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Joe Bauer

Looks Like Rob Reiner's Film LBJ Is A Huge Box Office Flop.

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Kirk G.

I like your basic concept of a film series ( Netflix/TV ) flowing through and examining the entire 1960's in America, which was a decade of such dynamic and dramatic events and daring questioning change in so many areas of our society, it will for sure be of greater interest to future generations. 

When one thinks about the nationally distributed A-list movie theater films about JFK and Dallas since 11,22,1963, of course only one ever captured the big audience - Oliver Stone's JFK.

You have to give Oliver Stone credit. 

He knew he had to "entertain" his audience as much as make a powerful political statement that in and of itself was not something Americans would find entertaining as much as unsettling and disturbing. 

He managed to do so with a great "who done it"  political intrigue thriller crime film and with a creatively unique, quick paced and attention grabbing cinematic structure ( and with really good and powerful sound editing ) that just kept the audience rapt throughout.

He also loaded the cast top-to-bottom with many of our top movie actors of that time.

I am sure he knew that doing so would give the film much more weight than one with lesser star or unknown actors.

I went to see Stone's JFK twice when it first came out. And each time the theater was sold out. I still watch the film maybe once a year. It's still a very interesting cinematic production that holds me every time.

You really have to have some top star actors in a film about past historical events to hold and attract paying viewers.

"All The Presidents Men" would have never done so well if Dustin Hoffman and Robert Redford weren't the main characters in the film. They were the top male star actors of their day.

Movie goers more often than not go to see films just because of "top stars" in the lead roles.

Parkland's biggest name actors were James Dale, Marcia Harden, Colin Hanks, Jack Haley, Ron Livingston... who?

Yes Billy Bob Thornton, Paul Giamatti and Zac Efron had side roles...but none carried the weight of a top draw actor.

There was a JFK side plot film planned 3 years ago that was supposed to star Kate Blanchett and written by David Mamet. The name was to be "Blackbird." Really interesting political intrigue crime thriller theme.

My guess is that with Blanchett ( our top draw older actress) as the lead actor and Mamet writing, the film would in the least, probably break even. However, the film  was shelved for some reason.

I don't think there will ever be a "Movie Theater" film about the JFK assassination that could make much money anymore.  Multiplex theaters have turned into primarily adolescent gathering places that cater to their video game, comic and fantasy book obsessions. 

Stephen King's JFK TV mini-series sounded as if it had a different and interesting take of a time traveler going back to the scene of the crime. I didn't see it so I don't know if it worked.

But it will take some new, different and really creative perspectives to successfully make and market any future JFK 11,22,1963 films and do so with a profit.

I do want to comment on Vince Palamara's post regards the never ending interest in the JFK assassination ( for 54 years now! ) despite many predictions of this waning.

The JFK assassination effected every American (over the age of say 12 ) when it happened much more deeply than I think we've ever truly realized. It's so deep in our conscious and subconscious. To see our most youthfully attractive and virile and inspiring president ever, taken out in such a brutal way and on film for us to see over and over and over for decades, it's our nation's most effecting post traumatic stress event of our lifetimes post WWII ( 9-11 perhaps second? ) and it doesn't take much for the millions in this country who were alive on 11,22,1963 to instantly re-live something so shockingly violent. sad...and society wide unsettling.

And since the crime has always been considered unsolved by most Americans...this just adds to it's effecting nature with suspicion and doubt about our own government.

It's amazing how many major films in the last 50 years reference the JFK assassination in their scripts even though it may not directly connect with the main plot. I was watching the Mark Wahlberg film "The Shooter" the other night...and there were two clear references to 11,22,1963. They mentioned the grassy knoll and Jack Ruby shooting Oswald.  So many other movies have done this the last 50 years.

This continuous referencing in major films even after 50 years is a reflection of how deep in our psyches the JFK event is and has been all this time.

