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World Trade Center - A Tribute in Film

The buildings came down in one day, but their image will never be forgotten, thanks to their appearance in the movies.

After the tragedy, we invited our members to dig into their memory for films featuring shots of the Twin Towers and send the titles into us.

This is our cinematic tribute to them.

Click on title itself for a link to IMDB.

(If you have a title to add, click here to email the movie?s title to be added to the list, and be sure to give us your name.)

Thank You to: Debbie Archimbaud, K.C. Bailey, Judi Becht, Amy Burt, Jim Bulliet, Catherine Cannella, Marc Chiapperino, Diana Collins, Seth Copans, John Craig, Lacy Daigle, Kevin Donalds, Eugene Esterly III, Dan Evans Farkas, Erika Fiallos, Geoff Foster, Savannah Freed, Trevor Freed, Jim Gardner, Lawrence Gelbman, Monica Gelbman, Rick Gordimer, Travis Hedger, Anne Hydock, Regina Kahney, Nancy Kaimowitz, Brian J. Kronenberg, Dan Lafontaine, David Lanphier, Joanne Larsen, Joanne Longo, Frank Louvis, Nora Lee Mandel, Ed Mann, Fran Mauro, Mark D. McKennon, Roseann Milano, Bennett Miller, J. B. Miller, Al Moore, Anthony Najarian, Lisa Marie Najarian, Louis Najarian Sr., Mike Najarian, Monty Najarian, Rose Najarian, Stacey Najarian, Sherry Narodick, Katherine Papageoriou, Sarah Pearsall, Angela Petti, Denis Phillips, Graydon Pihlaja, Bill Reynolds, Olimpia Rinaldi, David Shapiro, Peter Vitale, Sheila Waldron, Gary Weist, Rosalie Zingales and Robert Zolten.

In Films, Twin Towers Had No Star Power

Article by Sarah Boxer. Reprinted from New York Times Service. Published February 4, 2002.

These days the briefest sight of them on the big screen can take your breath away. But up to Sept. 10 the World Trade Center towers were nothing to get wrought up about.

On the screen they were dreary, uninviting, vacuous masses: the part of the New York least like New York, said James Sanders, an architect and the author of "Celluloid Skyline: New York and the Movies" (Knopf).

They were emblems of cold, hard cash. Julia Kristeva, the French philosopher, playing with the idea that the twin towers echo the twin spires of Notre Dame, called them "Notre-Dame de l'Argent," Our Lady of Money.

Only when the towers were shown as part of the downtown skyline, as in, say, "Working Girl," did they become warm and magical, Mr. Sanders noted. And then they borrowed their meaning ? that feeling of ingenuity and heroic American aspiration ? from the rest of Lower Manhattan, he said. They were charismatic by association.

Built by the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey in the early 1970's, the twin towers rarely had a high profile in the movies. By Mr. Sanders's estimation, if you disregard the disaster movies like "Escape From New York" (1981), "Independence Day" (1996) and "Armageddon" (1998), you can count the complex's star roles on one hand. There was "Three Days of the Condor" in 1975, the remake of "King Kong" in 1976, "The Wiz" in 1978 and "Other People's Money" in 1991.

Elvis Mitchell, a film critic for The New York Times, adds another to the list: "Godspell" (1973), which features a big dance scene on the roof of the World Trade Center, still under construction. As the song "All for the Best" wraps up, the camera seems to slide along the roof and then pan over the edge and down the facade. (No guardrails then.)

"Sure, the trade center was in thousands of movies," said Phillip Lopate, the editor of "Writing New York: A Literary Anthology" and the author of "Totally, Tenderly, Tragically: Essays and Criticism From a Lifelong Love Affair With the Movies."

In "A.I." (2001) the twin towers still stick up out of the water after the rest of Manhattan has been submerged for thousands of years. In "Wolfen" (1981), Mr. Sanders notes, the towers are shown under construction from the Manhattan Bridge, and in "Lady Liberty" (1972) from the west edge of what is now TriBeCa. They appear in "Trading Places" (1983), "Moonstruck" (1987), "Weekend at Bernie's" (1989) and "All the Vermeers in New York" (1990). "Any shot of downtown from 1975 to Sept. 10, 2001, could not help but show the World Trade Center as an integral part of the skyline," Mr. Sanders said.

But, Mr. Lopate asked: "How many times was it really a plot point? It never really entered the narrative of the myth of New York. It never played a part in New Yorkers' daily ceremonies. It had a parvenu quality. That is why native New Yorkers saw it so differently from tourists. It turned away from the street."

The trade center really was not of the city. It was all about coming to the city. It never had the glow of Times Square, the Empire State Building, Rockefeller Center, the Plaza Hotel, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the New York Public Library, the old Pennsylvania Station, Grand Central Terminal or the Statue of Liberty. When the camera got too close, the twin towers, Mr. Sanders suggested, looked dreary and dead.

