Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Guest Review: JFK (1991)

by ScottDS

[sigh] I won’t lie – I love this movie. As an accurate record of the facts, it doesn’t pass muster. But as an engrossing conspiracy thriller-slash-whodunit, it is superb. Brilliantly crafted, beautifully-shot, well-acted, miraculously-edited… Oliver Stone’s 205-minute magnum opus never lags, never bores, and continues to polarize – 51 years after the tragedy that precipitated the whole thing.

November 22, 1963: President John F. Kennedy is assassinated in Dallas, Texas. New Orleans district attorney Jim Garrison (Kevin Costner) and his team investigate some local connections but shortly thereafter close the investigation when assassin Lee Harvey Oswald (Gary Oldman) is killed by nightclub owner Jack Ruby. Three years later, after an encounter with Senator (and Warren Report skeptic) Russell Long, Garrison re-opens the investigation. They interrogate disgraced pilot David Ferrie (Joe Pesci), male prostitute Willie O’Keefe (Kevin Bacon), and many others, including local witnesses who claim there was a second shooter on the grassy knoll. O’Keefe claims he was at a party with Ferrie and some anti-Castro Cuban exiles where a conversation about killing Kennedy took place. Also at the party was a man O’Keefe was involved with named Clay Bertrand, who turns out to be New Orleans businessman Clay Shaw (Tommy Lee Jones).
The trial of Clay Shaw finally takes place in 1969. Garrison, who at this point has managed to alienate many of those closest to him, attempts to debunk the “single bullet theory” and proposes that Kennedy was killed by elements within our government, including members of the FBI, the CIA, and the military-industrial complex. Why? Because Kennedy wanted to withdraw from Vietnam, which would’ve meant reduced profits for the military’s hardware manufacturers. Kennedy also wanted to transfer covert operations to the Defense Department, which would’ve diminished the CIA’s power. Shaw is found not guilty, though the jurors admit they believe there was a conspiracy – they just couldn’t find a way to link Shaw to that conspiracy. (These two paragraphs don’t do the sprawling narrative justice at all – I need to stay within my 3-page limit!)

If you’ve seen the film, I doubt anything I say will change your mind. We can debate history in the comments. (Most of this is above my pay grade!) If you haven't seen the film, it’s definitely worth watching once, though it might require two or more viewings to take it all in. The film is a kaleidoscope of new footage shot in 35mm, vintage news footage, amateur newsreel footage, new footage made to look like vintage footage, re-enactments, cutaways and inserts that last mere seconds, a dozen different film stocks – hell, the true heroes of this movie are Pietro Scalia and Joe Hutshing, the editors who won a well-deserved Oscar for their work! The film is well-shot by Robert Richardson who also won an Oscar for his work. I couldn’t even imagine some of the setups: the filmmakers re-created the assassination in the real Dealey Plaza, which had to be restored to its 1963 look. They were even able to spend a limited amount of time in the actual Book Depository. Today, this would all no doubt be shot in some European country with nice tax incentives… but Oliver Stone goes for broke.
Yes, Oliver Stone. Look, I’m no expert. I’ve only seen three of his films, including this one. The man has a reputation which pretty much started with this film (and it has affected critical views of his work, unfairly or not, ever since). He has his opinions and I guess the phrase I’m looking for is “true believer,” though I have to give him credit for being somewhat consistent: he’s one of those left-wingers who hates the “mainstream media” as much as right-wingers do, but for different reasons. (The corporate influence, no doubt.) His filmmaking career has been on the wane for a while, but JFK was made in his prime. Stone has total control, manipulating pieces like a master chess player. The film is infinitely detailed and never boring but, while it’s complicated, it’s not too deep – you don’t need a poli-sci degree to understand it. There's also a lot of world building – little details in the margins that add verisimilitude: non-sequiturs like the maître d with the weird mustache who sits Garrison and his team at a restaurant, and a lot of the homespun bon mots uttered by the characters (“I mean, how do you know who your daddy is? ’Cause your mama told you so.”)

