Tag Archives: JFK

Oliver Stone’s JFK

I’m not so much for political films but Oliver Stone’s JFK is an engrossing, obsessive, feverish and altogether brilliant piece of clandestine intrigue and I loved every minute of its impossibly long runtime (the director’s cut runs well over three hours). It might be excessive to take such an indulgent amount of time for one story to play out but Stone is fixated on every single aspect and detail of his narrative, scrutinizing the dark corners of shadowy politics, leaving no stone unturned and the result is a film that draws you in so close that at times the effect is breathless, a surging momentum full of moving parts, characters and secrets all unfolding in a mammoth production.

Stone has taken the real life investigation of New Orleans District Attorney Jim Garrison, used it as a launching pad and blasted off into his own theories, queries and plot turns. Kevin Costner is excellent and uncharacteristically vulnerable as Garrison, an idealistic family man determined to shine a light on the truth until he realizes he and his firm are in over their heads. This thing has one of the most jaw dropping ensemble casts I’ve ever seen assembled, right down to supporting turns, cameos and walk-ons populated by recognizable faces. Costner and his team are the constant, a dogged troupe that includes varied folks like Laurie Metcalf, Wayne Knight, Jay O. Sanders, Gary Grubbs and the always awesome Michael Rooker. We spend the most time with them as they discuss theories at length, argue in roundtable fashion, interview witnesses and it all feels eerily as if every discovery they make leads to ten more even more unnerving ones. Others show up throughout the film and when I say this is a cast for the ages I’m not even kidding. Jack Lemmon does paranoia flawlessly as a nervous informant they visit, Gary Oldman is a super creepy Lee Harvey Oswald, Joe Pesci impossibly rambunctious as oddball David Ferrie, Tommy Lee Jones and his poodle wig are icky as a corrupt US Senator and that’s just the start, there’s great work from everyone under the sun including John Candy, Walter Matthau, Sissy Spacek, Vincent D’onofrio, Kevin Bacon, Martin Sheen, Pruitt Taylor Vince, Edward Asner, Frank Whaley, Brian Doyle Murray, Bob Gunton, Lolita Davidovich, John Larroquette and more. Donald Sutherland is pure showstopper as a mystery man who has an epic, sixteen minute long tinfoil hat monologue that is so well delivered and perfectly pitched that we don’t even really notice what a massive enema of exposition it is simply because he and Stone keep up the energy levels and, in turn, us riveted.

That’s the thing here, I went in expecting perhaps something intriguing but maybe a little dry in places or bits that might lag because it is, after all, a three plus hour film revolving around politics. This is Stone though, and the way he films it is taut and immersive the *entire* way through, which is just so fucking impressive. He plays rogue agent with the facts, using established suspicions to draw one wild conclusion after another until we aren’t sure if everyone we see onscreen perhaps had something to do with JFK’s death. That’s his goal here though, he seeks not to provide concrete answers (how could he) but instil the kind of creeping dread, mounting uncertainty and fear that I imagine gripped the nation for years following this event. Conflicting conspiracy theories, clues that lead to nothing, unexplained and admittedly suspicious witness deaths, it’s all here and it all makes for one damn good mystery film.

-Nate Hill

Advertisements

SEAN STONE: An Interview with Kent Hill

Many of us can only imagine what it must be like to grow up in a household where one or both of our parents are people of extraordinary ability. We can only muse further what it must be like if that said parent were internationally recognized in their chosen field of expertise.

On the other hand, when we are young, we don’t really question such things. They are the ‘norm’, the everyday, and our parents are simply Mum and Dad. They do what they do and we are none the wiser. Then of course we reach an age when that changes. We realize that there are differences, and our worlds shrink or growth according to the depth of that perception.

61TzhdXDn1L__SY300_QL70_

So imagine growing up and one day the realization hits that your Dad is the acclaimed filmmaker Oliver Stone; on top of that you have essentially grown up in the movies your father has been making. Now you were unaware to the extent of just how different things at home where compared to other people. But, it’s just how things were, and it’s just how things were for Sean Stone.

1002004006473548

Being on the set was normal because making movies is what Dad did for a living. These famous actors were simply people that were helping Dad out. It all seems fine that is till, as Sean told me, the world opens up and your understanding of that which you have been exposed to becomes evident.

Being a lover of the work of Sean’s dad, I, like the rest of you, have seen him as a baby on the lap of Gordon Gekko, as a young Jim Morrison, as the brother of an eventual mass murderer and more. He is now, however, a storyteller in his own right. Beginning with the chronicling of the making of Alexander, Sean has emerged as a naturally talented filmmaker. He has continued exploring the documentary as well as genre filmmaking, and I eagerly anticipate his intended adaptation of his father’s book A Child’s Night Dream.

