Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close

Monday, June 4th 2012 – Addendum

Reciving a free copy of Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close on Blu-ray from Warner Brothers is more than just a chance to re-visit the Best Picture nominee. It’s also an opportunity to check out the special features. Included on the Blue-ray are:

1.) Making Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close (19:47) – Exactly what the title states as adapted from novel to film.
2.) Finding Oskar (7:50) – Explanation on how the filmmakers came to select Thomas Horn as the main protagonist
3.) Ten years Later (11:25) The impact surrounding a 9/11 victim’s photo on the memorial wall are shared as we hear testimonies and meet his family.
4.) Max von Sydow: Dialogues with the renter (44:00) A segment shot by Max von Sydow’s son shwouing us behind the scenes of his famous father. It’s a rather unpolished piece, but refreshingly intimate.

These extras will be most enjoyed by enthusiasts of the drama looking for more information. Although fans of legendary actor Max von Sydow should appreciate the last bonus regardless.

A nine-year-old child named Oskar Schell has lost his father in the 9/11 tragedy. Two years after that tragic event, he discovers a mysterious key among his father’s belongings. Thinking it might provide some connection to his father, he takes it upon himself to discover what it opens. Oskar is not your typical nine year old boy. He’s precocious bordering on abrasive. Oskar is an incredibly intense youngster and at times his personality can get a bit grating. He speaks in short clipped sentences spitting his declarations out in rapid fire with all the authority of an adult. He brings a tambourine along wherever he goes and shakes it when he gets nervous. Although never mentioned in the original novel, he has symptoms of Asperger’s syndrome, an autistic disorder highlighted by awkward social interaction.

There is an inherent problem that cannot be avoided with using 9/11 as the backdrop for any drama . The wounds of that national disaster still feel fresh as if they had happened only recently. Any movie trying to address that grief is sure to be criticized (often unfairly) for being exploitative. Indeed, Jonathon Foer’s 2005 novel was also greeted with mediocre to bad reviews when first published for this reason. Harry Siegel, writing in New York Press, titled his article “Extremely Cloying & Incredibly False” based on the book‘s manipulative charms. Now director Stephen Daldry has fashioned a movie from the bestseller and the reviews, despite an Oscar nomination for Best Picture, have been decidedly less than positive. However the tale could have used any unprovoked attack on a group of people. Most of the events have really nothing to do with 9/11 at all, but rather Oskar’s mission to discover the history behind this unexplained key. It sends him on an emotionally affecting investigation of the city’s inhabitants. He travels from person to person interviewing these strangers to gather information. His ritual trek becomes his all consuming passion to come to terms with the death of his father.

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close ultimately matures into a sincerely touching film. At the center of this tearjerker is young actor Thomas Horn. Much like our central character, Oskar Schell, our first time actor is a curious subject. In 2010, Horn won on Jeopardy!, during Kids Week, earning $31,800. Producer Scott Rudin was in the midst of preparing an adaptation of Jonathon Foer’s 2005 book. He was so impressed by the little boy, it led to an audition as Oskar Shell, the brainy but socially isolated, protagonist. Obviously Thomas Horn is a similarly bright fellow. Undoubtedly his work draws much from his own identity. He’s remarkably sincere, yet the performance has been polarizing. It somewhat relies on your ability to accept Oskar’s idiosyncrasies as a disorder and not as a thoroughly irritating personality. At first I too found him annoying, but as time wore on, something else happened. I became fascinated by this little boy and his earnest desire to hang on to the memory of his father. I found the child’s exploration filled with emotional truth and humanity.

Extremely Loud is a picture of undeniable heart and it honestly moved me. Oskar’s hike through the streets of New York City is quite stirring. It starts out as a seed of an idea, but the concept develops into a full fledged scavenger hunt, much like the interactions he used to have with his father when he was alive. It takes time, but the purpose slowly germinates until before you know it, it has developed into a quietly poignant emotional journey. His interactions form the basis of the story with actors Max von Sydow, Viola Davis and Jeffrey Wright logging the most screen time. They’re interesting as well, but the biggest surprise is that Sandra Bullock provides the film’s best scenes. By the end, I was overcome by emotion. There’s one particular moment of such pure virtue, it made the film for me.

19 Responses to “Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close”

  1. Don’t understand the negative reviews. This is a great great movie. So glad its nominated for best picture.


  2. Nice review! I was curious to see what you thought of it since it’s been getting a lot of negative reviews.I read the other day that it’s the lowest rated (on Rotten Tomatoes) ‘Best Picture’ nominee in more than a decade. However, your review convinced me there’s a lot to love in EL&IC.