At this point in his career, Kevin Costner had perfected the stoic Gary Cooper everyman thing and it serves him well here, though the real Jim Garrison wasn’t quite the Boy Scout we see in this movie. Coster’s Garrison comes across as the ultimate patriot/father figure, ubiquitous pipe and all. Sissy Spacek plays his wife Liz. I can’t complain, but reviewers seem to be split: they either enjoy her, saying she helps humanize the movie… or they say she’s drags the film down, a case of a talented actress saddled with the clichéd “housewife” role. Garrison’s team includes Jay O. Sanders as Lou Ivon, Michael Rooker as Bill Broussard, Laurie Metcalf as Susie Cox, Gary Grubbs as Al Oser, and Wayne Knight as Numa Bertel. (Knight would later parody this movie in a famous Seinfeld episode.) Sanders and the always-entertaining Rooker get most of the meat: the former resigns on account of Garrison’s obstinance; the latter apparently sells out to the Feds. The real Jim Garrison appears as Chief Justice Earl Warren.
Gary Oldman does his usual excellent job disappearing into the role of Oswald. Kevin Bacon plays Willie O’Keefe (a composite character). Bacon is clearly enjoying himself and he gets one of my favorite lines (NSFW!!!). Joe Pesci cranks it up to 11 as David Ferrie. Ferrie suffered from alopecia areata, so Pesci shuffles around with an obvious wig and ridiculous eyebrows. Tommy Lee Jones was nominated for an Oscar for playing Clay Shaw. While Stone clearly portrays him as a villain, he’s just too… nice! He lies through his teeth to Garrison, but he comes across not as a criminal mastermind, but as a perfectly charming citizen. Liz even reminds Garrison that they once met Shaw at a local fundraiser. Jack Lemon shows up as Jack Martin, a paranoid drunk who helps implicate Ferrie and Shaw. He works for New Orleans PI Guy Bannister, played by Ed Asner. I have to say that the villains aren't as effective as they should be. Jones is too congenial, Pesci and Bacon are too over the top, and Asner is just a grump. You want a scary Oliver Stone villain? Watch Sam Waterston as CIA director Richard Helms in Nixon.

Walter Matthau plays Senator Russell Long, all bow-tied and dignified. We’re inclined to believe him when he talks about Oswald’s skills with a rifle, even though we really have no reason to. “Average man would be lucky to get two shots off…” Is this true? I have no idea, but Garrison just accepts it. (It’s far from the only blind assumption in this film!) John Candy plays lawyer Dean Andrews, who was allegedly called by Clay Shaw to represent Oswald. He’s only in a couple scenes, claiming that everything he told the Feds was a figment of his imagination. (Man, I miss John Candy.) Brian Doyle-Murray plays Jack Ruby and Beata Poźniak plays Marina Oswald. For research, Poźniak actually lived with the real Marina Oswald for a while.
And then there’s Donald Sutherland. He plays “X,” based on Air Force Colonel L. Fletcher Prouty. Garrison travels to Washington D.C. to meet with this mysterious figure, who reveals that he was sent to Antarctica by his superior officer shortly before the assassination. X later realized this was because one of his jobs back home would’ve been to arrange for additional security during Kennedy’s visit to Dallas. While on a layover in New Zealand, X reads about Oswald in the paper, hours before he’s charged with a crime. This leads him to believe that a cover-up is taking place. Garrison is skeptical but X reminds him that war is a historical constant. “Kings are killed, Mr. Garrison. Politics is power, nothing more.”