His point is clear in the remake of "King Kong." In the 1933 version, when the giant ape ascends the Empire State Building, "it's amazing how powerful this fantastic action is," Mr. Sanders said. You have a three-story character climbing this mountain of a building, and then "there he is at the peak, stuck on this tiny perch trying to hold onto the girl" just before being shot down.

In the remake there was no question where Kong was going to end up. Even the script writer, Lorenzo Semple Jr., said: "It was so obvious that Kong was going to go to the World Trade Center. I don't even remember discussing it."

The problem is that King Kong, big as he is, cannot really climb one of those towers. There is no foothold. "He must shimmy up it instead," Mr. Sanders said, and so there is "no quality of ascent." Nor is the summit really worth the climb. Once Kong reaches the top, he is on a kind of football field. The director, Mr. Sanders said, had to place Kong "near the edge, so that he would fall when he was shot."

In the movies as in real life, the World Trade Center "was just tall," said Mr. Sanders, who worked as an architect for the Port Authority in the trade center in the 1980's. "There was no art to it." And "it was even worse on the inside than on the outside," he added. There was a fence of thick columns. The windows did not open. It was hard to get a view.

"The Wiz" revealed another weakness, Mr. Sanders said: the empty plaza. The "Wiz" finale was a big musical number shot in the plaza between the towers. The director, "Sidney Lumet and the production designer brought in busloads of actors for it," and "they were working their hearts out," Mr. Sanders said. "But the space was just too big. There was no vitality there. The finale deadened the whole piece."

Neither romance nor grand gestures nor big raucous show tunes ever worked in the trade center. But a few movies, Mr. Sanders said, have "accepted the trade center for what it was," a charmless bureaucratic government building. And those movies seemed to work better.

For example, in "Three Days of the Condor," Robert Redford plays a C.I.A. officer who operates out of a research library on the Upper East Side. "Twice his life is saved by the architectural eccentricities of New York," Mr. Sanders said. But the trade center, which has no eccentricities, represents "an anti-New York" in the movie, he said. It is the location of the New York branch of the C.I.A. In the humane, life-affirming old city, the World Trade Center represented "the new city, inhumane, manipulative, life-destroying," Mr. Sanders said. Bureaucratic Washington in the middle of Manhattan.

Mr. Semple, who was also a script writer for "Three Days," did not see that symbolism. "It was a good place to have offices," he said, adding, "I always liked it. I never joined in the trashing of the towers."

In "Other People's Money," the World Trade Center plays much the same role. Danny DeVito, a mergers and acquisitions man, represents capitalism run amok. He works in the trade center, a world of "inoperable windows and faceless facades," said Mr. Sanders. And that is the last star role that the center played: symbol of uncaring capitalism.

The World Trade Center did have some endearing qualities in real life. Its towers were a kind of compass, indicating where you were in relation to the rest of the city. They also were a kind of barometer, changing color with the weather, Mr. Sanders said.

"One really amazing thing about the trade center," he added, was the "space between the two towers." It would appear to open as a sliver and then widen to become a negative space between the buildings as you walked around the island. Sometimes it would disappear. As far as Mr. Sanders can remember, though, "no films took advantage of that."

The sliver between the buildings may not have been explored. But what about their doubleness? Susan Felleman, a film historian at Southern Illinois University, points out that Woody Allen may have exploited this in his contribution to "New York Stories," "Oedipus Wrecks" (1989).

In one scene "the magically disappeared mother turns up as a giant disembodied visage floating above the twin towers" to tell all of Manhattan about how her son, Sheldon, used to suck his blanket, Ms. Felleman said. Despite the phallic presence of those incredibly tall towers on the skyline, she said, "the twinning adds a feminine element, since two prominences are more evocative of the feminine anatomy."

Mr. Sanders, by contrast, thinks of the World Trade Center as "a cantankerous uncle whom no one likes." This uncle "yells at everyone and then dies," Mr. Sanders said. "And suddenly you realize that he was a part of your life. He watched you grow up. Suddenly you see meaning that you didn't see before."

Mr. Sanders, who lives two blocks from the trade center site, said he flew out of New York on the morning of Sept. 11 to get his book-jacket picture taken for "Celluloid Skyline" at the New York City set of Paramount Studios in Hollywood. After going through the Holland Tunnel toward Newark International Airport, he recalled, "I looked back at the World Trade Center, as one does, and thought about why they had put it on the Hudson side of the island."

His flight was scheduled for 8:30 a.m. Two planes behind him sat the one that crashed near Pittsburgh. Two hours later both towers were gone.

Still, the Twin Towers Cast Their Shadow

Capturing the N.Y. Skyline on Canvas Or Film Becomes an Emotional Act

Article by Peter Marks. Reprinted from New York Times Service. Published October 25, 2001.

