Cinepub


Last Year In Film: Frost/Nixon by Jamie

I am an all round geek. A jack of all geek trades and a master of none and one of the facets that makes up that geek whole is political geekery. I first started to become interested in politics around the time that George W. Bush came to power as the president of the United States and so my interest has always been with American politics, which is far, far more interesting than our rather underwhelming British system, and in particular the dark, shadier side of the political scene.

It should be no surprise then that Richard M. Nixon is a particularly fascinating figure to me. His name has become synonymous with political corruption, scandal and abuse of power. There are many who blame him for thousands, even millions, losing faith in the democratic establishment and the political process. The Watergate scandal shook the American system to it’s very core and even today it’s ramifications are felt, so much so that the suffix -gate is attached to almost every political scandal.

Three years after Nixon resigned from the presidency, Nixon agreed to be interviewed by British talk show host David Frost, for the sum of $60,000 and 20% of the profit. The film Frost/Nixon, directed by Ron Howard and starring Frank Langella and Michael Sheen, tells the story of those interviews. Now, I’ll admit it doesn’t sound like the most exciting subject matter for a film but bear with me.

This film is fucking awesome. I cannot impress upon you just how good it is. I remember seeing the trailer at the cinema, possibly before Oliver Stone’s W and I was instantly interested but the trailer did give me the impression that it was heavily, heavily overly dramatised and I’ll admit that having seen the film it most certainly is but to be fair what do you want? It’s a movie, it has to have heightened drama.

The performances are incredible. Michael Sheen is perfect as portraying the young David Frost, a cocky playboy type filled with confidence who you should probably find annoying but he remains insanely likeable. Sheen also has Frost’s voice down perfectly and, if it weren’t for the fact that I’ve grown up knowing Frost as the older gentleman he is today, I’d probably forget I was watching someone else portray him.

Frank Langella delivers a powerhouse performance as Richard Nixon. Ugh, I feel disgusted with myself having read that sentence. Let me try again. Frank Langella fucking rules as Richard Nixon. There much better. He manages to convey a strange mixture of devious intelligence, ignorance and genuine sadness to create a Nixon who is so more compelling than the one-dimensional prick who people are generally thinking of when they talk about the former president.

Rounding out the cast are Matthew Macfadyen as Frost’s producer John Brit, Oliver Platt as journalist Bob Zelnick, Sam Rockwell as journalist James Reston Jr, Rebecca Hall as Frost’s love interest Caroline Cushing and Kevin Bacon as Nixon’s Chief of Staff Jack Brennan. The cast is all pretty good but Rockwell and Bacon really stand out. Rockwell plays Reston as a man who clearly feels as though Nixon has twisted the very concept of Democracy and must be made to confess and Bacon is great playing a man who’s dedicated to Nixon until the end and seems to genuinely believe that the former president is a great, great man that the American people never appreciated as he deserved.

The film runs to about two hours but it never loses it’s pace, even during some of the long pauses during the interviews themselves. In fact these pauses are integral to the interviews, particularly during the last one and manage to rack up the tension as if you were watching a kind of Mexican stand-off and in a way you are. Several times throughout the characters refer to the interviews as battles and that’s the way they seem especially, once more, that final interview about the Watergate scandal. The only difference is that instead of guns they are using words.

Now, if there’s one complaint I have about the film it’s the occasional intrusion of the main storyline by short little, pseudo-documentary interviews. It features the actors portraying the characters discussing the events that have just happened in the film and at times it can really take you out of the film. It’s certainly an interesting idea and at times, it can work by giving a sense of the story going on around the main storyline without intruding on it with unnecessary sub-plots but at times it can come off as superfluous and some of these scenes feel almost like they were just used as padding to build up the running time.

Ooh, now I think of it, there is one complaint I’ve heard and that’s the historical accuracy of the film, in particular the Watergate interview. I can’t really speak to that, I’m afraid as although I have the interviews on DVD I haven’t watched them in a good few months and I have the recall of a goldfish who has repressed most of it’s memories. Probably should have watched them again before I watched this. Nevermind. I’ll probably watch them again later and if it turns out that the Watergate interview is radically different from the way it’s portrayed in the film then those intrusive interviews will probably take me out of the film even more than they did before.