  3. Wow. I didn’t expect you to like it this much. Then again, I didn’t expect a film with such poor reviews to get a Best Picture nomination. To date, no film with a “Rotten” Rotten Tomatoes score has won Best Picture, so if this wins, it will be a first. And as much as I watch Jeopardy!, I had no idea Thomas Horn was a champion. I might go and see this, but I first have to go see The Descendants before it leaves theaters.


  4. This is like the only positive review i’ve seen of this movie so far


  5. Like your review a lot… Totally agree! I think there was a lack of understanding of where Oskar was coming and struggling from. I know someone close to me who has Asperger and let me tell you… they are irritating but extremely smart.


  6. Markus Robinson Says:

    Loved this movie and Thomas Horn’s performance! I don’t know why everyone hated it; well, at least in the Tomato world.


  7. Just visited your review again after I got around to seeing this movie. It was good, but I didn’t enjoy it as much as you did. I wish Sandra Bullock had a bigger role… Here’s my review:


  8. This is truly a great movie! I am surprised by the reviews but not at all by its nomination for best picture. I was rivited to the screne throughout the movie. The boy was so believably real I feel Jonathon Foer, author of the novel on which this movie was based, must have been well acquainted with someone with Asperger’s syndrome. “Cloying” and “false” are so incredibly inappropriate adjectives for this movie. The director, Stephen Daldry, has shown great sensitivity in bringing the character of Oskar to life on the screne. Thomas Horn did not seem to be acting. I felt he was the character, Oskar, and that was what made the movie so engrossing for me. It is definitely my choice for best picture.


    • There was certainly a depth to young Thomas Horn’s performance. Whether he was playing himself or is a gifted young actor remains to be seen. He has 2 movies coming out this year. His first since EL&IC.


  9. It would’ve been better if Oskar had had a few more endearing traits and maybe had been a little less blatant a product of the public school system. And using the overly familiar attack on the World Trade Center as the triggering event for the kid’s disillusionment probably muddled the point of the movie more than it added to it. But the most curious thing about the story is the fact that neither of its two main threads gets resolved in anything close to a satisfactory way. On the dramatic side, it’s Oskar’s attempt to find a special link to his father by tracing the ownership of the key; and on the philosophical side, it’s his having to reconcile himself to intentional but meaningless violence of the sort that took his Dad’s life and, he learns later on, those of two of his great-grandparents as well. By the end of the movie the kid seems to have regained his emotional equilibrium, but if so it had nothing to do with his having found answers to the two puzzles that preoccupied him — to say nothing of the REST of us — throughout the course of the film. When you ask an audience to consider a matter as serious as the real-life consequences of amoral zealotry, you owe it to them not to dodge the issue at the end with easy patches to the personalities of the people affected.

    The writers didn’t (thank heavens) let the grandfather’s emotional wounds get brushed aside with such casual facility as those of Oskar. In fact one of the most interesting things about the film comes from noticing that 54 years (!) earlier the same actor, Max von Sydow, had played a man returning from the Crusades, disheartened by what he’d been through, only to find his own country in the grip of the Black Death. All he finds is grief and suffering, none of which makes sense to him. He fends Death off with a chess game while he looks for answers that never come, till Death finally wins and leads him and his friends away. Half a century later, the same actor winds up playing a man who’d lost his parents to the blanket bombings of World War II, is so shattered by his experiences he’s unable or unwilling to talk, and then lives on in New York long enough to see his son get killed in a purposeless terrorist incident. Since the old man isn’t the protagonist of this story, we don’t get to see Death come for him and how he responds. It might have been interesting. At least the grandfather couldn’t have been redeemed as easily as by finding out that Mom’s been secretly helping him all along or that Dad’s left a note for him at the playground swings. And it’s even less likely he would’ve managed to brush his memories aside and overcome his despair by going to see “Animal Crackers” for the 14th time.


    • Interesting link to The Seventh Seal.

      True the threads weren’t resolved,. However I question how Oskar could “reconcile himself to intentional but meaningless violence of the sort that took his Dad’s life”. What answer would’ve been satisfactory? Reading a manifesto issued from the terrorist organization al-Qaeda?


      • Nah, whoever blew up the buildings and for whatever reason isn’t the point. It’s what was going on in Oskar’s head. Antonius Block went looking for answers in a realm that transcends our life on earth. Try as he would, he didn’t find ANYthing there, and as a result the devil got him. (Yeah, I know, the devil IS a transcendent being, but in the movie he was just a metaphor.) That failure WAS Block’s (and Bergman’s) answer to the questions the movie had raised.

        Oskar went looking for a way to make sense of the evil in the world too, but there wasn’t any suggestion he’d ever even HEARD of the transcendent. Not in P.S. 41 he hadn’t. Predictably he didn’t find any answers either, and it’s not even clear what they could have been, but he seemed to recover in spite of that, leaving us to wonder, “How come?”


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