and I lived it, and I kept on living it for weeks afterwards. The most bizarre thing about that time was trying to pretend everything was normal for my 3 kids. My oldest was only 4, though, so that made doing that a little easier. I will never forget how surreal everything felt on that day, and the days immediately following, or how empty the sky was. Even today when I look up and see a half-dozen planes going here and there (we have a lot of air traffic in Phoenix), I remember 9/11.

This movie can wait. Some day there can be movies, but now is too soon.

Freeman Hunt said...

I agree with Joan and others.

9/11 is a memory that is still extremely raw.

Susan said...

I think there's different degrees of "living" it. And Joan, it certainly sounds like you lived it, so I didn't mean to minimize your experience. But I think for many people, they really didn't live it in a meaningful way. For example, I would like my high school children to understand 9/11 better, and I think a movie would stimulate thought.

I also think that four years is long enough and that sometimes when emotions are raw, it is time to deal with an issue. Then again, I was going to be a counseling psychologist but decided I am too insensitive and impatient so am an industrial psychologist instead. Maybe I should respond to only posts about statistics!

Pogo said...

Re: "For example, I would like my high school children to understand 9/11 better, and I think a movie would stimulate thought."

Stimulate thought?
Oliver Stone ??

About the only thoughts it might stimulate include:
Gee, who was dumb enough to pay for this junk?.
When do we eat?
I guess I didn't remember there being a gay CIA Mafia KKK racist plot in 9/11, but if Mr. Stone sez so, must be true.

Adam said...

I wondered how long it would take before someone would cynically exploit 9/11 to sell advertising space.

I believe the Republican National Convention in NYC was early September 2004.

The first two fictional Titanic movies came out that same year.

Pogo said...

Re: "but decided I am too insensitive and impatient so am an industrial psychologist instead."

So, do you think the buildings nearby the fallen towers suffered PTSD? Or did you mean you treat people made anxious by soybean futures?

Perhaps you only treat entire businesses, validating the feelings, for example, of a depressed computer hardware market. Or is it cognitive behavioral therapy of the office printer, a passive-aggressive little device, which might print out only every other page, just to tick you off? What a cool job!

ChrisO said...

Boy, I guess JFK stripped Stone of any talent as a director. Funny, I seem to remmeber Born on the Fourth of July, Platoon, Wall Street and Salvador as being pretty good films.

I guess I'm in the minority, but I have no problem with a 9/11 movie. I was emotionally devastated by the event, but it will be six years when the movie comes out. I have to believe some of the breast beating I'm seeing here has more to do with Stone than with the fact that people won't be able to emotionally handle a film. From what I've read, the movie will primarily focus on two Port Authority police officers, one of whom is Nicholas Cage, who are trapped in the rubble.

Stone's not an idiot. He's not going to show Bush and the Zionists warning the Jewish stockbrokers about impending attacks. He'll likely show heroic firemen, policemen and civilians, along with a dramatization of the hijackers prior to the event. At any rate, it's amazing the rush to judgement from people who seem to have no idea what approach he's taking.

And Pogo, I'm not sure what you mean when you say "I had a visceral reaction of horror when first I heard of this plan. The set convinces me I was right." I get the visceral reaction part, but are you suggesting he should have used a set that didn't look like Ground Zero? Particularly in a film about policemen trapped in the rubble?

Pooh said...


I agree, though I think Stone is the wrong guy for the job simply because he elicits the response we are seeing here. Not to get maudlin, but the first 9/11 film is too important for it to be a source of division.

In terms of visceral reaction, try "25th Hour" (I'm guessing Spike isn't high on many people's list as well, but this is a very good film IMO).

Joan said...

ChrisO: Stone's not an idiot.

Unfortunately, there's significant evidence to the contrary already on public record.

I hope you're right, though. I like Nic Cage no matter what he's in (all the way back to "Valley Girl"), so here's hoping that Stone makes a film that is both riveting and respectful. I admit that what hope I have is quite small.

Pogo said...

