on August 28, 2004
Oliver Stone's "JFK" is a monstrous epic that revolves around the whole mystery around President Kennedy's assassination. While it is a dramatic picture and Stone most likely twisted a few things to make this a more relevant and better movie, it is still an undeniable powerhouse that has you go through a whole set of emotions, ranging from fear, anger, paranoia and sadness. There's no question that the majority of the country believes that there is more to the assassination than we were lead to believe. I don't think it's exactly how it is in the movie, but that's not important. What is important is that the film works for many reasons.
President Kennedy has been assassinated. Lee Harvey Oswald is the suspect and gets shot shortly after. There is a secretive and brief hearing on the whole assassination, and it is in stone that Oswald was a lone gunman and nobody else was involved. Seems like an open-and-shut-case, but District Attorney Jim Garrison isn't willing to buy it. With his staff, they decide to work on the case, until they are shut down by the government. Three years later, Garrison isn't willing to stand by in silence anymore and decides to go ahead with the case. The further he digs, the more horrible truths he uncovers. Not only that, but people high up in the ranks are willing to do anything to make sure that the American Public will never find out about them.
As I said, this isn't meant to be an entirely accurate portrayal of how everything happened. It suggests to you that it could've been this way, and it even does a good job of presenting its case to you. What I think Stone was trying to achieve was to create his own commentary on how people feel about the handling of the whole assassination and how sloppily the case was handled. The film wasn't made to merely exploit the death of Kennedy, but what it does exploit is the fact that we're willing to believe anything they tell us in the media. It's a hard concept to grasp, because it's not too far from the truth. The movie is brilliantly directed and well-acted. Kevin Costner gives one of the best performances of his career. The film has a whole list of famous actors in it, like Gary Oldman, Kevin Bacon, Tommy Lee Jones, Joe Pesci, Sissy Spacek and a whole bunch more. They are all fantastic in their roles.
A word of warning; this is a VERY LONG movie. It is about 3 and a half hours long in running time. If you want to watch this, then you have to really commit to it. If you're not in the mood for a very lengthy movie, then you will not be able to enjoy this. The new 2-Disc Special Edition offers a remastered director's cut that looks and sounds great. Another interesting feature is the documentary, "Beyond JFK: The Question of Conspiracy." Extras included are deleted/extended scenes, commentary from the director, theatrical trailer, essays and DVD-ROM features. A very nice package that does the film justice.
JFK" is an amazing picture that did not bore me for a single second. Not only does it work as a powerful drama, but it also works as an intense thriller. Did everything happen the way the movie proposes? Maybe, maybe not. What the film does is make you think about everything that happened around the assassination. Any film that can get the brain thinking is more than okay in my book. A very character-driven and passionate epic that is perfectly executed by Oliver Stone.
Oliver Stone, to say the least, is one of the most controversial directors in film history. Many see him as a dangerous loose cannon who rewrites history to fit his own agenda. I see him as a filmmaker who has the guts to speak his mind on controversial subjects -- even when his point of view flies in the face of "conventional" wisdom.
Nowhere is this more true than in JFK. Despite the fact that a large majority of Americans believe that President Kennedy was assassinated as the result of a conspiracy, the media lambasted Stone for his interpretation of the events of November 22, 1963. Various journalists and columnists called Stone everything from a revisionist historian to a crackpot when the film was released. To be sure, New Oreleans Disctrict Attorney Jim Garrison wasn't the knight on a white horse of Stone's film -- his investigative tactics were very shady. Garrison mysteriously did not investigate possible mob connections to the assassination. And Stone does implicate almost everyone, including Presidents Johnson and Nixon, J. Edgar Hoover and almost the entire Dallas Police Department.
However, Garrison is merely a catalyst for Stone's thesis as the only person who ever indicted a suspect (Clay Shaw) in the murder of John F. Kennedy. And even with its myriad of conspriacy theories, the sad fact remains that Stone's interpretation is much closer to the truth than the Warren Commission Report. We can, for example, see on the Zapruder film that JFK is suddenly and violently slammed backwards and to the left by the shot to his head, indicating a firing position from the front and not from the Texas School Book Depository where Lee Harvey Oswald was. Most Americans don't believe that Oswald, who, at the height of the Cold War, defected to Russia with the intention of passing on U.S. Government secrets, married a Colonel's daughter, then somehow regained his U.S. citizenship and returned to the U.S., was just the "lone nut" the Warren Commission claimed he was. And most Americans don't believe that Jack Ruby killed Oswald merely to "spare Jackie Kennedy the trauma of having to return to Dallas for Oswald's trial." In spite of this, however, the media jumped all over Stone's film, lambasting him as loose with the facts and irresponsible.
