Friday, October 17, 2008

Nixon (1995) [Director's Cut]

With Nixon, Oliver Stone further excavates what he fervently holds as the parallel life of his own, the tumultuous time of the 1960s in particular, rife with a tangled web of American political conspiracy, earlier most pointedly drawn in his JFK, while creating an equally sprawling and intimate film with a darkly intoxicating narrative as densely brooding and forlorn as the finest Grecian, Shakespearean and Marlovian tragedies enhanced by evocative homages to that amaranthine non-chronological biopic template, Citizen Kane. At that narrative's plaintive heart is one man, Richard M. Nixon (Anthony Hopkins), the thirty-seventh President of the United States. Nixon was a man of nearly limitless contradictions, and Stone courageously mounted a film worthily similar to its subject in its intentionally self-contradictory configuration, a work so rambunctiously vital, with countless techniques of nakedly, aggressively and floridly adorned embellishments, from cinematographer Robert Richardson's stirring confluence of the baroque and high-intensity, to the “psycho-history” of peering into not merely the corridors of power but the recesses of one man's tormented mind and soul, and the cyclonic aftermath of not merely his own orbit's conclusive reckoning but the very beastly nature of the office in which he served, to the behemothic ensemble cast so coruscating when members thereof are called upon to perform that serves in large measure as the broad canvas on which the completion of the central portrait is wrought.

Nixon commences like an expressionistic horror picture or possibly film noir. A thunderstorm has engulfed Washington, D.C., and appears to be centrally located above the White House. Stone's camera watches with intemperance, culminating in the first of many homages to the Orson Welles film debut masterpiece: the camera gradually pushes through the imposing black-barred White House gate. Cinema's greatest showmen understood film was in many ways the ultimate achievement in voyeurism. Working off of a screenplay written by Stone himself, and Stephen J. Rivele and Christopher Wilkinson, the film's skeletal structure seems to bring the onlooker to the end of the tale, as King Lear is just discovering the truth of his progeny. Nixon sits stolidly in the corner of the Lincoln Room of the presidential palace, the ice cubes of his drink clinking as he raptly listens to his precious tapes, deciphering just how his presidency became shipwrecked. With a large fire roaring and the air conditioner on, Nixon is a man unsure of what he wants, and what he needs, only nebulously aware that the fate he finds confronted with is just as momentously catholic in its simple morality—impropriety is to be dealt with punitively (informed by his strict Quaker mother played by Mary Steenburgen in Whitter, California-based black-and-white flashback scenes that likewise crib from Citizen Kane, serving partly as a device of empathetic relation to the overburdened and often bitterly parented young Richard)—as it is apparently inescapable.

Hopkins does not so much transform himself into Nixon, like Philip Seymour Hoffman in Capote, but summon the man through sheer force of will. Hopkins's occasionally apoplectic volatility is what one will likely catch at first, but more probing looks will illuminate a thoroughly coagulated creation, doubtless stemming from the man. Hopkins uncannily captures Nixon's usual stance, his arms folded against his own back, his torso leaning just slightly downward, bringing his countenance into unclear focus, almost resembling a contemplative falcon, and modulates his voice pattern and tone to an approximation that carries the performer from one scene to another. Disheveled and sweaty, with the famed five o'clock shadow making its appearance at around noontime, Nixon often looks like a man who should be told to slow down. A tenacious bull, he cannot, and he refuses to allow any obstacle deny him the love he desires so. Stone posits that Nixon's harsh upbringing, set in a poverty-stricken Quaker family, during which the boy lost two of his brothers to disease, and lacking in the love he tenderly wishes to have in his life, made him chronically embittered, believing himself to be unworthy of such love if his (repeatedly termed) “saint of a mother,” Hannah Nixon, was so unbending in her disciplinary imposition and his nodular, emotionally distant father was so mulishly disinterested in ever conveying his love for his son beyond the necessities of working to put food on the table. Stone is known for many things but subtlety has never been one of them. Here he arguably overdoes his point, drawing Nixon's lifelong trajectory (to his resignation from office) in the unattainably shrouded context of his childhood pushing him to achieving greatness, with flashbacks to Whittier that many may consider tangential, and a shot of a ghostlike Hannah Nixon sitting down on a chair of the Lincoln Room, that would seem irrationally screwy in most films nominally about the same tale. Yet Stone's picture becomes larger than life in a way that proves Nixon's puissantly contested points about “bold moves” making the difference in history when electing to bomb Cambodia. Stone's cinema is about bold moves, and oftentimes they become overripe and undignified, resulting with himself supplying commodious ammunition to his detractors. With Nixon, however, the package is so seamlessly tied together, its myriad compendious components work almost flawlessly to forge an afflatus that finds transcendence in Hopkins's performance.

