NIXON: ELECTION YEAR EDITION
MOVIE: *1/2 (out of 5)
DVD EXPERIENCE: ***1/2 (out of 5)
Anthony Hopkins as RICHARD M. NIXON
Joan Allen as PAT NIXON
Powers Boothe as ALEXANDER HAIG
Ed Harris as E. HOWARD HUNT
Bob Hoskins as J. EDGAR HOOVER
David Hyde Pierce as JOHN DEAN
Paul Sorvino as HENRY KISSINGER
James Woods as H.R. HALDEMAN
Directed by: Oliver Stone
Studio: Hollywood Pictures
BY KEVIN CARR
Even though I was alive during the presidency of Richard M. Nixon, I don’t remember it.
No, it’s not because I partied too much in college. Rather, college wasn’t even on my mind. I was born in 1971, so I was just getting ready to turn the ripe old age of three when he resigned. Consequently, everything I’ve heard about Richard Nixon has been after he left the office in disgrace. and much of that has been painted by Hollywood and overwhelmingly Democratic school teachers.
I never saw “Nixon” when it was first released in 1995, although I was aware of the irony. At the time of its release, with Oliver Stone painting such a dark picture of the man, Bill Clinton was embroiled in a new scandal every week and only a few short years from impeachment.
Now, more than ten years after it hit theaters (and pretty much bombed, despite some award nominations), I’m getting a chance to look back on the Nixon presidency through Oliver Stone’s eyes with the “Election Year Edition” of the director’s cut of “Nixon” on DVD.
On one hand, with many of Oliver Stone’s films, I respect the hell out of his filmmaking techniques. The imagery and style is never boring and often the most exciting thing about the movie. He started this highly stylized flavor with “JFK” and it seems to have become a true art form with “Nixon.” So, from a visual standpoint, the film is amazing.
However, everything else in the film fails. The writing is so scattered and haphazard that it’s nearly impossible to figure out what’s going on. The chronology jumps around constantly, and it seems there’s an assumption that the viewers need to be a Nixon biographer or expert on presidential politics to follow the overly complicated (although probably relatively accurate) sequence of events.
On the acting front, Anthony Hopkins is embarrassing. He doesn’t become Nixon, as a true actor would. Rather, he falls into a wild caricature that wouldn’t even fly on “Saturday Night Live.” While I haven’t seen a lot of Nixon’s speeches, I did listen to his self-read memoirs on tape, and the DVD extras in this release include some Nixon footage. Hopkins isn’t even close. Rather, he’s a bad impressions slumping from scene to scene.
It’s clear that Stone hates Nixon with a capital H. He claims to have been trying to show the man’s human side, but even the more personal moments paint Nixon as a tormented individual through his entire life. The dark days, as it were, seem to extend for decades, not just near the end of his term.
Apparently to pay homage to the missing 18 minutes in the Watergate tapes, a full 28 minutes have been added back into the movie, extending the already bloated three-hour running time by almost a half hour.
The special features are extensive, but mostly including the material found in the previous release on DVD. Even the 28 missing minutes come from the deleted scenes, which are also included in this release. The other old features include two commentary tracks with Oliver Stone (if you can handle him droning on and on about how great he is and how bad Nixon was), the original trailer and an interview with Oliver Stone conducted by Charlie Rose.
The final special feature is an all-new documentary by Sean Stone examining the making of Nixon, the real person behind the film and its legacy.