Nov · 21 · 2007

I'm catching up on some movies I've been meaning to see for a while.

This is an amazing movie.  It has more stars than the night sky! (with good ole Sam Waterston for a brief moment personifying evil as the director of the CIA)

The acting, and I have to think the directing, was superb.  There were a few times Anthony Hopkins almost resembled Nixon.  He sure had his voice and speech patterns down.  As well as his body gestures, the stooped posture.  Even the hair cut.  Awesome.  Joan Allen played Pat Nixon and I swear when the camera first caught her I thought it was Pat Nixon.

I had to watch this twice because after the first viewing I had little doubt I'd missed a lot.  After a second viewing, I feel one day I'll watch it again.  It just strikes me as fascinating.  And as I've said, in my opinion it's a superbly made movie.

This is a very difficult review to write.  History has villified Nixon, partly with good reason I suppose.  He, unlike many others, simply got caught. One never knows when watching these historical based movies how much of it is true, and how much is the writer or director's perspective of the true story as they know it.  So, from what I can actually remember, those things seemed to be represented as I recall.  The dangerous assumption then becomes the leap that the entirety of the film is fairly accurate.  And so, based on the portrayal in this film, I learned a lot about Nixon, the man, that I never knew.

Nixon truly loved his wife Pat and panned opportunities for flings.  He REALLY loved her!  And she him.  He admired her and counted on her and needed her.  She was his rock.  He called her "buddy".

He was raised by near fanatical religious zealot parents.  He suffered a life of near poverty and loss of two brothers at an early age.  He seemed to be his mother's favorite.

Something I'm sure I knew at one time but had forgotten is that Nixon was  Eisenhower's Vice President.  Nixon was apparently involved, as VP under Eisenhower, in setting up attempted assassinations of Castro.  And according to this movie, a great deal of the discussions on the "Watergate Tapes" related to this and had nothing to do with the break-in, which it would seem Nixon didn't even know about until after it was done.

Of course we know he lost the Presidential election to Kennedy.  2 years later he ran for Governor of California and lost. Following this failed attempt, he begrudgingly stepped out of politics at Pat's bequest or she was going to divorce him.

A day before Kennedy was assassinated Nixon was courted by some of the wealth in Texas to run against him Kennedy, to which Nixon declined insisting no one could beat Kennedy, after which they hinted Kennedy wouldn't be running again.

Before he was ultimately ruined by some sort of paranoia, of other bizarre mental state of deterioration, he was, at least as this movie portrays, a very feeling, giving, passionate, and honest man.  Obviously he decided to run for President again and Pat gave him her full support.  He really cared about this country and wanted to serve and give all of himself for it.  Unfortunately towards the end he lost sight of everything, including his marriage.  He seemed lost in complete paranoia.  Or perhaps he was delusional.  He spoke of himself in third person, which was really odd.

He really admired Lincoln but then, who doesn't?

J. Edgar Hoover thought he had Nixon in his pocket, but Nixon looked at him as, justifiably, some sort of flake. Before the Presidential election Hoover's assistant insinuated someone would, or should, shoot Bobby Kennedy.

Kissinger was a freak.

During the 1968 republican national convention he spoke of restoring the environment and providing health care for everyone, things that people still talk about today nearly 40 years later.

He was constantly asking the average man what he thought.  Going so far as to visit  the Lincoln memorial  at 4AM one morning, in the midst of college aged war protesters, talking to them about the war and finding out what they were thinking.  He wasn't afraid to talk to anyone and seemed to want to actually.  And he listened, which I would venture to say, is more than any of the last several decades of leaders would do.

Not to make Nixon out to be some sort saint, he wasn't.  He was foul mouthed and in later years underhanded, erasing his own tapes after listening to them.  He covered up he'd eventually found out about the break-in but did nothing about it.  He also seemed to look back on the past with bitterness which seemed to affect everything he did.

I guess my point is, all leaders of the country, past and present, are villified.  ALL of them.  Even our beloved Washington and Lincoln.  Lincoln had more enemies than any leader it seems and would possibly have been impeached had it not been for the civil war as our beloved Lincoln broke the law and "tore up" the constitution to achieve the results he wanted.  At least based on what is presented in this film, you end up feeling like Nixon never got credit for being a caring, feeling, man.  Yes his smile was often faked.  But being a man of great feeling and deep thoughts myself, I guess I can somehow understand that.  By the end of the film you almost feel sorry for him.

If you like politics, or remember that time but never felt like you knew enough about it, or enjoy The West Wing, you should see this movie-period.

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