35445

It was a real treat to chat with him at the dawn of 2017 . . . ladies and gentlemen, I give you . . . Sean Stone.

MCDWAST FE007

https://www.amazon.com/Alexander-Revisited-Blu-ray-Colin-Farrell/dp/B00CSKQ5TK/ref=sr_1_9?ie=UTF8&qid=1491450945&sr=8-9&keywords=alexander+blu+ray

https://www.amazon.com/Greystone-Park-Blu-ray-Combo-Pack/dp/B008NNY93K/ref=sr_1_2?s=movies-tv&ie=UTF8&qid=1491451403&sr=1-2&keywords=greystone+park

https://www.amazon.com/Childs-Night-Dream-Oliver-Stone/dp/0312167989/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1491451496&sr=8-1&keywords=a+childs+night+dream+oliver+stone

WRONG: DULL ISLAND

kong-skull-island1

He’s bigger, he’s better and he’s back. He’s King Kong, and this time he is not going to be dragged off Skull Island and taken back to civilization to be paraded around till he takes exception to being someone’s meal ticket, breaks loose his chains and starts a city smashing rampage which ends with a barrage of bullets and a long fall to the asphalt below.

No folks, this time round Kong, now the size of a mountain, is hanging out and keeping the peace on his island. That is until and group of curious humans, led by an alleged Bear Grylls, Tom Hiddleston, Oscar winner Brie Larson who shifts between looking wide-eyed at things and taking photos, John Goodman who knows the truth is out there and Samuel L. Jackson. When you absolutely, positively have to kill every monkey in the room – accept no substitute. This group headlines a cast of who-gives-a-shit characters on a trip to Skull Island where everything is big. Even the ants apparently, but that’s a set piece too far.

Kong-Skull-Island-Trailer

The journey to the island is mandatory – montage and music stuff. Then we break through the perpetual storm clouds and have ourselves a bit of an Avatar moment as the crew marvel at the grandeur and beauty of this lost wilderness. Then Kong shows up and goes apeshit. He smashes up the Apocalypse Now homage and then walks off to enjoy a little calamari, ’cause they just don’t make bananas that big. So,  with the cast all over the place, Tom and snap-happy Brie and their group are headed from the rendezvous point, Sam and John and that guy who played Private Wilson in Tigerland, plus the other soldiers are off to get some more guns to aid in Sam’s desire to turn the King into fried funky monkey meat.

There’s a giant spider that should make Jon Peters happy. There’s the Watcher in the Water moment. The Soldier who writes to his son bites it, or gets bitten by something unusual, but we don’t get the exposition till we meet up with John C. Reilly looking like his character Gershon Gruen from The Extra Man, minus the collection of souvenirs and the no-testicle high voice. This guy though gives the film a pulse. Oh, and he was the pilot from the beginning, SPOILER! He’s been hanging out on the island with the tribe that speech forgot, waiting to come in and add some much needed comic relief. Turns out there are huge nasties that you can call whatever you want under the ground that Kong has kept from emerging to prominence and getting there own spin-off movie.

10-apocalypse-now-kong-skull-island_w1200_h630

This task used to be in the hands of more Kongs, but there is a ‘big one’ of these things that lay waste to them. Now Kong is the only one left who can keep cool, sit tight and keep the creatures in there holes. Of course this film falls into the cash-cow category. They brought back Godzilla, now they make a Kong that’s to scale, in order for the pair to have a decent scrap. But sadly it is a joyless ride. Predictable, laughable, with (and I’m quoting a prior review I’ve read) cardboard cut-out characters that are simply there to fill in the time between Kong and his monster-bashing bits. Heck my son started talking at least 45 minutes out from the end. This tells me that he is board out of his mind and I was with him. But I tried to hang on. I did not fall asleep like I did after the first fifteen minutes of the Conan remake. I have since completely avoided the try-again versions of Clash of the Titans, RoboCop, Ben Hur, Point Break, Total Recall as so on and so forth.

There is a line from James Ivory’s Surviving Picasso in which Anthony Hopkins, as the title character, refers to the methods of artists who have found fame and fortune. He says they make themselves little cake-molds and bake cakes, one after the other, all the same. He then  stresses to Natascha McElhone’s Francoise, not to become your own connoisseur. This is extremely relevant and typical of the modern Hollywood. There is little to no attempt at originality, and if there is, it takes place within a film that fits into the friendly confines of a pre-branded property.

kong-skull-1

But the big ape lives and walks off into the center of his jungle home. He survives his encounter with dim-witted humanity, only to go off and fortify himself for the coming sequels and, quick note on cinematography, Larry Fong gets to send a love letter to his buddy Zack Snyder with a little samurai sword in green smoke action. We have reached that point in the history of the movies dear readers, in which the dead horse has been flogged so often that they have been whipping the bones. Soon all that will be left is the dust of said bones under foot. What are we to expect then? I’m reminded of one of Kevin Costner’s lines from his summation speech in JFK, “perhaps it will become a generational thing.” Ten years goes by  and it’ll be, “Well, time to drag a King Kong movie out again.”

