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 Frost/Nixon

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Donald McKinney
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PostSubject: Frost/Nixon   Sat Jan 24, 2009 2:27 am

On August 9th 1974, Richard M. Nixon, the 37th President of the United States, resigned from office following a 2 year scandal involving the infamous break-in at the Watergate Complex, in which people with ties close to the Republican Party broke into the offices of the Democratic National Committee. It was the only time a President had ever resigned from office, he was very unpopular with the American people at that time, but his resignation shocked the world. Meanwhile, on the other side of the globe, British talk-show host David Frost was in Australia, and seeing Nixon depart from the White House piqued his interest, and he wanted to pursue further. The rest, as they say is history. But, the road to getting Nixon to do an interview was a hard task. The events of the interviews and how Frost got the money to do it as well as his showdown with Nixon was made into a play by Peter Morgan, (writer of The Deal, The Last King of Scotland and The Queen), it was a success in London and on Broadway, which has Michael Sheen as Frost, and Frank Langella as Nixon. Well, after the play won numerous awards and alot of critical acclaim, Hollywood came calling. Ron Howard had seen the play, and wanted to make a film of it, with Morgan writing it, and Sheen and Langella reprising their parts for the film version. He did make it, and it's a gripping and very entertaining piece of drama. I can also tell you, it also has a chance at Oscar glory. Frost/Nixon documents one of the most famous interviews in television history, and it comes off brilliantly, down to it's brilliant two leads, a good director, a superb script, and an excellent supporting cast.

After Richard Nixon resigned from office, David Frost was curious to know how many people watched him resign and leave the White House, some figures put the worldwide viewing total at 400 million. A few weeks later, back in London, where Frost works at London Weekend Television, Frost proposes the idea of doing an interview with Nixon to his friend and then director of programmes at LWT, John Birt (Matthew Macfadyen). Frost makes the deal to interview Nixon, who is being represented by agent Irving "Swifty" Lazar (Toby Jones), who talks Frost into paying $600,000 to interview Nixon. Nixon's closest aide and former Chief of Staff Jack Brennan (Kevin Bacon) doubts Frost will raise the money, but he did. Frost got a little help from some of his more wealthier friends, he sold his shares at LWT. It takes Frost 2 years to put the money together, and he and Birt form a team to research Nixon's life and times. They are ABC News producer Bob Zelnick (Oliver Platt) and political writer James Reston Jr. (Sam Rockwell). The interviews were taped between March 23rd and April 22nd 1977, done over 12 days. At first, Frost is unable to get Nixon on the spot, due to the former President's nasty habit of rambling on and on. But, Frost still has a few tricks up his sleeves for Tricky Dick. Razz

It's not the sort of subject one would ever think to make a film about, but it is well grounded in it's theatrical roots. When it comes down to it, it's about the duel of words between the former President and the savvy English talk-show host. The latter of whom is way out of his league here. Frost really did put everything on the line for this series of interviews. But, he was always in the public eye at that time, he went to the best parties and wore the best clothes and ate the best food. After his resignation, Nixon was reduced to doing dinner conferences, where people still wanted to know about Watergate. Nixon was hoping this interview with Frost would clear the air between him and the American people. He would get more than he bargained for with Frost interviewing him.

It is very well made film, and it captures the era it's set in very well, this is America still licking it's wounds over Watergate and Vietnam, and people still hadn't forgiven Nixon for what he had done to their country. It is a film of manipulation. Just as Frost tries to manipulate Nixon, (and vice versa), it manipulates it's audience. Even if you have seen the original interviews, you will still be left uncomfortable by the recreations here. Which are meticulously reconstructed, word for word. But, the film builds up to the cresendo of the interviews, slow at first as Frost struggles to get under the skin of his subject, but he does eventually. But, the film isn't so much about the interviews themselves, but about how Frost got it all down, how he got the money and even brief glimpses of how Nixon and his closest decide that they won't take any nonsense from Frost.

