On September 11, 2001 terrorists attacked the United States. They flew two planes into New York City’s Twin Towers and another one into the Pentagon. Passengers on the fourth plane — knowing by that time what was going on — made sure the terrorists didn’t hit their target which some think was the U.S. Capital.
It has been 16 years since but the incident is still fresh in most of our minds. We all remember where we were and what we were doing and did that day. It changed all of our worlds and radically changed American society, how we travel and as domestic terrorism replaced airplanes flying into buildings we have become aware of a different kind of reality.
On 9/11 Weekly Industry News writer and editor Gary Wolcott had to produce his weekly column for a Tri-Cities, Washington newspaper. His column that day is worth revisiting. He examined themes of community and personal involvement in societal problems that — perhaps — are as good a solution to the conflicts that we face daily as anything done so far.
Here is his column.
As a writer, I am supposed to have an exceptional command of words and the turn of a phrase. Today I find myself incapacitated and unable to formulate an intelligent opinion on anything. I have to critique two movies and, for the life of me, I cannot find motivation to do it. My opinions on a motion picture-in light of the horror of this today’s terrorist attack-doesn't mean much.
The response to last week's column put into perspective a concern that has been bouncing around my head for the last couple of years. These thoughts tie directly to a possible answer to the terrorism that has decimated this country.
In my last column, I wrote on the movie Rock Star which I thought borrowed ideas from changes in personnel made by the super rock group Van Halen during the 1980's. It turns out that the film is essentially based on events that happened to a metal band from the same era, Judas Priest.
As usual, the hate mail poured in immediately. I received scathing e-mails on my lack of knowledge of the business and how I should do a better job checking the facts. Those who wrote are right but what concerns me and has led me to the following conclusion is the amount of energy and passion people put into something as trivial as the review of a movie.
Over the years I have received numerous personal letters, e-mails and letters to the editor about this column. Most are negative which isn't a bother because as a critic you have to be able to take what you dish out. What confuses me is why this is so important when-in the grand scheme of things-movies don't rank that high. And when I think of the zeal with which this correspondence is written, it blows my mind.
We live in a very complex world. On a daily basis, our civilization faces issues and problems that are staggering. If we are to solve them it's going to take committed individuals willing to instigate change and see the struggle through to the end. Instead of getting involved most of us sit at home, bury our noses in the boob tube and other mindless activities and complain about the state of the world.
And we write letters to a movie critic on what is right or wrong about a review while truly important issues are ignored or-even worse-not noticed at all.
So how does all of this connect to the movie Hardball?
It is based on the true story of a drunken gambler who-in spite of himself-did the little things that make a big difference. Keanu Reeves stars as a man who has to borrow money to pay off a gambling debt and ends up coaching a baseball team comprised of kids from a frightening Chicago ghetto.
These are children who face gunfights, muggings, prostitution and unbelievable squalor every day. But the single biggest threat is the lack of positive male role models. Men in the ghetto, according to the children, leave and never come back.
Hardball's flaw is that it doesn't quite connect the dots as to why the kids “love” Reeves character so much. However, writer John Gatins (Summer Catch) and director Brian Robbins (Ready to Rumble) put enough genuine emotion and four hanky scenes into the film that you won't care.
This is a movie that-at another time-I might consider manipulative and contrived. But in light of the bombing of the World Trade Center and the Pentagon it brings out an important point. In the media, we tend to focus on the negative. It sells newspapers and gets those all-important TV rating points. A simple act of kindness and actions that alter the lives of individuals and that make life worthwhile are often overlooked.
The character played by Keanu Reeves finally recognizes the need to change and that there is a purpose and significance to existence that is much bigger than his petty problems. In real life, this selfless attitude mattered to ten children. He gave them hope and a reason to grow and the courage to strive for greatness.
That's what counts-not guns, bombs and revenge or violent movies about guns, bombs and revenge.
And while I welcome correspondence and a chance to interact with those who read my column, I would rather see that pressure applied to issues of consequence. Or even better, to see those who write apply that zeal to actions that will improve their lives, the lives of their children and future children.
The bottom line is that a nation's real strength lies in the achievements of people like the characters in Hardball. It's their caring, loving deeds and not military might that are the best weapon we have against terrorism and the insane violence that permeates and now has begun to dominate our society.
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