Sam Jackson buys the farm much like he does in Deep Blue Sea, swiftly and unexpected, at least for him. I’m starting to believe Hollywood is looking at us the same way. Here we stand, full of confidence, about to witness triumph in whatever form it may appear. Then it becomes like the lead up to the first ever screening of the Phantom Menace. The audience was cheering, poised, ready for the planets to align in complete and utter harmony. The Fox logo. The Lucasfilm logo. A long time ago, in a galaxy far far away. Star Wars. If you watch the documentary The People Vs. George Lucas, one interviewees describes this as perhaps one the greatest moments in cinema history, then, then the film started.

I think it is a frequent occurrence today. There is so much pomp and pageantry surrounding these tent-pole movies that more often than not bad, because to achieve the same level as the hype generated is near impossible. Mind you, there are a few that defy this convention but they are few and far between.

So my favorite Kong is still the one I grew up with, the John Guillermin 1976 version.

People tell me they hate that one too. But to each his own. Kong will most likely be back in a decade after this lot. He’ll be half the size of the planet, ripped and ready to rumble against the Independence Day giant aliens when they decide to return to the best place in the universe, Planet Earth: home and the re-imagination of the adaptation of the sequel of the remake.

He’ll take a huge crap in his mighty hand and fling it at them. Oh if only…

The Dude in the Audience

flat,550x550,075,f.u1

Top Ten Tommy Lee Jones Performances

Tommy Lee Jones has had a uniquely interesting career.  He’s made a career out of playing the authoritative Gary Cooper-esque strong silent types; yet Jones has embraced his stoic calling to cinema, freely admitting that some of his turns are because people pay him a lot of money.  Even when he’s walking through a role that he’s done before, like in CAPTAIN AMERICA, he’s always a joy to watch.  Jones is incredibly sharp; his IQ is astronomic.  He’s best friends with Cormac McCarthy, and spends his free time on his ranch in Texas.  Jones is also a PR nightmare.  He only does interviews because he is contracted to, and he makes it very apparent during them, and you can’t help but feel bad for the person who is interviewing him.   His career is has been split into three different factions: staple Tommy Lee Jones, wildly hammy and outrageous Tommy Lee Jones, and the quiet auteur behind the camera who has become one of cinema’s most quietly treasured filmmakers.

BATMAN FOREVER 1995 Dir. Joel Schumacher

TLJ BATMAN

Cashing in on his recent Oscar win for THE FUGITIVE, Jones embarked on a crash course of over-the-top shtick.  In an interview, Jim Carrey recalled meeting Jones for the first time prior to filming.  Carrey was sitting at a bar excited to meet Jones.  Jones walked in, went up to Jim Carrey and looked at him dead in the eyes and said, “I hate you.  I really don’t like you.  I cannot sanction your buffoonery.”  As cold and outright awful a thing that is to say to someone, I can’t help but picture that situation in my mind and laugh.  Jones spent the entire production in ridiculous costumes and makeup, doing his absolute best to out Jim Carrey, Jim Carrey.  Whilst the film is a far cry from the Burton films, it is still a lot of fun.  The fun is attributed to the ironically great chemistry between Jones and Carrey.

COBB 1994 Dir. Ron Shelton

Cobb.jpg

COBB is a unique film.  It’s a very unorthodox sports biopic by Ron Shelton, yet it almost feels incomplete.  For any flaws this film has, it has nothing to do with Jones’ performance.  He is remarkable in this film.  Shelton did some of the best writing of his career with the overly colorful dialogue that he provides for Jones.   He blends his stoicism with a very hammy performance.  It is easily Jones’ most understated performance.  He plays two Ty Cobbs, the young and ruthless baseball player in flashbacks and then for a majority of the film, a mad old genius that is very reminiscent of Howard Hughes.  He’s brilliant, he’s crazy, he’s outrageous, and yet Jones shades this unlikable character with an amount of vulnerability that you cannot help but identify and sympathize with.

HEAVEN AND EARTH 1993 Dir. Oliver Stone

Heaven and Earth.jpg

In Jones’ second collaboration with Olive Stone, he portrays the most frightening character in his career, the affable Steve Butler who falls in love with a woman while serving in Vietnam.  Throughout the course of the film once he enters, Jones takes a back seat in more of a supporting role, but while watching the film unfold, you feel the pressure of his performance whenever he’s not on screen.  His character is brutal, a psychological villain that has nothing to give the world but overt brutality.