The supporting cast is audaciously perfect, endowing Stone's massively ambitious endeavor with a vivid tableau of grippingly convincing performances. In the film's role of an intermittently exhausted conscience, Joan Allen is nothing less than wonderful as Nixon's loving wife, Pat, whose subtle strength and durability sustain her husband, especially in moments of despair. James Woods is carnivorous as H.R. Haldeman, giving mere glances toward White House subordinates that perennially reinforce the unremitting reality that he has the president's ear, and is available to the president whenever Nixon needs a forthright sounding board and adviser. J.T. Walsh plays John Ehrlichman as a dutiful soldier plagued by growing doubt, which Stone considers one of the picture's more askew portrayals, meant in part to give the more hawkish Haldeman some contrast. Powers Boothe has the small but dramatically important role of Alexander Haig, who must at times help bring his president back into the reality of his situation. Bob Hoskins as the aging J. Edgar Hoover is menacing in a borderline mythomaniacal way that, like several of the more outlandish turns, vies to find a deeper, more diamantine truth beneath the exterior amplifications. E. Howard Hunt is played by Ed Harris, who makes his role more furtive and corpuscular than anyone else's, a kind of self-rationalizing beacon of quiet, blackmailing philosophizing. Paul Sorvino is eerily similar in appearance and vocal qualities to Henry Kissinger, playing all sides of the White House game, fastidiously applying Nixon as a tool himself for the foreign policy accomplishments he so doggedly pursues. E.G. Marshall's turn as John Mitchell, the man Nixon could have easily cut bait on and allowed to drown for the sake of the administration, is all-knowing; under his bulldog-like face, rests a mind plagued by uneasiness and a prevalent cynicism, brought about partly by his tempestuous wife Martha's unmaintainable outbursts of disregard for “Tricky Dick Nixon,” which continually embarrass. (Martha is played by Madeline Kahn.) David Hyde Pierce is ambiguously epicene, his words of warning (“...there is a cancer on the White House...”) serving to only incriminate himself in the eyes of Nixon. Ron Ziegler is embodied by David Paymer. John Diehl is a dead ringer for G. Gordon Liddy.

