Sergio Leone Web Board

Other/Miscellaneous => Off-Topic Discussion => Topic started by: Tucumcari Bound on September 18, 2008, 04:11:22 PM

Title: Nixon (1995)
Post by: Tucumcari Bound on September 18, 2008, 04:11:22 PM

A biographical story of former U.S. president Richard Milhous Nixon, from his days as a young boy to his eventual presidency which ended in shame.

Oliver Stone's controversial account into the life of ex-President Richard M. Nixon. Anthony Hopkins who stars, doesn't much resemble the real man but was able to get down his mannerisms brilliantly. He gives us a great and memorable performance.

What are your thoughts about the film? Do you think it's a fair look at the man or a bit biased? I'd like to know.

Title: Re: Nixon (1995)
Post by: Groggy on June 14, 2009, 06:45:50 PM
No reply to this topic? Pity. I watched this back in April and rented it from Family Video for a rewatch this week. Easily Stone's best film of the five I've seen to date.

Sick of being let down by Stanley Kubrick, I return to Oliver Stone - the good, old, coked-to-the-gills, conspiracy-paranoid Oliver Stone, not the lowsy, lazy Pod Oliver Stone that has taken his place in the last decade or so. Today's viewing was of the Director's Cut his 1995 epic Nixon, an epic which surpasses even his JFK as a brilliant piece of cinematic polemic and intelligent entertainment. The point is not historical accuracy, but of being entertaining, understanding the feel of a time period and important event, and making a point; and on all of these counts, Nixon is a masterpiece.

The film tells the story of Richard Nixon (Anthony Hopkins), the disgraced 37th President of the United States. The film briefly deals with his background as the son of Quaker parents (Mary Steenburgen and Tom Bower), his family tragedies, and his meteoric rise through Congress and to national prominence with the Alger Hiss case, his service as Vice President to Dwight Eisenhower, and his unsuccessful 1960 Presidential bid against John F. Kennedy. The film primarily focuses on the Watergate scandal and the inherent fall out: with Nixon seemingly on top of the world, having effectively ended the Vietnam War, negotiated peace with China and Russia, and been re-elected in a landslide, he is ultimately brought down by a "third-rate burglary", along with his own hubris, paranoia and conceit.

Nixon is clearly modelled heavily on Citizen Kane, with several overt references to the film (eg. Nixon and wife Pat (Joan Allen)'s frosty dinner across the table). While it may be sacrilege to say so, however, Stone arguably surpasses Orson Welles' film in its depiction of a doomed, extremely successful man whose insatiable lust for power, personal gratification, and "love on my own terms" ultimatley destroys him. At 212 minutes, the film is a bit long in the tooth, but it's never less than interesting and almost always engaging.

The film's portrayal of Nixon is wonderfully layered and fascinating, structured like a five act tragedy. The key scene where he is confronted by a group of anti-war protestors at the Lincoln Memorial showcases Nixon's shortcomings. He is not a born politician like JFK (or his idols Lincoln and Theodore Roosevelt); the "old Nixon charm" only seems visible on a personal level, and he has no ability as a man of the people, despite desperately craving their approval. The scene where he asks Henry Kissinger (Paul Sorvino) to pray with him before resigning is heartbreaking; he simply cannot see why he has been brought down, or his own culpability in that fact. Given Stone's obvious repulsion for Nixon's politics and actions, he succeeds wonderfully in a layered and sympathetic portrayal of man widely considered one of American history's greatest monsters. Stone easily could have portrayed Nixon as an evil man, but he simply refuses to do so. Nixon's fatal flaw is hubris, a need to be loved, and a growing paranoia that consumes him, driving away all of his family, friends and supporters at the time when he needs them most. As many of his colleagues note, he could have been a truly great man; ultimately, Nixon is the only thing standing in his way.

In hindsight, it's really obvious that Stone attempted to replicate this formula with his recent W, but for a variety of reasons that film was complete garbage, whether it be the ridiculously cartoonish caricatures, the lack of historical hindsight, the schizophrenic portrayal of its protagonist, or simply an exhausted directoral talent running on fumes and reputation. To use a cinematic analogy, comparing W to Nixon is like comparing Torn Curtain to Shadow of a Doubt (or Gerald Ford to Theodore Roosevelt).

As expected, Stone's film is technically flawless. His brilliant use of editing, of mixing various video types and cinematic techniques (be it regular film, video, or black-and-white), and heavy use of montage arguably betters any of his previous work; it's smooth, polished and is perfectly integrated into the material. Robert Richardson's cinematogaphy is absolutely brilliant throughout, using light, shadow and expressionistic angles to highlight the inner darkness of Nixon's character and his downfall. John Williams provides a moody, subtle score that underscores the tragedy and tension throughout the film. As in JFK, Stone uses every cinematic tool at his disposal to create a truly memorable experience. It may not get the details or the facts right, but it certainly seems and feels authentic.

Of course, Stone can't always keep his excesses in check. The scenes with Bob Hoskins as a mincing J. Edgar Hoover (wearing a bathrobe, eating fruit and flirting with a handsome servant) recall the equally homophobic orgy sequence in JFK (not to mention the much-later Alexander), and the scene where he denounces Martin Luther King to the consternation of a race horse is just laughable. Equally hamfisted and obnoxious are scenes where Leonid Brezhnev (Boris Sichkin) ponders Nixon's fate behind his back, Nixon's dream sequence where he's confronted by his disapproving Mother (a scene recycled almost verbatim in W), his praise for Nazi Germany's effectiveness in dealing with dissent, and cutting into a bloody steak while discussing the Kent State shootings. However, Stone has never been known for subtlety, and given the overall quality of the work, these heavy-handed touches are but minor flaws.