This sequence is a tour-de-force of editing, camerawork, and sound design… even if a lot of it is bullshit. It almost works as a short film in and of itself and it also features one of my favorite John Williams cues: “The Conspirators,” which makes great use of woodblock and metronome ticking. Williams was actually busy working on Steven Spielberg’s Hook so for this film he didn’t compose a score in the traditional sense. Instead, he saw some footage and went ahead and composed several different themes, which Stone and his team used when necessary, sometimes even editing the film to fit the music. To see (hear?) the power of music and sound design, watch the deleted scenes on the DVD/Blu-Ray, most of which are presented in rough form. No ambient music, no added sound design – just dialogue, and it’s all pretty lifeless.
Clay Shaw’s trial takes up the latter fifth of the film. Costner gives what might be his best performance as he implores the jury to do the right thing. It’s quite riveting, though there are a couple of false notes. Stone and Co. go overboard with the literary allusions, with Garrison referencing “an English poet,” Kafka, Tennyson, “an American naturalist,” and Shakespeare on more than one occasion. The deification of Kennedy is also evident – Garrison, continuing his Shakespeare analogy, refers to the slain president as a “father leader” and begs the jury to not forget their “dying king.” It’s… a bit much. Actually, it’s a lot much! But it happens in the right place. This stuff wouldn’t work in the first act – sometimes you need to “earn” dialogue like this.

Now take Kennedy and Oliver Stone out of it for a second. I must admit, to my amateur Independent ears, some of this material sounds downright Tea Party-friendly: the idea of a government that is reckless, that hides tax-funded information from the American people, government officials that treat regular citizens like children, incompetent bureaucrats, and overbearing security measures? Why does this all sound so familiar? (I’ve said this to Andrew before: the line between liberal film and conservative film is often just one or two degrees). On the other hand, it's worth asking: at what point does a movie become propaganda? How many facts are the filmmakers allowed to fudge before the point is lost?

So who killed Kennedy? If you believe the Warren Report, it was Lee Harvey Oswald. If you believe Oliver Stone, it was a group of militant right-wing homosexuals, in collaboration with the FBI, the CIA, Cuban exiles, the Mafia, and… oh hell, maybe I was there, too! (20 years before I was born – why not?!) For many people, it’s easier to believe in a conspiracy. It’s almost reassuring. After all, the idea of one lone nut changing the course of history is much more disconcerting. Oliver Stone’s JFK is part of our pop culture and if you bring up the subject of the assassination, many people – for better or worse – immediately think of this movie. In any case, its message is clear: never stop questioning authority.

“Back, and to the left. Back, and to the left. Back, and to the left.”


Rustbelt said...

Okay, I'm going to try and contain my boiling-mad rage for the lies presented in this film and just try and state some interesting facts:

-It's the only film to feature Walter Matthau and Jack Lemmon and not have them together in a single scene.
-Jim Leavelle- the detective handcuffed to Oswald when he was shot- was an adviser to the film. He told Vincent Bugliosi (best known for successfully prosecuting Charles Manson) that, "[Stone] got two things right: the name of the victim and the city where it happened. Everything else was bull****."
-Little known fact: all ammunition had been smokeless since World War I. (For obvious reasons.) When the film was shot, Stone's team couldn't find a rifle that made enough smoke (well, any smoke) to be seen over the fence on the knoll. The special effects team had to use a smoke machine. That would mean the actual bad guys of Stone's theory either used a 19th century (or earlier) musket, or maybe a relic of the Boer War. Some professional assassins. (sarc)
-That truly is a great speech given at the end by Costner. Too bad the real Jim Garrison never gave it. In fact, he didn't even try the case and wasn't in the courtroom for the verdict. He did, however, erupt like a volcano when he learned of the acquittal.
-Scott, the latest research on the Zapruder film shows Oswald had 8.6 seconds to fire his shots; not less than three. That's plenty of time. (Stone DID admit he took a few artistic liberties.)
-"Willie O'Keefe" never existed. He's based partially on insurance agent Perry Raymond Russo- the real Garrison's star witness. (The gay thing was added on since the straight Russo would've had no access to Shaw's private life.) Russo, interestingly, was given sodium pentathol and hypnotized on Garrison's orders to prep him for trial. And guess what? He has a cameo in the opening bar scene in the movie! (He added that he first shouted at Costner's character to "shut up," and was politely asked not to do that again.)
-David Ferrie died from a berry aneurysm. However, it seems after "Goodfellas," Joe Pesci just isn't allowed to play a character who dies of natural causes.

Rustbelt said...

"not less than three."

Sorry, typing error. I mean to write, "not less than six."

Dave Olson said...