Excised from the theatrical cut is Sam Waterston as a demonic incarnation of Richard Helms, Director of the CIA. The film itself is introduced with a Biblical verse, Matthew 16:26, “For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world, but loses his soul?” When Nixon takes the trip to Langley to meet Helms, Stone flashes with titles what is inscribed on the marble wall of the Central Intelligence Agency, from John 8:32: “And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” (Revealingly, the entire quote that begins with John 8:31 has been halved; in its entirety, the Scripture reads, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and ye shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free.”) Stone portrays Nixon's descent into the bowels of the CIA headquarters as a kind of journey into the pit of hell, where the festering devilish underworld master holds court and behaves with rogue capabilities. The sequence is bravura, flashing assassination attempts, successful and not, for which the Agency has been responsible (Castro, Diem, Trujillo) as well as covert operations in countries such as Honduras, while Stone heuristically underscores the operatic scene with some of John Williams' most arrestingly moody and ominous music. Nixon is portrayed as a man who actively fears flowers, for he fears death (a condition brought about by the untimely deaths of two of his brothers, pointed to with sympathetic verite and expressionism by Stone all at once), but Helms seems to keep a garden of flowers adjacent to his office so as to be reminded of “mortality,” as he calls it, of himself and everyone else, continually. Nixon, who sought to eliminate military bases in Europe (which he did), and reduce the defense budget significantly, is also interested in keeping the CIA on a leash, knowing what it is capable of, as he himself played an instrumental part in a covert operation called “Track Two,” the contingency op that was designed to go into effect if and when the Bay of Pigs mission failed in Cuba. In one of the film's most nightmarish and confrontational scenes, Nixon and Helms are two men wrestling over power, one determined to keep the other out of the loop as much as possible (so much so he has Nixon's man inside to keep tabs on the CIA Director fetch coffee and little else). Nixon wants the Agency to look into communist infiltration of the antiwar protesters in the streets, convinced that subvert forces are at work, equating the dilemma with Alger Hiss, whose scalp, he periodically reminds people, he extracted during the House of Un-American Activities era. Nixon also wants crucial files that have his name signed on them to be brought to his office, and all copies destroyed. Helms unctuously agrees to these minor concessions so as to retain his untrammeled clout, rhetorically twisting the president's arm to keep his self-sustaining autonomy, only needing the rest of the government to function so as to keep “the Beast,” as it will eventually be called, alive, making demands to the president in circuitous statements such as, when told by Nixon that the CIA will maintain “current levels of funding,” “current levels of funding may not be sufficient.” More than anyone else, Helms is portrayed as wretchedly venal wraith, bottomlessly malevolent, his eyes epiphanously revealed to be entirely black as he smells his flowers. Helms quotes Yeats' The Second Coming, taunting the president with the concept that the country they are charged with protecting is at a juncture not unlike the one Yeats so beautifully, movingly describes. Waterston's performance, the music, the overlapping dissolves of flowers blossoming connoting the exponential mushrooming of the organic phenomenon of which Helms speaks concerning “Track 2” (“...it was more of an organic phenomenon... it grew, it changed shape... it developed appetites...”), representing the timbre of the Agency, and of “the Beast” to be alluded to later—they could all be seen as parts of an excessively orchestral panoply of images, sounds, tempo, narrative and hyper-drama, but the velocious intensity and expressionism enhances the intellectualizing at the dark heart of Stone's snarling opus.

