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Actor James Franco's thoughts about the Warren Commission


Michael Hogan
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From huffingtonpost.com

The Search for the Real: Part 3

by James Franco

September 9, 2012

Excerpt:

So, I've been reading The Warren Commission On The Assassination of JFK. I found its structure and approach fascinating. I suppose because there have been so many books and movies about conspiracies behind the assassination, the material feels very familiar, almost like it's a classic novel. The characters: Lee Harvey Oswald, Jack Ruby, J.F.K., Jackie, the secret service, Zapruder and his film; the locations: the Book depository, the grassy knoll, the underpass after the shots, the hospital, the movie theater where Oswald was caught; they're as familiar as anything in Dickens, or Moby Dick, or The Scarlet Letter. But in the Warren Commission Report everything is still fresh; the investigation goes back to the beginning of the case, before all the conspiracy theories started to rise like myths, and the cast of suspects and conspirators expanded across the country and world. I started reading the book because the great New Wave German director, Werner Herzog -- now known largely for his documentaries, like Cave of Forgotten Dreams, Grizzly Man, and Into the Abyss -- said that he has his students read it for an intensive filmmaking class that he teaches at an airport hotel conference room once a year. He said it was as good as any crime novel and when he first read it he couldn't wait to get home to it every night. If I think about his films, there is a correlation between the accrual of facts behind a huge event like the Warren Commission Report and Herzog's own investigations of death, mystery and human struggle. The attraction for me is the balance of an approach into the subject using very minute steps and the immensity of the subject itself.

One of the fascinating things about the assassination, regardless of conspiracies, is the way that it pairs such widely disparate strata of society and pulls their divergent stories together in an intimate way. The Report allows the reader to get very close to the characters in different ways: Oswald is profiled at the very beginning, and in that way he is an early protagonist or anti-hero. At the same time, J.F.K. is treated like a distant deity; the commission had no motive for looking into the president's personal history (although this would be done by others later). Instead what we get is a whole section on the details of the medical procedures and players after the president was rushed to the hospital. Oswald's family history, his upbringing, his trouble in school, psychiatric examinations, his above average intelligence, his military record, his proficiency with rifles, his marital problems, his strange fabrications of Cuban support groups in New Orleans of which he was the only member, and his employment at the Book Depository are all documented. These are all details and events that could just as easily be employed in a work of fiction, they are the materials that combine to make a character. But one of the big differences here is that none of the information is embellished with figures of speech. The style is just about the facts ma'am, no asides from the narrator, no inflection given to the information. This approach could easily result in a very dry recounting, but it is extremely readable for two reasons: the subject matter is so grand and intense -- the little man who shot down the biggest man in the country -- and the sparseness in the language creates an open field for the reader's imagination. I know that this was not the intention of the Warren Commission, but their lack of literary embellishment created a minimalist style that allows the reader to do the literary coloring in.

Much like how the factual recounting of Oswald's past delivers a compelling story because of its pairing of a small life with an era-defining event and because of simplicity in approach, the details of the president's medical examinations take the reader into extremely close proximity to the larger-than-life figure of J.F.K. We hear about where the bullets entered and exited his body; we hear about his brain matter propelled about the car; we hear about his heart rate and about when he was declared dead; we know the names of the doctors who worked on him and their specialties and what they did to him. It would be hard to get any closer, physically, to the man who was formerly known by the general public from afar, either behind a podium or across a television screen. And, because this really happened, the details are that much more concrete. These are not things made up by Dashiell Hammett or the writers of CSI in order to support a mystery narrative, they are the pieces that make up one of the greatest and most public crimes in our country's history. Because of that connection, everything becomes interesting; the damn color of his underwear would be interesting because of its connection to an event of such immensity.

http://www.huffingto...hp_ref=business

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And I kind of liked James Franco. Seriously, yet another public figure comes out for lone nutterism. Richard Belzer put it beautifully when he said, "90% of the American people believe there was a conspiracy. The other 10% work for the government or the media."

Franco shows a startling naivete here. He almost seems unaware that the Report he is so smitten with has been eviscerated by numerous researchers for more than 45 years. It's like he's trying to inform an unwitting public that "hey, this is some really impressive stuff here." What comes through loud and clear is his disdain for those horrible "conspiracy theories."

The more we see how Hollywood normally responds in lockstep with the establishment on this issue (Hanks, DiCaprio, etc.), the more impressive Oliver Stone becomes. Making JFK was an act of heroism.

