World Trade Center: Currently In Production

I always knew that September 11th would be made into a movie. To deny that would be denying the movie industry’s desire to make money.

Usually I’m always willing to serve up an opinon about a movie, whether I think it will be good or “craphorrible”, whether it is worthy enough to be seen. Honestly, I do not know what to feel about World Trade Center, an Oliver Stone production set for release in the summer of 2006.

First let me say that I am not opposed to any film about 9/11 as long as it is tastefully done. Film is an important medium that must be used to share history without the Hollywood crap. Think of any movie about a historical event and how that film may have affected you. A movie about 9/11 is necessary for those who did not witness it themselves.

But considering the fact that my connection to 9/11 is greater than others, my opinions regarding this movie are slightly tainted. Some may believe that I should be outraged because this movie will graphically display the event that almost killed my father and changed me for the rest of my life. Others may think that my emotions, reserved and waiting to see the final product for myself, are completely justified.

Like I said before I’m not quite sure of my opinion despite saying that I am reserved about the concept of this film. Maybe in the next days, weeks, and months, I might decided that I absolutely hate the idea of anything reagrding the WTC. I mean, I already have issues looking at pictures of the Twin Towers, do you really think I’ll be able to sit through a two to three hour movie about 9/11? Probably not. But I’m going to have to see it, otherwise I’ll never find this closure that I’ve been looking for these past 4 years.

Movies are rarely emotional experiences for me. Casablanca and The Lion King are the only two movies I have ever sobbed during. But this movie may win the prize as being the only film that I will sit down during and be completely at a loss for anything going on in my head.

Below is a NY Times article about World Trade Center. The picture is of the replication of Ground Zero created in LA for the film

LOS ANGELES, Dec. 11 – Scores of extras loiter, their faces covered in soot. A man sprays gray insulation foam – in lieu of concrete dust – at what looks much like the corner of Church and Vesey Streets in Lower Manhattan. Another tosses reams of paper in the air. Nearby, others are debating precisely how to crush a fire truck and an ambulance.

And just over there, across a dirt road in this isolated industrial tract not far from Marina del Rey, the twisted facade and mangled girders of the wreckage of the World Trade Center are taking shape into a meticulously rendered mockup of ground zero.

A continent removed from the scrutiny of scarred New Yorkers, Oliver Stone’s film about 9/11 rescue workers is deep into its second month of principal photography. And crew members working round the clock are dressing one of the most sensitive movie sets imaginable.

The film, which as of now is to be called, simply, “World Trade Center,” tells the story of two Port Authority police officers, John McLoughlin and Will Jimeno, who were the last two rescue workers pulled from ground zero alive. It is billed as an uplifting story about everyday New Yorkers helping one another amid a cataclysmic tragedy. So for 20 days in October and November, the cast and crew were in the New York metropolitan area, filming at the police desk in the Port Authority bus terminal and along the route the officers took downtown on the morning of Sept. 11, 2001. They filmed scenes on the Staten Island ferry, the Long Island Rail Road and a subway train in Brooklyn. They shot in Clifton, N.J., near Mr. Jimeno’s house, and in other suburbs.

But now, as the production turns to the grim heart of this story – the scenes inside the World Trade Center, and inside the horrific pile it became; the discovery of the two officers 30-odd feet below the surface by an accountant who had donned his old Marine fatigues; and their extrication after a long and arduous night by teams of rescue workers – the shooting of Mr. Stone’s movie is being done where it will attract far less attention: in and around the gigantic airplane hangar where Howard Hughes once built the Spruce Goose.

“Obviously, not to do it in New York was crucial, because it would offend the sensibilities of some New Yorkers,” said Mr. Stone, who is one himself. “Others may look at it as a memorial, a good memorial, something that’s powerful. Any memorial is subject to criticism; it’s how you do it. I hope we do a good job.”
The producers allowed a reporter and photographer from The New York Times to visit the set in hopes that the first images of this staged ground zero would be placed in context, rather than risking that unauthorized photographs hit the blogosphere devoid of any explanation.

“Sensitivity and accuracy, at the end of the day, are the same thing,” said Michael Shamberg, who is producing the movie for Paramount Pictures with his business partner, Stacey Sher. “Because of what we’ve heard from the police, firefighters, civilians, the Port Authority, everyone who was there that day, loved ones – they said, ‘Tell the story accurately so people understand what happened.’ You can’t do the Hollywood version.”

