Sunday, April 19, 2015

Richard Nixon, Oscar Nominee

Don't know whether it's because we're coming off an historic election year, but on the basis of reader queries, "Frost/Nixon," Ron Howard's Oscar-nominated adaptation of Peter Morgan's stage hit, is certainly arousing and/or restimulating interest in America's 37th president, himself the subject of several fascinating films. Call the phenomenon Thaw/Nixon.

Richard Nixon, Oscar Nominee

Frank Langella as the 37th POTUS in "Frost/Nixon."
Frank Langella as the 37th POTUS in "Frost/Nixon."

Don't know whether it's because we're coming off an historic election year, but on the basis of reader queries, "Frost/Nixon," Ron Howard's Oscar-nominated adaptation of Peter Morgan's stage hit, is certainly arousing and/or restimulating interest in America's 37th president, himself the subject of several fascinating films. Call the phenomenon Thaw/Nixon.

One friend of Flickgrrl says seeing Howard's film starring the formidable Frank Langella as the disgraced chief exec, the only POTUS to resign while in office, motivated him to rent the 1977 David Frost interviews with Nixon, available on DVD., which serves as the basis of the movie. Said friend enthusiastically recommends the experience, both for its intrinsic historical appeal and as a means of seeing how dramatists reshaped the material for the stage and film production.

Readers not yet born when Nixon left the White House in 1974 have asked about other film Nixonia. Whatever you may think of him as a man and president, he certainly inspired a fascinating body of films and compelling performances from the actors who portrayed his hubristic, Shakespearean story.

Robert Altman's "Secret Honor" (1984), with the ferocious Philip Baker Hall essaying Nixon in attack-dog mode, is a film most likely to entertain those on the president's infamous "Enemies List." Oliver Stone's expressionistic "Nixon" (1995), is the most comprehensive, featuring a performance by Anthony Hopkins that elicited sympathy even from those unsympathetic to the man. Andrew Fleming's charming comedy "Dick" (1999) is "Clueless" goes to the White House, where two teenagers (Kirsten Dunst and Michelle Williams) stumble into the Watergate affair in their encounters with Pres. Nixon, deftly played by Dan Hedaya. Of all the screen Nixons, Langella's wily turn in "Frost/Nixon" felt most like a reincarnation. I don't think the Oscar-nominated Langella (who, incredibly, has never before been nominated) stands a chance against Sean Penn or Mickey Rourke, but I would be happy to see him pull an upset.

Have I missed a Nixon? Your preferred performance?

 

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Carrie Rickey Film Critic
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