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And I kind of liked James Franco. Seriously, yet another public figure comes out for lone nutterism. Richard Belzer put it beautifully when he said, "90% of the American people believe there was a conspiracy. The other 10% work for the government or the media."

Franco shows a startling naivete here. He almost seems unaware that the Report he is so smitten with has been eviscerated by numerous researchers for more than 45 years. It's like he's trying to inform an unwitting public that "hey, this is some really impressive stuff here." What comes through loud and clear is his disdain for those horrible "conspiracy theories."

The more we see how Hollywood normally responds in lockstep with the establishment on this issue (Hanks, DiCaprio, etc.), the more impressive Oliver Stone becomes. Making JFK was an act of heroism.

I always thought it was remarkable how many Hollywood names had roles in JFK.

To some extent, I think that helped Stone's movie reach a wider audience than it might have otherwise.

Stone was asked:

Q: Why did you put famous actors -- Jack Lemmon, Walter Matthau, Donald Sutherland, John Candy, Ed Asner -- into small roles?

A. They help us along the road because the material might be in some sense dry and arcane to many people. Each actor has a little riddle or obstacle for Garrison, who has to work his way around it to move farther into the heart of the labyrinth, where the Cretan Minotaur lives. (Sklar, page 300)

Stone called his movie a "politically difficult project" and remarked how brave it was for Kevin Costner to commit to such a project at the pinnacle of his career. (Sklar, page 230)

JFK The Book Of The Film, by Stone and Sklar, is an underrated gem. It gives readers great insight into the role of the media at the time Stone made his film.

Edited by Michael Hogan
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I agree with you about "JFK: The Book of the Film," Michael. It's a very revealing read. Stone first offered the role of Garrison to Harrison Ford, who turned it down because, not surprisingly, he didn't like the conspiracy slant.

While many in the entertainment industry love to wear the "activist" mantle, they've been noticably silent about the JFK assassination over the years. When Freddie Prinze was trying to organize a JFK assassination telethon back in 1976, to raise funds for a new investigation, he was frustrated by the almost total lack of interest on the part of his fellow celebrities.

While I certainly expect it by now, it's still always a shock to see a new young celebrity spread such disinformation. Franco should really be embarrassed.

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I agree with you about "JFK: The Book of the Film," Michael. It's a very revealing read. Stone first offered the role of Garrison to Harrison Ford, who turned it down because, not surprisingly, he didn't like the conspiracy slant.

While many in the entertainment industry love to wear the "activist" mantle, they've been noticably silent about the JFK assassination over the years. When Freddie Prinze was trying to organize a JFK assassination telethon back in 1976, to raise funds for a new investigation, he was frustrated by the almost total lack of interest on the part of his fellow celebrities.

While I certainly expect it by now, it's still always a shock to see a new young celebrity spread such disinformation. Franco should really be embarrassed.

Its nice that he's so famous, but I'm not so sure he's such a great role model. Just try following his, er, "non-linear" path in life.

DSL

From Wikipedia:

Personal life

In 2008, he was named as the new face of Gucci's men's fragrance line.[94][95] Regarding his secular upbringing, Franco told The Guardian that he feels as if he has "missed out on the Jewish experience", but has been told not to worry about that by his Jewish friends. He said in the same interview that he likes "the idea of religion as a source of community." When asked if he was a "believer", he responded "In God? I don't know. Yes. To a certain extent. It's a complicated question."[13]

After meeting on the set of Whatever It Takes, Franco dated co-star Marla Sokoloff for five years.[96] He was in a relationship with actress Ahna O'Reilly since 2006.[96][97] He confirmed their separation in an interview for Playboy magazine's August 2011 issue, saying that his interest in education got between them.[90]

[edit]Education

Franco, dissatisfied with his career's direction,[3] reenrolled at UCLA in the fall of 2006 as an English major with a creative writing concentration. He received permission to take as many as 62 course credits per quarter compared to the normal limit of 19,[98] while still continuing to act. He received his undergraduate degree in June 2008 with a GPA over 3.5/4.0.[98][3][99]

For his degree, Franco prepared his departmental honors thesis as a novel under the supervision of Mona Simpson [steve Jobs' sister--dsl] .[3][100] While at the university, the actor studied French, the Holocaust, philosophy of science, and American literature among other things. (What about thermodynamics? --DSL) To continue acting, he would study on film sets.[13]

