Tracker Pixel for Entry

​“Tower” brilliantly explores a dreadful day in the modern history of school shootings

by Greg Carlson | .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) | Cinema | April 27th, 2017

Now on Netflix instant watch and not to be missed is director Keith Maitland’s “Tower,” one of the most memorable and gripping films of 2016.

Carefully, even meticulously, constructing a moment-by-moment chronological account of the 1966 University of Texas at Austin murders committed by Charles Whitman from the observation deck of the Main Building, Maitland’s film relies on the use of interpretive performance and rotoscope animation -- two fairly unorthodox stylistic choices in nonfiction. The approach, however, is a spellbinding display of fully human reactions to what was at the time a virtually unthinkable, unfathomable action.

Maitland focuses on those directly involved in Whitman’s crime, developing for the viewer a sense of deep identification with lawmen, casualties, and first responders. The director also deliberately avoids any psychological profiling of Whitman as deranged and monstrous antagonist, positioning the sniper behind the distant reports from his rifle that registered to witnesses as puffs of smoke along the tower’s ledge. That decision both honors the innocent people caught in the assassin’s crosshairs and heightens the sense of urgency and immediacy of the date by sharing with the audience a sense of the confusion, panic, and uncertainty that gripped the campus.

Although she was not Whitman’s initial victim, 18-year-old Claire Wilson was the first person shot from the tower. Wilson, who lost both her unborn son and her boyfriend Thomas Eckman to the killer’s bullets, could not move from the hot sidewalk where she fell, and Maitland uses her story as a key to understanding the astonishingly selfless displays of courage shown by strangers during the terrifying ordeal. Rita Starpattern, who happened upon the scene and stayed on the ground next to Wilson, held her hand and shared encouragement until John “Artly” Fox and James Love put themselves in harm’s way to move Wilson to safety.

Maitland eventually reveals, in direct, close-up portraits, the subjects previously portrayed by actors in the animated reconstructions. These moments -- effectively withheld for maximum impact -- are startlingly concrete. Bridging past and present, the revelations and reunions cathartically pulsate as we watch the older versions of the fated cohort traverse time itself. Wilson and Fox, Aleck Hernandez Jr., officers Ramiro “Ray” Martinez and Houston McCoy, along with several others, are given the opportunity to share with us, and in some cases, each other, thoughts that might otherwise have gone unexpressed.

“Tower” is based partly on executive producer Pamela Colloff’s 2006 “Texas Monthly” oral history “96 Minutes,” and if there is anything missing from the film experience, it is the necessary omission of comprehensive coverage of all the day’s details (more than a dozen were killed and more than 30 were injured). But Maitland, like Ari Folman in “Waltz with Bashir” and others, has explored the ways in which we might arrive at truth. “Tower” expands the vocabulary we can use when thinking about the presentation of fact-based content in the movies.

In a valuable essay, Nea Ehrlich wrote about animation and the nonfiction film, saying of “Waltz with Bashir,” “Despite its stylized imagery, the film clearly signifies recognizable references that could not be documented otherwise. By referring to personal views of reality and memories, the non-mimetic imagery does not diminish the truth value of the film’s documentation because it refers to aspects of reality that cannot be directly indexed as they do not physically exist.” Ehrlich could just as easily have been writing about “Tower.”

Recently in:

FARGO – A Somali-American discovered animal feces spread inside his vehicle Monday evening, an incident many believe was a direct threat and a hate crime.Yusuf Mohamed’s car was locked at Maplewood Apartments, 1010 23rd Street,…

It’s pretty easy to tell that Fargo is proud of its Norse heritage. After all, North Dakota is one of the most Norwegian places in the Midwest. Reminders are everywhere, like Stabo in the West Acres Mall or the Sons of Norway.…

Thursday, September 21, 6:30-8:30pmLutheran Social Services, 3911 20th Ave S, FargoDocumentary: the insurmountable challenges facing refugees; an intimate glimpse into daily life at Dadaab camp in Kenya, the largest refugee camp in…

The Little Newspaper That Could turned 24 last week. Although it was without much fanfare, it’s an accomplishment that is without compare in Fargo over the past many decades. We are proud to say the least.HPR is the people’s…

The four horses of the Apocalypse are running wild on the American plainsIn the last book of the New Testament, the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse ride around the world on their red, white, black, and pale horses representing…

The moment of truth has arrived. After seven weeks of sampling and judging some of the finest libations in the area the results for this year’s Cocktail Showdown have arrived. Christopher Larson, Raul Gomez and Sabrina Hornung…

Brand new and satisfying in so many waysI ventured into Tru Blu on Sunday at noon. As soon as I entered I was immediately astonished by the interior. It’s gorgeous! The brown tufted booths and dark wood give the impression that…

Minneapolis-based rock and rollers are turning up the heat, that is to say Lutheran Heat. The band consists of Garth Blomberg on guitar and vocals; Sara Pette, guitar and vocals; Matt Engelstad, bass and vocals; and Justin Nelles…

Cinema

​Controversial epic now on Blu-ray

by Christopher P. Jacobs

With 2017 so far one of the lowest summers for movie attendance this century, the year 1946 was perhaps the all-time peak year of movie attendance, with close to 60% of Americans providing 90 million individual ticket sales,…

Enantiodromia: noun; a principle that states any force will inevitably produce its opposite. After stumbling upon this term in a book about psychoanalyst Carl Jung, artist Ben Rheault discovered the theme for his upcoming exhibit…

‘Heathers’ hits the Empire stage in Grand ForksBefore the pink-clad Plastics or Cher’s group of popular beauties in “Clueless,” the shoulder pad-wearing, croquet mallet-wielding Heathers ruled the halls of Westerberg High…

Humor

​Talking to strangers

by Sabrina Hornung

“I don’t have a tour, like, on the back of a sweatshirt,” comedian Paula Poundstone says. “I go out every weekend. This weekend I went out Friday, Saturday and Monday. Mostly it’s Friday/Saturday or Thursday through…

Birthdays are always cause for celebration but when your business is beer and it comes time to celebrate another year of bringing delicious, locally crafted brews to your market you better throw a helluva PARTY! Drekkerfest 3 is…

Essential oils. They are all the buzz lately. It seems everyone has heard of them or is purchasing them. Some people know how to use them; others are just interested in the wonder of their complex scents.Essential oils are as…

Live and Learn

​The other shoe

by HPR Contributor

By Elizabeth Nawrotnawrot@mnstate.eduI look up from my hotel lobby breakfast astonished to see a framed print of Wassily Kandinsky's "Mit und Gegen,” a masterpiece of color and composition that just happens to be my favorite…

William Prentice, the slickster CEO of Meridian Energy, which wants to build an oil refinery 2 ½ miles from Theodore Roosevelt National Park, blew a bunch of smoke up the ass of a young reporter for The Dickinson Press the other…