Update: With this post, Deeper Meanings is installing a new recommendation feature. At the end of each post, I will post a small handful of other movies, artists, etc. that share qualities with the subject of the post. Consider it my way to get you interested in great stories, even if you don’t care for the subjects of my posts. Scroll down to check it out!
9/11: few combinations of numbers hold as much power as these three. This is a date which lives in infamy and remains an enduring symbol of loss and confusion, even over 10 years later.
While there is some controversy over whether or not Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close is focused on 9/11, the reality is that a great deal of the movie’s depth can be attributed to the attention that it devotes to “the worst day,” in the words of lead character Oskar (played by Thomas Horn).
The movie, based on the book of the same name by Jonathan Safran Foer, is one part analysis of the continued impact of 9/11, one part scavenger hunt adventure, and one part coming-of-age story. All of these aspects complement each other and are all addressed equally well.
Oskar is a unique narrator and protagonist because of his imperfection. Although his young age excuses him of many weaknesses, he ultimately is a troubled boy who makes many mistakes throughout the course of the story.
Despite his awkwardness and tendency to alienate others with the analytical lens through which he views the world (he even says that Asperger Syndrome tests were inconclusive), Oskar is a surprisingly relatable character. Anyone who has experienced loss (from 9/11 or otherwise) can obviously relate to Oskar’s dismay over his father’s death, but he is also relatable to any American because of his inability to wrap his brilliant mind around the insanity of the attacks on the World Trade Center.
In the midst of that tragedy, news organizations won awards for their coverage, yet none of them succeeded in answering the most important question: “why?”
Even now, the reasoning behind the attacks is unclear, and Oskar struggles with his inability to understand why 9/11 happened, just like the rest of us.
Because the movie captures this sense of confusion that defines the worst terrorist attack in U.S. history, it addresses the tragedy with the utmost level of respect and never misuses the backdrop of 9/11 as a publicity stunt. Ten years later, this movie provides a mature, nuanced view back at the tragedy that has defined this generation.
The framework of Oskar’s quest for the answers to secrets his father left for him represents the need to grow beyond the sad outcomes that 9/11 left for so many. The tragedy of the movie is crippling, especially for a troubled young boy like Oskar, but he still does his best to stay active and not succumb to sadness.
Oskar’s adventure through New York is a great reminder to those victimized by 9/11 (or any other tragedy really) that life endures and it is always possible to achieve growth from even the worst situations.
This is an incredibly sad movie, but the coming-of-age story embedded within carries important messages about grief, guilt, and self-improvement that is exceedingly relevant, even ten years after “the worst day.”
If you like EL&IC, then try:
- The Kite Runner (an imperfect protagonist’s story of redemption).
- The Sixth Sense (also starring a young boy doing his best to understand the complicated world around him).
- Wall-E (for the same reason as The Sixth Sense, except with a childish robot).
Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows is written so that you don’t need to have seen the first chapter in order to understand most aspects of the story, so it is easy to forget that it is a sequel. Still, there are weaknesses typical of a second outing in a series.
The movie attempts to follow up on the success of the original by ramping up the action and centering the mystery on a secular (not supernatural as in the original) villain brilliant enough to rival Sherlock.
The plot picks up one year after the events of the original, as Holmes, played by Robert Downey Jr., struggles to recruit the newly married Dr. Watson, played by Jude Law, in pursuing “one last case.”
There is a heavier emphasis on action, misplaced as some may consider it in a detective story. Many of the effects are exciting, although they distract from the true focus of the Sherlock Holmes brand. For better or for worse, if you want to see what trees look like as bullets shred through them in slow motion, this is your movie.
However, Sherlock Holmes is all about baffling mysteries and brilliant detectives, and that critical element is, thankfully, still here (although the plot Holmes unravels in the original is more mystifying).
One of the most entertaining and innovative moments of the original is the opening fight scene, during which Holmes narrates in slow motion and painstaking detail his plan of attack before perfectly executing it in a matter of seconds. This clever effect is brought back with a few creative twists, however, that further develop the idea without coming across as stale.