The production brings its own credibility: Donald J. Lee Jr., the film’s executive producer, was taking his children to school, crossing the Avenue of the Americas and West Eighth Street, when the twin towers were attacked. And Jan Roelfs, the production designer, was atop the Empire State Building to shoot a music video for Lenny Kravitz.

“The hard thing is, everybody knows it so well,” said Mr. Roelfs, speaking both of the geography of Lower Manhattan and of the contours of ground zero itself. “There’s not much creativity here.”

Mr. Roelfs and his team of designers drew on the volumes of available data – including three-dimensional scans of the rubble field, blueprints of the trade center and interviews with many of the survivors – to reproduce what is essentially a one-acre swath of the 16-acre site.

Hundreds of carpenters, he explained, had hand-carved thousands of beams from Styrofoam, molded rubber into countless strands of stand-ins for shredded reinforcing bars, and assembled all of this inside a pit erected atop stacks of cargo containers.

At its core, the mockup of ground zero will be full-size, and as close to an exact replica as is practical, Mr. Roelfs said. At the perimeter, where fragments of the towers’ facade are meant to loom in the distance, it is 65 feet high, or about half-scale; smoke and nightfall will complete the illusion, he said.

The scene is even eerier inside the old airplane hangar, where the production team rebuilt a portion of the World Trade Center concourse – complete with period handbags in the Coach storefront, clothing in the Banana Republic windows and shoes from Johnston & Murphy.

There is the elevator shaft where Mr. Jimeno, who is played by Michael Peña, and Mr. McLoughlin, who is played by Nicolas Cage, had leapt in the instant before the concourse collapsed on top of them.

And a few yards away, suspended on cables from the hangar’s ceiling, is a three-dimensional sculpture of the design team’s best guess of what the officers’ immediate surroundings looked like as they struggled to stay alive – with a very small space for the two actors to squeeze in.

“You get actors in there, they’re already getting claustrophobic,” Mr. Roelfs said.

The producers of the movie, which is scheduled for release in August, had hoped to shoot extensively in Lower Manhattan, said Mr. Lee, the executive producer, who said he lost five friends in the attack. “I wanted to shoot toward St. Paul’s,” he said. “I wanted to shoot towards the Woolworth Building.” But city officials refused to allow anything below Canal Street, he said.

Eventually, he said, officials relented for two scenes: Mr. Stone was able to film a volunteer rescuer crossing a barricade to get to ground zero. And he was able to shoot cast members in a city bus and a police S.U.V., driving down West Broadway toward the trade center complex.

With those exceptions, whatever verisimilitude the movie achieves will come from digital renderings of the Lower Manhattan streetscape, and from carefully chosen substitute locations. A street in downtown Los Angeles stood in for Manhattan’s Barclay Street, with crew members tossing debris in the air.

If sensitivity and accuracy were somewhat in tension in New York, they seem not to be in Los Angeles: an earthen berm and an adjacent construction project conceal or camouflage the set in every direction except for a few houses that overlook it from the top of the Westchester bluffs.

The palm trees in the distance, Mr. Roelfs promised, would never make it into the frame.

Filming at ground zero will begin next month, he said, as he walked up to the spot beneath which the real-life police officers were discovered. And considering how carefully this set has been built, it is still an unusually dangerous one, with foam girders shifting underfoot and steep drops at any given step.

“It’s kind of odd,” Mr. Roelfs said, surveying his brutal sculpture. “You know it so well, suddenly you stand in the middle of it, and God – it’s awful.”

Gearing Up for the New Harry Potter. Who’s With Me?

My name is Joanna and I am a Harry Potter addict.

I’ve begun my countdown to the opening of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire on Friday November 18. There are six days to go!

Gone are those frivolous early days at Hogwarts where all you had to worry about was accidentally letting a troll into the building or commandeering a flying car. The fourth installment will be darker and grittier than the previous three films as Harry Potter inches closer to his face off with Voldemort.

Unlike most Harry Potter diehards, I will not attend the first showing of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire.This is because I have to wait for my sister to come home for Thanksgiving. It is our tradition to see the latest Harry Potter movie together, on Thanksgiving, in order to bail on our wacko family.

