Posts tagged new york
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).
Believe me, I am as big a fan of fiction as anybody. In fact, I generally prefer it (really, it’s just more fun!). However, there’s something about true stories that is compelling in ways that are not possible with fiction.
Now, you may be reading this and thinking about how, at the surface, films based on true stories look like boring, outdated tales that have difficulty relating to the here and now. And that is unfortunate, because such a line of thinking is way off-target.
Milk is a great drama, and very worthy of the awards and accolades it received. But the primary source of its compelling nature undoubtedly lies in its importance as an accurate depiction of real events and people.
Films like these have the ability, which fiction lacks, to hit close to home and to really make you think about your own attitude towards certain aspects of the real world. There are plenty of emotional moments in Milk, but they carry more weight than they normally would because these moments happened, for better or worse, in our world rather than some fictional world.
The fact that Harvey Milk (claim to fame: California’s first openly gay elected official) was a real guy makes him an incredibly sympathetic character, as if the great personality that Sean Penn brings to Milk’s “character” wasn’t enough. It’s really quite easy to be “recruited” by him.
It’s hard not to respect someone who fights as bravely for his beliefs, despite strong popular opposition, as Milk does. He always recognized the controversy of what he was doing, and faced it head-on; he even pinned a hateful drawing on his fridge with the mindset that problems cannot be solved if they are not acknowledged and confronted in broad daylight.
And on top of deep messages like this, he impressively kept his sense of humor. It can’t be easy laughing when you’re dealing with so much pressure.
The film (and its status as a true story) has further impact on viewers due to the relevance of its subject material in today’s society. Milk’s story is especially important these days due to the steps that are being taken to finish what he started; the legalization of gay marriage in New York takes effect on July 24, and other states are sure to follow suit.
Milk’s messages and beliefs absolutely hold as much value today as they did when he was in his prime.
When you strip away the specific politics of the gay community’s struggles for political and social equality, this is a story of someone who cared deeply enough for a cause that he devoted the rest of his life to that cause.
Indeed, Milk served as a symbol of hope for an entire community (“Without hope, life’s not worth living”), and his legacy is as hugely significant as that big role.
Ben Franklin once said that in order to be remembered after death, “Either write something worth reading or do something worth writing.” Watching Milk do things worth writing (or filming) about turned out to be a great experience.
Of course, Milk is only one of tons of great films based on true stories; what are some that you’ve seen and what are your thoughts about them? Does Milk, the real story of a pioneering gay official sound like something you’d like to see? You know where the comments are, get crackin’!
If you like Milk, then try:
- Without Limits (another tragedy also based on a true story).