Nixon: 3 and a Half hours of Great also I talk about W.

I’m not a very political person. I’ll talk politics if I can’t talk about movies, music, books, comics, stand up comedy, graffiti, zoos Beck, The Mighty Boosh, Grant Morrison, different movies, babies, dragons, T.v. shows I’ve watched, t.v. shows I’ve never watched, t.v. shows I pretend I’ve watched but actually never have but people never call me on, or Andy Kaufman.

When I do discuss politics I try to stick to current stuff and if its old school politics I’m forced to discuss I can only really sort of talk about McCarthy and like the HUAC stuff because a few good movies have been made either about that or include stuff about that. What I’m trying to say is I can’t really discuss the politics of Oliver Stone’s Nixon because I wasn’t even alive when it is set, hell my parents were barely even cognizant humans when the movie’s ending takes place, so I don’t have any first hand information, and all my other info comes from anti-Nixon and hyper stylized accounts of his presidency from people like Hunter S. Thompson and movies, and t.v. shows and shit that make Nixon out to be this ridiculously evil caricature non human beast, which cannot possibly be 100% truthful.

These things being considered Oliver Stone’s version and story of Nixon is exceptionally even-handed. Anthony Hopkins plays Nixon in a sort of way that he doesn’t really look like Nixon at first but then as the film goes on you forget what the real Nixon looked like and Tony Hops becomes the one and only. It’s like Jeffrey Wright’s Colin Powell in Oliver Stone’s W where They don’t even try to make him look like Powell, they just throw a black guy into the white house next to Bush and because Wright is such a great actor you forget that Colin Powell looks nothing like Jeffrey Wright.

I could draw a lot of comparisons between Nixon and W. So I will.

Both movies tell the life story of a very controversial republican president. Both have every reason to be over the top farces mocking these easily, and often, mocked men but instead Stone does the harder thing and makes a relatively honest, if not honest than you can agree these movies aren’t “cheap”. When I first heart that W was being made I thought it would suck, I thought it was going to be an hour and a half long episode of the Daily SHow, which would be cool but I mean Bush jokes have been done, and done, and repeated, and then done again, the same jokes over and over, then I saw W and it wasn’t like that at all.

In a similar turn Nixon could have been an over the top farce, instead it’s a three and a half hour epic, that is in terms of the writing and performances subtle and subdued, I’ll talk about the less than subdued film techniques in a minute. First I’d like to bring up one problem I have with Stone’s way of telling the stories of both Nixon and Bush.

Stone’s problem, in my opinion and the opinions of a few people I have spoken with, is that he narrows down all of their issues, problems, and obstacles to one clichĂ© idea. For Bush it was his daddy issues and in Nixon it’s the fact that “no one ever really loved him”. Now I’m sure Bush had, has, or will have issues with his father, every man does, it’s kind of the whole point of boys having dads, so they can rebel against and later try to be better than their fathers, it’s probably part of what keeps the “American Dream” going, but I highly doubt the only reason Bush worked on an oil rig, went to college, married the chick who played Miri, became governor, ran for president, became president, invaded Iraq, and didn’t just manage a baseball team was Big Poppa Bush, just saying people are more complex than that.

The basic conceit of the movie Nixon is even harder to swallow because you don’t know how much Stone made up or got from actually books or interviews. We could assume that Stone is trying to say that Nixon was incapable of being loved because of some mental block that wouldn’t let him accept love, if it weren’t for Oliver Stone’s Patented “One or Two Really Obvious and Ham-Fisted Lines or Images Per Film” system. In Nixon the O.T.R.O.H.F.L.I. comes toward the end as Nixon is giving the famous “I am not a crook” t.v. speech, one of Nixon’s closest dudes says something along the lines of “Imagine what this man could have accomplished if anyone had ever loved him.” Ugh, come on Oliver that wasn’t really necessary it was like the rat at the end of The Departed, it’s really obvious, desperate, and wholly unnecessary in an otherwise subtle film (or in the case of The Departed a little less subtle than the rat thing but still not really all that subtle film.)

Okay so a minor problem some might find with Nixon can be explained as the “Oliver Stone was still getting over Natural Born Killers” defense.

So as I said earlier Nixon’s performances right down the line are subtle, subdued, and breathtaking in their brilliance. The way Stone shot and edited the movie on the other hand was anything but subdued. He uses at least three different levels of grain for both color and black and white film. Then he cuts between them, really grainy color to clear black and white to grainier black and white to clear color to grainy color to really grainy black and white to grainy color all in the span of like 2 minutes. It’s a bit jarring if you don’t like that stuff. Personally I like that stuff, and when you like it you are able to see that it gets more twitch and quick as the character of Nixon gets more twitchy and paranoid. Just putting it out there for those of you planning on seeing it, it’s three and a half hours of switching film stocks. However, it’s no where near as bad as Natural Born Killers, there are no ridiculous moronic, and pretentious animated interludes, and the changes more often than not actually make sense within the film.

The best part of both Nixon and W are the performances. both films are incredible ensembles and both have incredible lead performances that form the foundation. Incredible.

Anthony Hopkins is great as Richard Milhous Nixon, you’d think spending over three hours with this guy in pretty much every scene you’d get sick of him, well forget that, you don’t. Same with Josh Brolin as George W. Bush although if that movie were an hour or two longer his performance probably would have slipped into parody and wouldn’t have held up as well as Hopkins’. the supporting cast in both films really shine especially Joan all (who won a bunch of awards for it) and James Woods in Nixon and Thandie Newton and Jeffery Wright in W.

Joan Allen is great as Nixon’s wife Pat. She spends most of the flick in the background, supporting her sweaty husband, then she’ll come in and kick the shit out of us and Nixon with her words. Thandie Newton plays Condoleeza Rice, her performance is astounding, have you seen Thandie Newton, she is gorgeous and british, have you seen Condoleeza , with all due respect to her he is neither. While watching Nixon Paul Sorvino’s performance as Henry Kissinger reminded me a lot of Newton’s performance in W because both take people who look almost nothing like the person they are portraying, and through make-up and sheer physical acting pretty much become these people, it’s kind of what movies are all about, that and Chow Yun Fat sliding down those stairs in Hard Boiled. Sorvino’s and Newton’s performances look especially great when held against the only problem I have with W, Richard Dreyfuss’ Mad TV level impersonation of Dick Cheney.

James Woods is one of those actors, like Willem Dafoe, Mickey Rourke, Giovanni Ribisi, Peter Sarsgaard, and Willem Dafoe that if they are in a movie I’ll probably watch it and if I didn’t know they were in a movie and they surprise me while watching I’m more inclined to like it. I call it the Willem Dafoe Bias.

It's been a while since I mentioned Dafoe

Any way both James Woods and Jeffrey Wright appear throughout their respective films giving advice to their respective president, then in the last part of their respective movies they get a scene all their own that is so good, well acted, written, and filmed that I had to tell my self to breathe again. These scenes alone are worth seeing these flicks, luckily the rest of the movies are great.

So if you have three and a half hours to spare see Nixon. If you don’t make time because I don’t think you’ll be disappointed. W is a normal length so you have no god damned reason to not see it.

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