Monday, August 1, 2011

The President Who Got Shot

Director: Oliver Stone
Cast: Kevin Costner,  Gary Oldman, Sissy Spacek, Tommy Lee Jones, Joe Pesci
Released: December 20, 1991

Oscar nominations:
Best Picture (lost to The Silence of the Lambs)
Best Director - Oliver Stone (lost to Jonathan Demme for The Silence of the Lambs)
Best Supporting Actor - Tommy Lee Jones (lost to Jack Palance for City Slickers)
Best Adapted Screenplay - Oliver Stone and Zachary Sklar (lost to Ted Tally for The Silence of the Lambs)
Best Cinematography (won)
Best Sound (lost to Termination 2)
Best Film Editing (won)
Best Score - John Williams (lost to Alan Menken for Beauty and the Beast)

I've only seen a few Oliver Stone movies. They range from ones I really liked (Platoon) to the God-awful (Alexander - which, by the way, I had to see in the theater because other members of my family wanted to see it and my choice for seeing National Treasure was overruled). I would say his heyday for great movie-making was the late '80s/early '90s which JFK falls nicely into. 

I watched the special edition of the DVD which is about three hours and twenty minutes, so I treated it like a miniseries and watched it over a span of about three or four days. Whether or not you believe there's a huge conspiracy behind the assassination of the 35th President of the United States (which the entire movie is based around), you can't deny this is a fascinating film. 

First of all, the star power is pretty amazing. I already listed the actors with the most screen time, but the film also includes Jack Lemmon, Walter Matthau, John Candy, Kevin Bacon, John Larroquette, Ed Asner, Donald Sutherland, Laurie Metcalf, and Wayne Knight. 

The film begins with a little montage of Kennedy's life in office and soon begins after his death on November 22, 1963 in Dallas and goes all the way to 1969. It's based on a book written by New Orleans District Attorney Jim Garrison (played by Costner) who becomes obsessed with proving that there was a huge cover-up behind Kennedy's death. He becomes so obsessed that he ignores death threats and puts his family second to the case - he reminded me of Robert Graysmith in Zodiac and how he was obsessed with finding the identify of the killer. 

The movie does make a pretty good case of there being a conspiracy linked to JFK's death, but then again, it's what the movie/Stone wants you to think. Garrison and his team interview witnesses who saw Kennedy's assassination first hand and their recounts don't match up with what's documented by the government/police; the doctor who performed JFK's autopsy testifies that government officials kept a close eye on him as he looked at the body and wasn't allowed to examine the gunshot wound; one of Kennedy's bodyguards tells Garrison he just happened to be sent to an assignment in Antarctica when the assassination occurred and that security was very lax (even if Kennedy had never been killed, I cannot ever imagine the POTUS being allowed to ride in a frickin' convertible - that just seems really stupid); it's determined that there's no way Lee Harvey Oswald (played by Oldman) could have shot Kennedy from the angle of the window he was supposedly at and there must have been two other assassins involved as well.

The CIA, FBI, Mafia, Secret Service, and even Vice-President Lyndon Johnson are all considered to be part of the cover-up. They wanted Kennedy dead because of his involvement in the Bay of Pigs and he wanted to pull troops from the Vietnam War. They also weren't happy with the changes he had in store for America. I guess Kennedy was a little too ahead of his time back then as the sixties weren't the most noble times for the U.S.  Garrison also thinks they had something to do with the deaths of Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy. 

There's some gruesome footage of Kennedy's murder shown at a trial. For some reason, Stone feels the need to show a clip of part of Kennedy's head being blown off not once, but about six times. Yeah, didn't need to see that, Ollie. Luckily it's not a close-up, but you can still tell it's very graphic. He also shows a close-up photo of the deceased Kennedy presumably taken during his autopsy. It's very jarring because his eyes are open. Ever heard the term "dead eyes"? Yeah, it's ever creepier when the person in question is actually, you know, dead.

I was flipping through an almanac from 2000 and it has the Kennedy assassination listed as number 6 of the top 100 news stories of the century. Honestly, I think that's kinda low - I would rank it as at least one of the top three! 

If you're fascinated by history, have three plus hours to kill, and even have an inkling that there was some shady business involved with Kennedy's murder, then give JFK a whirl. 

1 comment:

  1. Lots of details, in this huge puzzle of the coup d 'etat that the Kennedy assassination represented. One of the best books is "JFK and the Unspeakable," by Douglass. Want to compare notes (and not be nutty trolls or robot-like supporters of the indefensible WCR)?