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« on: September 18, 2008, 11:38:43 AM »


A dramatic retelling of the post-Watergate television interviews between British talk-show host David Frost and former president Richard Nixon.

This is one of the films I'm really looking forward to this Holiday Season. I've always been fascinated with Nixon. I just hope it's not far-left propaganda. We shall see.

Trailer:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ibxs_2nDXUc

Official Website:

http://www.frostnixon.net/

Poster Unveiled:

http://www.ew.com/ew/gallery/0,,20210536,00.html

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« Reply #1 on: September 18, 2008, 11:55:51 AM »

It may be of interest to one or two of you that Frank Langella is starring in an upcoming Broadway revival of A Man for All Seasons. Afro

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« Reply #2 on: September 18, 2008, 11:58:07 AM »

It may be of interest to one or two of you that Frank Langella is starring in an upcoming Broadway revival of A Man for All Seasons. Afro

If I was in New York, I'd probably go see him in that show. I love the play and he's a good actor.

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« Reply #3 on: September 18, 2008, 12:15:47 PM »

Maybe we can bend DJ's arm so he'll go see it and report back. Cheesy

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« Reply #4 on: September 18, 2008, 12:44:54 PM »

Maybe we can bend DJ's arm so he'll go see it and report back. Cheesy

That might be an idea. Hey DJ, get your tickets ASAP! Afro

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« Reply #5 on: November 17, 2008, 03:48:36 PM »

I mentioned in the Australia thread, I saw the trailer for this at my screening of Changeling. It looks really good (granted trailers aren't worth that much), and its limited release indicates that it's a must-see if you're remotely interested in the subject matter.

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« Reply #6 on: November 18, 2008, 11:31:20 AM »

Why would this be more interesting than just watching the actual Frost/Nixon interviews?

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« Reply #7 on: November 18, 2008, 12:15:48 PM »

Why would this be more interesting than just watching the actual Frost/Nixon interviews?

Because we like films jenkins and maybe we would like to learn a little of what happened behind the scenes before, during, and after this famous encounter between the two men. I know I do anyway.

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« Reply #8 on: November 18, 2008, 02:39:04 PM »

Isn't the movie based on the play and not the actual interviews?

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« Reply #9 on: November 18, 2008, 03:45:33 PM »

Isn't the movie based on the play and not the actual interviews?

Well, this subject matter was made famous on broadway but this story is digging a little deeper into what happened behind the scenes.

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« Reply #10 on: November 19, 2008, 03:10:00 AM »

Well, this subject matter was made famous on broadway but this story is digging a little deeper into what happened behind the scenes.

Okay. Got it. Well, either way this movie looks great. I'm also a pretty big sucker for Sam Rockwell, so it's good to see him in any film.

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« Reply #11 on: November 19, 2008, 11:21:07 AM »

Well, this subject matter was made famous on broadway but this story is digging a little deeper into what happened behind the scenes.
Uh huh. You mean they take actual interview material and then add a bunch of stuff to it that's all made up. I guess I'd rather have history than drama in this case.

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« Reply #12 on: November 29, 2008, 11:19:57 AM »

It may or may not be of interest that a production of this with Stacey Keach (!) as Nixon is coming to Pittsburgh next week. I'll have to look into ticket prices, if it's within reason I'll try and make a showing. If not, I'll go see the movie next weekend.

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« Reply #13 on: December 14, 2008, 11:19:53 AM »

Interesting comments comparing the stage play with the movie (from http://thenewnixon.org/2008/12/11/further-notes-on-frostnixon/):

Quote
Further Notes On Frost/Nixon

December 11, 2008 by Robert Nedelkoff | Filed Under American Politics, Entertainment, Frost/Nixon, Movies, Presidents, Richard Nixon, U.S. History

The difference in overall tone between Peter Morgan’s play Frost/Nixon and the film version directed by Ron Howard is noteworthy.  The action of the play, right up to the point where David Frost begins to interview President Nixon, is light in tone, frequently comic, and sometimes almost frothy.   By contrast, Howard’s treatment of the material is solemn from beginning to end.  In an earlier post I referred to the horror-movie tone of the scene in which Michael Sheen, as Frost, gazes into a TV monitor and confronts the shadowy figure of Frank Langella’s Nixon; this plays without any noticeable tinge of irony.

In the play, the character of James Reston Jr. functions as a narrator looking back on the events of thirty years before with a certain mixture of pride and defensiveness about having been so doggone determined to “get” Nixon; in the film, Sam Rockwell, as Reston, portrays him as completely convinced, in 1977 and in the present, of the righteousness of his task.  His only regret is that he is, so to speak, playing Sam Gamgee to Sheen/Frost’s Bilbo, slogging to a Mordor disguised as a serene home by the Pacific, and destined to stand by while his cohort goes in for the kill.  (One also has the impression that this is how the real-life Reston sees himself.)

