Political Film Society - Newsletter #257 - August 15, 2006

August 15, 2006


World Trade CenterWorld Trade Center is a film about heroism, but very different from the earlier United 93. Director Oliver Stone, who experienced and was transformed politically by the context of combat in Vietnam, now celebrates heroes in the immediate aftermath of 9/11 without a left-wing political context. The heroes are Police Sergeant John McLaughlin (played by Nicholas Cage) and Will Jimeno (played by Michael Peña), who are trapped in rubble underneath one of the World Trade Center towers for hours until a Marine looks for survivors and hears a distant metallic sound that indicates their presence. Both McLauglin and Jimeno are assigned to the Port Authority of New York; McLauglin leads a four-person mission to assist in the evacuation of those in the concourse (subway) level of one of the World Trade Centers. However, when both towers suddently implode, debris rains upon them until fragments of metal trap them such that they cannot move. For hours, a living hell unfolds as more debris comes down, fire breaks out, and their buddies die, but Jimeno and McLauglin talk to each other just enough to stay alive when sleep might have meant death. Meanwhile, their spouses in New Jersey become hysterical, worrying about whether they are alive or dead. Five-months-pregnant Allison Jimeno (played by Maggie Gyllenhaal) has the advantage of a large support group, her extended Italian family. Donna (played by Maria Bello) is so stunned that she has very little support; her youngest son even accuses her of not caring about her husband and insists on going to New York to assist. The film excels in capturing the emotions of the trapped duo and their family, enabling filmviewers to sense the horror of the tragedy, which ends when Dave Karnes (played by Michael Shannon), a Wilton, Connecticut, accountant, ejaculates “this country’s at war,” goes home to change into his Marine uniform, goes to Ground Zero, rummages through the debris, hears odd sounds, and rescues the two trapped men. As if to convey the mental and physical breakdowns that loomed, the screen goes blank thirteen times throughout the film, just often enough to indicate that the lapse in viewable film footage is deliberate. Among the political elements are a recognition that there was no advance warning from the federal government, no contingency plans for such an unlikely possibility in New York, brief statements by Mayor Rudy Giuliani and President George W. Bush, and remarks by bystanders about the “bastards” and the characterization of the attack as “war.” As the film ends, the support group for the trapped duo becomes not only the entire NYPD but also volunteer police from as far away as Sheboygan, Wisconsin. Oliver Stone portrays an America united in the struggle to defeat international terrorism, as a title at the end indicates that Karnes served two tours of duty in Iraq, a link between 9/11 and Iraq that the Bush-Cheney clique has been peddling despite evidence to the contrary. The film is dedicated to those in the NYPD who tried their best that day, and alas to the many who died. MH


Poster BoyAs initial credits roll for Poster Boy, the muffled voice of a journalist (played by Steve Sheffler) is making an appointment to interview Henry Kray (played by Matt Newton). The interview takes place six months after an extraordinary event that is revealed in the film’s climax. Most of the movie consists of flashbacks from the interview to the reelection campaign of North Carolina Senator Jack Kray (played by Michael Lerner). The Senator is a conservative Republican whose cynical campaign theme is to “take back America” from the liberal agenda that he defines to include gay marriage and a host of other issues. Henry is a student at mythical Barken College in New York. The Senator has been invited by Barken’s Young Republican Club to give a speech, and he demands that Henry serve as his poster boy by introducing him so that he can court the votes of his younger constituents. The Senator is an asshole, never listening to the emotions or thoughts of his supportive spouse, Eunice (played by Karen Allen), completely out of touch with his gay son, and only interested in reelection. Henry, who had his first gay experience in ninth grade, has developed his identity by staying apart from the life of the busy Senator, who does not realize that his son’s sexual orientation might torpedo his candidacy. Henry is not eager to make a canned introductory speech, so he escapes to Palm Springs, but to fetch him his mother sends an aide (played by Ian Reed Kesler), who threatens to “out” him to his father. Henry fully understands that his father’s campaign themes are hypocritically designed wedge issues, that is, efforts to brand his opponents as engaged in a cultural war against traditional America. Meanwhile, a few opponents of the Senator’s perceived racism, sexism, homophobia, and other aspects of his antiliberal agenda plot to “out” Henry in order to discredit the Senator. One of the group, Anthony (played by Jack Noseworthy), meets Henry at a party one evening, they end up in bed, the two begin to fall in love with each other, and only later Anthony realizes that his new conquest is the Senator’s son. In one scene, the Senator’s limousine accidentally strikes Anthony’s girlfriend, Izzie (played by Valeria Geffner), whereupon the Senator’s wife seeks to bribe her by giving her a dress and fur coat so that the incident will stay out of the press. The speech marks the climax of the film, and the interview with the journalist is to provide material for a front-page feature story that will contextualize what happened. Unfortunately, various references are anachronistic, as the film pretends to take place in the 1980s, when HIV progressed quickly to AIDS and death, as well as in the 1990s, when gay marriage became an issue. With considerably more funding to improve the script, editing, and cinematography, the film might have become a blockbuster feature film, but alas the movie will be perceived as a “gay film.” The director, Zak Tucker, was the third person to take charge after the first director died and the second choice walked away. MH