NEW YORK - At first, Michael Mailer, an independent film producer, considered editing the twin towers out of his new picture, "Empire," which he calls a "Latin 'Godfather' movie" set in New York.

"The last thing you want," he said, "is something that is going to take you out of the dream of the film."

But something about filmmakers rushing to obliterate the images from their movies, as Ben Stiller has acknowledged doing for his new hit comedy, "Zoolander," offended Mr. Mailer and his colleagues. "I find it execrable that you have to alter a scene or two to fit the sensibility of the day," he said.

He left the footage in.

These days, capturing the New York skyline - on canvas, on film, with the naked eye - has become a complicated, even emotionally wrenching act. The towers are such powerful symbols that they overshadow everything - whether they are present or absent.

"It's our phantom limb," Ric Burns, director of a documentary on the history of New York City that was recently broadcast on PBS, said of the World Trade Center. "You feel it, but it's not there; you look to where you feel it should be."

To some, altering images of the skyline to take the towers out is upsetting, a practice that can seem a kind of airbrushing of history.

But in other cases the image has been judged too harsh a reminder of the events of Sept. 11. For example, Variety, the show-business trade paper, decided to remove the skyline altogether from the logo of its New York edition. And for a new stamp, "Greetings From New York," which features the famous skyline, the U.S. Postal Service decided the image had to be redrawn to eliminate the twin towers. And many movies and television programs have been digitally removing the trade center from shots of the city.

The problem seems so prevalent because the outline of Manhattan's skyscrapers shows up everywhere in New York - it is on the outside of Circle Line boats, squeezed inside the round logo of the New York State lottery, depicted on the patches of firefighters and employed as the backdrop for various local newscasts. (Channel 11's "WB News at 10," for one, used an image of the twin towers, until the disaster.)

While the New York skyline once seemed a buoyant symbol of cosmopolitan life - the backdrop for Woody Allen movies, the inspiration for Gershwin melodies, the centerpiece of a million souvenirs - it now invites sadder associations.

In the city's movie houses recently, when a camera in a film about New York pans the cityscape along the East River or the Hudson, some audiences have gasped. On corners from Times Square to downtown Brooklyn, incense sellers and fruit vendors now share the sidewalks with hawkers of portraits of the trade center entwined in the Stars and Stripes.

It is as if the city, in the myriad individual responses to the alteration of its appearance, is struggling collectively with how to treat its psychic wound, how to gaze anew at a landscape that does not quite look like itself.

"The World Trade Center, though not aesthetically pleasing, was our anchor," said David Gallo, a Broadway set designer who is using an older New York skyline as the central element in a forthcoming stage version of the movie musical "Thoroughly Modern Millie."

"It was there at the base of Manhattan giving us all a point of reference. Having lost that anchor, we are confused as a nation visually."

For Mr. Burns, the documentarian, the buildings represent something eternal about New York: "a congenital refusal to accept the reality of limits," he calls it. Now, he said, the absence of the towers has changed the way New Yorkers experience their city.

In death, the buildings, once embodiments of American financial power, are metaphors for American resolve. People wear the buildings proudly. On subways, riders sport memorial buttons emblazoned with the trade center. On late-night television, pitchmen suggest ordering now for your very own twin-tower lapel pins, as a patriotic gesture. At a gallery on Prince Street in SoHo, visitors flock to a vast exhibition of photographs taken by amateurs and professionals alike of Lower Manhattan on the day of the attacks.

In 1997, the Japanese photographer Hiroshi Sugimoto took a picture of the towers that now seems a kind of foreshadowing. Backlighted by a radiant horizon, they appear blurred, as if being viewed through a haze, or even smoke. More than anything else, they look like twin apparitions.

This month, Sotheby's placed it in a photography auction that had been arranged well in advance of Sept. 11, and had estimated its value at $12,000 to $18,000. After a surprisingly fierce bidding battle, it sold to a private collector for more than $45,000, more than twice its high estimate and a record for the artist's work.

In the most unlikely places, it seems, reminders crop up. Twin-tower images now catch the eye, no matter how innocuously displayed. Mr. Gallo, for instance, walked into a burrito restaurant in Manhattan one day recently, and was struck by a piece of art on the wall: "It was a Mexican guy on a horse, riding along the World Trade Center," he said, adding that he could not help but stare.

On television, the new reality is taking shape rapidly. In the opening episode of the new season of ABC's "NYPD Blue," to be broadcast Nov. 6, the camera lingers in an establishing shot on a view of Lower Manhattan at night, without the twin towers. It is, in spite of itself, a mournful portrait, a reminder of a skyline that is even better known now for what it is missing.

Mr. Mailer, the film producer, meanwhile, is crossing his fingers as he shops "Empire" around to potential distributors with the trade center shots intact. He is calculating that audiences will not be distracted enough for it to matter.

And besides, he added, "To ignore the towers is to pretend they were never there in the first place."