Well so far this is the first comment, but by the time I finally hit "Submit", I'll probably be about 10th. I'll try to limit myself since I have to wake up in about 6.5 hours to get ready for work. (OK, I admit, in 6.5 hours I'll hit the snooze button. You all know what I mean.)

Vincent Bugliosi has said of JFK that Oliver Stone got three things right: The name of the victim, the date, and the place of his murder. Michael Medved was somewhat less charitable, stating that the whole movie was a lie, including the words "and" and "the". Back in the day, I thought it was a startling exposé of what The Man had done and was probably still doing to us. Although even then I would have admitted that Stone had gone a little too "kitchen sink" in his theories, and had left the question of who really did it unsatisfyingly unanswered.

Of late, I've come around to the views shared by Messrs. Bugliosi and Medved. It's not to say that I trust the Government more (GOD no!), it's just that I trust filmmakers less. I've also done my own research into the subject. I've read Garrison's book, "On The Trail of the Assassins", and I've also read Gerald Posner's book "Case Closed", which takes a diametrically opposed view from Stone of the assassination. I haven't read the Warren Report, and I've only skimmed Bugliosi's 1,400+ page doorstopper entitled "Reclaiming History" enough to realize that he and Posner agree with the Warren Report: Oswald was the only shooter in Dealy Plaza that day, and he was acting alone.

In a nutshell, Stone and the rest of the conspiracists have based their entire theories on the notion that Kennedy and Connally were hit from two different shooters but that the Warren Commission Report insists there was only one. Apparent "discrepancies" in the positions of entrance and exit wounds, and that it seems highly improbable that one shot could create seven wounds, have led conspiracists to disparage the Warren Report conclusions by claiming that it must have been a "magic bullet". You've seen the diagram; it was on prominent display during the courtroom scenes. It shows the path of the bullet swooping and curving all over the place in a way that real bullets don't. And since real bullets don't do that, they argue, there must have been more than one shooter and therefore it was a conspiracy. But the diagram is grossly, deliberately inaccurate. Connally was sitting below and inboard of Kennedy. His torso was also facing about 30 degrees to the right of Kennedy's torso. When you place them in their correct seating positions and orient them to face the way they were actually sitting when Oswald's second shot hit them, the wounds align perfectly, and they draw a line straight back to the sixth floor of an unremarkable piece of architecture known to the world as the Texas School Book Depository. Once you de-mystify the "magic bullet", the associated conspiracies melt away like snowballs in a cyclotron.

But just like they don't make movies about planes that don't crash, a movie where a lone nut loser murders the most powerful man in the world isn't as compelling as one in which the deed is done by dozens of federal agencies, "The Military", big business, the mob, the Soviets, the Cubans, the John Birch Society, the Dallas Police, and members of the New Orleans homosexual underworld. Oh, to be a fly on the wall at the meeting where they all agreed to work together.

Dave Olson said...

I forgot to post this, a place to find 100 Errors of Fact and Judgement in Oliver Stone's JFK.

Rustbelt said...

Bullseye, Dave!

And to back you up, here's a Discovery Channel documentary that examines the "magic bullet"- and isn't favorable to conspiracy theorists. LINK

And because you mentioned Medved, here's another critic's take on the film:
"The main role in the movie JFK is not JFK. It's not LBJ. It's not Governor Connally or Jackie or Chief Justice Warren or Lee Harvey Oswald or Jack Ruby. The main role in the movie is this flake from Nawluns.
"Of course, if you asked Oliver, the only reason we think Jimbo Garrison is a flake is that he's been persecuted by the media conspiracy, the Cuban conspiracy, the FBI conspiracy, the CIA conspiracy, the conspiracy of the doctors at Parkland Hospital, the conspiracy of all the employees at the Texas School Book Depository, and now the conspiracy of all guilty Texans to whitewash what their state did to the President.
"We have a few theories about JFK ourselves. It stands for 'Just Full of Krap.'"
-film critic Joe Bob Briggs

