Twin Towers on Film

This video compilation by Dan Meth shows the World Trade Center appearing in several movies from 1969-2001.

The Hot Rock (1972), Dog Day Afternoon (1975), Three Days of the Condor (1975), Superman (1978), Wolfen (1981), Escape from New York (1981) and Being John Malkovich (1999) are just some of the films featured.

With the tenth anniversary of 9/11 approaching there’s going to be a lot of news media coverage about it over the next two weeks.

Aside from the enormous human cost and dreadful long-term consequences of that day, part of what made the Twin Towers resonate so much was that they formed an indelible part of the New York skyline for a generation.

In turn, they were reproduced around the world in movies and television for a generation, be it the opening of Friends (1994-2004) or various blockbusters like Independence Day (1996) and Armageddon (1998).

This website has an detail chronological list of the buildings appearing in movies, along with some screen shots.

It claims that the first appearence of the fledgling WTC building was this shot in William Friedkin’s The French Connection (1971).

Another interesting development was how filmmakers featured the Towers after September 2001.

Famously, a teaser trailer for Spider-Man (2002) was pulled after featuring the two buildings (although glimpses of it could be seen in the final film) and a drama like Changing Lanes (2002) captured the towers before they fell, but actually came came out several months after the attacks.

Director Roger Michell edited out shots in the days after 9/11 but later put them back in as a tribute.

Later period films, such as Munich (2005), digitally reinserted the towers and this also reflected advances in visual effects as well as their historical importance to New York over three decades.

Perhaps the most unique use of the towers in a film was Spike Lee’s 25th Hour (2002) which used the ‘Tribute in Light‘ in the months after 9/11 for a memorable opening title sequence.

Whenever I think of the biggest news event of my lifetime, this sequence often springs to mind.

> World Trade Center in popular culture at Wikipedia
> The Siege and 9/11
> WTC in Movies (extensive list of the Twin Towers in movies)
> Celluloid Skyline – a website and book about New York on film
> Spike Lee audio commentary for the 25th Hour opening sequence

UK DVD & Blu-ray Releases: Monday 29th August 2011

DVD & BLU-RAY PICKS

Miller’s Crossing (20th Century Fox Home Ent.): One of the Coen Brothers finest films is this Prohibition era drama about a man (Gabriel Byrne) pulling the strings between two rival gang bosses Leo (Albert Finney) and Casper (Jon Polito). Stylish, brilliantly written and acted – with killer supporting turns from John Tuturro and Marcia Gay Harden – it also contains a timeless score by Carter Burwell. [Buy it on Blu-ray or DVD at Amazon UK]

Dark Star (Fabulous Films): John Carpenter’s ultra low budget debut is a sci-fi about a space ship and its crew on a mission to destroy “unstable planets” which might threaten future colonization. It stars Brian Narelle, Cal Kuniholm, Dre Pahich and co-writer Dan O’Bannon. [Buy it on Blu-ray or DVD at Amazon UK]

ALSO OUT

Beastly (Lionsgate UK) [Blu-ray / Normal]
Farewell (L’affaire Farewell) (Universal Pictures) [Blu-ray / Normal]
Hanna (Universal Pictures) [Blu-ray / Normal]
Hatchet 2 (Arrow Films) [Blu-ray / Normal]
Highschool of the Dead (Manga Entertainment) [Blu-ray / Normal]
Hop (Universal Pictures) [Blu-ray / Normal]
Love and Other Impossible Pursuits (Showbox Media Group) [Blu-ray / Normal]
Outside the Law (Optimum Home Entertainment) [Blu-ray / Normal]
Something Borrowed (EV) [Blu-ray / Normal]
Sounds and Silence – Travels With Manfred Eicher (ECM)[Blu-ray / Normal]
The Founding of a Republic (Metrodome Distribution) [Blu-ray / Normal]
The Hour (2 Entertain) [Blu-ray / Normal]
The Veteran (Revolver Entertainment) [Blu-ray / Normal]
Trust (Lionsgate UK) [Blu-ray / Normal]
Wrecked (Universal Pictures) [Blu-ray / Normal]

UK Cinema Releases for Friday 26th August 2011 including One Day
The Best DVD & Blu-ray releases of 2010

HMV and the Decline of Retail

Images of a flagship HMV store in London reveal much about the changing nature of retail down the years.