Edited by Joe Bauer

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Joe, I've noticed in the past, you like casting! You're right.Stone could get top box office actors, so of course he did. When you think of a multi Oscar winner like Jack Lemmon (one you can thank Mamet for) , only playing a minor character role. I personally  think it's nice to have a mix of new and old faces. Years ago I was a bit Jack Nicholson  guy, then I realized in every part I was really just watching Jack Nicholson in my mind, and no matter how well he did, it became distracting for me. Kevin Costner was super hot box office at the time, but I thought he was very poorly cast, and was probably the weakest decision Stone made in casting.

The Kennedy assassination was always too intricate for a 3 hour movie. But just imagine it with all the new characters , plots and subplots that we  know of now. With a series, viewers can fill in gaps with co workers or friends during the week. I like sustaining the ongoing thread rather than just throw it all out there at once, like Netflix does. People binge it or watch it slowly, and if you're not on the same episode, all that's left is for a person to say, "catch  Stranger Things, it's really good", and there's no discussion or sense of mutual discovery or suspense that an episodic serial does from week to week.

 

Just take only Parkland, you can have

1)the Seth Kantor, Ruby chance meeting.

2)You can have Evalea Glanges witnessing the hole in the limousine windshield and being ushered away.(or for simplicity, just say Kanter saw it)

3)and you can have a depiction of Robert Mac Clelland telling his story, first with the President, than 2 days later with Oswald, as told below.

4)Of course the first diagnosis of the throat would as an entry wound.

 

In an episodic series you give people time to  breathe and reflect for the first time learn what a bullet does when it passes through a body,for example. Now in the TV series, "the Walking Dead", they have another hour show right after it to explain what happened in the first hour show! It's rather absurd, but that's what you want, for people to ask questions. The public isn't so informed about the Kennedy Assassination that for some and particularly generations that were born after the 60's, it would be a who-dun-it- drama they could really sink their teeth into and learn about real history, because it actually happened. There's no decade that could be said that "Real life is stranger than fiction" than the 60's.

Edited by Kirk Gallaway

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I watched Oliver Stone's Nixon again the other night, with part of my mind on Jim DiEugenio's criticisms of the Ken Burns Vietnam series.  I know that Nixon isn't a documentary, but in three-plus hours Stone could have been much more exact and coherent on Nixon's Vietnam strategy, which the dialogue merely makes passes at.  The Paris peace talks, which consumed his and Kissinger's attention for so long, get perhaps one throwaway line.  The famous October Surprise Nixon pulled in sabotaging LBJ's talks with Hanoi is left to the viewer to figure out from the context of a blackmail threat whispered in Nixon's ear.  Or not.  If you don't know the story, you won't get it from the film.  The dialogue is much more concerned with the emotional effect of the war on the country and the president, which would be better balanced by some incisive war history.

The film gives a much better picture of how the Watergate affaIr unfolded, which is a shame since Stone wastes much too much time on Nixon's childhood tragedies, and these were not as significant as his war policies.  I have to fast-forward through the black-and-white toned family flashbacks, which are a waste of human life to watch.  And this is a film that I like, and look at every couple of years.  The best parts of those three hours are captivating and inimitable.

Edited by David Andrews

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The film Nixon wasn't supposed to be about Vietnam, or even history, IMO. It was Stone's attempt at Shakespearian tragedy. And it worked.

I mean, I knew enough about history to hate Nixon, but I cried my eyes out when he started talking about how his Quaker mother was a saint to the staff gathered to wave him good-bye, and then wrote his own epitaph with the line about how your enemies only win when you hate them back.

On a purely dramatic level--the level at which most people watch movies--it is a far richer movie than JFK.

Of course, JFK has that whole mystery element to it... that so many of us find enticing...

Edited by Pat Speer

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FWIW, Kirk, I stumbled into a situation a decade or so ago where I got to pitch Showtime on a JFK-related TV series. I was told by my friend with the "in" that the pitch would last 15 minutes but, much to our surprise, the exec extended it to 45 minutes and really seemed interested.

Our idea was that the show would start off with a fictional card-carrying member of the MSM coming across something he found curious, and then following it down the rabbit hole. The idea was that actual evidence would be revealed alongside the fictional bits and pieces involving the characters on the show. And that the overall feel would get more and more paranoid.