Jared Harris’s portrayal of Holmes’s rival Professor Moriarty is another high point for the sequel. Moriarty’s quiet, chilling style is effective, although it does carry some weaknesses. His apparent apathy after revealing an important death serves as the first moment when his potential as a villain is displayed, yet the way that the death is swept under the rug is upsetting and disappointing.
All this death, mystery, and villainy is fine and good, but the most enjoyable moments of the movie are seen in the friendship (some might say bromance) that is so key to the franchise. Downey and Law do a great job of subtly revealing signs of admiration for each other (in character of course) while maintaining a borderline icy relationship the majority of the time.
Watching these two interact is the most fun you will have with the movie (especially when one of them cross-dresses…for the good of the case). Unless, of course, you prefer watching a lot of things go “boom.”
All in all, Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows is an entertaining depiction of a great intellectual rivalry that benefits from strong acting and action but fails to meet the high standards set by the dynamic plot of the original.
As for the mystery of my prolonged absence, the academic semester turned out to be rigorous to the point that I had to make the decision that academics were more important than my blog endeavors. Still, I hope to balance this upcoming semester with new posts periodically. Anyway, this post is about Sherlock Holmes, and I want to hear what you think, so comment away!
If you like Sherlock, then try:
- Se7en (an intellectual thriller and detective story, albeit with fewer geniuses).
- The Prestige (the mind-bending mystery to end all mysteries).
- Iron Man (also starring Robert Downey Jr. and also featuring plenty of action).
As my more avid readers hopefully noticed, I did go a week (last week) without posting, something which I regret. Sometimes things on campus get a bit out of my hands, and a week of band camp (more than 12 hours per day) is one sure-fire way to monopolize my time.
So my apologies about that, but Early Week 2011 is indeed over, and while marching band will still be busy for the rest of the season, I will do my best to maintain my posting schedule, or give notice if I will not be able to (in which case I will try to post more bite-size content like this post).
Speaking of content, I figured that it would be impolite to cry you all a river about my sleep-deprived week or band, band, and more band without giving you an idea of exactly what the final product of this labor looks like. So I have included in this post a couple of videos of my marching band, the Mighty Sound of Maryland.
First off, I should start off with OUR preferred way to start things off. Despite the nosebleed angle of the video, I am proud to present our famous Pregame show!
Next, I should probably mention that we won a national contest hosted by CBS, Hawaii Five-0! I mean, just as a minor aside…
Don’t get me wrong, $25,000 is amazing, but honestly, that no show (Hawaii 5-0 included) can begin to compare to our Michael Jackson show-complete with a Thriller feature in which the entire band dances to that classic song! Not to gush, but the crowd response to that dance was unbelievable; it was truly one of, if not the, greatest experience of my life.
And as a final tidbit, I thought it would fun to show what it’s like for us on the field! Here is the perspective of a tuba.
I should stop myself now before I go on too much about this band! I’ll leave that up to my friend and fellow marcher Lisa and her blog. Before I sign off until my next (real) post, which should be up tomorrow if all goes as planned, I am glad to announce that my work is being featured on all editions of the Village Connector throughout the nation! They have taken me on as a “Film Review” columnist, and I am excited to see what people connect themselves with Deeper Meanings through the VC. If you are coming here from the VC, shoot me a comment! And, as always, feel more than welcome to send me feedback about what you would like to see from this blog. I hope you can find a deeper meaning here.
The writer’s strike has finally come to an end! The blog is back online! Ok, so my vacation wasn’t exact a writer’s strike, but it kept me away from the site (and internet in general) all the same. I am returning to my Thursday post schedule though, so you can look forward to a new post (actually, a new kind of post) tomorrow morning.
However, the school year and marching season are both fast approaching and for this collective reason I will unfortunately be unable to continue my posting schedule of Mondays and Thursdays. So from this point until further notice (winter break, most likely), I will be posting on a weekly basis every Thursday. Thanks for reading so far, and I hope you stick around to see what else I have up my sleeve!
Unfortunately, I am heading out on vacation (woe is me), so I cannot promise being able to stick to my Monday/Thursday update schedule for the next week or two. Internet access is quite unreliable where I am going. In the meantime, make sure to check out any of my current posts if you missed them. See you in August.