Captain Phillips (2013) vs. United 93 (2006)

October 10, 2013 Lynda Karr

What does Paul Greengrass have against public transportation anyway? In both United 93 and his new film, Captain Phillips, Greengrass puts the fear of God into anyone about to take a flight or sail on a cargo ship. And that’s not to mention the vehicles that come under assault in his Jason Bourne movies.

Greengrass got his start in horror and then documentaries, and those early skills are in ample evidence here. In the celluloid world of Paul Greengrass, clench your fists and swallow hard, because good guy or bad, the characters are very human, and you’re about to go through hell with them. As they make preparations for the day ahead, maybe planning a trip, going to work or saying a prayer, the scenes build on one another, and the ordinary grows more and more ominous. […]

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close (2011) -vs- Reign Over Me (2007)

December 23, 2011 Arthur Tiersky

I’d imagine a screenplay or a novel about grieving families of 9/11 victims must have been quite difficult and risky to write in the first few years following the attack. Now, having boldly faced the task of writing a snarky column comparing two movies about 9/11 grief, I can entirely sympathize with those intrepid, suffering screenwriters. Hell, someone had to write this Smackdown, and if I didn’t, who would? (A: Probably one of the other Smackers. There’s like a jillion of us now.) […]

Reign Over Me (2007) -vs- Fahrenheit 9/11 (2004)

September 6, 2011 Mark Sanchez

Many of us now mark time pre-9/11 and post-9/11. Horrific events that day took nearly 3000 lives and altered history. It’s been 10 years. Americans and others now regard their sense of national identity and personal security much differently. Films have stepped up to reinterpret that moment when everything changed. Dozens of movies, large and small, offer stylized reminders of events and their effects on people. Most tell us something important about a seismic shift we’ll never forget.

This Smackdown revisits 9/11 films sitting at either end of the heartbreak spectrum: One contender focuses on the big picture for all of us. The other dramatizes how those weighty events affect one person. […]

Hollywood in Wartime: Remembering the 2001 Emmy® Awards

September 4, 2011 Bryce Zabel

Since the Emmy Awards came into existence in 1949, they had never been postponed or canceled until 2001. In that year it happened twice.

I was elected Chairman/CEO of the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences in August 2001, almost a month to the day before 9/11. The Emmy broadcast was scheduled for September 16 of that year. Five days from the worst act of terrorism in history to a walk down the red carpet with Hollywood celebs was simply impossible to imagine.

As everyone re-plays the “Where were you?” moment that the horrific events became for all of us, my own memories combine the moral outrage at such a hideous act of mass murder with the POV of show business struggling to cope with this new reality of terrorism. It was a terrible time for the nation, one that I still think about often, and the most challenging professional moment in my career. […]

United 93 (2006) -vs- World Trade Center (2006)

September 11, 2007 Bryce Zabel

It’s been years, but if you close your eyes, all those horrific images are still with you. Both of these 9/11 films were released in 2006 during the run-up to the five-year anniversary of the events of that terrible day. At the time critics kept wringing their hands about whether or not it was too early to tell these stories. Looking back, the better question could easily have been what took so long? Making films is how we increasingly begin to process events like these. It doesn’t have to trivialize them or make them less important, although that can be the danger.

We’ll use box office stats to name our opponents. With that as the standard, World Trade Center becomes our champ with 163-million dollars worldwide. United 93 comes in as the challenger with only 76-million dollars. But, especially when it comes to material like this, the box office is only a point of reference and nothing more. Let’s say that you have the heart to re-live 9/11 on film with just one of them as we approach the 10th anniversary with Osama Bin Laden finally having paid with his own life. Which film should you watch? […]