A year or two after this failed pitch, a series started up that had a similar feel to the show we pitched. This show was called Rubicon. It was full-on big budget conspiranoia. Unfortunately, it got dropped after one season.

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On 11/9/2017 at 10:31 PM, Joe Bauer said:

Stephen King's JFK TV mini-series sounded as if it had a different and interesting take of a time traveler going back to the scene of the crime. I didn't see it so I don't know if it worked.

I got this from my local library earlier this year. It was well done and entertaining, but King took a Oswald lone nut stance, so as far as the assassination goes, it was worthless.

I've always liked Executive Action, pretty good for it's time, even now I think.

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5 hours ago, Pat Speer said:

FWIW, Kirk, I stumbled into a situation a decade or so ago where I got to pitch Showtime on a JFK-related TV series. I was told by my friend with the "in" that the pitch would last 15 minutes but, much to our surprise, the exec extended it to 45 minutes and really seemed interested.

Our idea was that the show would start off with a fictional card-carrying member of the MSM coming across something he found curious, and then following it down the rabbit hole. The idea was that actual evidence would be revealed alongside the fictional bits and pieces involving the characters on the show. And that the overall feel would get more and more paranoid.

A year or two after this failed pitch, a series started up that had a similar feel to the show we pitched. This show was called Rubicon. It was full-on big budget conspiranoia. Unfortunately, it got dropped after one season.

Wow , that's interesting Pat. It sounds like you gave it some real creative thought.

I agree with you about "Nixon". It was largely a sympathetic portrayal of the forces shaping his life. I really liked Anthony Hopkin's portrayal. In that sense it was similar to "GW", but GW wasn't as good. Still I liked both Hopkins and Brolin more than I liked Costner. I never got that dialect, was that a Louisiana drawl by way of Camarillo?

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In Stone's "Nixon", I have wondered why Helms is implied to have an obsession with orchids, when it is Angleton who is said to have that particular interest:

 

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15 hours ago, Michael Clark said:

In Stone's "Nixon", I have wondered why Helms is implied to have an obsession with orchids, when it is Angleton who is said to have that particular interest:

 

Stone said that he was conflating the two characters.  I suppose it does suggest the rarefied air in the Dulles Corridor - though Angleton kept his precious pets at home, in a hothouse.

Don't get me wrong - there's still a lot to like in Nixon, which has a perverse fascination for me as filmmaking.

One of Stone's problems - his response to the laws of big-budget filmmaking - is that he rushes into, and rushes through, projects before the scripts and the edits get judicious consideration for merit and appeal.  (Think of Hargraves and Hemming dictating the Dealey Plaza scenes to him on the spot during JFK, and the re-writes and ad-libs that ensued.)  Then his "Director's Cut" video edits wind up throwing in the kitchen sink.  The Nixon DVD suffers from that - at least a half-hour of the family tuberculosis saga in black-and-white flashbacks, when there's better dramatic material in the Nixon life.  But the real murder victim on DVD is Alexander, whose scenes are rearranged from the tight theatrical version, and padded with so much outtake footage that the film is now unwatchable.

Edited by David Andrews

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1 hour ago, David Andrews said:

Stone said that he was conflating the two characters.  I suppose it does suggest the rarefied air in the Dulles Corridor - though Angleton kept his precious pets at home, in a hothouse.

Don't get me wrong - there's still a lot to like in Nixon, which has a perverse fascination for me as filmmaking.

One of Stone's problems - his response to the laws of big-budget filmmaking - is that he rushes into, and rushes through, projects before the scripts and the edits get judicious consideration for merit and appeal.  (Think of Hargraves and Hemming dictating the Dealey Plaza scenes to him on the spot during JFK, and the re-writes and ad-libs that ensued.)  Then his "Director's Cut" video edits wind up throwing in the kitchen sink.  The Nixon DVD suffers from that - at least a half-hour of the family tuberculosis saga in black-and-white flashbacks, when there's better dramatic material in the Nixon life.  But the real murder victim on DVD is Alexander, whose scenes are rearranged from the tight theatrical version, and padded with so much outtake footage that the film is now unwatchable.