This is typical of Howard’s approach to the whole project.  In the play, Bob Zelnick is presented as being a bit cynical about Reston’s holier-than-thou attitude; Oliver Platt’s portrayal of Zelnick in the film doesn’t quite get that across.  Several of the play’s comic highlights have been eliminated; others have been altered to bolster dramatic instead of comic effect, as when RN begins a taping by asking Frost if he did any “fornicating” the night before.  In the play, this is very funny while also getting across the point that RN is using it to discombobulate Frost before the cameras roll; in the film, its comic aspect is played down.

Another prime example is the scene in which Irving Lazar (who, incidentally, disliked the nickname “Swifty” and would not have been likely to use it when calling someone, as the film has him do), Nixon, Frost, and producer John Birt meet for the contract signing.  Onstage, the scene plays out with plenty of laughs; Frost announced the check is to be paid “to the order of Richard Nixon” and Lazar instructs that it be made out to himself; Frost writes the check and begins to hand it to RN, but Lazar grabs it, explaining that industry practice requires that he handle it and take his commission first.   This scene, by all accounts, really happened, and that adds to its humor.  But Howard chooses to end the scene at the point where Frost finishes writing the check.  At first I wondered if he was sending some sort of message about payment etiquette to his own agent, but on second thought I’m inclined to think that he simply wanted to avoid a big laugh from audiences.  This would explain why Toby Young, a British actor with a very accomplished comic sense, plays Lazar in a rather low-key, realistic manner, compared to the way the character is delineated in the stage version.

This brings us to a very notable difference between play and film: the way in which the interview scenes are handled.  When the play was running on Broadway it was pointed out in many articles that two of its climactic scenes - RN’s drunken phone call to Frost and Jack Brennan’s interruption of the taping during the session about Watergate - were invented and had no basis in the historical record.  (As noted earlier at TNN, Diane Sawyer and Frank Gannon have both pointed out that Kevin Bacon’s rather humorless, hypersuspicious Brennan has little resemblance to the real-life figure - though it must be granted that Bacon does, from time to time, attempt to put some human nuances in the character, beyond what the narrow portrayal in the script provides.)

But, as Ty Burr remarks in the Boston Globe review cited by John Taylor below, the point where the interview scenes of Frost/Nixon the movie diverge most thoroughly from those in the play comes when Langella/Nixon utters the line “when the president does it, that means it is not illegal.”

In 1977, RN spoke these words not during a discussion of the Watergate break-in and the events subsequent to it, but in response to Frost’s question about the 1970 “Huston Plan.”  The transcript of that exchange makes clear that RN was addressing the problems of domestic terrorism and violent attacks on public welfare and safety that the Huston Plan was intended to handle, and drawing a comparison to Abraham Lincoln’s suspension of habeas corpus in the Civil War which puts his argument into perspective. Whether one disagrees with it or not, it is a carefully reasoned statement, when put in context.  The play reproduces this transcript, albeit with some rather minor cuts and changes.

But Howard (and, presumably, Morgan acting as screenwriter, though one would be interested to know if he has explained this in interviews) takes that sentence completely out of the context in which RN used it and plops it right into a discussion of Watergate, making it look as if RN were insisting that no matter what he decided in response to the events ensuing after June 17, 1972, his status as President would guarantee their legality.  Now, it may well be that in 2008, a lot of Americans who never saw the Frost interviews with RN or remember them only dimly think that Nixon said those words in response to a question specifically about the Watergate cover-up.  But he did not.  And it serves no good purpose for Howard to alter the record to make it look as if he did.  In fact, even in the context of the film the distortion of the statement weakens the dramatic effect, even as delivered by an actor as skillful as Frank Langella.

This is one reason why I would say that Frost/Nixon the play, even though it bears more or less the same relationship to history that Shakespeare’s plays bear to actual events (as I commented on David Stokes’s radio show), still gives a more genuine picture of Nixon as man and political figure than Frost/Nixon the movie manages to do.  When Rev. Stokes brought up Oliver Stone’s movie Nixon I had seen Peter Morgan’s play but not Ron Howard’s film, and I thought that if the movie stayed close to what I saw onstage, it would have more right to be called true-to-life than was the case with Stone’s pseudo-Brechtian venture into propaganda.  But, unfortunately, the changes made in Frost/Nixon’s transition from stage to screen nearly all tend to veer toward Stone-type caricature.  Which, in the long run, may diminish its prospects at Oscar time.  As for its chances of box-office success, I have the feeling that audiences on Christmas Day who aren’t in the mood for kiddie and family fare will be more likely to see Brad Pitt in Benjamin Button. The classic movie about Richard Nixon has yet to be made.

« Last Edit: December 14, 2008, 11:34:33 AM by dave jenkins » Logged


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« Reply #14 on: January 10, 2009, 08:32:45 PM »

My review, for your consumption.

