Tuesday, December 22, 2009

A retro-review of Frost/Nixon with DVD updates

2008 was a pretty damn good year for films. It had a lot to live up to from 2007, and never quite did, but still we got The Wrestler, In Bruges, Milk, The Dark Knight, Revolutionary Road, Vicky Cristina Barcelona, and of course, my favorite movie of the year, Frost/Nixon.

Below is my original review of the film, but I'd like to add these comments as I just finished watching the DVD and the extra features.

This film is magical as far as acting and direction go, and this is only enhanced by the bonus features.

1. Multiple deleted scenes bring forward the greatness of Frank Langella and Michael Sheen as we get to see longer, uncut scenes with Langella speaking as the President, some of them would have even been great had they been included in the film.

2. There is a very nice segment on the Nixon presidential library in Yorbalinda, CA. It talks about the history and you get great views of the grounds and the house where he grew up.

3. There is a good segment on the making of the film

4. The best part is the Ron Howard commentary. You can watch the entire film with Howard giving his thoughts, and he speaks almost the entire time. I couldn't believe how much I wanted to just watch the entire film back-to-back first without and then with his commentary, as it truly gives a wonderful insight into the world of the actors playing this great scene of not just American history, but world history.

If you skipped this film last year or if you haven't heard of it (It made less than 20 million world wide, yet is praised by almost all who see it, and unfortunately had to go against the more mainstream Slumdog Millionaire at Oscar time) please go out of your way to watch this film and if moved to do so, watch it with the commentary afterwards.

It is very possible this film is in my top 10 of the decade.

Even if you know close to nothing about political history it is safe to say you have probably heard of Watergate. It is also safe to say that you correlate Watergate with the 1970s and President Richard Nixon. In Ron Howard’s new masterpiece Frost/Nixon we are taken back to the Summer of 1977 to play witness to a series of interviews between TV personality David Frost and semi-exiled Ex-President Richard Nixon. What transpires over the course of the film is nothing short of brilliance in the way of character performance, equaled shot for shot by Michael Sheen as Frost, the successful foreign showman who is trying to climb back into the NY picture, and Frank Langella as Nixon, a proud, larger-than life figure battling his own demons while trying to clear his tarnished reputation.

I am not a political historian, but in doing some basic research on the film it is apparent that liberties were taken with some of the facts and sequences, but after all this is not billed a documentary and that should not deter you in any way from enjoying this as a fictionalized piece imbrued with mostly fact, or factual like scenarios.

The movie takes you through the tormented minds of two very different people over seemingly very different issues, but ultimately, what we find, is that these two are more alike than either could have ever imagined, and the culminating scenes of the film draw us in deeply to the minds of these two as they fight man to man in a verbal battle that will ultimately lead to a staggering conclusion.

The film itself sets up as a character piece early on, in which we come to learn of David Frost and how he went from the top of the world in terms of US stature to fighting his way through talk shows and entertainment venues in Australia. He badly wants to get back to the top in the capital of the world- New York City. After the resignation of Richard Nixon and subsequent Presidential pardon, there was no closure, no apology, no admission, and simply no acknowledgment by Ex-President Nixon. He simply moved to California and did not speak of such things.

Though Sheen gives an impressive performance and is as much the driving force of the film as anything, it is simply the work of Langella that reaches out and grabs you by the neck and says “Hey! This is what acting is all about!” His portrayal of the disgraced Ex-President, looking for redemption, seeking something he cannot quite grasp, is one of the greatest performances I have ever seen on the big screen. I was captivated by his movements and even more so his larger-than-life presence. With each cut to him exiting a vehicle, or psyching himself up with a quick jog to music, I found myself feeling both sympathy and pity for this man, but you never forget the reason that this film exists, and those faults will follow his legacy forever.

I will not give out more details though it is widely known how the interviews turned out. I am simply going to say that this is an absolute must see film and is my choice for the top movie of 2008.

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