The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

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‘United 93’ worth watching

 United 93 worth watching
‘United 93’ worth watching

‘United 93’ worth watching

“United 93” came out last Friday greeted by the prevalent criticism that it was “too soon.” The argument runs that those who made the film are, firstly, capitalizing financially upon the lives lost on Sept. 11 and, secondly, crafting a depiction of the event when the time necessary for proper perspective on the tragedy has not elapsed.

This article respects the viewpoints of those who feel this way; I had agreed with them until I watched “United 93.”

The film itself is marked by moments of incredible profoundness. In my opinion it succeeds because of the limits it imposes on what it depicts, shifting between the actual flight and air traffic control offices during the time from take-off to crash. It doesn’t delve into the lives of the passengers or forecast the ‘War on Terror,’ instead showing how, within the course of two hours, America profoundly changed and one group of people rose from anonymity to accept their role in history.

After Sept. 11, 2001 there were dire predictions about the end of humor and amusement. Thankfully, they were unrealized, as demonstrated by “SNL’s” first episode of that season, when Lorne Michaels asked Mayor Giuliani if they could be “funny again,” and Giuliani replied, “Why start now?” By 2002 we were laughing at such artistically significant fare as “The Hot Chick” and “The New Guy.”

Those who maintain that “United 93” is inappropriate because of its immediacy imply that a time exists when it is suitable to make films about tragedy. Certainly movies such as “Schindler’s List” and “Platoon” benefited from their distance from their subject matter, in effect speaking as much for the era that made them. Wouldn’t “United 93” and the upcoming “World Trade Center” be more suitable 15 years from now, when their creators can place the events within a larger historical framework toward which they will be, presumably, more objective?

This line of reason falters when one considers the other television programs and movies that have been released in the past few years. Many films and TV shows before Sept. 11 celebrated the 70s and 80s. After Sept. 11 these were supplemented by fare nostalgic for the previous decade, as highlighted by VH1’s “I Love the ’90s” and by 2004’s introduction of “Best Week Ever,” a weekly program that applied that same nostalgia to the preceding seven days. Critics were bewildered enough to proclaim that ‘Generation Y’ would be the first to rob itself of a culture – it was too busy looking back.

Cultural movements, like people, become superficial the moment they start praising themselves. A cursory glance at popular culture reveals that it is extremely derivative, marked by remakes, adaptations and formulaicism.

The public has responded by fragmenting its interests and tuning into television that is increasingly partisan.

History has shown us that each generation leaves a legacy for the next. What does that mean for us, who seem to lack a unique identity and those who follow?

The recent films that have mattered, like “Syriana” and “Crash,” are as such because they seek to comment on an America that prefers to deny the negative impact its decisions about foreign relations, environmental policy, and racial and class divisions will have on the future.

Paul Greengrass, the director of “United 93,” said that he wanted to “reach back to the common ground” with the film. It serves as a jumping-off point for a discussion on how the victims of Sept. 11 have been used to justify political movements in the country.

Perhaps most importantly, it enables us to see how we have changed, truly, since that day. No amount of retrospection can stop the inextricable twilight of a generation.

 

Gary Suderman is a first-year cinema-TV major. He can be reached at [email protected].

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