On the night of September 11, 2001, I got online and shared a few conversations with pals from around the world. I'm sure those discussions were a lot like the ones you had with your friends and family: The shock, the fury, the overwhelming helplessness, the heart-wrenching sympathy for the victims and their families. But since I'll often use humor as a defense mechanism (yes, even in the very bleakest moments), I remember asking a few of my film critic colleagues: "Hey, how long do you think it'll be before Hollywood decides to make a few biopics about what happened today?"

And now here we are, just over five years later, and 2006 has yielded not one but two rather distinctive takes on what went down during the blackest day in our nation's history. Universal's United 93 was the first one out of the gate, focusing on the final hours of some stunningly heroic "average Joes" who chose to fight back -- even as they knew it was probably the last thing they'd ever do. Fortunately, it was every bit the sobering and respectful film we all hoped it would be. A few months later came Paramount's World Trade Center, which told the tale from the perspective of two NYC Port Authority police officers who became trapped under tons of concrete rubble. Again, the filmmakers took a heartfelt and admirably sincere approach to the story, giving us a look at a massive tragedy through the eyes of two normal American families.

Aside from the events that inspired their creation, the two films couldn't possibly be more different -- and now that Oscar season has rolled around yet again, the experts are extra-busy handicapping which movie should win what and which movie doesn't deserve squat. So I thought it might be interesting to do a little "compare & contrast" on the films, focusing mainly on which sections might be considered most Oscar-worthy ...

categories Oscars, Cinematical