Between the disjunctive cuts, abstractly drawn, flirtatiously tawdry metaphors—Nixon vocally considers dropping a nuclear bomb on the North Vietnamese at a dinner with the higher echelon of his advisers and confidantes, including Kissinger, Mitchell, Ehrlichman and Haldeman, only to find his steak profusely bleeding all over his plate—there lies the heartache and despondency beneath Nixon and Nixon's encroaching, lumbering pugnacity. As in Marlowe's Edward II, the ruler finds himself locked away, devastated by the ignoble encirclement of which he finds himself at the center. Determined to never become a quitter, the boorish sentiment finds itself, in its own insular context, markedly compared to the stubbornness and resolve of a great leader. Stone recurrently casts Nixon in the proximity of a portrait of Abraham Lincoln, beginning with the thirty-seventh president's first scene in the Lincoln Room. Nixon confides to Haig at the seven-minute mark, noting “the violence... the burning [of] draft cards... the war...” as Stone keeps his lens transfixed on the portrait of the sixteenth president, drawing one of the film's many grandiloquently doughty reasoning. Furiously speaking of himself in the third person—“Nixon has never been good at this kind of thing,” he says, fumbling with a disagreeable small item he must manipulate—he likens himself to the beleaguered Lincoln, surrounded by enemies, plagued by subversive, traitorous “elites,” as he refers to them, believing them to resent and revile him because he did not attend the right school and have nearly “everything handed to him” from his father like John F. Kennedy. Personally wounded by Kennedy's biting criticisms of him, condensed into the particularly stinging rebuke that Nixon “lack[s] class,” the narrowly lost race of 1960 enrages Nixon, whose run for the gubernatorial position of California concluded in another loss that, according to the film, compelled Pat to threaten divorce, as her husband had only been known to their daughters from television for years. In a moment of crystalline clarity, Nixon must bend to his wife's ultimatum, declaring that he will never run for office again so long as she promises to say nothing more about divorce. After declaring to the members of the media for whom Nixon blames his defeats—“I just wish you would print what I say once in a while”—that they will not longer “...have Nixon to kick around anymore,” a Citizen Kane-like newsreel plays, feeding the audience greater background information, and likening the presently failed presidential and gubernatorial candidate to Lincoln as in his younger years, another “small-town lawyer.” (Another Citizen Kane homage comes later, with Nixon and his wife sitting at a long table, separated by many feet, the mutual temperament and attitude chilly and detached.) Nixon will later compare himself to Lincoln, uniting the country again in a time of tumult and upheaval, lawlessness and suffocating hatred, when confronted by a black Democrat “plant” at a television show. During one of Nixon's more probing self-examinations in the White House, he almost chastises himself for making it to the White House by riding the dead bodies of John and Robert Kennedy, but in his mind the number of corpses is “four.” Haldeman, the only man present with him, questions, “Four?” Nixon is including his own two brothers. Nixon walks to Lincoln's portrait and asks, “Where would we be without death? How many bodies for you... Abe? Hundreds of thousands...” Stone flashes back to older brother Harold Nixon (Tony Goldwyn) who compulsively vomits into a bowl as he slowly, painfully dies of tuberculosis. Stone's marriage of black-and-white dark blood spewing against the white bowl to a molecular breakdown of human tissue wizened into shriveled, wrinkly raisins, which Stone transforms into the famed footage of the missile sites in Cuba that commenced the Cuban Missile Crisis, for which Nixon blamed his gubernatorial defeat, as Kennedy's ratings had increased dramatically in the wake of the crisis, and the thirty-fifth president had skillfully aided Democrat Pat Brown. The spinning, kaleidoscopic melange of the personal and the political—latently wrought with imagery of Nixon being taken to the hospital in a daze, his tireless mind racing to sights of Castro waving to crowds, his brother spewing blood into the bowl, his slow, romantic courtship of Pat, an image of Eisenhower's portrait, being mercilessly tackled and battered as a college football player in Whittier—creates a convergence of the pneumatic and the particular.

Stone's empathetic treatment gifts his tragedy with a profundity that leaves the the viewer haunted. The cumulative impact is finally greater than any one part, partly because the filmic scheme of Stone's is to enchantingly, magnetically draw the heterogeneous particles into a pasteurized, homogeneous cream with Hopkins's Nixon standing athwart the bombarding onslaught of the vicissitudes of fate. Stone creates an emblematic treatise of a man torn between the theatricality of politics, both internally and outwardly manifested, in the awkward manner in which he debated Kennedy in 1960 on television, sweaty and unkempt (one of his men prays that the election will not be decided like "a beauty contest," a relevant point to the election of 2008 and others) the way he tells someone in 1963, “I miss the public, going into the crowd, the acting of it... I've got to get back in the arena!” or how he has to maintain the virile, scary strength Kissinger notes as important in convincing the Vietnamese, Chinese and Russians that he is a man with whom they must reckon. At the dinner during which Nixon orders his bloody steak taken back, he berates the notion that he can show any weakness to the antiwar movement by issuing a statement of condolences to the students killed at Kent State, while willingly engaging the communist Mao Tse-tung as he and his advisers consider the Vietnam War lost. Nixon had called the antiwar protesters from colleges, the people storming the streets and making themselves a persistent nuisance “bums,” disadvantageously so, twenty-four hours before the infamous campus shooting. In private, however, with only Mitchell on the presidential yacht, Nixon confides that the kids gunned down at Kent State were “just kids...” who were merely “throwing rocks, John. Just rocks.” Nixon contemplates the vagaries of diverse young people, picked on because they are “Jewish, or Irish... or ugly,” he says, with a self-reflexive vulnerability. Eventually he will go to the Lincoln Memorial at approximately four in the morning, whimsically meeting a group of antiwar protesters, “kids,” as he calls them. As the antiwar protesters challenge Nixon on the merits of the war, describing it as a civil war between Vietnamese, Nixon asserts that the man for whom the memorial stands confronted similar issues—war, civil strife, hatred between the races. Nixon speaks of his family background, the Quaker religion for whom had been mightily important, decisive in the family's decision to join the Republican Party because Lincoln freed the slaves. A nineteen-year-old girl penetrates the issue at hand with stunning sagacity, as Nixon relates, clumsily, confusingly, that he himself cannot stop the war in Vietnam despite wishing to, as she listens to Nixon say that he hopes to “control” and “tame” the system that perpetuates the war. “You sound like you're talking about a wild animal,” the girl notes. The moment allows Nixon to experience an epiphany. “Maybe I am,” he says. As Nixon is taken away from the crowd of protesters by his swarming security forces and Haldeman, the president tells his closest adviser while being packed into his car, “A nineteen-year-old college kid figured something out it's taken me thirty years to understand,” he remarks with aroused fascination. “She called it a Beast. A Beast...”