He was selected as the commencement speaker at his alma mater, UCLA, and was to speak at the ceremony on June 12, 2009. On June 3, however, a press release announced Franco's cancellation due to a scheduling conflict, making it the second cancellation in a row, after commencement speaker Bill Clinton had canceled the appearance.[101] On January 26, 2011, Franco and the Harvard Lampoon released a satirical video on prominent comedy website Funny or Die mocking his last-minute cancellation.[102]

He moved to New York to simultaneously attend graduate school at Columbia University's MFA writing program, New York University's Tisch School of the Arts for filmmaking,[94][103][104][105] and Brooklyn College for fiction writing,[98] while occasionally commuting to North Carolina's Warren Wilson College for poetry.[3] He received his MFA from Columbia in 2010.[106]

Franco is a PhD student in English at Yale University[107] and will also attend the Rhode Island School of Design.[3] The actor opted against watching the 2011 Academy Award nominees be announced (where he was a top contender) in favor of attending class. "I’m not gonna miss class to go and presume that I’m going to be nominated, but if you want to bring out a camera crew to Yale and wait and see if I get nominated, I’d be happy to step out of class and say I’m very grateful", he commented.[108]

He has been accepted to the University of Houston for the doctoral program in literature and creative writing but is not going to attend UH after all.[109] Having previously shown a desire to teach, in March 2011, it was announced that Franco will teach a fall semester course on modifying poetry into short films to ten to twelve third-year graduate film students at NYU. The course will focus mainly on production, meaning that the students will be in charge of creating their own film based on poetry. At the time of the announcement the actor had yet to put together a syllabus, but has until the summertime to do so.[110]

When asked about his education, Franco said that he loves school and that it keeps him focused as well as grounded. "I go to school because I love being around people who are interested in what I’m interested in and I’m having a great experience... I’m studying things that I love so it’s not like it’s a chore", he told the Washington Post, according to a New York Magazine article.[111]

Franco has also credited his education for helping him "take acting seriously" when his parents did not see it as a successful post-college career.[6] Franco developed an aptitude for art—painting in particular—during his high school years while attending the California State Summer School for the Arts (CSSSA).[15] Franco has said painting was the "outlet" he needed in high school, and he "has actually been painting longer than he has been acting."[112] His paintings were displayed publicly for the first time at the Glü Gallery in Los Angeles, from January 7, through February 11, 2006.[15][113] He launched his first European art exhibition in 2011 at Peres Projects in Berlin.[72]

He enjoys reading on the set of his films. Pineapple Express producer Judd Apatow has said of him: "He's a very education-minded person. We used to laugh because in between takes he'd be reading The Iliad on set. We still haven't read The Iliad. It was a very difficult book. With him, it was always James Joyce or something."[114]

((And now its the Warren Commission Report?? --DSL))

In an interview with Showbiz411, on September 23, 2010, Franco made the erroneous public announcement that he received a "D" grade in "Acting" class at the NYU Graduate Film School. It was in fact a "Directing the Actor" class. Franco admitted to missing most of his classes that semester. A professor at New York University alleges that Franco did not earn his grades while attending that school. He states that Franco missed over 80% of his classes and only received high marks and a degree because of his celebrity status as an actor.[115]

Different strokes. . . DSL

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The more we see how Hollywood normally responds in lockstep with the establishment on this issue (Hanks, DiCaprio, etc.), the more impressive Oliver Stone becomes. Making JFK was an act of heroism.

Don, the day before you posted this there was this article on Stone:

What Happened to Oliver Stone After JFK?

by Ray DeRousse

September 9, 2012

http://whatculture.com/film/what-happened-to-oliver-stone-after-jfk.php

Edited by Michael Hogan
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I saw Stone speak at the Skirball Center some years back, before the presentation of the film Z, the film that inspired JFK. He fully-admitted that he knew when he was making it that JFK was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to make a truly provocative film with the backing of a major studio, and that since JFK he'd been a bit gun-shy.

Historically-speaking, he's done rather well since JFK. He's made a number of ambitious films, not all of which were successful, artistically, or financially. Were one to compare his career arc to Orson Welles, for example, one would find that Stone maintained his niche in Hollywoord after making his provocative masterpiece, while Welles did not.

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I rather liked Nixon and I rewatch it every so often. I think the big ball drops there were in not showing the Rockefeller influence on the two admins and White House staff, and - as in The Doors - wasting time pointlessly on explaining character through long, trumped-up family history scenes. In the extended version, CIA influence on the Watergate journalism is implied, though not followed through on. Bebe Rebozo's MIA as well, as is Howard Hughes, Bob Maheu, etc. Still, as drama, there's a lot to take in.