Who’s pumped?



Fall Movie Preview:Capote

opening September 30

starring Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Catherine Keener, Clifton Collins, Jr., and Chris Cooper
Directed by: Bennett Miller

This is the story behind the story of In Cold Blood and if you haven’t already heard it’s supposed to be brilliant and a knockout. Instead of focusing on the true-murder story of a Kansas family in 1959, the movie focuses on the friendship Truman Capote formed with the two convicted murderers in order to write his nonfiction novel.

Phillip Seymour Hoffman stars as Capote. “Its not a biopic, and it’s not a greatest hits his life.” says Hoffman. “It takes place prior to his becoming the raconteur he became, before he was just an eccentric personality.” For this portrayal of Truman Capote, Hoffman has been named as one of the early oscar favorites of 2006.

Catherine Keener costars as Harper Lee, author of To Kill a Mockingbird and Capote’s close friend. Her role is crucial because Lee helped Capote research In Cold Blood. Together, the two writers charm Alvin Dewey (Chris Cooper), the detective in charge of the case and his wife (Amy Ryan) giving them immediate access to the case.

Other costars include Mark Pelligrino and Clifton Collins Jr, as the two killers. There is no doubt that Capote exploited these men for his book, but what the film also shows is the connection Capote felt to Perry Smith (Collins Jr.). Collins is mesmerizing and haunting as the killer, Smith.

But there is no doubt that this film belongs to Hoffman, who gives an unmissable and unforgettable performance. According to Peter Travers of Rolling Stone, “Hoffman gets the flamboyantly gay public image of the whiny-voiced gadfly…But his real triumph is inward, the way he fins the stillness in Capote, and the emotions roiling in his eyes what he sees in the world reduces him to awed silence.”

A definite must-see.

quotes: Peter Travers, Rolling Stone, October 6, 2005
Premiere Magazine: Fall Movie Preview, September 2005

Fall Movie Preview: The New World

The New World
opening November 9

starring Colin Farrell, Q’Orianka Kilcher, Christian Bale

For some reason the basic premise of this movie makes me chuckle. Let me walk you though it. This is the story of John Smith, Pocahontas, and the settlement of Jamestown or as I first thought of it, the somewhat x-rated version of the sweet “Just Around the River Bend” Disney version of Pocahontas.

Colin Farrell stars as 17th century explorer John Smith who falls in love with Pocahontas (newcomer Q’Orianka Kilcher), the chief Powhatan’s daughter. Aside from the whole Native American and English settler issue in their love affair, things really heat up when…. John Rolfe (Christian Bale) enters and forms one happy love triangle. (It sounds so juicy and soapopera-y already, that I would actually see this for a good laugh).

But what may actually give The New World a fighting chance at credibility and decency is the simple fact that the writer/producer is Terrence Malick. His only other films are Badlands (1973), Days of Heaven (1978), and The Thin Red Line (1998). I have seen none of them, but from what I know, those three pictures are considered to be great filmmaking.

This movie could either be an Alexander-esque disaster or a Tigerland-esque success. I don’t know about you, but I am pretty intrigued about what will happen.

Fall Movie Preview: King Kong

King Kong
Opening December 18
Starring Naomi Watts, Jack Black, Adrien Brody, Andy Serkis and Jamie Bell

How does Peter Jackson plan on following up the Lord of the Rings trilogy? With a remake of the 1933 classic King Kong, of course. And with a director like Jackson behind this project, you should expect a quality picture.

For those of you who are fans of the original King Kong, don’t be alarmed. The remake is more of an updating so today’s generation of movie viewers who always anticipate CGI effects and huge budget productions can experience the legend of King Kong.

The premise of the film remains the same. It is still set during the Depression-era as a film producer (played by Jack Black) and his crew set out to make a hit movie and to find the essential blonde beauty (Naomi Watts in the role originated by the late Fay Wray). Their journey leads them to Skull Island and it prehistoric inhabitants. The eager producer, then, captures the giant ape called Kong and brings him to Manhattan, which only causes mayhem and destruction.

My one piece of advice is to see the original King Kong first, so you can appreciate how far film and technology have come since 1933 and therefore you can truly appreciate what Peter Jackson is adding to this update of King Kong.