Behind the “Checkers speech” in which Nixon humanized himself in an effort to exonerate himself of any corruption and wrongdoing in the public eye in 1952 so Eisenhower would keep him on the ticket as vice-president, behind the Watergate scandal of a “third-rate burglary,” as Nixon and several associates refer to it in scoffing terminology, was a man. That man was a highly complicated, intelligent and enigmatically thralling individual. Too many banal dramatists would have given their Nixon fangs, but Stone's humanistic robustness and unbridled motional careening has a peculiarly, osmotically endearing effect, making this imposing, packed 210-minute political thriller, personal odyssey, shockingly efficacious, remarkably stitched collage of sights, sounds and meditative cogitation a tremendously exhilarating piece of cinema, a keenly formed piece of cultural commentary and the definitively paramount accomplishment of its unblenching creator.

21 comments:

Sam Juliano said...

Just scanned it. Wow, I'm speechless, you really wrote a thesis here, but it looks (again) exhaustive. Later this evening I will read it all and have a thorough response.

Alexander Coleman said...

Sounds like a plan, Sam.

Tony D'Ambra said...

Alexander, another deep analysis here, with your signature erudition.

But frankly I judge a man by his actions. A tormented soul and a hard up-bringing are no excuse for evil, and Nixon was an evil man. I am reminded of a great line from Jules Dassin's Rififi:

"There are kids… millions of kids who have grown up poor. Like you. How did it happen… What was the difference between you and them that you became a hood, a tough guy, and not them? Know what I think... they’re the tough guys, not you."

Nixon's and Kissinger's hands are rank with innocent blood. They were liars and demagogues indifferent to the suffering they caused. Even on such a prosaic issue as health care, Nixon was happy to sacrifice countless Americans to a rabid ideology of exclusion and corporate greed.

I lived through the Nixon era, and even over here I had to face the prospect of the draft sending me to the jungles of Vietnam, so yes I speak with a certain bias, and my anger unlike Stone's has not abated.

chopper said...

alex you have done it again my friend.
large fire roaring and the air conditioner on, Nixon is a man unsure of what he wants
he was a better president than we realize and i just wish we had someone like him around today. he was honest.and thats what brought him down. but i doubt people today would let themselves see that. shame

Tony D'Ambra said...

Honest... Nixon?

Alexander Coleman said...

Thank you for the warm and kind words, Tony.

I too often think about that very quote from Rififi, one of my favorite films, and that is truly one of my favorite movie "lines."

