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11 Sep

Until I was 22, I was a New Yorker.

The plan was that after I graduated from college, I would move back to New York, and get a job and an apartment in the city.

But things don’t always go as planned.

In February 1997, I made the decision to leave New York and move to Boston. And it’s at least partly due to that decision that I consider myself one of the lucky ones.

As we observe the tenth anniversary of 9/11, I can look back on that day and know I was nowhere near the World Trade Center. Instead, I was in Boston, on my second day at a brand-new job, being told about the benefits package, when the first tower was hit. Continue reading

High Wire

10 Aug

On the morning of August 7, 1974, while many New Yorkers were hurrying to work, a lithe Frenchman named Philippe Petit was more than 100 stories above them, walking from the top of one of the Twin Towers to the other and back again.

The story of this amazing and unlikely feat is told in the fantastic new documentary Man on Wire.

Why did Petit do it?

Well, it’s almost the same answer as the one given by George Leigh Mallory when he was asked why he was attempting to climb Mount Everest: “Because it’s there.”

Petit, too, is driven by simple motivation. He’s a performer, and he thinks that to walk on a tightrope between the buildings would be an act of incredible beauty. Continue reading

Happy Anniversary to Me

9 Sep

I don’t have anything particularly exciting to say about it, but today is September 10, the day before the sixth anniversary of 9/11.

It might be just another day to you, but to me, it’s six years that I’ve been at my current company. (Yeah, it was a heck of a first week to start a new job.)

So, I just wanted to give myself a public atta-boy for staying in one place for this long.

What Becomes of the Broken Hearted?

19 Mar

In the years since 9/11 there have been only a handful of movies dealing directly with the subject.

Of those, most have dealt with the heroism and the survivors.

And of course, this leaves out a large number of people who also experienced the day, namely the families of those who died.

Well, with Mike Binder’s Reign Over Me, that void is over, and remarkably so. Continue reading

Five Years Later

11 Sep

I’ll say at the outset of this posting that I don’t have anything particularly revelatory or important to share about 9/11.

But as today is the fifth anniversary of the attack on the World Trade Center in New York, I felt a certain obligation to post something on my blog to commemorate the day. Continue reading

Towering Achievement

10 Aug

Not that we needed reminding, but 9/11 was a really shitty day. In his new film World Trade Center, Oliver Stone revists the chaos, fear, hysteria, heartbreak, sadness, and destruction of that day, but in the process pays effective tribute to those who lived through it.

In the early moments of WTC, Stone shows how 9/11 started out like any other day. People are going to work, streets are filled with commuters, and all is business as usual. But then the shadow of a plane is seen moving across a building, elsewhere there’s a strong tremor, and suddenly nothing is the same. We all know what happened next, but Stone dramatizes it, recreating the events with a you-are-there quality, and showing us what it was like to look up in shock and see the towers on fire. We’ve not wanted to know how it must have felt to be in the World Trade Center when the towers fell, but there we are with John McLaughlin (Nicolas Cage) and his men experiencing it, and feeling scared just waiting for the inevitable doom that awaits.

Without going too much into a wordy review, I’ll say that the movie maintains the same perspective throughout. Though they get their due, this is not a movie that celebrates those who rescued McLaughlin and Jimez (Michael Pena). Instead, this is a more personal film about those trapped NYPD officers, and we feel like we’re trapped right there with them. Above ground, there’s some fantastic acting by Maria Bello as McLaughlin’s wife (Maggie Gyllenhaal is also good as Jimenez’s wife), and in general, though the film is at times hard to watch and runs over two hours long, it still moves at a good pace.

There were many stories of heroism, courage, and strength that came out of 9/11. WTC tells just one of them. McLaughlin and Jimenez are no more special than many others who lived through the day, but it’s that quality that makes this film so good. Stone illustrates how it’s not those larger-than-life heroes who deserve all the attention. Appropriately, this is a film for the little guy. It’s an excellent tribute. I give it an A.

I Saw United 93

29 Apr

I can’t say I was personally affected by the events of 9/11.