HMV is an iconic UK retail chain for music and films, founded in 1921 by the Gramaphone Company, which was one of the earliest companies to record and sell music to the public.

The store’s name is an acronym for “His Master’s Voice” and got its distinctive logo from a painting by English artist Francis Barraud.

It depicts a dog called Nipper, which the artist inherited from his late brother, as he listens to a recording on a wind-up gramophone.

Although for many years the company was not actually “HMV” or His Master’s Voice, the popularity of the trademark persisted and the first HMV shop opened in 1921 in London.

In the decades since then it has not only spawned shops around the world but remained a permanent retail fixture in the capital city, despite switching locations.

Recently the Voices of East Anglia blog posted some photos, including this shot from HMV’s Flickr account of what the store looked like in the 1960s.

hmv 363 Oxford Street, London - Exterior of store 1960s

The full gallery is worth checking out as you can see how people used to browse for vinyl records in the personal export lounge, examine what music systems and televisions used to look like and observe the stage and screen section.

It really is like an episode of Mad Men.

There is also a gallery of photos from the 1970s (now in colour!) which shows the same HMV store, though sadly not the interior.

1976 - London - Oxfordstr. - HMV

I’m not an expert on the history of retail on Oxford Street (maybe someone can help in the comments?) but I think that HMV moved from this building and then opened a store across the street, before opening a larger store at 150 Oxford Street.

The original building is now this branch of Footlocker:

Last year HMV closed down the store near Bond Street tube station but the flagship store at 150 Oxford Street remains.

The only question is: for how long?

The recession has so far led to the closure of retailers like Woolworths, Borders and Zavvi (formerly Virgin Megastores).

On Oxford Street in particular, the closure of the Zavvi and Borders branches felt like the retail equivalent of organ removal.

Since I was a kid I’ve always browsed for music, films and books there and to see them close down is sad.

There is something to be said for the serendipity of browsing in a store, but the economics of these stores increasingly don’t add up in the age of Amazon.

How can these places compete with a retailer which has dramatically lower overheads, enviable distribution costs, vastly superior customer data and greater insight into how people shop in the 21st century?

The ‘Amazon Effect’ on retail struck me when I went into the Covent Garden branch of Fopp, the music and film retailer which HMV bought in 2007.

When it comes to music, why would I want to purchase physical CDs when I can listen to vast amounts of music on Spotify and iTunes or (semi-legally) YouTube?

This very dilemma has seen the music industry decimated over the last decade and the vast profits generated from sales be transferred into the bank accounts of two technology giants.

In 2008 Apple surpassed Walmart to become the world’s largest music retailer as they reap enormous profits from selling the inexpensive digital music (MP3 files) and the expensive hardware on which it plays (iPods and iPhones).

Google have a search site which powers the proliferation of free MP3s (just type in the name of a song and you’ll probably find it) and in YouTube owns the worlds largest unofficial music library, which you can personalise by visiting www.youtube.com/disco.

Film is probably a few years behind music, but movie companies and retailers arguably face a similar tsunami of change as digital delivery of content (e.g. Netflix streaming) replaces the physical (e.g. DVD and Blu-ray discs).

Two things struck me as I browsed the DVD and Blu-ray section of Fopp, which HMV saved in 2007.

Firstly, this is a golden age of DVD bargains: the sheer quality of films on offer for bargain bucket prices was staggering.

For example, in HMV Oxford Street you can get the following titles for around £5: All The President’s Men (1976), Breathless (1960), Chinatown (1974) and Sideways (2004).

Amazing HMV Bargains

But this is also true of Amazon where you can get hold of classic material for low prices: Citizen Kane for £3.97, The Roman Polanksi Collection (3 film collection of Chinatown, Rosemary’s Baby and The Tenant!) for £6.93 and if you want a great value blockbuster in HD, try Terminator 2 on Blu-ray for just £7.93.

In fact it was downstairs in the Blu-ray section of Fopp where the ‘Amazon effect’ really struck me.

I wanted to check out my favourite Blu-ray box set of 2010, which is the Alien Anthology (quick tip: skip the final two films, feast on the first two and put several hours aside for the incredible array of extras).