Nixon is an almost endlessly prickly figure with whom to contend. Having read his books, I have no doubt he had quite the intellect, and as Stone's film sometimes gently argues, he probably would have been better suited as a policy wonk than a "leader" himself--but he had the unquenched desire to be "in the arena," as he says, and according to Stone's perspective, sort of fell into his role over and over again. (One conspicuous-by-its-absence stretch of Nixon's life in this film would have to be more of his HUAC days, and strange relationship he and Eisenhower had with one another, and why Nixon was chosen and allowed to remain, though the latter of which is dramatized through a rendition of the "Checkers speech.")

As fecund as Nixon's intellect was, however, he turned out to be wrong about certain policy predictions, though not unlike most people, speculating that the Soviet Union would be with us into the twenty-first century. (His "The Real War" was written just before Ronald Reagan became president, and from Nixon's point of view, the 1980 election was decisive in dictating the fate of the Cold War.)

Another intriguing element to the tragedy is that Stone draws his protagonist as a man who knows the realities of politics so well ("It's not the lie, it's the cover-up," an oft-repeated phrase since Watergate) that the desultory and destructive fate that befell him was easily seen from so far away, and yet he let it happen.

Nixon-Kissinger was a hellacious combination, and as a duo, they were responsible for quite a great deal of blood. Stone seems to view them both with a certain melancholy, as a fallen Quaker and fallen Jew, both highly secular and dispassionate in their war strategy sessions, reducing the fates of millions to pointing a stick at a map.

Chopper, uh, thanks for stopping by and commenting. Always interesting to see that there is a great silent majority of would-be commenters reading my blog. (I couldn't resist.)

Time for bed...

Sam Juliano said...

From the very outset, your approach here certainly poses the proper literary context to paint a canvas of the man you rightly claim is "larger than life," at least the way he is essayed by Mr. Stone in his "expressionistic" film which evokes 'film noir' and 'horror' elements and textures. I recently saw both Marlowe's 'Edward II' and the Bard's 'King Lear' on stage and I certainly concur that Nixon parallels the erstwhile King in that he "finds himself locked away, devastated by the ignoble encirclement of which he finds himself at the center," and that Lear discovers, like Nixon, "the truth of his progeny."
Similarly, astute comparisons are made with Grecian literature and with Welles' CITIZEN KANE in a most persuasive fashion. Hence the earlier statement that NIXON unfolds in a "darkly intoxicating way" is in this correlation quite cogent.
Nixon is indeed in elemental terms a bundle of "contradiction" and a "tenacious bull" and his Quaker upbringing in impoverishment and the death of two brothers at a young age an influence on his psyche, which Alexander says much later in this marathon piece in cumulative terms: "His descent into the bowels of CIA headquarters as a kind of journey in the pit of hell, where the festering, devilish underworld holds court and behaves with rogue capabilities."
That is one of the most remarkable sentences in this revisitation.
I wholeheartedly concur that the film evokes a moody and ominous palette, and the score of John Williams is "moody, ominous" and most majestically "operatic."
I must completely agree that "Stone's cinema is about bold moves, and often times they become overipe and undignified, with himself supplying commodious ammunition to his distractors." I would add that there are some heavy-handed pseudo artistic touches that are terrible self-concious and banal, and that narrative liberties taken here do not always rings true.
But Alexander rightful concludes that disclaimer with "Stone's package is still seamless" and that there is a true "transcendence in Hopkin's performance." Similarly, as correctly noted, Joan Allan as Pat, James Woods as Haldermon, J.T. Walsh as Ehrlichman, Bob Hoslins as J. Edgar Hoover, Ed Harris as E. Howard Hunt, Paul Sorvino as Kissinger, E.J. Marshall as John Mitchell and the (excised-in-theatrical cut) Sam Waterson give full-bodied and vivid performances, alll of which can't easily be shaken.
I couldn't agree more, going back the initial posings that Anthony Hopkins (in what is admittedly one of his greatest performances) inhibits the character with a "force of will" as opposed to Phillip Seymour Hoffmann, who "transforms himself" to the Capote character.
Mr. Coleman finally asserts that NIXON is "meditative...cognitation....a tremendously exhiliarating piece of cinema, a keenly forced piece of cultural commentary.."

In this instance I can hardly offer up any kind of a convincing argument to the contrary.

Extraordinarily exhaustive piece and one that seems perfectly attuned to the weekend's theatrical release of Stone's W, which is nowhere near this cinematic success story.

Allan Fish said...

Well, Alexander, a superb piece, no question, covering every nuance of this still sadly underrated film, though I do wonder why your Roget's Thesaurus had the following words/synonyms removed - brevity, succinctness, pithiness, conciseness.

In the time it takes us to read and take in your thesis, I can just about write on of my meagre efforts. God, I don't half feel inadequate.

K. Bowen said...

The only Stone film that I completely admire.

Alexander Coleman said...

Sam, thank you for the thorough response. Nixon does have many of Stone's boldest moves within it, but compared to some of his earlier, more ostentatiously reckless work, this epic does seem in many ways toned down from the average Stone picture--until his more current run of movies that have become less and less clearly, emphatically works of Stone, three words that could have practically been hovering over all of the action throughout all of his movies--not to mention that since Nixon the man has appeared to be cinematically exhausted, lacking the zest and discipline of thought, if not discipline of form. Thank you again for the incisive analysis and kind words.

Haha, Allan... I must admit, I felt as though I could have continued to write much more on this film, but I decided that at a certain point, one should end it, and be at peace with it, to move on de novo.

Alexander Coleman said...

KB, I too look at Nixon with an unwavering, complete admiration and gratitude that I do not have for any other Stone picture, including the two of which I mostly "like" a good deal, in finding them well-crafted and compelling(Born on the Fourth of July and JFK).

As Sam estimates, the timing of this review cannot be mistaken, haha.

Tony D'Ambra said...

Is not historical accuracy an issue here? Stone's megalomania fabricates a phantom that is as much a denial of history as it is an exploration of Nixon's psyche. Is there not a greater responsibility to tell the truth? As Peter Travers said in his original review: "It's gripping psychodrama -- just don't confuse Nixon [the film] with history. The revelation that comes with unbiased research remains a Stone's throw away."

Sam Juliano said...

Tony, I must admit you do make a valid point there.

And I wholly share your political sentiments, as I am a lifelong "anti-Republican," left wing liberal.

Alexander Coleman said...

I don't disagree with those sentiments, Tony. And historical accuracy has been a persistent thorn in Stone's side.

Oliver Stone-basher Chris Matthews wrote an article that largely helped to torpedo one of the main theories of this film, at least for many people. That is just instance in which the historical reality and Stone's "psycho-history" do not match.

Matthew Lucas said...

I still have never seen this...I've wanted to see it since I was 9 years old. I don't know why...I was a strange kid. I still haven't gotten around to it but your review has definitely got me even more excited. I really need to go out and rent this.

Alexander Coleman said...

I was a strange kid, too, Matthew. I remember seeing ads for this--I must have been nine or ten as well. I'll always remember an ad with Nixon standing in the darkness, only his face illuminated, and a line--"The president can bomb whoever he wants"--said. I thought, "Wow, this looks terrific." I was right. :)

I highly recommend the director's cut. It's 3-1/2 hours but it always flies by whenever I watch it.

Christopher said...

Because of your review I started watching this at like 11 last night and was totally riveted. Could not go to sleep after seeing it. Wow.

Unbelievably great review. Your writing is erudite and and trenchantly enthralling. I can see why you and other people I've run across through the years think so highly of it.

I've only seen a few Stone movies, World Trade Center and Platoon but this is by far the best. I want to see W. soon.

Alexander Coleman said...

Thank you very much, Christopher. I champion this film to many a person as, I believe, one of the highlights of American cinema in the 1990s.

Dial your expectations down with regards to W., though.

mike said...

Best review of a Oliver Stone movie I've ever read. You make a great case for it being his masterpiece.

sluggo the clown said...

Nixon was a badass!!!

Harold said...

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