Re: "but are you suggesting he should have used a set that didn't look like Ground Zero? Particularly in a film about policemen trapped in the rubble?"

Yes, actually.
The image of the WTC rubble evokes a visceral response in many people. Not you, I gather. Not Stone either. And that's my point. He's such an arrogant and thoughtless man that he cannot even concieve of this set as anything other than a movie set. He doesn't get it, that some people still cry when they see these things. He treats it like a prop in the play Stone: My Life is the Most Important Thing in the World and Here It Is.

What should he have done? Shoot the stupid picture, but be discreet enough to hide the set. Sheesh, Batman Begins had better secrecy than this guy. It's indelicate, foolish, and cruel in so many ways, but mostly because I know and you know he hates everything that occurred as a result of this terrible crime (Bush, Iraq, anti-terrorism, etc.).

Al Maviva said...

I for one am looking forward to finding out how Bush murdered, for an oil pipeline and to please the Jooos and the CIA, roughly a dozen friends and acquaintences that day.

/sarcastic bitterness

Yeah, Oliver Stone is the problem, and here's why. In a democracy, there is a market in ideas. The market only functions decently if there is plenty of more or less accurate information out there, which more or less correctly reflects reality. The problem with popularized conspiracy theories is they totally warp the public debate, and the political reaction to the debate, on any given issue. You can laugh about the effect of a "Turner Diaries" in creating a jokeworthy militia movement following the Waco debacle, or for the debate over pulling out of the UN as the result of corruption and command/control problems in Somalia. But based on the power of urban legend, the whole GWOT debate, until the next monstrous attack, could winds up focused on arguments where one side starts with the premise that Oliver Stone's wack job theory about the Jooos/Oillll!/or Chimpy McHalliburton's controllers were to blame. And this is Oliver Stone, he will not be able to control himself.

If you doubt this, take a look at the persistance of rumors that Bush had the levees blown in New Orleans in order to attack Black people - a rumor that Cynthia McKinney, who is aware of the fundraising and political value of slander - is only too happy to spread in congressional hearings. Just you wait - I'd be happy to put $20 on it that whatever myth Stone dreams up to explain the events, becomes the "truth" to a substantial chunk of the population, much like rumors that the CIA created AIDS and runs the international drug trade. Once this kind of pernicious slander gains currency, you never get rid of it.

ChrisO said...


If you read the linked NY Times article, you would see that the filmmakers have gone to great lengths to hide the set. And for everyone who's already made up their minds about how Stone is going to talk about Bush planning 9/11, etc. please tell me what you base that on? I read one story where he was on a panel and said some kind of rambling things about 9/11, but I've never seen that he's a conspiracy theorist around this event. We're up to 40 comments now, and most of them are a variation of some kind of condemnation of what Stone is going to say. Unfortunately, it seems this thread is largely based on total speculation.

(The exception, of course, is those who object to a 9/11 film being made, which is a totally legitimate stance, although I disagree with it.)

Pogo said...

Re: "you would see that the filmmakers have gone to great lengths to hide the set"

Spielberg was successful hiding Munich, but Stone failed already. I wonder why.

Re: "I've never seen that he's a conspiracy theorist around this event."

Most of us just assume that a conspiracy theorist about many other things, who consistently chooses and anti-American stance and enjoys siding with communist dictators like Castro would likely continue doing the same on this heated issue. And why would this be puzzling to you?

I stick by my earlier assessment: Oliver Stone is just golf pants in human form.

reader_iam said...

I too liked Oliver Stone earlier films. But when he did what he did with JFK (part of which I thought was downright unethical), it actually made me go back and consider with suspicion his earlier work. I'm sad to say it, but it's true. Since "JFK," I haven't been able to enjoy his films that came after (haven't seen them all, even).

Unrelated: Nic Cage in Valley Girl. Yes indeedy, I saw that movie, a number of times, back in the day. I wonder why that was?

DEC said...

Perhaps Oliver Stone's theory is that Godzilla knocked down the World Trade Center.