Michael McMahon Posted January 15, 2008 Share Posted January 15, 2008 (edited) A brief warning: I am not a researcher. I never have been a researcher. I never will BE a researcher. I have an abiding interest in the political assassinations of the 1960s, in particular the JFK case. I read many of the topics here with great interest, but I have never met James Files' babysitter, nor do I want to (she's crude). Therefore, if you're looking to haggle over the details in blurred-out 7th generation Altgen photos, please look elsewhere. I am sure there is opportunity aplenty all over this website. That being said... I was sitting in my apartment watching "JFK" for maybe the 10th or so time, and I realized how ambivalent I truly am about the film. After weighing both pros and cons, I have to declare that my verdict on the film is "mixed at best". This applies to both the film itself, and the impact "JFK" had on the research community in terms of the records released in the following years. So, for no reason whatsoever, and with the gift of 20/20 hindsight and the passage of time, here's a review of "JFK". I'll leave out the plot, given that we've all probably seen the damn film many times. Again, artistically the film is a mixed bag. The editing, music and purely technical aspects of the film are admittedly brilliant. Oliver Stone uses jump takes, mixes black and white with color shots, seamlessly blends both historical newsreels with new footage, and creates what is definitely palpable tension. The casting? Not so much. In a case as complex and bizarre as the Kennedy Assassination, do we really need the distractions that Stone serves up left and right? He gives us Kevin Costner as the crusading Jim Garrison, even though he can't act and doesn't resemble Garrison in the slightest. Joe Pesci plays a cartoonish version of David Ferrie, bad "N'ahlins" accent and all. The movie version of Clay Shaw is described by the (fictional) Willie O'Keefe as a "butch" type homosexual, but Tommy Lee Jones plays him as an exaggerated flame (if you'll forgive the expression). On the other hand, Stone balances out the cast with the always-absorbing Gary Oldman as Oswald, and John Candy in a surprising dramatic turn as the sleazy Dean Andrews. Donald Sutherland steals the entire film with his great performance as "X", the Fletcher Prouty/John Newman composite. Factually, Stone is all over the place. He has three teams of shooters in Dealey Plaza, firing more shots at the presidential motorcade than the British let loose at Lexington and Concord. His conspiracy suggests a plot of infinite number and magnitude, all the way down from LBJ and J. Edgar Hoover to anti-Castro Cubans to shadowy figures in the military to the Dallas Police Department. Here's the rub. Given that Stone admitted he wanted to make a counter-myth to the Warren Commission's pack of lies, and given that he has complete artistic freedom to do so, it begs the question: was any of this good for the JFK case as a whole? Yes, this film resulted in a public outcry that climaxed with the passage of the JFK Records Act and the formation of the ARRB, which has given researchers a wealth of new information, particularly about Joaniddes and the CIA's stonewalling of the HSCA in the late 1970's. But this film has also resulted in near-unanimous condemnation and ridicule in the press, both mainstream and alternative (Salon.com and David Talbot excepted). Researchers and critics of the official version carry with them the weight of being labeled as obsessed radicals. Of being guilty of cherry-picking evidence and witness testimony to fit what is characterized as a paranoid vision of a nonexistent world. Historically, Stone ends up muddying the waters with the selective use and misuse of "facts" in the case, far too numerous to be listed here. I know there is such a thing as "artistic license", and far be it from me to question any artistic deviation from reality for the purposes of entertainment. While "JFK" is obviously a film, it will remain "history" in the minds of millions of Americans who are both ignorant and incurious about their own history. Does serving up a mishmash of history and invention REALLY serve the best interests of discovering historical truth? Or is it the Big Picture that's important, and all of these criticisms simply miss the point? So, the question remains: did this film prove to be a disservice to the 40 plus year struggle to determine the truth about the assassination, or was "JFK" a landmark achievement, flaws and all? I await your crucifixion, which is okay. I need the wood. Edited January 15, 2008 by Michael McMahon Link to comment Share on other sites More sharing options...
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