I freely concede I’m no movie critic with no pretense of being a Siskel, an Ebert, or a Roeper. I like movies with some action, a shot of titilating romance, involving mixed genders, preferably devoid of leftist propaganda and homosexual themes. Unlike television sitcoms, locating such films is still possible, if increasingly difficult, to find. Despite many reviews to the contrary, Frost/Nixon isn’t one of them.
I have no clue as to why it was honored with 5 Golden Globes and 5 Academy Award nominations except that those tributes were more reflective of Hollywood’s sharp liberal, leftist bent than the merits of the film. Frost/Nixon’s one saving grace was that it was devoid of homosexual characters, attributable to its 1977 setting, when most homosexuals were still in closets as opposed to their current infestation of American society and entertainment venues. Politically, it reeked and oozed liberal propaganda.
The absence of quality in the disjointed Frost/Nixon, which nevertheless was accorded accolades, was superseded by a blatant revisionistic interpretation of history. On top of all that, it was just plain boring, except for Frank Langella’s excellent rendition of the brooding yet brilliant figure of Richard Nixon. As for Michael Sheen, he should have stayed on his own side of the Pond.
Perhaps a swisher or two would have made the difference in Frost/Nixon, as comic figures, and it might have finished ahead of Milk as best picture of 2008. It sure worked for Brokeback Mountain, anointed the 2005 best picture winner because it “broke new ground” with its two homosexual cowboys. Frost/Nixon didn’t break any ground at all since Nixon has been trashed for half a century and usually with more historical accuracy.
David Paradine Frost was essentially a nonentity with a career circling the toilet when he conceived the idea of cashing in on the disgraced and almost-impeached Nixon. His project and the movie featured a series of one-on-one interviews with the former president, the plan being to get him to fess up that he was responsible for the loss of thousands of American lives and many more thousands of Vietnamese in the Viet Nam War and to admit complicity in the Watergate coverup.
The plan failed but you would never know it from Frost/Nixon which presents Frost as scoring a dramatic coup d’etat, which never really happened, although it’s hard to tell that from the reviews.
Google “Frost/Nixon” and the first 50 links provided are filled with trailers, reviews, giddy praise featuring words such as “powerful” and ”electrifying,” as well as other misrepresentations such as “straightforward” and “seamless,” whereas it was none of the above. What is really was was a political polemic, as pointed out by the lone thorough analysis of its truthfulness in those 50 links, Elizabeth Drew’s, “Frost/Nixon: A Dishonorable Distortion of History:” http://www.huffingtonpost.com/elizabeth-drew/ifrostnixoni-a-dishonorab_b_150948.html.
In the movie, JFK and LBJ are given free rides on the momentous, still-seething issue of Viet Nam, ignoring the fact Jack made the original military commitment to that mess and glossing over Lyndon’s hands-on involvement in most of those thousands of American lives. The aim was to crucify Nixon and let truth and integrity be damned.
Nixon certainly was a villain in that war, but secondarily only to LBJ and to JFK. Yet, the insatiable Hollywood demand for a pound of flesh and misguided vengeance against the Republican “Tricky Dicky” dominated and Democrats Lyndon” and Jack were barely mentioned.
The film shows a confident, self-assured, knowledgeable Nixon early on in the interviews, the precise antithesis of the intent of Frost and Company who were clearly out of their league dealing with the astute and well-prepared Nixon. Frost knew he had bitten off too much and was driven to distraction with his failure to secure financial backing and his failure to trap the wily former president.
Enter Frost’s salvation: In a flight of fanciful fictional license in a film some may perceive as a semi-documentary, out of the dark blue, director Ron Howard has a drunk, befuddled Nixon calling Frost the night before their final tete-a-tete, the interview dedicated to Watergate. That fabricated call inspires Frost to go for the jugular.
As the abovementioned Elizabeth Drew illustrates, that final encounter and Frost’s alleged victory over Nixon was based totally on inaccuracy including an audio tape of Nixon and Charles Colson implicating the president in the coverup. The actual tapes of the Frost interview and Drew’s discussion with Watergate prosecutors clearly prove it was invented.
Drew writes of the dramatic final confrontation, ”Then, through a sleight of hand, the script simply changes what Nixon actually said: the script of the play has Nixon admitting that he . . . ‘was involved in a “cover-up,” as you call it. . .’ What Nixon actually said was, ‘You’re wanting to me to say that I participated in an illegal cover-up. No!’ ” Quite a major alteration! So, too, was the earlier break in the taping which was blamed on Nixon aides rescuing their boss. In truth, Frost had screwed up by misreading a cue card.
Elizabeth Drew does not paint Nixon as a saint and writes very disparagingly of him as a person and as a president but yet is certain of two things, one, that Frost never “nailed” Nixon, as the film would have us believe, and two, that the hours-long marathon interviews ended essentially in a draw with neither David Frost nor Goliath Nixon emerging as a clear victor.
I didn’t like Frost/Nixon and not because I liked Richard Nixon and disliked David Frost. I didn’t like the movie because it should have been classified as politically-motivated, liberal revisionism, not as a serious film. As Elizabeth Drew concludes in her article, it “crosses the line of dramatic integrity and is dishonorable.”
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