By the way...we haven't mentioned all the stuff that's been said about the REAL Jim Garrison. Let's see...
-He was accused by two boys of sexual molestation in 1969, but the family refused to file charges out of fear that Garrison would retaliate. (Journalist David Chandler later told author Patricia Lambert that this "was only the tip of the iceberg." He said Garrison was a pedophile with a taste for young girls in particular.)
-He allegedly told several witnesses in the Shaw trial to lie under oath. If they refused, he charged them with perjury.
-One of Ferrie's associates was asked by one of Garrison's ADA's to lie and would get a good job in return. The man's lawyer recorded the bribe on tape (without the ADA's knowledge).
-Was discharged from the National Guard with a "severe and disabling psychoneurosis."
-Filed charges against judges who didn't give him authority he wanted. (He lost .) Also filed charges against cops (police brutality) and members of the state parole board (bribery), but dropped the cases within weeks because he had no evidence and got the headlines he wanted.
-According to former NODA assistant Milton Brener, "Garrison was on the take. No question about it." This refers to accusations that Garrison took bribes from New Orelans godfather Carlos Marcello for making cases against Cosa Nostra disappear. (He was charged, but acquitted, of bribery charges in 1971.)

Ladies and gentlemen, THIS is Ollie Stone's hero.

shawn said...

Saw this with my dad when it came out, he wasn't too impressed but then he was alive during that time.

I thought it was a thoroughly engrossing film. The characters and the plot sucked me in, and the time went by quickly for me.

The one thing I remember seeing that was briefly flashed up on the movie screen that should have received far more attention than it got if it was real, was a black and white photo of Kennedy laying on a stretcher at the hospital and you could clearly see that the exit wound was in the back of his head. Since it was is on screen for a second or two and nobody says "Holy smokes, that looks like an exit wound in the back of his head"- I took it that Stone was taking liberties with his film.

And I must admit, it distresses me that they put things that are provably false in a movie about a real person. You have an interesting story you want to tell, then make it about a fictional character.

Rustbelt said...

Dave, that's one of my favorite websites!

Not Very Observant said...

Wait a minute! President Kennedy has been shot? What happened?

Rustbelt said...

Oh, and Dave, I just remembered this after re-reading your description of the diagram...

I first saw this movie when I was 11. Though I was impressionable enough to buy pretty much everything Stone said, it was during the Zapruder film showing that I scratched my head. I thought, "Connally doesn't look like he's actually sitting in front of JFK" (like in the diagram they showed). Like you said, he's in a very different position- and perfect path for the bullet.

Maybe the seeds of my eventual rejection of conspiracy in this case were planted earlier than I realized.

Or maybe I'm still bitter and venting over being fed so many lies over the years by fakes selling conspiracy for money. Let's face it; to borrow from comments by former Dallas ADA Bill Alexander (who would've prosecuted Oswald and successfully convicted Ruby), this is a multi-million dollar industry. With every new book, revelation, what-have-you...there's more dollars to be made.

shawn said...

Not Very Observant said...
Wait a minute! President Kennedy has been shot? What happened?


payback from the Kopechne family.

Anonymous said...

Rustbelt -

I knew when I submitted this review that I was just asking for trouble! Perhaps I could've better emphasized the liberties Stone took with the material but then the review would've taken much longer to write (and would've been a much longer read).

But when it comes to simply enjoying the movie, this reviewer is guilty as charged.


Having said that, I watched a few recent interviews with Stone and I admit I was hoping he'd recant some of the stuff in this film (since new theories and evidence have come to light in the last 20 years)... he didn't.

Anonymous said...

Dave -

To be a fly on the wall indeed! Watching the film a few times for this review, I'll admit things become a little harder to believe as the film progresses. And it's pretty convenient that Ferrie just happens to admit everything when he does.

And the film opens with Eisenhower's "military-industrial complex" speech - in retrospect, I'm wondering if Stone spoils things too early by doing that.

I've spent a lot of time at the "100 Errors" site - one could spend a lifetime reading about this stuff. Like I said above, I suppose I could've addressed specific things but the review would've turned from 3 pages to 300!

Anonymous said...

Oh, and Rustbelt -

I hope you don't think I'm condoning this stuff by approving of the movie. This particular conspiracy has always fascinated me, but I usually don't have the patience for such things.

