Monday, August 22, 2022


Some ideas are too good to ignore.  Movies without sex or romance or action are handicapped at the box office, but some of us like to understand the world a little better.  9/11 was a game changer and we are still feeling the effects.  At the time the news was overwhelming and it seems that much was either overlooked or forgotten.

 The strongest reaction seemed to be to seek revenge, but it turns out there were other concerns.  For me "Worth" (2021) pointed out what politicians and their wealthy supporters were very concerned about.  The big concern was that if all the dependents of the dead and injured sued, the economy would crater.  At one point we learned that Congress had passed laws to prevent suing the two airlines involved.  At another point we learned that lawyers representing the big earners who had died, campaigned to raise levels of compensation.  John Ashroft agreed it was best to avoid a Republican in charge of compensation as it would likely attract a lot of criticism not matter what was decided.

We are introduced to Ken Fineberg in a classroom setting where he is pointing out that all lives can be reduced to a number after a death.  Later we learn he has had a lot of experience with major disasters and understood the normal process.

 Fineberg himself recognized the national dilemma and felt obligated to give his expertise for free.   One of his graduated students was in the south tower when it was hit.  He assembles his team and they put together protocols.  He is interrupted to take a call from the President.  First we notice that the call has been set up by a secretary, then George Bush gets on to thank Fineberg and comments that he will receive a lot of garbage and while we are digesting the importance of a presidential call he hangs up.   

We soon meet Charles Wolf, whose wife died.  He seems very reasonable, but makes it known he does not approve the plan.  Fineberg is confident that emotions will die down and the people will recognize the deal is reasonable to help them move on.  

We learn that many victims lived in non normal circumstances.  One man had not yet had a chance to form a civil union with his now deceased partner.  We learn about one widow who didn't know her husband had had two children outside their marriage.  We learn that many injuries from the cleanup people were not revealed until deadlines had expired.  Lots of emotion from a variety of survivors.

Ken Fineberg had talks with Charles Wolf who had much more support and tried to adjust the rules and understand the situation.  Fineberg had been told they needed 80% compliance or nobody would be compensated which meant disaster for the economy.  The response was very slow, under 50% with only a few months to go.  Wolf finally decided that the adjustments justified his support.  In the end 97% did comply. 

How much is a life worth?  There really is no fair way of assessing and Fineberg always claimed he was seeking a just solution, not a fair one.  Underneath it all was the need to protect the overall economy while satisfying basic needs.  As a small sideline we become aware that the Bush administration is getting set to invade Iraq.

The film tries to cover as many aspects of the compensation issues as practical.  They succeeded in bringing compensation into a better understanding.  

Films that do such a good job are the result of quality contributions from numerous people.  Here are only a few.

Sara Colangelo was director.  Her first film, a short documentary "Halal Vivero" was a national finalist at the 2006 Student Academy Awards.  Her film credits include "The Kindergarten Teacher" (2018).  She has also been a writer, producer and some technical skills.

Max Borenstein, wrote the script. He has been writing for films since 2003, but has also been a producer including for this film and a director.

Marc Butan was another producer with such film credits as "The Lost City of Z" (2016), "The Zookeeper's Wife" (2017), "Ad Astra" (2019) and "The Trial of the Chicago 7" (2020).

Brad Dorros, another producer with such film credits as "Spotlight" (2015) and "Collateral Beauty" (2016).       

Anthony Katagas is a leading producer of independent films.  His credits include  "The Next Three Days" (2010), "The Immigrant" (2013), and "12 Years a Slave" (2013 for which he was awarded the Oscar).      As a sideline he played goalie for he Greek national team at the 2018 National Lacrosse Championship.

Michael Sugar, another producer has film credits for "Rendition" (2007), "Big Miracle" (2012). "The Fifth Estate" (2013),  "Spotlight" (2015 for which he received an Oscar), "Collateral Beauty" (2016) and "The Report" (2019).  Check:

Tony Parker was a co-executive producer.  Better known to me as an all star NBA athlete winning 3 titles and helping France win the European championship, along the way winning more than one MVP title.  His film credits include "Shock and Awe" (2017).  He is the executive producer for an upcoming document, "The Bad-Ass Librarians of Timbuktu."  

Nico Muhly composed the music.  His credits include "The Reader" (2008), "Margaret" (2011) and "Me and Earl and the Dying Girl" (2015).  Two of the characters show a strong interest in opera.

Pepe Avila del Pino was the cinematographer with credits that include  "Ozark" (2017), "The Kindergarten Teacher" (2018)   A surprise to me is that it was filmed in Oregon.

Michael Keaton  who played Ken Finestein was born Michael John Douglas and early in his acting career he changed to Michael Keaton to avoid being confused with a more famous actor.  He had been a stagehand for "Mister Rogers' Neighborhood" in 1968.  His acting credits include:  "Batman" (1989), "The Paper" (1994), his Oscar nominated "Birdman or(the Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)" (2014), "Spotlight" (2015) and "The Founder" (2016).

Amy Ryan plays Fineberg's veteran assistant.  Her credits include "Capote" (2005), "Gone Baby Gone" (2007), "Win Win" (2011), "Birdman or (the Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)" (2014), "Bridge of Spies" (2015) and "Beautiful Boy" (2018).  Check

Stanley Tucci plays Charles Wolf.  His acting credits include "The Pelican Brief" (1993), "Big Night" (1996 also as co-writer), "Road to Perdition" (2002), "The Terminal" (2004), "Shall we Dance?" (2004),  "The Devil Wears Prada" (2006), "The Lovely Bones" (2009), "Spotlight" (2015) and "The Children Act" (2017).  Now he is more popular than ever with "StanleyTucci: Searching for' Italy."

Shunori Ramanathan played Fineberg's graduated student.  Her film credits include "The Big Sick" (2017).

After digesting the movie a bit you will be left pondering what is a life worth and the difference between fairness and justice.  A thoughtful move with a little history you might have overlooked or forgotten.

As usual the first mention of a film has been bolded that I have seen.

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