The leads are flawless. Michael Sheen, who has already won acclaim as being one of Britain's best actors, with an ability to play real life people, (he's been Kenneth Williams, Tony Blair and soon, Brian Clough). He gets Frost's mannerisms down perfectly, watching this film shows Frost as a bit of a womaniser, but someone who can't accept failure, putting so much of his money and reputation on the line for these interviews to work. Frost is determined to succeed, and he won't give in without a fight. Langella also reprises his stage role as Nixon, portraying him as a tragic hero who just wanted to be loved by the American public again after such controversy. But, Langella shows a human side to Nixon. He knows he's done wrong, but he doesn't want to admit it publically. On the inside, this is an ex-leader who still craves attention and there's a sadness eating away at him. Langella conveys that with energy and conviction, especially during the interviews. The supporting cast are brilliant, Sam Rockwell is a very underrated actor, and it's a welcome sight to see him in this, as author James Reston Jr. who is very left-wing, and wants Nixon to be given a trail by television, Oliver Platt, always a welcome addition to any film, plays Zelnick with humour and heart. Kevin Bacon's Jack Brennan comes across as a no-nonsense hardass, only protecting the best interests of his boss, Bacon is good at parts like that, and he's also an understated actor. Matthew Macfadyen, another rising Brit actor, makes a good John Birt, (btw, that's the same John Birt who became the controversial BBC Director General). But, Birt is shown as a close friend of Frost, always willing to support his judgement, no matter how financially dangerous it sounds. The versatile Toby Jones makes a quick but memorable appearance as Swifty Lazar, and then there's Rebecca Hall, giving the film an emotional heart as Caroline Cushing, a rich socialite who supports Frost through this whole time.

But, director Ron Howard deserves alot of the credit for bring the play to the big screen. Transfering the play could have been a disaster, and while it's roots are still retained throughout the film, it works as a film. It actually feels very close in tone to what Howard did with Apollo 13, which followed another real-life event that alot of people watched on TV. With Frost/Nixon, it gives the plot room to move and breath. It's shot with a taut, close feel by Howard's usual cameraman Salvadore Totino, which gives the film it's uncomfortable feel, but this is how it was back then. What better way to recreate it, and the screenplay by Peter Morgan, (the play's original author) is brilliant. He captures the best and most engaging moments of this already difficult timeline in the history of the ex-President and one of our national treasures.



It's a film which deserves the plaudits it's getting. It's a great document of a big gamble taken by a sweet-talking TV journalist, who was out of his league, but was filled with determination to make the interviews work, even when all seemed hopeless early on. Nixon was a tough nut to crack, you even see him trying to dint Frost's confidence by asking him how much the project cost and drunkenly calling Frost at his hotel suite at the Beverly Hilton Hotel. Trying to make Frost's venture look like a waste of time, but Frost wasn't beaten yet. He still had questions on Watergate to ask, a thorn in the former President's side. But, you feel the tension going on between these two as the interviews progress. It's not a political film, it's a film about television history in the making. It's alot more tense and suspenseful than most thrillers out today. Try it, you'll see.
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PostSubject: Re: Frost/Nixon   Sat Jan 24, 2009 7:29 am

Nice write-up Don! Looking forward to this a lot.

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Frakkin toasters!

So, what, the murder weapon was a top sirloin?

He's a klutz, Mrs. Landingham. Your president's a geek!
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PostSubject: Re: Frost/Nixon   Sun Feb 01, 2009 2:58 am

Will you be going to see it?? Wink
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PostSubject: Re: Frost/Nixon   Tue Feb 03, 2009 7:34 am

I came back from seeing it about 4 hours ago! Very good, utterly compelling.

_________________
We renounce our Maker.
We cleave to the darkness.
We take unto ourselves the power and glory.
Behold! We are the Nine,
The Lords of Unending Life.


Frakkin toasters!

So, what, the murder weapon was a top sirloin?

He's a klutz, Mrs. Landingham. Your president's a geek!
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PostSubject: Re: Frost/Nixon   Sat Mar 14, 2009 2:30 pm

It's coming out on DVD on May 18th, and the special features include:

Over an hour of Deleted Scenes

Director’s Commentary

The Nixon Chronicles (7mins)

The Making of Frost/Nixon (23mins)


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PostSubject: Re: Frost/Nixon   Wed May 27, 2009 12:18 am

I saw this again today, I liked it alot, it's very gripping when it comes to the interview, but although it did take liberties with a few facts, I like it's attention to detail in a few places. Such as people smoking in the canteen at London Weekend Television, and the horrible looking slop they served for lunch. Razz Sheen was marvellous as David Frost, and for some reason, he came across looking like Rik Mayall's Alan B'Stard at times, with the swagger and all. Langella was good as Nixon, but it was more of a characture than a fully rounded performance. He sounded like Sean Connery at times. But the supporting players such as Oliver Platt, Sam Rockwell and Kevin Bacon are welcome additions to ANY film!! Very Happy
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