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Sunday, September 10, 2006

Watch the Mannings 8 PM, NBC

The Reviews Are In: PT911 Stinks (Review Round-Up)

by davidkc [Subscribe]Sun Sep 10, 2006 at 08:02:46 AM PDT

The reviews are coming in for "The Path to 9/11," ABC/Disney's right wing propaganda disguised as entertainment, and the overwhelming consensus: the movie is a big stinker. TV critics far and wide have panned the film as "dull," tedious," "grueling," "amateurish," "poorly constructed," "irresponsible" a "mess" and much more. Ouch. I've seen scattered comments about different reviews, and thought it'd be helpful to gather all of the TV critics' reviews in one diary.

The reviews are nearly unanimous in their criticism of the movie on its artistic merits alone. But I was also heartened to see this chorus of TV critics go even further and fully expose the ugly underbelly of the movie's political biases and motives, and to criticize ABC/Disney for its hypocrisy and outright lies in trying to defend the movie. Let the reviews begin!

Doug Elfman of the Chicago Sun-Times gives the movie 0 stars:

Controversy could boost viewership, except "Path" is the dullest, worst-shot TV movie since ABC's disastrous "Ten Commandments" remake. It substitutes shaky handheld cameras and dumb dialogue for craftsmanship. It could not be more amateurish or poorly constructed unless someone had forgotten to light the sets.

If you read some of the investigations into 9/11, you realize fault spreads far and wide, from FBI and CIA agents to politicians of both parties. "Path" depicts most of these Americans as villainous morons, rather than as flawed people committing errors.

Ground Zero is a sobering soil worthy of facts, not flimsy fiction. The victims of 9/11 deserve 2,996 times more careful and compelling filmmaking than what Nowrasteh, Cunningham and ABC have bored together. They are bearing false witness to the memory of the fallen.

Tom Shales at The Washington Post pans the movie mercilessly:

Factually shaky, politically inflammatory and photographically a mess, "The Path to 9/11" -- ABC's two-part, five-hour miniseries tracing events leading up to the 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon -- has something not just to offend everyone but also to depress them.

The docudrama -- allegedly produced as a warning to the United States that the attacks, or something like them, could happen again -- falls clumsily into traps that await all those who make fictional films claiming to be factual. Except this time, the event being dramatized is one of the most tragic and monstrous in the nation's history, not something to be trifled with.

In an attempt to layer a coat of visual veracity over the film, it's shot in the style of some news footage -- the hand-held camera jerking, bouncing, panning wildly. Faces are framed in absurdly intense close-up, so intense it's not always easy to tell whom you're looking at. The gratuitous camera movement and the insistence on reducing people to eyes or noses or mouths become oppressive after only two hours, much less five. This isn't cinematography; it's vivisection.

But aesthetic objections pale in comparison to the legitimate complaints of those who resent the film's being passed off as truth when it apparently is riddled with errors. These are dismissed in a glib disclaimer acknowledging "composite and representative characters and time compression . . . for dramatic purposes." How much drama needs to be added to 9/11?

The film is prominently billed as being based on the report of the 9/11 commission, but one must read the fine print: Also acknowledged, although far less conspicuously in the credits, are three books on the subject.

In a report on "NBC Nightly News" on Thursday, unnamed Clinton administration officials were quoted as saying that some scenes in the film are "pure fiction." Pure fiction doesn't mix well with fact. Executive producer Marc Platt's quoted defense: It was "not our intention to distort." Whatever the intention -- and Democrats have a right to be suspicious of any product of the conservative-minded Walt Disney Co., which produced the film and owns ABC -- distortion unfortunately seems to have been the outcome.

"The Path to 9/11" appears intent on meting out punishment, not only to some of those portrayed in it but also to viewers who try to make it through the whole grueling assault -- an assault on the senses that may also be an assault on the truth.

Samantha Bonar of the Los Angeles Times is equally scathing, and hers is the first review I've read to point out the movie's sexist streak:

...a fine ribbon of misogyny starts to unwind alongside the wide streak of rah-rah masculine bravado in the film, with just about every woman in authority portrayed as an arrogant witch...

But the main problem with "The Path" is that the interspersing of real news footage with dramatized scenes, a technique employed throughout, makes a hopeless muddle of the line between fact and "dramatization."

Although it claims to be based in part on the 9/11 Commission Report, writer-producer Nowrasteh, a self-described conservative, said in an interview with that the report goes back only as far as 1998, and that he did his own research for the years 1993 to 1998.

Yet even if there are not outright lies in the film, as some are claiming -- Albright, for one, has called a scene depicting her actions as "false and defamatory" -- there are many omissions. Notably, one of the most famous images of Sept. 11, President Bush's frozen response while visiting a Florida classroom when he was told of the attacks, is not depicted.

With a projected TV audience in the millions, "The Path" is an irresponsible film, with its factual distortions wrapped in a really terrific package that lulls viewers into complacency, setting them up for the propaganda that is to follow.

If there is one good thing that will come out of the controversy over ABC's "The Path," it is that it hopefully will make citizens read the 9/11 Commission Report for themselves. After all, a democracy is a terrible thing to waste.

Ken Tucker of Entertainment Weekly gives PT911 a D+:

It's also difficult to suppress a giggle seeing Rice being played by Penny Johnson Jerald, once an evil First Lady on 24. This is the problem with TV movies that don't sweep you up in their narrative -- you get distracted by famous faces playing famous faces.

The performances are actually wonderful. That they're in the service of presenting a monumental horror so tediously is appalling, really.

Please alert me to other reviews of the movie by TV critics in your local papers and I'll add them to the diary.

posted by Steve @ 11:11:00 AM

11:11:00 AM

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