How much did the Alien Anthology Blu-ray box-set cost in Fopp? £52.

I got out my iPhone and ran a price check on Amazon, where it cost £19.98.

That’s a staggering price difference of £32.02.

Now this is just a single example of one particular product, but I suspect it is reflective of a wider shift as retail and content move into an increasingly virtual world.

Two months ago the BBC reported that HMV profits fell 14.5% in its results for the year to April and the share price has slumped dramatically over the past twelve months.

Part of their new strategy has been to open stores like the one in Wimbledon, which have a small cinema above the shop.

I went back in June and was impressed not only with the sound and projection, but the fact that they were screening up scale fare like Senna alongside blockbusters such as X-Men: First Class.

The other part of the strategy is for the group to expand into live ticketing and digital music.

But whether they can make significant profits from these avenues quickly enough remains to be seen.

Maintaining their bricks-and-mortar operations whilst trying to make inroads into the digital world is going to be a huge challenge.

This comment on Metafilter by the user memebake is perhaps a realistic note to end on:

I used to go to HMV and the independent stores on Berwick Street loads about 15 years ago, and it was fun flipping through the racks looking for things. But before I get too nostalgic, its worth reminding myself that a lot of the albums I bought in that era turned out to be rubbish. The old “hear one song on the radio then buy the album for £12 without hearing any of it” model just encouraged lazy albums with two singles and a bunch of filler tracks.

Whereas now I can get crowdsourced ratings and reviews, preview individual tracks, and then buy the thing without leaving the place I’m sitting. The problem for me nowdays is not buying albums that turn out to be rubbish, its downloading albums and then forgetting to ever go back and listen to them.

Business (we are often told) is all about adapting to new opportunities and taking risks and all that stuff. The old music retail business failed to do that and basically let Amazon and Apple take over. It was obvious for years and years that large-store-large-inventory wasn’t going to be able to compete. They wont get any sad goodbyes from me. I still try and go to Selectadisc now and then though.

> Find out more about HMV, Fopp and Amazon at Wikipedia
> Flickr Gallery of London 35 Years Ago

UK Cinema Releases: Friday 26th August 2011

NATIONAL RELEASES

One Day (Universal): An adaptation of the bestselling novel about Dexter (Jim Sturgess) and Emma Anne Hathaway), a couple who meet during their graduation in 1988 and reunite one day each year over the next 20 years. Directed by Lone Scherfig, it co-stars Rafe Spall and Romla Garai. [Nationwide / 12A]

Conan The Barbarian (Lionsgate UK): Remake of the 1982 film about a barbarian (Jason Momoa) and his quest for vengeance across the mythical kingdom of Hyboria. Directed by Marcus Nispel, it co-stars Rose McGowan, Rachel Nichols and Stephen Lang. [Nationwide / 15]

Final Destination 5 (Warner Bros): The fifth installment of the horror franchise sees more teenagers escape a deadly accident only to later discover that death is hunting them down. Directed by Steven Quale, it stars Nicholas D’Agosto, David Koechner, P.J. Byrne and Ellen Wroe. [Nationwide / 15]

ALSO OUT

The Skin I Live In (Fox/Pathe): Revenge drama based on Thierry Jonquet’s novel about a plastic surgeon (Antonio Banderas) on the hunt for the men who raped his daughter. Directed by Pedro Almodovar, co-stars Elena Anaya. [Key cities / 15]

Kill The Irishman (Anchor Bay Films): Biopic of the Irish-American mob boss Danny Greene, who rose to the top of Cleveland’s criminal underworld during the late 1970s. Directed by Jonathan Hensleigh, it stars Ray Stevenson, Christopher Walken and Val Kilmer. [Key cities / 18]

Children Of The Revolution (E2 Films): Documentary about the children of radical revolutionaries during the late 1960s. Directed by Shane O, it features Ulrike Meinhof and Fusako Shigenobu. [Key Cities]

Powder (Soda Pictures): Drama about a fictional Britpop-era band adapted from Kevin Sampson’s novel. Directed by Mark Elliot, it stars Alfie Allen, Liam Boyle, Al Weaver, and Ralph Little. [Key Cities / 15]

> Get local cinema showtimes at Google Movies or FindAnyFilm
Recent UK DVD & Blu-ray releases including The Big Lebowski