All that having been said though, I really do recommend this film particularly if you have even a passing interest in politics. It really does manage to give you a sense of how people felt about Nixon at the time and just why distrust towards the system, particularly in America, is so rampant today. I can’t wait for the sequel Frost/Skeletor in which Frank Langella reprises his role as the The Evil Lord Of Destruction and answers tough questions on whether or not he let down the people of Eternia during his ill-fated invasion of Castle Greyskull. Until then I give Frost/Nixon four and a half pints out of five.

Laterz.



Last Year In Film: The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button. by Jamie

Today sees the beginning of a new recurring segment on Cinepub, Last Year In Film. The concept is fairly simple, watching and reviewing all the Oscar and Razzie nominated films of 2008. And I do mean all of them. It’s going to be a massive undertaking and I hope that I can manage to pull it off before the end of the year. With that in mind let’s begin with the backwards-aging, Gumpesque saga known as The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button.

Directed by David Fincher and starring Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett, Benjamin Button tells the strange tell of the titular character who is born with what appear to be the signs of old age. His father, horrified by the baby’s appearance and the fact that it caused him to lose his wife during childbirth, abandons the baby on the steps of a New Orleans old folks home.

It soon becomes clear that Benjamin isn’t just one of those children with that extreme aging illness. Rather it seems as though he is actually aging backwards. Throughout his backwards life he has encounters with many interesting character’s and experiences the odd important historical event. He also experiences loss from a slightly different perspective and seems to gain a unique outlook on death, told as he was how he would die when he was a very young child.

The first thing you notice about this film is just how much it’s like Forrest Gump because that’s pretty much what it is but instead of being a little slow, the protagonist ages backwards. The similarities are striking. There’s a love interest who’s a free spirit who just wants to enjoy youth and not be tied down by their stodgier male counterpart until the good times have to come to an end (In Jenny’s case a son and terminal illness, in Daisy’s a severe leg breakage that ends her dancing career.), There’s the kindly mother figure who will try and do anything for their son and there’s the gruff alcoholic who he goes to war with whilst also being a boat captain and who seems to truly treasure his friendship. Fuck, there’s even a scene where Benjamin declares how he managed to get paid doing something he’d gladly do for free.

Despite all that, however, I really, really enjoyed this film and I think most of it is down to Brad Pitt and the character of Benjamin himself. In Forrest Gump, the character seems to stay exactly the same, almost oblivious to the changing world around him. Benjamin, on the other hand, seems to change quite a bit over the course of the film and, probably due to his odd condition, seems to adapt better to the changing world around him than anyone else. As Benjamin gets younger, he retains the knowledge that he has accumulated over the years and so, when he finally ends up looking like he’s in his twenties, there’s a wisdom in him that his appearance belies. Just like Benjamin himself says when he replies to Daisy’s comment about how young he is: “Only on the outside,”

There is, however, one major problem with this film that I cannot let go of. If you knew a dude who aged backwards is that the kind of thing you’d keep to yourself until you were on your deathbed? Hell no! You’d tell everyone you goddamn knew or at least I would. It’s like surviving the Titanic and never telling anyone about it until some treasure hunters decided to look for some precious stone that nobody knew you owned. Seriously.

Anyway, the special effects are great, the story’s pretty good if somewhat recycled and the acting is pretty much awesome all round and you’ve always gotta love a film that lets you hear the Louisiana accent for prolonged periods of time. I had a little trouble following it at first, unaccustomed as my ears are to it and the fact that my laptop speakers are shit, over the course of the film I got to grips with it. So there you have it. I’m sure some people will find the film a bit slow, maybe even tedious but it kept me pretty much hooked all the way through and the ending where Benjamin is finally going through childhood is truly, truly bittersweet. I’ll give it four pints out of five.

Laterz.




%d bloggers like this: