America's Obsession With Movies Reaches The WTC Attacks
October 2, 2001 11:11 PM   Subscribe

America's Obsession With Movies Reaches The WTC Attacks The website Metaphilm(grrr...)says the 1998 movie The Siege eerily anticipated the WTC attacks and offers a list of impressive coincidences to back up its analysis. Is this taking moviemania too far? Or is there something in it? (More)
posted by MiguelCardoso (15 comments total)
Plus, from the linked review: The little known fact that The Siege has a sequel being produced that was to be called Athens. It opens with Muslim terrorists bombing, you guessed it, the World Trade Center. Frantic rewriting is now the top order of the day. Is this excessive cinephilia? Is there a hidden agenda? It's definitely worth considering, at the very least.

(Link stolen from Bifurcated Rivets, with thanks)
posted by MiguelCardoso at 11:25 PM on October 2, 2001

I actually rented this and watched it for the first time on September 7th, four days before the attack. (I also rented "Dr. Strangelove" that weekend, too.)
posted by at 11:29 PM on October 2, 2001

And, Please share, don't be lazy!
posted by MiguelCardoso at 11:30 PM on October 2, 2001

Well, what the film does have in common with actual events is that it took place in New York. Also, the description of the terrorist "cells" was pretty accurate.

The terrorist actions in the film, however, all involved suicide bombings in busy public areas - similar to what has taken place recently in Israel, not aerial hijacking. Also, New York was placed under martial law, and Arabs and Muslims were all gathered together and penned up behind barbed wire fences in a stadium. (This is all - as of yet, and hopefully will remain - fiction.)
posted by at 11:54 PM on October 2, 2001

"On November 6th Our Freedom Is History" proclaims the poster.


Nov 6 = 11/6

11/6 | 9/11

Dun dun duuuuun!
posted by brantstrand at 12:05 AM on October 3, 2001

(This is all - as of yet, and hopefully will remain - fiction.)

Hope seconded. But it's the "Dr. Strangelove" connection/interaction that sounded truly interesting. Plus the coincidence. I dread to ask you what films you're going to rent next. Please tell me,, it's "The Little Mermaid" and "Splash"....

In the meantime, would anyone actually read the article, please? It's short, to the point and ripe for deconstruction. And really uncanny...
posted by MiguelCardoso at 12:05 AM on October 3, 2001

Just as long as no one messes around with our "vital bodily fluids".
posted by spinifex at 12:27 AM on October 3, 2001

I'd have to say that most of the similarities just seem like good writing. A scriptwriter, given a premise like "terrorism in New York," should be able to provide reasonable and realistic dialogue or else the movie would not work. Many of the coincidental quotes are natural reactions to an even of that nature, and so it doesn't strike me as that amazing.

However, the writer brings up an interesting and valid question, and that is just how right will the movie turn out to be? The further we get from the actual event, the less likely it is that the events in the movie and the events in reality will match up. Right after the explosion is easy, what would raise my other eyebrow is if we see many of these alignments in events and commentary happening next week.

Not that I dismiss out of hand the "wag the dog" scenario the author is shooting for, there's just not enough there to convince me of anything but coincidence.
posted by Nothing at 1:09 AM on October 3, 2001

(Not Castlemaigne XXXX, surely :-)
posted by MiguelCardoso at 1:09 AM on October 3, 2001

most of the similarities just seem like good writing

Nothing: You must be a good writer yourself to use that "just"... But, seriously, you do have a point. Manhattan and the U.S. are very, very vulnerable - feeling invulnerable was probably 99% of the problem - and all those of us who mock Hollywood films as unrealistic would probably do better to start paying attention.
Not a troll: perhaps the best screenwriters actually take more time thinking out disaster scenarios than terrorists. (They certainly have more difficulty getting their ideas through...) Who knows? Verisimilitude, plausibility and sheer movie-believability may be skills writers could teach anti-terrorists to consider.
posted by MiguelCardoso at 1:21 AM on October 3, 2001

Just as long as no one messes around with our "vital bodily fluids".

Spinifex, surely you mean "precious bodily fluids."

And in case my nitpicking raises your dander, just remember: "You can't fight in here -- this is the war room!"
posted by diddlegnome at 3:22 AM on October 3, 2001

I just saw the creepiest thing I've seen in a long time. I was on Kazaa, downloading episodes of "The Tick" animated series. I downloaded the one titled "The Tick vs. Proto-Clown".

The premise of the episode is that this gigantic clown rampages through "Metropolis", wreaking havoc and whatnot, while yelling "Clown Smash!!!". Anyway, one of the first shots in the episode is a medium-range shot of two very familiar buildings exploding into rubble. I mean it's fucking eerie. This episode must be around five years old.

If you have broadband, fire up Kazaa and download it. You don't even have to get the whole episode, as it happens within the first two minutes after the intro. I'd post it to filepile, but I'm at home now, with the wimpy dial-up.
posted by Optamystic at 9:06 AM on October 3, 2001

I don't think there was anything especially prescient about The Siege ... in a sense it was just good writing. They thought through the scenarios, constructed plausible dialog -- it's not that hard. What's hard, really, is making that sort of stuff the basis of an entertaining and meaningful narrative, which I think it did accomplish, though perhaps not as effectively as it could have. How hard is it to imagine a Republican Senator arguing that we should nuke the bad guys off the face of the earth?

For those who haven't seen it, the producer is Ed Zwick (best known for Thirtysomething and Once and Again on television, and producer of -- among many other things -- Special Bulletin, a 1983 TV movie about nuclear terrorists and the media, and most recently, Traffic, as well as directing Courage Under Fire (about the Gulf War), and Glory), and his explicit purpose in making this movie was to illustrate how fragile our civil liberties might be in times of terror and war.

The excellent Tony Shalhoub, an Arab American, provides the secondary moral center of the film (after the more marketable Denzel), and Bruce Willis and Annette Bening do pretty fun loopy send-ups of genre characters, Willis's general turning into a wicked cartoon and an object of satire -- in true form, taken as a hero by some viewers for whom the complex narrative was too much. I think the writing did fall short here of making its intent clear without being co-opted by the action it was portraying.

I loved the quote at the end of the IMDb featured user review:

But by the time Bruce Willis is saddled up, leading the army into The Big Apple, doing a Nazi style round up of it's Arabic citizens, The Siege has degenerated into an indecisive hurry up of a film; way out of its depth; lacking credibility.

Unless of course The Siege does a Wag The Dog and is far too prescient for anybody's good. Then the civil libertarians will have been well justified for kicking up such a stink.

posted by dhartung at 6:11 PM on October 3, 2001

I think this proves a common problem of Hollywood filmmaking.

Most directors, screenwriters and special effects artists have vision. Producers and studios want movies to sell, so they revise and adjust until it's something more commerical.

So the premise is solid. The settings are plausible. And the cg guys have hired demolition experts to make sure the buildings fall exactly as they really would. But when the humanity of the narrative is exploited, well, it's hard to take seriously, isn't it?
posted by teradome at 8:15 PM on October 3, 2001

Someone on the BBC compared the recent US obsession with terrorist/skyscraper/disaster movies to the growth of the English Gothic novel in the late 1700s: a kind of escape valve, or even a psychological transference, done with the feeling that by making art that addresses the darkest things, you forestall their occurrence. It's an intriguing thought...
posted by holgate at 9:05 PM on October 3, 2001

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