Friday, January 20, 2012

"Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close": Just Because Hollywood Never Understood 9/11 Doesn't Mean They Can't Exploit It For Profit

(spoiler alert...)

If you watch any TV at all, you've probably seen the commercials for this movie, that assure you that your betters have declared it to be The Movie of the Year, and you are surely less of a human if you skip it: "The reviews are in...Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close is the most touching, moving, heartbreaking,fulfilling movie of your lifetime..."

Every ad has a reference to the 9/11 attacks: "My dad was in the building" says an unseen but plaintive voice,  with strategic shots of a revamped New York skyline.  It sounds, at first listen, heartrending: Who is this boy, what emotional damage has he suffered, and how were the events of that horrific day instrumental in shaping his life?

Well, those would be valid questions to ask, if we had men and women of integrity and imagination producing movies. Instead, apparently, it is a mere plot device to make us sympathize with what is apparently an unsympathetic character.  Andrea Peyser in the New York Post writes Extremely, incredibly exploitive:

It stars a weird 11-year-old overprivileged Manhattan boy, Oskar Schell (“Jeopardy” whiz kid Thomas Horn), who’s afflicted with a form of autism, likely Asperger’s syndrome. His condition is presented as nobly as the disability of the John Nash character in “A Beautiful Mind” — minus the brilliance and charm.

The movie concerns the boy’s quixotic attempt to hold on to his dad (Tom Hanks), who was murdered in the Trade Center. Yes, I wrote “murder.” But you won’t hear that word uttered by anyone in the film, because 9/11 is presented here as a kind of cosmic accident. Like lightning.
The message isn’t “love one another.” It’s “sh-t happens.”

Nothing is spared in the quest for emotional blackmail, cheap thrills and a naked ploy for an Oscar.

But the most outrageous falsehood promoted in the film is the thing it leaves out. The word “terrorist” is consciously never said. Nor is “murderers,” “butchers” or “Muslim extremists.”
In a climactic scene, Bullock tells her son that 9/11 “made no sense.” This is the biggest lie of all.
For 9/11 made perfect sense. It was an act of barbarity committed by people bent on destroying this city, this nation

The movie ends in true Hollywood style. The boy, however improbably, finds the lock he seeks. But it has nothing to do with him or his father. Just another cosmic accident.

It's Oscar time...for Sandra....and Tom Hanks! Winter...for truth and...respect..." (sung to the tune of "Springtime for Hitler")

And how's this for an ad: "Critic Kyle Smith calls Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close the most irritating movie of the year!"

I walked out of the movie in more or less of a cold fury and I still think some critics and wets might fall for this shameless work...

The film amounts to a celebration thrown by author Jonathan Safran Foer for an unbelievably obnoxious little genius meant to be a sweetly heartbreaking charmer.

What’s additionally galling is that the kid really has nothing to do with 9/11, which barely interests the author except as a means for ginning up interest in and sympathy for his little hero. 9/11 is cannily deployed to bestow a completely unearned gravity on this twee creation.

There is no mention of the savages who ruthlessly and with perfect internal logic carried out this act of mass murder. The events of 9/11 are treated as just a random tragedy, like an earthquake or a lightning strike, instead of the result of meticulous evil planning by sworn foes of the United States of America and everything it stands for.

Is Hollywood so unaffected by the horror, so untouched, so filled with cynicism that they see nothing wrong in  treating 9/11 as a mere sideshow plot device sure to garner sympathy from stupid flag-waving Middle Americans?  Or is this Hollywood's way of intentionally minimizing the savagery of that day, changing the nature of the event to fit their fictional needs, and thus beginning a long struggle to reclaim the narrative for what really happened on 9/11 ? (spoiler:  it was all George Bush's fault).

If there is any way to fight back, it is through the power of the movie ticket.  Want to show your disgust?  Don't buy one.  In fact, stay away from the theater all together for a week or two (or four).  After all, if there is any great truth in Hollywood, it is that the words of the profits hold a greater claim to the soul of the city than any truth or reason can ever  hope to...

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