Thankfully, I knew no one who was on any of the four planes, and even though I am originally from New York and know many people who live there, no one I know died in the attack on the World Trade Center.

That said, I was really personally affected by the new movie United 93. And really, it’s hard not to be.

This is top-notch filmmaking, the kind of you-are-there movie that puts you on the plane, in the air traffic control centers, on the seat of your pants, and makes you feel like you were a part of the events of that day.

It all feels authentic, and it takes place in real time in almost documentary fashion, so you feel the dread when simple things happen, like the closing of the plane doors. And there’s probably no moment as uneasy as when the plane actually takes off. Continue reading

George Clooney Is the Man

22 Sep

I wouldn’t go so far as to say he’s a role model or even someone I idolize. He’s not even a man-crush. But George Clooney is someone I respect and admire.

It all started for me on September 2, 1997, a few days after Princess Diana died. Clooney held a press conference to call the paparazzi to task, saying it was their fault she was dead, that they were reckless, and not just in this case. The way he delivered his remarks that night — in a forceful and passionate manner, his words clearly thought-out — so impressed me that I was instantly made a fan, and I’ve never forgotten that night.

From that moment on, George Clooney was my hero. Continue reading

Music from Tragedy

11 Sep

If there’s one good thing that comes from major disasters and tragedies, it’s the response from the people in the entertainment community. In the 2 weeks since Hurricane Katrina devastated the Gulf Coast, just like they did in the weeks that followed 9/11 and the tidal wave in Southeast Asia last December, singers and actors have come together to take part in various telethons and relief concerts, such as the one I stayed home to watch tonight that’s being simulcast on MTV, VH1 and CMT.

Last week, there was one on NBC that featured artists, like Harry Connick Jr. and Wynton Marsalis, who were from New Orleans. Last night’s show, simulcast on all the major broadcast networks, had a more diverse lineup, one that included Mariah Carey, Sheryl Crow, U2, Neil Young and Kanye West, among others. Tonight on the MTV show, it’s folks like Paul McCartney, John Mayer, Kelly Clarkson, Green Day, Coldplay, Hank Williams Jr., Alicia Keys and … well, it’s a four-hour-plus show (the others were just an hour long). Kanye West and Alicia Keys and Sheryl Crow and Neil Young and U2, they all pulled double duty these past two nights.

Anyway, my point here is not to applaud the celebs for taking part. It’s to say how great the music has been. Of course, you knew Harry Connick’s cover of “Do You Know What It Means to Miss New Orleans,” even despite his tired and scratchy voice, would be awesome. That’s because it’s times like these that separate the true artists from, well, the Britney Spears of the world. Maybe it’s the minimalist performance style that in many of these cases leaves only the singer and a piano or a guitar. Maybe it’s the heartfelt emotion in the performances. Or maybe it’s just song selection. Whatever it is, there’s no denying that, for example, the U2/Mary J. Blige collaboration on “One” last night was simply music at its finest. It was one of the best performances of that song I’d ever heard and it blew me away. Mary J. Blige gave me chills. Randy Newman’s “Louisiana” (I think that’s what it was called), Sheryl Crow’s “The Water Is Wide” and Rod Stewart’s “People Get Ready” were also memorable.

Alicia Keys began the MTV/VH1/CMT show tonight with a moving rendition of “You’ll Never Walk Alone.” Kid Rock and Lynyrd Skynyrd followed with an upbeat — but respectful — “Sweet Home Alabama.” John Mayer (with his blues trio) contributed a new song, “Gravity,” that was written in the last couple of weeks in response to Katrina. Live (on tape) from Milwaukee, the Rolling Stones sang “Waiting on a Friend.” Kelly Clarkson performed a song called “Shelter,” and she did a really nice job with it. And that was just the first half hour or so.

After the 9/11 telethon, the performances in the George Clooney-led telethon were released on CD and all proceeds went to victims’ families and other related causes. I’m hoping that after the past two weeks’ telethons, a similar charity CD is released with “the best” of these shows (there was also one last night on BET that I did not watch). Or that recordings will show up on iTunes. If not, well, if you missed the U2/Mary J. Blige duet, you missed something truly special.

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