Saturday, January 3, 2009

Film and Frost/Nixon

I have about 70+ pages of movie reviews that I have written over the past year and a half. I haven't sat down to write one in about 6 months. I guess I just kept putting it off as more and more movies piled up on the "to review" list. I also lost a lot of faith in myself as a writer. But I'd like to try again. I miss doing it. And I think it really made me a stronger writer in the long run.
I saw Frost/Nixon tonight. I had been wanting to see it since I'd heard about it but wasn't really expecting all that much. I thought it would be good. But what I wasn't ready for was the suspense-ridden character piece I ended up seeing. True, the film could be filed in with all of the other historic dramas about politics, but at the core, Frost/Nixon is a story of two unlikely people crossing paths and the impression they leave on one another. The two people are Richard M. Nixon and British TV personality, David Frost. Nixon and Frost are brought together by an interview; Frost hoping to expose Nixon's secrets while relaunching his TV career and Nixon trying to uphold whats left of his pubic image and ego. When in the same room, the two clash. Nixon has the upper hand in the beginning of the interviews, huffing out formulated sentence after formulated sentence, all Frost can do it sit back and anxiously try to throw in questions that will provoke Nixon into shedding light on Watergate.
Frank Langella is incredible as Nixon, completely inhabiting his character. He doesn't look much like Nixon but the caliber of his acting forces the audience to look past that. He turns the character of Nixon into a knifing, pathetic, yet human representation. It's a shame he's up for an Oscar the same year Sean Penn gave the performance of his career in "Milk", otherwise he would be locked in for Best Actor. Michael Sheen is just as impressive. His style of acting is the complete opposite of Langella's. It's a subtle realism that you don't appreciate until the credits role.
Ron Howard has always been ripped apart by critics for being too formulaic in his direction. I've always had a soft spot for him because of his directing credit on classics such as Cinderella Man and Apollo 13. But his films still leave you wanting more. He's not much of a risk taker. He appeases all of these claims with Frost/Nixon. The direction is actually one of the films greatest strengths. Fluid tracking shots and extreme depth of focus shots give scenes a crisp superficial feel. But then when it comes to scenes when Frost or Nixon are alone, static low lit shots effectively create a feeling of isolation. He handles the way the interview is shot masterfully, resorting to fast cuts and more DOF shots.
The film does have its weaknesses. The beginning is a bit slow, and more of Howards formulaic side kicks in. But once the interviews start, your stomach is in knots. It's incredible the amount of suspense the scenes carry.

The 2008 movie season has really been a year of historical dramas and stage plays. Films like Doubt and Frost/Nixon which were both originally on stage, have proven that many stage plays translate well to cinema-not the case for Mamma Mia which is bad both on stage and as a movie. Both Doubt and Frost/Nixon are also among the many historical dramas released this season; Milk, The Reader, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Valkyrie, Revolutionary Road, The Changeling, among many others.
It's a good year for movies.

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