Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close touches the viewer to the very core. In the way that Titanic and The Sweet Hereafter depicted tragedy by pulling back at the pivotal moment, only increasing the heartache portrayed, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close shows the massive losses experienced in New York on September 11, 2001, through the lens of one young boy. Thomas Horn plays Oskar, a boy devoted to his dad (played by Tom Hanks, in flashbacks), who is lost in the attacks on the World Trade Center. The devastation of that day shudders through Oskar’s family, including his mother, Linda (Sandra Bullock, in a subdued and affecting turn). Young Oskar is lost in the broken new world, but suddenly finds a purpose: a key left by his father. As Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close progresses, Oskar focuses on the key as a way to connect to his lost father–but finds, instead, connections in the unlikeliest of places. Horn is a wonder in his leading role, and commands attention even as his emotions are scattered. Hanks and Bullock are excellent, as always, though they are more incidental to the film than the viewer might have hoped. Standing out in the cast is Max von Sydow, a mysterious mute whom Oskar meets on the New York subway, and who becomes the most unlikely of guardian angels. Based on Jonathan Safran Foer’s best-selling novel, which was able to depict a bit more wry humor to leaven the heartbreak and history lessons, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close nonetheless faces human tragedy straight on, and shows how a broken family can be rebuilt, one small key, one subway ride, one awkward hug at a time. —A.T. Hurley
I have very little to say about Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close.
I went to the movie theater with the intention of going to another movie, only to find out that I was a little late for the showing. Whoops! I didn’t want to waste my trip to the movies so I chose another Oscar-nominee off the list.
That is how I ended up sitting in this movie without being fully prepared- no tissue box, no candy to distract myself with.
Like most tragedies, one thing that links all of us is that we remember exactly where we were when we heard the news. I was only in ninth grade when 9/11 happened, but I remember standing in my first period concert choir, numbly watching my conductor try to explain to us what was happening. After that, I have very little memory of what I actually did for the rest of the day.
I was lucky. I did not have family members or friends who were in the buildings that day.
Oskar was not so lucky, and he spends the rest of the movie trying to find a way to cope with his father’s death.
Some critics say that this movie uses these terrible events to play on our emotions, and that it crassly uses a tragedy to heighten those emotions. Perhaps that is true. I am not sure. I think that the movie is terribly sad, but it also shows the possibility of hope for the future. It shows how people can come together to help each other.
That promise of hope and growth was the only thing that saved this movie for me. The title is quite fitting because, just as it denotes extreme discomfort, I was very distressed and uncomfortable for the entire movie. I left the theater with red-brimmed, moist eyes, and the desire to go home and huddle in the dark. And maybe that was the movie’s intention?
All right Academy Award nominees, bring it on! It is my goal to see, review, and invent a treat for every single one of you by Oscar Night. I’ve already seen Moneyball, Hugo, and The Help. Now on to the rest!
Oh, and don’t forget to try out this treat. It will help wash away your tears…
New York-Style Soft Pretzels Recipe
Adapted from Martha Stewart
Not a lot of food showed up in this movie. At one point, Oska’s partner-in-crime stops at a vendor to buy something. This got me thinking about what you buy on street-corners in NYC and I cam up with these. Make them yourself. Trust me. These are so easy and they taste better than any other pretzel I’ve ever had.
- 2 ¼ teaspoons (¼ ounces; 1 envelope) active dry yeast
- ⅛ teaspoon fine grain sea salt
- 2 teaspoons (8 grams) granulated sugar
- 1 cup (8 fl. oz) warm water (100º to 110ºF)
- 1 cup (128 grams) Bread Flour
- 2 cups (256 grams) All-Purpose Flour
- 2 tablespoons salted butter, softened
- Vegetable oil, for bowl and baking sheets
- ¼ cup (72 grams) baking soda
- 1 ½ tablespoon granulated sugar
- 1 tablespoon pretzel salt / course grain sea salt
- Egg, beaten
- 1 teaspoon water
Mix yeast, sea salt, sugar, and warm water in a small bowl, whisking until sugar dissolves. Let stand until foamy, about 5 to 10 minutes.
Place flour into a large bowl. Using a pastry cutter or your fingertips, cut the butter into the flour until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs.
Slowly pour yeast mixture over flour mixture, stirring with a wooden spoon or your hands to combine. Using your hands, gather dough together. Turn dough onto a lightly floured surface, and knead until it is no longer sticky, about 5 minutes.
Lightly brush a large bowl with oil and turn the dough to coat. Cover with plastic, and let rise in a warm place, until the dough has doubled in size. About 1 hour.
Cut dough into 12 equal pieces, and roll each into an 18-inch rope. Form a U shape with 1 rope, and twist ends together twice. Fold twisted portions backward along center of U shape to form a circle, then gently press ends of rope onto dough to seal. Transfer to an oiled baking sheet, and repeat. Let rise for 20 minutes.
Preheat oven to 475ºF.
Bring a large pot of water to a boil, and add baking soda and 1 ½ tablespoons granulated sugar. Boil pretzels in batches until puffed and slightly shiny, 1 to 2 minutes per side. Transfer to wire racks to drain.Place pretzels on an oiled baking sheet. Mix the 1 teaspoon water and egg in a small bowl. Brush each pretzel with the egg wash. Sprinkle the with the pretzel salt or poppy seeds.
Bake until golden brown and cooked through, about 15 minutes. Pretzels will keep, uncovered at room temperature for up to 12 hours.
Serve with mustard or, if you really want to be decadent, try out my pretzel mixture. Pour 4 part beer and 4 part BBQ sauce into a saucepan. Add in 1 part honey and 2 parts mustard. Simmer for ~30 minutes. Dunk.