I was watching an hour-long snoozefest on YouTube yesterday about how Stanley Kubrick faked the moon landing and admitted it in The Shining. (Don't ask.) Talk about bullshit!! "The facade of the Overlook is shaped like an A - this stands for Apollo." Yeah, that happened. :-)

Tennessee Jed said...

Scott, as you say, this film, as is the case with most of Stone's work, is very good film making, but Ollie must have had a few too many bong hits in his hootch while in Nam. I do commend him for his service, but his film is bull crap. Ollie is one of the more famous grads of the Hill School (my son's alma mater.) When it comes to JFK assassination theory, the very best link I can give you is from John McAdams. He is a debunker, but is also a very honest broker. Fletcher Prouty indeed. Anyway, good job. Here is the (non) link:

Anonymous said...

Thanks, Jed.

As I said, I'm no Stone expert at all. He's usually not on my radar. As for what motivates him, who could say? I do think his MO is a little more complicated than "America = bad."

The Wikipedia article on Nixon has an interesting quote. Stone's up against what he calls "the beast": government power, corporate power, the media, etc. There's no doubt some truth to this but some paranoia as well. The idea of unseen forces at work isn't a new one (and of course, for Stone, most of these are forces from the right).

Babbling, I know. :-)

tryanmax said...

I should probably watch this film sometime. Somehow, it didn't trip my eleven-year-old fancy upon it's release. Fact or fiction, conspiracy or not, I'm always up for a well-oiled machine of a film.

On conspiracy theories, I have none. (If the movie was before my time...) All I have to say is that, if there was a conspiracy to eliminate JFK, I'd put sharp eyes on his successor, LBJ. That man is possibly the lowest piece of slime to ever inhabit the White House, and one of the nastiest political players to ever set foot in D.C. I doubt there was much of anything beneath him, save possibly bedrock (dubious).

Anang said...

Andrew the kevin bacon line is gold. But I love Joe Pesci's southern accent in this film and my favorite line has to be "I got cancer of da neck. Had it fer yeeeahs!".
Oliver Stone has made some great films. It's just too bad he went off the deep end somewhere in his life and now even his films have declined in quality. Scarface, Platoon & JFK are so quotable even if they're despicable in their worldview & the "blame america" self righteous morality.
Btw, I bring this up any time Oliver Stone is mentioned. The Marine who was the basis of Sgt. Barnes in Platoon talked about Stone's time as a Marine in Vietnam. Stone was a malcontent and was transferred constantly b/c even back then he annoyed the crap out of everyone.

Anonymous said...

tryanmax -

"Well-oiled machine of a film" is a great way to put it! And Garrison does mention LBJ during the trial at the end, "who I consider guilty after the fact" (or words to that effect).

I have no opinion on LBJ but HBO did a movie about him called Path to War. Michael Gambon plays LBJ and it's actually a very good movie - 2+ hours of guys sitting around tables talking about Vietnam. It's quite engrossing.

Anonymous said...

AM -

This was my article, actually, not Andrew's. :-)

I don't have much of an issue with the accents in this film - Costner, however, is guilty of horrible accents elsewhere!

AndrewPrice said...

Scott, Thanks for the review! Well done.

My thoughts are these... kind of random.

1. I only saw this once because JFK doesn't interest me.

2. I despise the conspiracy theories behind this, but then I despise all the conspiracy theories. Conspiracy theories make the public stupid and open them up to easy manipulation.

3. I have always been able to overlook Stone's paranoid, leftist fantasies because he used to deliver very strong films that other people just weren't capable of making. But he lost that gift a long time ago and these days he's turning out toothless garbage.

Anonymous said...

Andrew -

You're welcome! And as I said above, I knew it would be, uh, somewhat controversial. :-)

I can't say JFK is a big interest, but I guess it's just the combination: that time, that place, the assassination, the conspiracies - it's all very fascinating, but I'm less fascinated in the Kennedy family itself.

I haven't seen Stone's most recent film Savages, but at the same time, most of his movies just don't interest me.