No love out there for W ? Sometimes I think I'm the only guy who saw it when released.

Edited by David Andrews
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Who wrote it for him?

Seriously - does anybody think celebrities solicit publication in the HuffPost, or write their own pieces?

I don't doubt he wrote it, see his Wiki bio in Lifton's post.

OK - then who solicited this piece? Who influenced Franco to toe the party line of "Oswald small + Kennedy big = no real conspiracy, just paranoia?" The ghost of Norman Mailer?

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JFK The Book Of The Film, by Stone and Sklar, is an underrated gem. It gives readers great insight into the role of the media at the time Stone made his film.

I agree with you about "JFK: The Book of the Film," Michael. It's a very revealing read.

Don:

.....I also disagree about the Book of the Film. At the time it came out, maybe. In retrospect if you segregate out the essays from the research notes, the notes do not look so good today. In my new version of Destiny Betrayed, I think I used maybe two footnotes from there, out of over two thousand. Considering all the money Stone spent on a crew of researchers, I don't think he did that well.

Clearly Don and I were referring not to Part One: The Documented Screenplay, but to Part Two: The JFK Debate; Reaction and Commentaries.

Part Two constitutes the bulk of the book and is the part that deals with media reactions.

The table of contents lists the essays and articles: http://books.google....ontents&f=false

Over two thousand footnotes? The cover of JFK The Book Of The Film claims there are "340 Research Notes."

Stone and Sklar also refer to them as "historical annotations."

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Jim,

As Michael noted, I think "JFK: The Book of the Film" was important for how it documented, in one convenient volume, the extent of the vitriol Stone received from the mainstream media. I had always heard he offered the part to Ford- I'm glad you cleared that up. I've never thought much of Ford as an actor, and wondered about Stone's supposed first choice.

I agree with you about Stone's work after "JFK." Other than "Natural Born Killers," it pales in cmoparison to his earlier work, imho. Although he did have that TWA Flight 800 documentary, which was pulled at the last minute. I think that might have been quite interesting.

I believe that comparing Stone to Welles is not entirely appropriate. Welles incurred the wrath of one particular individual, whom he directly attacked in "Citizen Kane." Stone, on the other hand, was attempting to expose the lies in the official story about the assassination of JFK. I think there's a clear distinction there.

Stone's son Sean, by the way, has become a real conspiracy afficionado. He is a bit too much of a Lyndon Larouche disciple for my tastes, but he's a very impressive young man regardless.

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Guest Robert Morrow

Didn't George Will have something to do with the stolen campaign briefing book of Jimmy Carter in 1980. Here is George Will, CFR, blasting attacks on Oliver Stone and the movie JFK in 1991. It was a coordinated campaign led by Jack Valenti, the CIA and CFR assets in the media to attempt to destroy Stone and the movie JFK. Really, the attacks were "unhinged," down on all 4 fours, howling at the moon as Will might say. By the way, this George Will column is not in "JFK: Book of the Film" - he would not let them use it although it is a signature piece of the media hysterics that were going on.

Basically the last half of the book shows all the ferious media attacks on the movie. There is a piece by Alan Dershowitz that surprised me by blaming government secrecy and lies for the reason folks think there was a "conspiracy."

http://members.tripo...ipsist/id24.htm

GEORGE WILL'S CRITICISM OF "JFK"

SEATTLE POST-INTELLIGENCER

December 26, 1991,

HEADLINE: 'JFK': OLIVER STONE'S CARTOON HISTORY A THREE-HOUR LIE

BY: George Will

DATELINE: WASHINGTON

Oliver Stone's movie "JFK" will give paranoia a bad name and give us all pause. Viewing his travesty about the Kennedy assassination makes one wonder what Stone would have thought about the century's most consequential assassination.

On June 28, 1914, six young men were poised in Sarajevo, Bosnia, to throw bombs at the car of Archduke Franz Ferdinand. Five of them, intimidated by the crowds or unwilling to hurt the archduke's wife, did nothing. However, one asked a policeman which car was the archduke's, the policeman identified it and the boy threw his bomb, which bounced off the archduke's car and exploded under the following car.