Thanks for the clarification. I am a horrible movie watcher, I find almost no actors believable. All I ever see is five minute clips on YouTube.

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That's a cool scene, Michael. In a 3 hour picture, with this much material, you have to combine characters. But in a series, you can have both characters playing off each other in scenes.It would shame to leave out Angleton (and his orchids), he's such a great, creepy character.

I was thinking if the series ever went to the Nixon resignation. Why not go beyond and and handle the House Committee on Assassinations and all that was behind the scenes, including the deaths of De Mohrenschildt, .Roselli, Giancana, the Joannides obstruction and all that other testimony,etc. Leave the audience thinking we got so close, but never got to the truth..

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That's a cool scene, Michael. In a 3 hour picture, with this much material, you have to combine characters. But in a series, you can have both characters playing off each other in scenes.It would shame to leave out Angleton (and his orchids), he's such a great, creepy character.

Notwithstanding that Nixon never visited Helms at Langley while president.  He seems to have been scared to, and sent Bob Haldeman instead (as the film later shows).  This is not to say that Nixon and Helms didn't meet during the Eisenhower or even the Kennedy years, since the Haldeman errand suggests Nixon understood Helms very well.

In Nixon, Nixon visits Helms to ask for all documents and copies pertaining to an SOG on Castro that Nixon ran under Ike.  I have to check when (and if) that happened in history, as Haldeman's mission was to try to bully Helms into quashing the Watergate investigation at FBI.

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2 hours ago, David Andrews said:

That's a cool scene, Michael. In a 3 hour picture, with this much material, you have to combine characters. But in a series, you can have both characters playing off each other in scenes.It would shame to leave out Angleton (and his orchids), he's such a great, creepy character.

Notwithstanding that Nixon never visited Helms at Langley while president.  He seems to have been scared to, and sent Bob Haldeman instead (as the film later shows).  This is not to say that Nixon and Helms didn't meet during the Eisenhower or even the Kennedy years, since the Haldeman errand suggests Nixon understood Helms very well.

In Nixon, Nixon visits Helms to ask for all documents and copies pertaining to an SOG on Castro that Nixon ran under Ike.  I have to check when (and if) that happened in history, as Haldeman's mission was to try to bully Helms into quashing the Watergate investigation at FBI.

I'm fairly certain it was Ehrlichman that Nixon sent to get the Bay of Pigs files from Helms. (Nixon hoped to use these files, along with the cables he'd had Hunt forge suggesting JFK ordered Diem's death) to discredit JFK (and Teddy) and make Vietnam look like JFK's fault.

To Helms' credit, he refused to cooperate in this.

P.S. Ehrlichman later wrote a "novel" reflecting his experience as a middle man between a secretive CIA chief and  a paranoid president, that was then turned into a TV mini-series, Washington: Behind Closed Doors.

Edited by Pat Speer

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4 hours ago, Pat Speer said:

I'm fairly certain it was Ehrlichman that Nixon sent to get the Bay of Pigs files from Helms. (Nixon hoped to use these files, along with the cables he'd had Hunt forge suggesting JFK ordered Diem's death) to discredit JFK (and Teddy) and make Vietnam look like JFK's fault.

To Helms' credit, he refused to cooperate in this.

P.S. Ehrlichman later wrote a "novel" reflecting his experience as a middle man between a secretive CIA chief and  a paranoid president, that was then turned into a TV mini-series, Washington: Behind Closed Doors.

 

Here's an article that explores the Nixon-Helms tarantula dance:

https://www.salon.com/2012/05/05/watergates_final_mystery/

Nixon and Helms met at least twice, but at the White House: in 1971, over Ehrlichman's request for the BOP papers you mention; and in 1973 when Nixon promised Helms early retirement rather than replacement (which Nixon welshed on) plus the ambassadorship to Iran.

Edited by David Andrews

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