Anthony Hopkins is truly a marvel as Nixon. At first glance, he seems absolutely wrong for the part; he bears only a passing resemblance to his character, and his attempt at replicating the Nixon drawl mixes oddly with Hopkins' native Welsh to form a warped quasi-Irish brogue. However, Hopkins overcomes these shortcomings very quickly; he simply immerses himself I may still prefer Frank Langella's more recent turn in Frost/Nixon for what it was, but Hopkins hits the role completely out of the park, rivetting the audience to the screen for the whole of the film's 212-minute length, recreating all the facets of a haunted man who, deep down, just wanted to be something he never was - a loved, popular and happy person.

Stone again musters a wonderful ensemble cast. Stand-outs include Joan Allen as the devoted but increasingly frustrated Pat Nixon (probably the strongest female character in any Stone film), James Woods and J.T. Walsh as Nixon's most loyal aides, David Hyde Pierce as the naive White Counsel John Dean, Sam Waterston as the obnoxious CIA Director Helms, and Paul Sorvino as a frighteningly authentic Henry Kissinger. There's also nice work in smaller roles, with Tom Bower and Mary Steenburgen as Nixon's parents, Larry Hagman as one of Nixon's shady political benefactors, and a young Annabeth Gish has a heartbreaking big scene as Nixon's devoted daughter Julie. Some actors inevitably get left in the dust: Ed Harris has maybe three or four quick scenes as Howard Hunt, Powers Boothe is given a colorless role as Alexander Haig, and Bob Hoskins never rises above caricature. But as a whole, Stone handles this fine cast wonderfully.

Nixon is perhaps Oliver Stone's finest achievement, and at the risk of beating a dead horse, it's really sad to ponder how far he's fallen in recent years. Certainly after watching the God-awful sub-SNL caricature piece that is W and the aggressively mediocre Alexander and World Trade Center, it's easy to forget Stone's earlier achievements. But at least he had a time, when making JFK and Platoon (among others), that Stone was a truly great and important director, and Nixon shows an A-list talent at the top of his game.

Rating: 9/10 - Highest Recommendation (

I'd like to rewatch Frost/Nixon in the near-future for basis of a comparison. I definitely liked Nixon better the first time out but I'm not sure if I prefer Hopkins or Langella's Nixon. It's a quandry... neither is an ideal Nixon but both give knock-out performances.
Title: Re: Nixon (1995)
Post by: T.H. on June 14, 2009, 08:49:13 PM
I didn't really care for Nixon. Secret Honor, on the other hand, is amazing.
Title: Re: Nixon (1995)
Post by: Groggy on June 15, 2009, 05:33:48 AM
I didn't really care for Nixon. Secret Honor, on the other hand, is amazing.

Yeah, I've heard lots of good things about that one. Don't know how to get a hold of it though.
Title: Re: Nixon (1995)
Post by: Amaze on June 15, 2009, 10:39:14 AM
you made me want to see this :)
Title: Re: Nixon (1995)
Post by: uncknown on June 15, 2009, 02:40:49 PM
A classic in every sense of the word!

I am especially glad the extended version now includes the brilliant,scary scene with Richard Helms(Sam Waterston).
This is Stone working at the peak of his powers

SECRET HONOR is one of the two or three best films Altman ever made.
check it out!

I could care less
Title: Re: Nixon (1995)
Post by: Groggy on June 15, 2009, 05:43:36 PM
The Helms scene is probably the best of the movie. I love the moment where he opens his eyes and they're all black. It sounds cheesy but in context it's appropriately unsettling (and compared to the moments with Hoover mentioned in my review above it's pretty tame). Waterston underplays that scene masterfully, the banality of evil personified.

Richard M. Nixon: Do ever think of death, Dick?
Richard Helms: Flowers are a continual reminder of our mortality. Do you appreciate flowers?
Richard M. Nixon: No, no they make me sick, and they smell like death. I had two brothers die young... Well let me tell you. There are worse things than death.
Richard Helms: Yes?
Richard M. Nixon: There's such a thing as evil.
Title: Re: Nixon (1995)
Post by: Dust Devil on June 15, 2009, 06:49:12 PM
I liked Anthony Hopkins' performance a bunch but as I remember from when I watched it last time (10 years, give or take a few) this movie was boring as hell. And it was trying so hard to be smart.
Title: Re: Nixon (1995)
Post by: T.H. on June 15, 2009, 08:23:56 PM
Yeah, I've heard lots of good things about that one. Don't know how to get a hold of it though.

It's on buttflix.
Title: Re: Nixon (1995)
Post by: twood on June 16, 2009, 09:10:51 AM
This is actually a pretty decent film IMO.  Hopkins (who I usually cant stand due to his horrendous attempts at accents) is great as Nixon.

Im not a huge Stone fan, although he has done some excellent stuff at times.

PS:  Id rather eat my own anus than watch World Trade Centre with the wonderful actor that is Nic Cage!  :D
The Doors was pretty Godawful as well.
Title: Re: Nixon (1995)
Post by: Groggy on May 20, 2013, 03:05:02 PM
So this recently cropped up: (

There's plenty to criticize in every President's administration. But in how deep of denial are Nixon's defenders who claim he was no worse than anyone else?