I won’t be seeing “United 93” in the theaters, but not for the reasons being discussed in the public square at the moment. Like most parents with younger children, I rarely see anything with a rating stronger than PG in the theaters. (My plan for this weekend: “Brokeback Mountain,” finally. I suspect the next movie we’ll be seeing in the dark with strangers will be “Akeelah and the Bee,” but never mind that.) I’m paying attention to the discussion of “United 93,” and as usual, I’m wondering why it seems only Ron Rosenbaum is paying attention:
Why is this the third film made about Flight 93? I’ve watched them all: There was last year’s Discovery Channel docudrama “The Flight That Fought Back.” Then there was this year’s A&E cable re-enactment, “Flight 93,” directed by one of George W. Bush’s college classmates (coincidence?). And now the major new Hollywood feature United 93, directed by Paul Greengrass. When the controversy over the trailer for the new film erupted recently, the question was, “Is it too soon?” I wonder if the question should be, “Are there too many?”
Yes, exactly. In fact, I watched the hijacking portion of “Flight 93” in, of all the grotesque places, the kitchen of a big fancy Grosse Pointe house, during an estate sale. Shoppers picked over the china and glassware while screams of panic erupted from the little TV on the counter. It was, how you say, a bit unsettling, especially since it appeared no one was paying attention to the show but me. (It’s hard for me to tune out TV; one of our household’s strictest rules is, if you’re not watching the TV, turn it off. I once interviewed a couple who’d recently won $9 million in the lottery. They seated me next to their ginormous new TV, which was left on throughout the interview, at considerable volume.)
Anyway, Rosenbaum is right. What’s all this “too soon” stuff? Doesn’t anyone pay attention to TV Guide anymore? Of course you can see why this is the latest, but most likely not the last — this story is as compelling, and as dreadful (as in “filled with dread”) as any in our history, and I suspect we’ll be chewing over it for generations.
I might watch when it comes around on cable, but based on the trailer, it might be a while before I can stomach even that. I still can’t look at 9/11 photos without feeling a lurch, and video of the second plane making impact still drops my jaw.
Actually, I don’t know how much I want to relive 9/11 and the aftermath. Writing this, I was just reminded of a column I read in the three-days-post time frame; I think it was by Mona Charen or Maggie Gallagher or one of those right-wing antifeminist lady scolds. The angle was, “Let’s hear it for men, because men aboard United 93 saved the Capitol,” and I think it went on to tie this all together with why women shouldn’t be in combat and blah blah blah. It even made a point of mentioning the detail about the stewardesses onboard Flight 93, who were said to be boiling water in the coffeepots to use as a weapon, and then dismissing it with a flip of the hand — well, that’s all very nice, but wouldn’t you rather be defended by a big strong man? I was a columnist and I remember 9/11, and I’m willing to forgive an awful lot of the crap that was said and written in the aftermath. We all went a little crazy. But I thought then, and I think now, that if you’re willing to climb to the top of a pile of 3,000 of your countrymen’s corpses to advance your stupid social agenda, you are beneath contempt.
For the record: I think a potful of boiling water to the face makes a fine weapon. It’s not like they were planning to hit the hijackers with their handbags, for god’s sake.
Anyway, the whole thing gets my stomach upset. So no “United 93” for me, not yet. Maybe later.
John said on April 28, 2006 at 11:15 am
How many Charles and Di movies were there? Too many. Same can be said about Flight 93.
Adrianne said on April 28, 2006 at 12:11 pm
I think the “United 93” movie is going to tank. Who wants to see the terror of the plane crash in real time, on a huge screen? Even though reviewers say it’s surprisingly a good movie, and respectful of the dead passengers, I’ll take a pass.
I saw an interesting essay, I forget where, on how images of 9-11 seem to have gone down the memory hole. For a while, TV was incessantly playing video of the second plane into the towers, and then, it abruptly stopped. Now it’s hard to find any images of the day and the aftermath, anywhere.
Danny said on April 28, 2006 at 12:13 pm
I like defamer’s take on it: “‘United 93’ Fulfills Mission Of Salting Still-Fresh Wounds.” That guy can really write.
Connie said on April 28, 2006 at 1:05 pm
I also watched both TV versions, though didn’t manage to get through the most recent, it was so badly done.
And that pot of hot coffee was a great weapon in “History of Violence.”
I watched Brokeback a few days ago, and I must say it is one of the saddest movies I have ever seen. I also decided that one of its major sub-themes is the history of sideburns from the 60s through the 80s.
brian stouder said on April 28, 2006 at 7:12 pm
When I was a kiddo, our across-the-street neighbor was a friendly old woman, and I distinctly recall talking with her about some Second World War movie that I had seen – and she ended the discussion saying that she had lost many friends in that cataclysm, and she never watched war movies. She DID go on to tell me where she was on the Sunday that Japan hit the fleet parked in Pearl Harbor (and that nobody had ever heard of Pearl Harbor) – and how much a person valued their bottle of Coca Cola during the war years…
But I was reminded of her when this Flight 93 thing came up. I won’t be seeing it either. I have watched a few ‘real’ documentaries about that day, and about the WTC.
In fact I read a great book (City in the Sky; The Rise and Fall of the World Trade Center, by a pair of NY Times reporters) about the struggle to build the WTC – and how it displaced a host of small businesses on what had been ‘radio row’, and about the way they were designed and built, and how the building and fire codes didn’t apply to them since the Port Authority is a power unto itself….
and – arbitrary or not – while I will pay for straight nonfiction about the events, I have a bit more trouble paying for faux non-fiction.
(that morning Pam and I were trading phone calls – I had called her right after getting to work to tell her to turn on the TV, and then she called me back several times with increasingly incredible updates…I recall telling her flatly that I simply didn’t believe that one of the towers had fallen! Surely it was a partial collapse? No, she said – all though there is lots and lots of dust – one of the towers is definitely gone. Gone? It can’t be ‘gone’, can it? I asked….my most vivid memory was that feeling – as the morning progressed, and the planes kept crashing and the news kept breaking and the rumors kept swirling – that free-fall-feeling of dread – wondering where the end was)
brian stouder said on April 28, 2006 at 7:15 pm
here is some information about that book
vince said on April 28, 2006 at 11:19 pm
This is a film that I have zero interest in seeing.
Instant, or even slightly-delayed disaster films carry no pull for me.
But I must admit, two NPR reviewers might just change my mind.
I was surprised to hear TWO glowing and eloquent reviews. Perhaps there’s something here worth seeing. I’m just not sure I want to see it now.
sage said on April 30, 2006 at 3:44 pm
I agree with you about the movie Flight 93; enough already! I won’t see it either…love your blog.
Dorothy said on May 1, 2006 at 8:43 am
I just want to know if you saw “Akeelah and The Bee”. I know I’ll see it – but probably on DVD, not at the theater. I loved “Spellbound.” As the mother of a former winner of a spelling bee at the regional level, I’m a big fan of spelling bee PR!