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Frost/Nixon (2008)

From the DVD Shelf: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Frost/Nixon, and Valkyrie

I know some people who can’t stand to see a movie a second time — they think “been there, done that, I’d rather see something new.”  I certainly don’t have anything against seeing something new, but I’m also someone who loves seeing movies for a second time — and, if it’s a good movie, seeing it many more times after that!  (I’m the same way with books, comic books, etc. — I love re-reading stories that I enjoyed multiple times.)

I find that my feelings upon watching a film for a second time often vary wildly from the experience of seeing it originally.  I can absorb the film without all the baggage of hype, my anticipation, etc.  I can also more accurately judge the movie for what it is, rather than what I had hoped it would be or was expecting it would be.

During September I had a chance to take a second look at three films that I really enjoyed during last year’s Oscar rush of films (in late December 2008).  Did my feelings about them change, for better or for worse, upon a second viewing?  Read on!

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button — read my original review here.  Benjamin Button was one of my very favorite movies from last year (it ranked as no. 6 on my list of my favorite films from 2008) and, if anything, I was even more in awe of it the second time around.  The film is magnificent.  It is one of those special collaborations where every single element works just perfectly, from the gorgeous sets and costumes, to the jaw-dropping visual effects (that create fully-realized environments from France to Russia to a tug-boat in the middle of the Pacific, not to mention the completely convincing creation and de-aging of Benjamin Button himself that is as wonderful a combination of makeup, prosthetics, and incredible CGI as I have ever seen), to the wonderful performances by Brad Pitt (who proves in every film he’s in why he is so deserving of his movie-star fame), Cate Blanchett, and a wonderful array of other talented actors.  Director David Fincher (Fight Club, Zodiac) knows how to incorporate cutting-edge visual effects into a film without ever letting those effects overpower the film, and he knows how to tell a deeply emotional tale without ever veering into schmaltz.  As I said: magnificent.  (I also had the fun of watching this film on Blu-Ray, and let me say that my jaw was on the floor at the clarity of the images, the colors, everything.  As the enclosed booklet notes, “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button was created in the digital realm without ever … [continued]

 

Howard/Nixon

I love movies, and I am fascinated by politics, so it’s no surprise that I am always up for a good political movie.  And make no mistake, Ron Howard’s latest film, Frost/Nixon, is a very good political movie.

Adapted by Peter Morgan from his own play (which attracted notice in London in 2006 and on Broadway in 2007) and directed by Ron Howard, Frost/Nixon details the May, 1977 interviews of former president Richard M. Nixon by British TV personality David Frost.  

Right away the movie gains points in my book by allowing the two leads from the play to reprise their roles.  Michael Sheen, who came to many movie-goers’ attention (including my own) portraying Tony Blair in The Queen (also written by Peter Morgan), creates a compelling portrait of David Frost.  Sheen’s Frost is an intensely likable, charismatic man who has achieved great success but who we can see hungers for something more.  At first that is just his quest to nab the next Big Fish for an interview subject, but over the course of his efforts to make the Nixon interviews happen, we see that morph into a search for something a little more serious.  Then there is Frank Langella as Mr. Nixon.  Believe it or not, I first encountered Langella in a terrific three-episode guest-starring role in the second season of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine.  His intense gaze and deep voice were gripping, and I was quite intrigued, subsequently searching out many of his other performances.  His films don’t always interest me but as an actor he seldom disappoints, embodying roles as disparate as Perry White in Superman Returns or William Paley in Good Night, and Good Luck.  Langella’s Nixon is the polar opposite of Sheen’s Frost in terms of appearance and temperament, but he is a powerhouse.  The moments when the full force of his personality break loose are an incredible thing to watch.

I was surprised and intrigued by  the way the film was structured as a faux documentary, continually cutting back to the actors, in their roles, being interviewed as we would expect to see in a real documentary.  I have not seen the original play, so I can’t speak to what changes or adjustments were made in crafting the film.  But as a film, it is compelling.  Frost/Nixon is a very talky movie, but that is not a weakness.  I am always enraptured by films that are able to create dramatic tension from simple conversations.  The pay-off in this film is not an action sequence or a stand-off with guns — it is when these two men finally sit down and talk.  

I should also mention the rest of the impeccably … [continued]