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Movie Review: The Great New Wonderful

Alternate Title: After Shocks

Story: This was a great and wonderful new film. I loved it. It is the first film that I have seen about 9/11 that works. And boy does it work well.

Director Danny Leiner (Dude, Where's My Car and Harold and Kumar go to White Castle) has come a long way from his resume in creating this artful piece. It was sensitively written by Sam Catlin. How they managed to make a film about September 11, 2002 without mentioning September 11, 2001 was astounding.

We get to view five disparate NYC stories unfold. The characters we meet happen across one another as you would meet any other New Yorker - in an elevator or in a restaurant and their stories exist without intersecting. Their tales are about how we all cope with life after a tragedy. Or do we? Does life's routine help us get through? Does rage, sadness and anger come creeping through the outward appearances of normal daily life? The most interesting part of the film is that we don't even learn if any of the characters have lost anyone in the 9/11 tragedy.It seems that we have all lost something - this is the message I received.

I cared for each and every character and could have watched each story for many more hours. I understood these people and have felt many of their emotions these past few years. There is not a day that goes by that I do not think about that day. Perhaps my proximity to the site makes it more personal, I don't know.

If you care about good cinema, fine acting and sensitive film making, please check out this small and powerful film.

Acting: An all around fabulous cast including, Olympia Dukakis, Jim Gaffigan, Judy Greer, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Tom McCarthy, Sharat Saxena, Naseeruddin Shah, Tony Shalhoub, Edie Falco and Stephen Colbert (yes, Stephen Colbert).

Predilection: I like films shot in Manhattan. There were several scenes filmed on a street one block west of where I live. I am also interested in anything that has to do with 9/11.

Food: The Great New Wonderful is the name of a chic pastry enterprise. So let them eat cake. There was also candy bars, hot dogs, sandwiches, wine and various other fast food desserts.

Opening Titles: A simple scan of downtown Manhattan from either Liberty or Staten Island. The type was superimposed over our ever-changed skyline.

Visual Art: I always like to look at the art in other NYC apartments. The apartments shown in this film was typical and varied.

Theater Audience: Six other people.

Squirm Scale: It is always squirmy to feel others' pain.

Drift Factor: Not for a second

Predictability Level: Life is too unpredictable to venture a guess during this film.

Tissue Usage: I wept a bit.

Oscar Worthy: Yes

Nit Picking: Edie Falco's character goes on at length about some penguins she saw in Antarctica. She mentions that walrus' eat penguins when they can't find a nesting spot. As much as I liked this film - that just is not true. Walrus' do not live in Antarctica.

Soap Box: I began a blog called Notes From East 22nd Street on September 11, 2001 and kept it going for a year. I decided to look at my last entry of September 11, 2002 after I got home from the film. If you are interested, I have added it below the Lobo's Howl's Scale.

Big Screen or Rental: Big screen

Length: 90 minutes


Signing off from East 22nd Street- September, 11, 2002

Some of you may remember last September 11th when the horror began - the only way to communicate with as many people as Î could - was to use the Internet (my long distance telephone service was out of service for about two months). What started as the easiest and fastest way to find out if everyone I knew was okay - evolved into a continuing narrative about the aftermath of my beautiful City through a very narrow, very personal perspective from my apartment on 'East 22nd Street.'

I have written approximately 50 'Notes from East 22nd Street' and have heard back from people all around the world. I thank you for listening - and as promised, am signing off as one hell of a year concludes.

I will try not to ramble too much (I just reread this note and realized it is too late for that idea) and will attempt to wrap up the LOBO cast of characters that I have been speaking about all these long months and other random thoughts as I see them from this 1200 square foot roost on East 22nd street.

The last 24 hours:

It has been an emotionally charged 24 hours. I managed to do what my spirit guided me towards doing and also managed to see many of my closest friends (alas, not all).

When I mentioned to a friend that I was going to light a memorial candle for the victims, she said that she was lighting two candles - one for each tower. And so did I.

When I was reading yesterday's Times I noticed that the 'Portraits in Grief' section (nytimes.com/portraits) was going to cease publishing their small BIOS of the dead, unless more family members come forth with submissions. I have carefully read each one throughout the year. I thought it was the least I could do.

Last night we were fortunate to get tickets to see Pulitzer prize winning, NY Times journalist, Thomas L. Friedman speak about his new book and about his thoughts on this year past. He is as brilliant a public speaker as he is a journalist. He is a national treasure. I exited the lecture challenged, charged and committed to a better world (not an easy task).

This morning I watched, at home, alone, most of the solemn service of the reading of the names of the victims of the WTC disaster. It was hard to watch.

Then, as promised I walked downtown with my usual walking buddy, following our normal path. We saw many of the family members who were at the service. We milled and buzzed around the World Financial Center for a bit and then went on the Museum of Jewish Heritage which is just a few blocks south of Ground Zero but was not hit in the collapse of the towers. They are having a special exhibit on 'collective grief' and we thought the topic and location would be an appropriate stop. My surprise was that Carol left her office and met us at the Museum. It was good to see on this special, most difficult day.