JFK 1991 Dir. Oliver Stone

JFK.jpg

There is not enough that can be said about Oliver Stone’s masterpiece about obsession.  It is one of the most engrossing films ever made; it has the most unique ensemble ever.    The casting of Jones as a flamboyantly gay, ex CIA man who lives in the public of New Orleans as well as the dark shadow world of conspiracy, and underground sex parties is one of the most brilliant casting strokes ever.  Jones plays two characters in this film.  Clay Shaw, the upstanding citizen, business man, and community leader of New Orleans.  He’s the epitome of a straight man; he’s regarded and respected, he’s a class act.  And then.  And then we see him as Clay Bertrand, in all gold body paint, with a cap on making himself look like the Greek God Apollo, snapping poppers and inhaling excessive amounts of cocaine and acting in a way that is so repulsive, you are completely mesmerized by his performance.

LINCOLN 2012 Dir. Steven Spielberg

Lincoln.jpg

Daniel Day-Lewis playing the most admired President in US history wrapped with Tommy Lee Jones’ turn as the civil rights champion Thaddeus Stevens is an absolute Godsend to cinema.  While Day-Lewis’ performance flat-out dwarfs everyone else in this film, Tommy Lee Jones goes toe to toe with him.  His screen time is smaller than it probably should have been, but Jones gives a standout performance not only in the film, but also of his career.  His apathy for anything other than what is right, is brutally honest in this film.  His sunken and worn down physicality only adds mileage to a performance, which if anyone else played could have most certainly been a one note role.

NATURAL BORN KILLERS 1994 Dir. Oliver Stone

Natural Born Killers.jpg

In their third and final collaboration Oliver Stone and Tommy Lee Jones brought to life one of the most excessively outrageous characters in a film that was already chalked full of excess.  In the third act of the film, we are introduced to the vile Warden Dwight McCluskey, and my God is the Warden a vile human being.  His greasy hair is perfectly slicked to the side, his crusty pencil thing moustache is all you can look at, and his zany attire is obnoxious.  Jones plays this part perfectly.  He outdoes anything he has ever done.  His performance is out so out of control it makes Mickey and Mallory look tame.

NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN 2007 Dir. Joel and Ethan Coen

No Country.jpg

No one could have played Sheriff Ed Tom Bell like Tommy Lee Jones.  The horror and cruelness of Cormac McCarthy’s world is in every crack and crevasse of this man’s face.  The brutality of it all has worn this man down, more so than almost any other character we have seen on the screen.  He’s a man who as seen it all, until the events of the film unfold, and his apathy is swiftly shaped into caution and disbelief.  His low key performance is criminally overshadowed by the flamboyance of Javier Bardem.  This performance remains on the highest tier of his filmography and is one of his most underrated.

THE SUNSET LIMITED 2011 Dir. Tommy Lee Jones

SL.jpg

HBO deserves all the credit in the world for allowing Tommy Lee Jones to adapt Cormac McCarthy’s brutally heavy two man play for a Saturday night premier.   It is one of the most emotionally draining experiences anyone can endure.  The dark philosophy of life is on full display in a two hour conversation between a suicidal intellectual played by Jones and a killer turned born again savior played brilliantly by Samuel L. Jackson.  McCarthy’s razor sharp dialogue is made even more protruding by Jones’ linguistic abilities as well as his physical acting.

THE THREE BURIALS OF MELQUIADES ESTRADA 2005 Dir. Tommy Lee Jones

THREE BURIALS.jpg

The honestly of Jones’ performance in this film is absolutely haunting.  The hardened vulnerability of his performance is what won him Best Actor at Cannes, and it is a performance that will always stick with you after seeing it.  Out of his entire filmography, his performance in this film is the one that is criminally underseen, underrated, and understated.  I implore anyone and everyone to seek this unique film out and watch it.  This is the film that put Jones on the map as a not only a brilliant filmmaker, but in that unique class of actor/filmmaker that rarely works to the degree that it does with this gut-wrenching film.

UNDER SIEGE 1992 Dir. Andrew Davis

US.jpg

Whoever was behind casting Tommy Lee Jones against Steven Seagal is a genius.  Jones capitalizes on his quick wit and intellect and amazingly holds his own against Seagal in their blistering knife fight during the climax of the film.  Jones is at his absolute finest in this film, delivering darkly humorous dialogue that is strangely understandable.  Not only is Jones on fire in this film, he also gives us one cinema’s best villains.  What makes his performance so great in this film, is how much fun he’s having.

Honorable mentions: THE FUGITIVE/US MARSHALS, IN THE VALLEY OF ELAH, THE HUNTED, BLOWN AWAY, SPACE COWBOYS, LONESOME DOVE, BLUE SKY, THE CLIENT, ROLLING THUNDER.