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Monday, June 14, 2010


nicholas cage in wtc

I watched WORLD TRADE CENTER again last night and liked it a lot more than the first time. I'm able to see the artistry in a film better the second time when I know the story, know what to expect, and know its worth paying closer attention to. I wanted to hear Stone's running commentary, so today I watched it the third time, with Stone talking. I used subtitles for the film, because the volume was almost all the way down while Stone talked. He'd be commenting on something that was happening, and I wanted to know what they were saying too, because that was part of it. I've watched so many foreign films with subtitles, I use subtitles now with movies made in English, because there is so much whispering going on in movies, muttering and mumbling. I figure script writers get paid pretty well and they have a reason for being involved in the film. It tells me they're pretty good writers or they wouldn't have that job, though I have seen movies I'd prefer silent.

Listening to Stone talk about his film was the same as listening to an artist tell how a painting was inspired and painted, or telling about how he wrote a given work of fiction. I like having these director's commentaries. There is no way I could ever be acquainted with Oliver Stone and have enough time with him to listen to him tell about making WTC. He wouldn't do this conversationally. I hear an artist telling his decisions along the way in making the film. Seeing it with him telling it, I was able to see it more scene by scene and pay better attention to details in a given scene. I appreciated it all the more the 3rd time with commentary. The Marine evidently drawn to the wreckage by prayer lived someplace else. From the wreckage next morning he cellphoned his workplace and said he wasn't coming back. The man this character represented reenlisted and did tours in Iraq since 2001.

Not only did I learn much about Stone's process as an artist, what he looks for visually, how he and the crew work out problems. He noted that all the characters in the film were individuals who were involved in the original incident. In some cases, the original person played himself. The man Michael Pena played appeared in a few scenes as a cop. All of the scenes in the film of the two towers on fire and falling were done by computer animation. He said they didn't use footage from that time of the towers falling. A lot of the scenes on the street were filmed in LA. They had a certain amount of time to work in NY, so they had to do the scenes that had to be NY, then computer graphics in LA, and at the studio where they created a rubble heap to rescue the 2 men from. They did it so well, it seemed documentary. He said the wreckage covered 16 acres. That's a major chunk of ground.

At one point, Stone said while he was making the film, his motivation was "to help, in some way, the human condition." He's been like that from the beginning. He wants to participate in making the world a better place. Whatever that means. It means something different to each individual. He's not the only one. An awful lot of people are guided by a need to help, in some way, the human condition. Every individual has a particular purpose. One way I saw Stone helping the human condition in this film is understanding. He brought forward the human perspective, two love stories running parallel to each other, honoring working men as valid human beings, drawing attention to the heroic element in individuals when called upon. Especially, I felt, the American response to Emergency is where we see true democracy. Any race, religion or class will assist any race, religion or class at terrific risk in America.

I liked seeing the film with attention to the creation, scene by scene. He broke it down into three acts. First act was getting to know everybody, a New York morning, people getting up, going to work, the city in different early morning lights, Stone talking about how he loves the sky in NY. The sun coming up. The second act, the collapse, the darkness of being buried alive in 16 acres of wreckage. He went with the symbolism of coming out of the darkness into the light when they were rescued. From the dark pit to a flash of bright white light, white walls of hospital corridor scenes. He said he wanted to get through the hospital scenes as briefly as possible. There is absolutely nothing new that can be done with a hospital that hasn't already been done on television. The third act, the rescue and return, he talked much of how filming darkness required various lighting issues and close quarters issues. I feel like Stone transcended something with this film, something within himself as an artist. The next time I see it, I'll turn on the commentary of 4 of the actors. Maggie Gyllenhaal is suddenly my favorite American actress. There with Mira Sorvino and a few others. Sure enough, Oliver Stone saw CRASH and discovered Michael Pena there.

I have to give it to Oliver Stone. He is, indeed, a major American director. No two ways about it. I'm surprised by my own fascination with this film. I've noticed after seeing it 3 times, it is rewarding to watch several times for the subtleties throughout, for the brilliant photography throughout. Mostly, I have found Stone's films hard hitting, poking holes in the propaganda we're controlled by, assisting the human condition with understanding. Stone is a multi-talented artist I can't help but respect. I believe a beautiful work of art is an assist to the human condition, the same as Stone does. He's a fortunate man. His entire adult life has been lived doing what he wants to do. And he's done it well.

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