We wrapped up the afternoon by walking around 'the pit' for a while and found that the crowd, while thick, was by and large respectful. And so, this difficult day is finally coming to an end. I just have today's massive five pound NY Times to read this evening. OY!

Changes in the City:

- There are many spectacular changes in the City. My walking buddy and I were downtown on a recent, quiet Sunday morning (sans midweek traffic) and were able to physically see the remarkable cleanup-rebuilding effort that has been accomplished in a mere 12 months. The 'pit' now looks like the beginning of a 'to be' construction project. (By the way, this walking buddy became a US citizen last June and is now voting for the first time. Kudos to her!)

- The Winter Garden, which was a wonderful gateway to the WTC buildings and was virtually destroyed but has been rebuilt and replanted with 16 glorious thirty foot tall palm trees. It now overlooks the western side of the 'pit' and will be another site for people to be able to gaze upon the now empty 16 acres.

- The #9 subway line reopens for the first time next week. The only subway station that has not been reopened will be the Cortland Street stop which emptied out into the bowels of the WTC. A truly remarkable feat in just one year.

- The Police Memorial has the 23 new NYPD names now inscribed on its 'fallen' in the line of duty wall (located South West of the World Financial Center).

- According to Mayor Mike since September 11, 130 miles of electric cable have been replaced, nearly half a mile of gas pipe has been rebuilt, almost every street around Ground Zero has been repaved, and more than 122 buildings have been cleared of dust and debris from the collapse of the twin towers.

-1,399 people have still not been found.

- It will take a while longer for all of us to be whole.

Changes for Me:

- There is a deep ache that I revisit several times a day. If you live within walking distance of the site as I do, or if you work downtown, it is impossible not to think about the horror each day. Does it get better? Some days yes, some days no. Today was a very hard day.

- I think when one experiences a personal loss it is private - you grieve alone. A photo on your mantle might allow you the solitary moment of despair, but generally you grieve alone. This WTC horror is shared by an entire city and country. There are reminders everywhere. On T-shirts, on subways, on TV. There is no escaping. There is no forgetting. I would hope that now that we are through the official one year period of mourning it will get a little easier. Time is the great healer. I remember thinking last year that I couldn't wait for the one year anniversary to come and go. And here it is, one year later - and some days are pretty darn good.

- We continue to love one another, challenge ourselves and create new horizons. I would imagine this is the best tribute we can give to those that we lost that day. The courage and determination to continue.

- Life's speed bumps are still annoying but very often I compare the annoyances with the larger picture and those annoyances seem to be very petty, indeed.

- I still check to see that the Empire State Building is standing many times a day.

- I often look up in the sky when I think an airplane is flying too low.

- I am suspicious when I hear sirens that go on too long.

- I am still only reading nonfiction work. I can't yet seem to return to the world of make believe.

- I have posted my 'Notes From East 22nd Street' on a September 11 Digital Archive: http://911digitalarchive.org

- I am not sure what to do with all of the stuff (magazines, newspapers and brochures) that I have accumulated over this year. Perhaps there is no rush to do anything with them. They are all tucked away in a drawer.

The Good and Bad and the Ugly:

- Carol is doing fine - most of the time. She still works within spitting distance of the 'pit' and my hat goes off to her and her coworkers who go there every day. She and I still chat almost everyday and still find many things to laugh about. (The Good)

- Police Officer Matt is also doing just fine. He and his fellow officers were required to do jobs after the nightmare that no civilian would dream imaginable. He continues to fight the bad guys everyday. The NYPD is finally getting a new contract. They deserve much more. Next time you see a cop, tell them 'thank you.' (The Good)

- That 3 pound kitten that walked into the lobby (and into my life) of my East 22nd Street building on October 25 is still here and now weighs in at 11 pounds.

- I have no idea what ever became of Gaspar Gonzalez, the Cable TV whiz kid that finally was able to fix my TV reception after 7 months of waves, ghosts and general annoyances. If you remember, he was about to go global with his tattooing and scarification business.

- Mayor Mike is doing a good job. If you listen very carefully you can hear him chopping away at the NYC budget. (The Good, the Bad and the Ugly)

- Rudy Giuliani is still profiting from that horrific day. (The Bad and the Ugly)

- The Democrats have become mute. (The Bad and the Ugly)

- Some rat bastard has ripped off that symbolic flag that was hoisted by the three firefighters last Sept. 11th. (The Bad and the Ugly)

Can you Hear the Fat Lady Singing?

And so I thank you once again for listening to my thoughts throughout this long, difficult year. I have shared web sites that I found to be informative, photos that I have taken on all of those long, hard journey's downtown and art exhibits that I have seen. I hope in some small way you are healing and that perhaps this dialogue has helped.