Quote
It's nice to watch a movie that treats the audience as an adult rather than an ADD-riddled teenager. Last night I watched Doubt, which greatly exceeded my expectations, and today, after a long wait, Ron Howard's adaptation of Frost/Nixon, and both films - probably because of their theatrical roots - have a refreshing amount of respect for their audience. Although Frost/Nixon has a number of flaws and doesn't quite reach the heights of last night's film, it remains an enjoyable and worthwhile film.

The film's plot revolves around the attempts of British talk show host David Frost (Michael Sheen)'s attempts to get disgraced ex-President Richard Nixon (Frnak Langella) to agree to an interview. Despite the advice of his skeptical producer (Matthew Macfayden), Frost decides it will be good as a publicity stunt if nothing else - little realizing that his whole career will be on the line. He hires two researchers (Oliver Platt and Sam Rockwell), who are driven by disgust with Nixon's shameful presidency. Nixon, meanwhile, is driven by a desire to clear his name, and his advisors (Kevin Bacon and Toby Jones) hope that Frost will be an easy target, allowing Nixon to clear his name. After much negotiating and argument, the debates go forward - but it seems that the seasoned Nixon is in control of the situation. It all comes down to a final confrontation over the Watergate scandal, as Frost tries to corner Nixon into confessing and apologizing for his wrong-doing.

At first, Frost/Nixon disappointed me. It stumbled out of the gate by trying to come off as a docu-drama, complete with annoying hand-held camerawork and "interviews" with the film's major characters. This type of filmmaking usually annoys the crap out of me, and it gave me a sense of dread in this one. Moreover, Ron Howard's direction is frustratingly static and workmanlike throughout; the movie has the most undistinguished, banal cinematography I've seen in a major studio film at least since W. The early scenes of character development and backstory are rather stiff and dry, and I must say I was feeling. But once it gets to the actual interviews, Frost/Nixon takes off: the last sixty minutes are absolutely gripping and absorbing cinema, watching these two men square off. Frost/Nixon doesn't quite shake off the stage the way Doubt does, simply because Howard won't let it; but it makes the most of its limitations and becomes an entertaining and thoughtful piece of work.

The movie is undoubtedly character driven, and provides a pair of intriguing protagonists. David Frost is a pretty typical "playboy who finds a cause" character type a la Tom Hanks in Charlie Wilson's War; he has a comfortable career as a talk show host and humorist, living a playboy lifestyle, hanging out with Neil Diamond and Hugh Heffner and dating the likes of actress Caroline Cushing (Rebecca Hall). His subordinates are committed to bringing Nixon to account for his criminality, but Frost's concern throughout is his career; he's riding largely on his own money and finds that the interview will make or break his career (and life). Frost as depicted is not an overly original character, but he's a compelling enough protagonist to hold our interest.

Nixon, meanwhile, is a haunted man, at the end of a successful career besmirched by Watergate and associated scandals. He remains convinced what he did was right (or at least excusable), and is obsessed with the idea of clearing his name. Driven by neuroses and insecurities - his famous temper, intolerance of contrary opinions, and overwhelming inferiority complex, and yet with a fierce intelligence, superficial charm and likeability - he is every bit the driven, focused and ruthless ambitious Nixon, even in forced retirement. It's to the immense credit of Howard, Frank Langella and playwright Peter Morgan that they don't simply make Nixon a caricature, but a sympathetic and complex character.

Michael Sheen's performance is by far the lesser of the two leads. Sheen brings a good amount of humor to the role, but not much edge; it doesn't approach his great performance as Tony Blair in The Queen, for a start. He's an enjoyable character and Sheen holds his own for the most part, but it's nothing spectacular by any means. However, his co-star more than makes up for it.

To say Frank Langella gives a good performance as Richard Nixon would be a horrible understatement. He is phenomenal. He inhabits the skin of Nixon, portraying every aspect of this unsavory but fascinating character. The film deserves much credit for not depicting Nixon as merely a monster, but a haunted, disgraced man driven by long-lasting demons, insecurities and self-loathing shame. His drunken nighttime phone call to Frost is one of the movie's highpoints, where he spews his rage and disappointment to a not-unwilling listener, and the final debate where he's cornered into admitting his guilt is one of the best pieces of acting ever filmed. Langella is simply marvellous, giving one of the best performances I've seen. If he doesn't win Best Actor (or at least receive a nomination), it will be a crime.

The supporting cast is also worth noting. Sam Rockwell and Oliver Platt are both excellent as Frost's research assistants with their own agenda (and a cynical sense of humor), and Matthew Macfayden does nice work as Frost's flustered producer. Rebecca Hall is lovely as David's actress girlfriend, and Kevin Bacon does his usual fine work as Nixon's fiercely loyal top aide.

Frost/Nixon is not such a great movie that I will demand you go out and see it at once. But if you want a film that is entertaining and will treat you as an adult, then it's certainly worth a look. If nothing else, you'll get to see one of the best performances to come down the pike in a long time.

http://nothingiswrittenfilm.blogspot.com/2009/01/frostnixon.html

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