Mary the Borderstan Movie Fan is back with some new movie reviews for the snowbound residents of Borderstan. Her normally column runs every two weeks and previous reviews are listed at the end.
Like most of us in the neighborhood, I have been pinned down by the snow and the cold. I did manage to get away the week before the big snow, going to Memphis on business and deciding to stop over on the weekend for a night in Chicago to see some grandchildren (and their parents).
That stopover turned into three nights, and although I saw a great movie while waiting for the kids to come home from school on Friday, I did find myself taking the boys to Avatar on Saturday afternoon when it became clear that all the airports in Washington were closed indefinitely. My second viewing of Avatar, with a second set of grandchildren did not incline me to take back the praise I gave it before.
The new film was one I viewed alone in my son’s living room, and it caused me to gasp out loud and then to weep. My daughter-in-law was startled when she came home and found me all choked up. The film was United 93, an award-winning film made in 2006.
The events of 9/11 will stay with me for life because I was here in the midst of things in Washington that day. I was working out at the gym on that clear fall morning before going to the office. I saw the first and second World Trade crashes on televisions in the interval before and after my shower.
When I saw the second plane hit, I said out loud, “Osama Bin Laden,” though I had only a foggy idea of what that name meant. And then at the office there was the confusion about what had happened at the Pentagon and whether there was a fire on the Mall and whether or not there was a plane heading toward the Capitol and what we should do.
All that came back when I saw United 93, though not through any manipulation of sentiment. The film has a documentary quality that perfectly renders the dawning realization that something terrible was happening that I felt that morning. Unfamiliar actors play out their gradual discovery that their plane has become a guided missile, and without melodrama.
The confusion of the air controllers, FAA, and NORAD comes through without assessment of fault. My gasp and tears came when I saw, along with the confused air controllers at Newark looking out the window, the second plane hit the World Trade Center. From then on, they all seemed to get more information from CNN than from any other source.
The depiction of 9/11 in this excellent film was as shocking when I saw it alone on a snowbound Friday as it was almost ten years ago. You may not want to watch it all unfold again, but I think the film is well worth seeing.
The other great movie I saw while snowbound was an HBO film about the autistic animal scientist, Temple Grandin. I was browsing around on the TV, looking for something worthwhile, and stopped to watch about halfway through. It was so good that I got my spouse to watch with me again from the start.
The story of this extraordinary woman has been told by the neurologist Oliver Sacks in a book called Anthropologist on Mars, Grandin’s own phrase for herself in trying to understand human relations. She understood cattle and other farm animals better than her own species and so has spent her life studying and caring for them.
I’ve read Sacks’ chapter on Grandin, though I have not read her own autobiography. But I think I can vouch for the accuracy of the film and recommend it—even if you have already dug out of the snow banks around your dwelling. The biopic proceeds, and thrives, on the extraordinary acting of Claire Danes. And like United 93, it avoids sentimentality.
The Oscars are coming, and I will try to catch up with the contenders in the coming weeks. Meanwhile, the Turner Movie Classics network is running three Oscar films a day till the March 3, ahead of the award ceremony on March 7. Don’t miss, for example, Bang the Drum Slowly next Wednesday, February 17, at 8:00 p.m. You can get the schedule by going on tcm.com.
Other Reviews by The Borderstan Movie Fan
- Opera Lite: Opera at the Movies
- Borderstan Movie Fan: “Avatar” and Films for the Big Screen
- Borderstan Movie Fan: Movies for Christmas
- “Precious” and “The Blind Side” Tell Some Hard Truths
- Borderstan Movie Fan: Children’s Movies for Grandparents, Part 2/Older Kids
- Borderstan Movie Fan: Children’s Movies for Grandparents (Part 1)
- High School Musicals
- Movies for Foodies
- Health Care Options at the Movies
- My Favorite Sexy Movies
- Borderstan Movie Fan” Tells You What to Rent