Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Film Review - United 93 (2006)

Written and directed by Paul Greengrass.

Like many others, when this film was first released, I stayed away. Too soon, too soon.

Now, having taken the time to sit through the film, it may still be too soon.

Watching this movie, based loosely on the events within the fourth flight on 9/11 where the passengers attempted to stop the terrorists, all I could do was choke back the uncontrolled rage and horror. That day, for me as so many others, is a permanent imprint on my spirit and soul. Yes, like so many other events, we remember where we were and what we were doing when we first heard about it.

What I wasn't prepared for was that the film made me feel exactly as I did that day: confused, angry, frightened, sad...

And that, in and of itself, makes the film worth watching. So rare is it to be moved emotionally by a film, so remarkable, that I feel that on this 10th anniversary of those events, that the film should be re-examined.

There is no "plot" or "story," just a restaging of the events. The people on board United 93 are merely moving from one place to the next, and they start to slowly become aware of the two planes that struck the two towers, and the one that hit the Pentagon. As their understanding grows, they begin to react, not only to one another but to the situation and the terrorists that are bringing on their collective destruction.

The terrorists are not shown as hideous monsters or as stereotypes, more like (dare I say it? I dare) human beings wrapped up tightly in their own furor, and the phrase "We're on a mission from God" has never seemed so sad or so sickening. (Fortunately, no one actually speaks that particular line, but it did start to echo inside my head while watching the film.)

There is no spoiler here: the plane went down, ending the lives of everyone aboard it. Everyone dies, it is that simple. What is so disturbing about a film like this is that it is not Titanic, there is no love story, there is no sense of sweeping grandeur, just common folk caught up in a situation that no one could truly imagine themselves being thrust.

While the film is gripping, and tense, it is the last five or ten minutes that cap this dark ride into our recent past. Watching as human beings become more and more desperate, more and more angry and finally throwing themselves into harm's way is a deeply moving and disturbing experience.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

An Open Letter To Mr. Brian Wilson & Mr. Todd Rundgren


I hope you are well.

Something has occurred to me that I feel is a matter of the most grave and urgent of circumstance.

The world about us, as I am sure you are both aware, is being red-label express sent to Hell. All manner of madness abounds and dialog between differing opinions has become nothing more than one diatribe against another: no one is listening.

Having said that, contrary to Mr. Rundgren's comments in An Elpee's Worth Of Toons, I feel that a serious and beautiful work of art may be just the ticket towards, if not lasting peace then hopefully, a peace of mind to all that encounter it.

I am writing this in the vain and/or mad hope that somehow, someway it gets to one or both of you and you contact one another, and to give serious consideration of this notion. My price? I want nothing more than to be there when it happens, at my own expense if need be, and, of course, a signed copy for myself.

Mr. Rundgren has made a permanent mark upon my attitudes in re: music and how songs are produced with the release of A Capella. Mr. Wilson, whose indelible impact cannot be ignored, did the same with the single Heroes And Villains. To my last count, I have heard at least four differing versions of Heroes And Villains, depending on which album or 45 I have heard.

This song, gentlemen, is IMHO as yet unfinished, and correcting it One More Time should put it to rest, and with the two of you in control of it, the sound of the two of you may just set some of this world's pain to the side.

I had but one complaint about the Beach Boys, and that is mostly due to the fact that I am a baritone. This lacking on my part was set aside when first I heard Heroes And Villains, and I would often (as I do now) gleefully molest the song with my added doo-do-dee-doo's.

This morning, 5/7/11, I was listening to the three separate versions of the song that I have, one of which I no longer recall how it came to my possession. Two are with the Beach Boys, clocking in at 2:55 and 3:41, and, of course, Mr. Wilson's version from Smile, which runs 4:53.

I was at the same time reading about the woes and foibles that destroyed the first Smile, and something began to trouble me. Here, then, gentlemen, is my point.

The song is too short.

Heroes And Villains, in and of itself, should be no less than 10 minutes in length. As I am sure you both recall, there was a time when a self-indulgent rock star would come out with some form of aural masturbation that ran that long, or longer. Whatever: sometimes, as you both know well, it can be done with great style and beauty.

My request, then, is as follows: Arrange the song, one more time, as a barbershop quartet piece. Once completed, and sung A Capella, arrange it as a fugue, building and building, piece upon piece, until it becomes a rapturous joyous cry.... and instead of simply using the studio for frippery, conduct it using one of the many barbershop quartet gatherings... using all available voices.... and maybe use some sweet Adeline girl sound as well.

Bring us the sound of many voices, building and building for nothing more than the sheer joy of song. Bring us the sound of unrelenting beauty, and unleash it onto a world so weary of itself that it seems to be shaking itself apart. Bring us hope. Bring us joy.

What the hell.... why not? What's the worst that could happen? People Smile again?

Thank you for your attention.


James R. Allard, Jr (aka Mr. Mirage)

PS: I have had the great joy of seeing both of you perform live. Hope to do so again. Soon.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Ten Years On

Osama Bin Laden is dead. Nothing has changed.

The alleged mastermind behind the 9/11 attacks is gone, and yet, the war shall continue. I do not condemn here the ones that followed their duty, and exacted a rough justice: I also do not rejoice in the death of this man.

As Ronald Reagan once remarked, one man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter.

Be that as it may: Osama Bin Laden is dead. Nothing has changed.

Had he been captured by his own people and drug through the streets like Mussolini, his dead body struck and kicked and spat upon, nothing would have changed.

Had he been a monster, found eating the raw flesh of children and gunned down in that act, nothing would have changed.

He was not the boogeyman, he was not Satan. He was a man, to our American thinking delusional but to far too many he was a martyr in the waiting, a hero, and that is the reason that nothing has, or will, change.

As a nation, we were drug into the ugly reality of the last half of the 20th century at the beginning of the 21st: every nation on earth has had to deal with terrorist attacks on their own soil as perpetrated by human beings that were not citizens of their attacked state.

With Timothy McVeigh, we here in the US of A had a home grown terrorist. Those we were used to, and have had many throughout our history... terrorists or freedom fighters, depending on one's viewpoint. The raid on Harper's Ferry by John Brown can be considered a terrorist attack: there was nothing new with McVeigh.

After 9/11, this nation had to come to grips with the fact that the policies enacted on foreign soil, with or without the knowledge or consent of the American people, have long term effects on us as a nation. No longer can we pretend mere ignorance will be enough for us as a nation: our fellow citizens died on 9/11.

The citizens of this nation should have been outraged and distraught, which we were, but not merely at the sight of two falling towers but at the government that put us, as a nation, in harm's way.

No more, we should be saying: no more. The greatest value of the internet is the means by which we can speak to all nations, all humans with access to the machines, and we can say without the need of our government "We are not that different, you and I. Come, and let us make peace."

Having said that: To the Muslim world, I say, come, let us make peace. We share the same enemy. To the world at large, I say: Come, let us make peace. We share the same enemy.