One of the others, Gavrilo Princip, went off disconsolately for coffee at a corner cafe, where he loitered. Later, the archduke, going to a museum, decided to visit the people injured by the bomb. His driver, confused about the route to the hospital, stopped in front of the cafe where the astonished Princip sat. Princip leapt up and shot the archduke and his wife, thereby lighting Europe's fuse.

Stone's portrayal of this would be: Like, wow. What a complex conspiracy brought the victim to the assassin's cleverly contrived coffee break. The driver was not confused, the first bomb "miss" was a ruse, the policeman was in on the plot, and there must have been hundreds of others, too. Who was behind it all? Well, who benefitted? Munitions makers - merchants of death.

That is the message of Stone's celluloid diatribe. Much of America's establishment conspired to kill Kennedy because he loved peace and "they" wanted war. Strange that a society so sick allowed such a saint to be president at all, but this is cartoon history by Stone, who is 45 going on 8.

In his three-hour lie, Stone falsifies so much he may be an intellectual sociopath, indifferent to truth. Or perhaps, he is just another propagandist frozen in the 1960s like a fly in amber, combining moral arrogance with historical ignorance.

HE IS A SPECIMEN of 1960s arrested development, the result of the self-absorption encouraged by all the rubbish written about his generation being so unprecedentedly moral, idealistic, caring, etc. He is one of those "activists" who have been so busy trying to make history they have not learned any.

Of America's two other assassinations of the 1960s - of Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King - Stone says, "There's no doubt that these three killings are linked, and it worked. That's what's amazing. They pulled it off." Ah, yes: "They." Who are "they" who used Sirhan Sirhan and James Earl Ray as well as Lee Harvey Oswald for their purposes?

They are, he says, "a moving, fluid thing, a series of forces at play." Can he be a tad more specific? OK. They are "a parallel covert government." They are merchants of death, omnipresent, omnipowerful - but unable to stop Stone from unmasking them. Amazing indeed.

History teaches that as a conspiracy increases in size arithmetically, the chances of it unraveling increase exponentially. Yet Stone asserts that a conspiracy of many thousands (involving the FBI, the CIA, the armed forces, the Secret Service, the mafia, doctors, Earl Warren and the other members of his commission, the press and many others) succeeded until, 28 years later, there came a hero: Stone.

Back in Stone's formative years - those 1960s he loves so ardently - members of the John Birch Society thought President Eisenhower had been a Communist. Intellectually, Stone is on all fours with his mirror images, the Birchers, who, like Stone, thought Earl Warren was a traitor. Stone and they are part of a long fringe tradition, the paranoid style in American politics, a style ravenous for conspiracy theories.

Why is actor Kevin Costner lending himself to this libel of America? Is he invincibly ignorant or just banally venal? Nothing else can explain his willingness to portray as a hero Jim Garrison who, as New Orleans' district attorney, staged an assassination "investigation" that involved recklessness, cruelty, abuse of power, publicity-mongering and dishonesty, all on a scale that strongly suggested lunacy leavened by cynicism.

After covering the assassination story for 28 years, the journalist who knows most about it is The Washington Post's George Lardner. He documents Stone "stomping on presumptions of innocence, cooking up false admissions, ignoring contrary evidence and giving a conspiratorial tone to inconsequential facets of the tragedy that were explained long ago." Stone himself should have played Garrison.

EVERY VIEWER will have his or her favorite Stone fabrication. Mine is either the assertion that U.S. troops from Germany were airborne over America as part of the plot, or the assertion that President Johnson reversed a Kennedy order about Vietnam that in fact Johnson approved four days after the assassination, or the assertion that the CIA had stories about Oswald's arrest in some foreign papers almost at the moment he was arrested.

The through-the-looking-glass premise of this movie is: Proof of the vastness of the conspiracy is that no one can prove it exists. Stone's pose is that he loves America and the truth equally. That is true. "JFK" is an act of execrable history and contemptible citizenship by a man of technical skill, scant education and negligible conscience.

Edited by Robert Morrow
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Who wrote it for him?

Seriously - does anybody think celebrities solicit publication in the HuffPost, or write their own pieces?

I don't doubt he wrote it, see his Wiki bio in Lifton's post.

OK - then who solicited this piece? Who influenced Franco to toe the party line of "Oswald small + Kennedy big = no real conspiracy, just paranoia?" The ghost of Norman Mailer?

No one solicited the piece, David. There is no "piece." Franco is but one of hundreds of celebrities who contribute content to the Huffington Post--basically blogging about whatever comes to their minds. The vast majority of this content is leftist or progressive in orientation.

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