I could go either way on conspiracies: Area 51, Roswell, UFOs... that stuff continues to fascinate me to this day. The ones I can't stand are the moon landing and 9/11 conspiracies... ugh!

Anthony said...

Stone was a brilliant filmmaker in his day (Platoon and Born on the Fourth of July are amazing), but I've never shared the widespread obsession with JFK so I never got around to seeing this movie.

KRS said...

In college I read the book, "Best Evidence" by David Lifton and found it very persuasive that something was off about the assassination. On the other hand, we're a shooting family, so we knew some things about shooting - for example, when plinking at a moveable target, it often reacts to impact by moving in the shooter's direction. This sparked a pretty dynamic family debate (we LOVE debate - we call it "sport arguing").

Now, we had several military issue bolt action rifles from the the first and second world wars - Enfield and Springfields in .303 and a Mauser K98 - so Dad suggested that we go out to the range and see if each of could put "three inside the nine" in less than eight seconds. Each of us did it with time to spare, suggesting to us that Oswald needed more time because the target was moving.

Whenever people argue that eight seconds is not enough time to rack and fire three rounds, they forget that, while Oswald fired three rounds, he only had to rack twice inside that window.

Btw, I just looked this up - Oswald qualified as marksman once and sharpshooter twice while in the Marines.

But since you recommend the movie, Scott, I'll give it a try the next time I'm laid up with the flu, if it's on Netflix ;)

Anonymous said...

Anthony -

It's definitely worth watching. There's a reason this film is remembered when so many other pieces of agitprop have been forgotten about.

Anonymous said...


It shows up on Amazon Prime now and then, but like any movie, it should be easy to find if you look hard enough. ;-)

Sport arguing... ha!

Alex said...

Long time, no comment (though I read this site daily)!

Great review Scott. I have never seen this one, but the lawyer in me kind of wants to now! The historian in me, though, cringes at the inaccuracies of this film.

You don't explicitly make this point, but I can see in your review the tension between enjoying art on its own merits and being influenced by the politics and history behind the person or people making the art. You write about how you enjoy the movie as a movie despite the lies Stone is trying to pass off as truth. How often do you find yourself rewatching this?

I run into the same issue being a musician who is also a conservative/libertarian. Case in point: Rage Against the Machine. Their politics are laughable, their lyrics lame (it doesn't help that, in my opinion, Zach de la Rocha is not a good vocalist at all), the band members huge hypocritical tools...but man, those riffs!

Dave Olson said...

RATM campaigned for Obama in 2012. For 20-odd years they raged against some ill-defined machine. Now they whore for a very well-defined status quo.

Anonymous said...

Alex -

You should watch it - you might cringe but the three hours go by pretty fast. :-)

Believe it or not (and I know this will sound weird), JFK is one of my comfort-food movies. Oliver Stone might not appreciate that, but that's what I meant in my review when I called it complicated but not deep. I can keep it on as I do homework - three hours later, I've done three hours of work!

I can not do that with, say, Schindler's List or The Godfather. Those films demand 100% attention. Maybe I'm damning JFK with faint praise...?! :-)

Alex said...

Dave: And in 2008, and Kerry for I said: Tools. As a side note, the guitarist in a band I was in around 2008/2009 who worked part-time for one of the clubs in Cambridge had to pick up Tom Morello and drive him to the club for one of his solo gigs. Said he was a really nice guy.

Scott: I see. "Comfort-food movies" doesn't sound weird at all. You like what you like, and it's nice that politics can take a back seat sometimes, right? I don't think you're damning JFK with faint praise; there was a lot of real praise in your review.

Anonymous said...

Alex -

I'm not much of a political person at all and I've told Andrew many times - unless an actor is a card-carrying Nazi, the politics usually don't bother me. :-)

JFK is a controversial, three-hour, Oscar-winning film - when people think of comfort food movies, one like this usually doesn't come to mind!

Alex said...

Scott: "[U]nless an actor is a card-carrying Nazi, the politics usually don't bother me."

Well said! To use but one example, it's like Alec Baldwin: Talented guy, and it is possible to greatly enjoy his work for what it is without agreeing with his politics or condoning his off-screen antics.

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