Conspiracy Nation -- Vol. 6 Num. 86
("Quid coniuratio est?")
OLIVER STONE'S "NIXON"
A Very Marginal "Thumbs Up"
First the good things about this movie:
- Given that most movies these days are so stupid, with a basic
plot of (a) young folks defeat oldsters with power of rock n'
roll; (b) aren't the English just so damn quaint; (c) young
chicks in swimsuits defeat oldsters with power of rock n' roll;
(d) aren't the elite classes in America just so cute and
adorable; (e) young cops defeat bad guys with power of ultra
coolness and machismo; (f) sappy love stories that fail to warn
you that marriage turns into a trap for many poor suckers; (g)
young feminists defeat evil male oppressors through power of
sisterhood; (h) you get the picture: there's a lot of really
stupid sh** out there -- Oliver Stone's "Nixon" at least makes
motions in the direction of an intelligent audience.
- Given that most young adults have little concept of history,
due maybe to rotting their minds watching stupid movies as in #1
(above), take this movie as a blessing: at least our younger
compatriots can get some idea of what a drama Watergate was. Yes,
it really did happen.
- Back when the so-so movie "Silence of the Lambs" beat out
Stone's tremendously great movie "JFK" for best picture, I used
to be tearing my hair saying, "How in the name of God could they
give best picture to that 'Silence of the Lambs' crapola and not
'JFK?'" And people kept coming back at me with "'Silence of the
Lambs' was 'well-crafted.'" That was what I kept hearing: "It was
'well-crafted.'" Well things have come full circle: Stone's
latest on the late President Richard M. Nixon is "well-crafted."
Now the bad stuff:
- I was in my early twenties when the real Watergate was
unfolding. At the time, I was tuned in to the mass media and I
wound up buying their smelly fish story hook, line and sinker.
Yes, it's true, I fell for that garbage about "Thank Heaven for
the 'watchdog press' that saved us all by their yearning after
truth." I believed that junk about it was the "adversarial press"
that brought down Nixon and stands noble guard over the Republic.
That's the big problem with this movie: it is way too kind to
the liars and whores of the press. Once more the mythology of the
"watchdog press" is being trotted out for a new generation. Stone
gives it to us according to official mythology; the press appears
as sharp-witted and ethically superior; they will not be swayed
by any of Nixon's wiles. (Barf.) Let's hope the people don't fall
for that b.s. all over again.
- This movie is awfully kind to "Tricky Dick". I don't see what
his family is squawking about. True, Stone does point out some
of the bad stuff about Nixon. But the really bad stuff like
cesspools of assassins and paymasters is just barely hinted at --
those parts are stacatto and soft spoken. Look quickly or you'll
miss them. Stone has really backed off from his take no prisoners
stance in "JFK" which caused the boys in the suits and ties to
choke on their phlegm and made them so gosh-darn angry at Oliver.
My guess is that Stone has compromised. He's decided to play it
safe: he'll get to toot his horn about Viet Nam so long as he
lays low on the conspiracy stuff. Smart move, Oliver. Hey, the
press will even lend a hand, floating a mirage that your movie is
"controversial". (After all, if it's perceived as controversial
that will help bring in the bucks.)
(Just don't forget to say "thank you" to your slime buddies
in the press to whom you have been so kind in "Nixon".)
- Stone is distorting history!! This time he is. There was a
lot more going on with Watergate than you'd know by this movie,
which carts out the tired baloney from 20-some years ago. There's
more to the Watergate story than Stone would allow us to know.
(See, for example, Age of Secrets: The Conspiracy That Toppled
Richard Nixon and the Hidden Death of Howard Hughes by Gerald
Bellett. ISBN 0-921842-42-2. Phone 800-268-2946.) Stone has been
Yes I know Oliver Stone has made some great movies. And he has
done a lot to raise the smarts of many as to some of the rotten
things that have gone on. For that he should be thanked --
especially for helping get people wise to the assassinations of
the 1960s. But this film "Nixon" is a step back. Is Stone
deciding to just relax and play it safe from now on? Let's hope
not. Clever stylistics and "well-crafted" will not fool all the
people all the time.
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