Stone does in JFK what the Constitution gives Americans the right to do -- namely question authority when the answers it gives us do not satisfy and enlighten. I don't think that the media was part of the plot. But the media does act as a unwitting aid to the conspirators when they whitewash the work of an Oliver Stone as the work of a crackpot. Perhaps the media collectively does not have the courage to risk its reputation or maybe they are frustrated and angry that they didn't dig deeper at the time of the assassination. Whatever the reason, they do no service to either the people of the United States or the truth when they issue their blanket dismissals of JFK and other films like it. I agree that Stone should be held accountable for any inaccuracies in his films. However, the press should be held just as accountable when they back the utterly useless Warren Commission version of the Kennedy assassination. Gerald Posner can shout "CASE CLOSED" all he wants from the highest mountain top, but the questions and the doubts remain.
Last June I visited Dallas, Dealey Plaza and the Texas School Book Depository. To say it was an eerie experience was an understatement. Most of the museum on the sixth floor (where Oswald allegedly fired from) was dedicated exclusively to the assassination. However a large portion of the museum was dedicated to President Kennedy's life and administration. Almost as heartbreaking as the memories of his assassination and funeral were the reminders of all the hope and potential that was snuffed out on November 22, 1963. JFK brings back the pain and anguish of not only the assassination, but America in the years after John F. Kennedy's assassination. Thank you, Oliver Stone, for showing us what we lost and for inspiring us to demand the truth.
on December 26, 2001
Oliver Stone's "JFK" is a remarkable film that is too often overshadowed by the very real events upon which it is based and by the perceived political agenda of its director. But, as Stone himself has stated on numerous occasions, the movie is not meant to stand as a definitive historical document but rather as an alternative look at what might have happened on that fateful day in Dallas given the conflicting and incomplete information that came out of the official final word on President Kennedy's assassination, The Warren Commission Report. Much of "JFK" is based on known fact but Stone has taken it one step further and extrapolated out a variety of possible realities based on the many unanswered questions and perplexing coincidences that surround the case.
The central character in the film is Jim Garrison (Kevin Costner), the district attorney from New Orleans who actually brought the case of the Kennedy assassination to court -- some three years after the fact. Although his attempt to convict Clay Shaw (Tommy Lee Jones) of conspiracy in the assassination of the president was doomed to failure, the facts that he uncovered, and continued to pursue through his later writings on the subject, gave a certain legitimacy to the claims by conspiracy theorists that all was not right with the official investigation. Through countless scenes, the government's assertion that Lee Harvey Oswald (Gary Oldman) was in fact a lone gunman who acted of his own volition and with no outside help is continuously under siege. By the end of the film, every preconceived notion that the viewer may have had regarding the assassination has been called into question.
In addition to the actors mentioned above, "JFK" is a virtual who's-who of Hollywood talent. Rounding out the cast are Kevin Bacon, Walter Matthau, Jack Lemmon, Donald Sutherland, Sissy Spacek, Joe Pesci, and even John Candy. In all instances, the performers bring a certain degree of mystery to their roles that really reinforces the overall disconcerting feel of the film.
Enough about the film already, what about the DVD? Well, as many of you know, Warner first released "JFK" as a movie-only edition back in 1997. While this DVD featured Oliver Stone's preferred director's cut of the movie with some 17 additional minutes of footage reinserted, the video was non-anamorphic and the audio was a merely serviceable DD 2.0 mix. In addition, the lack of any extras was a shame and the disc itself was a dreaded "flipper". With this new release, Warner has addressed all of these issues and "JFK" is at long last available in a fine special edition DVD.
"JFK" is presented in anamorphic widescreen, preserving the 2.35:1 aspect ratio of the original theatrical release. Sharpness is usually quite solid although the extensive use of filters lends a somewhat soft appearance to the image in a number of scenes. Black levels and contrast are good with only the darkest of scenes losing fine shadow detail. Colors are accurate and exhibit no signs of bleeding but the palette is, for the most part, somewhat muted. I could spot no instances of compression artifacts and the edge enhancement that plagued the original release is mercifully gone. The video is a marked improvement over the old release and, while it isn't a perfect transfer, I could find no glaring issues with the work Warner has done preparing this release.
Just as the video has been upgraded for the new special edition, so too has the audio. Replacing the fairly good Dolby Digital 2.0 mix on the previous release is a brand-new 5.1 channel Dolby Digital soundtrack available in both English and French. The increase in dynamic range afforded by this new mix really makes John Williams's moving score come alive and adds some overall depth to the soundtrack as a whole. Surround use is frequent and well-integrated and dialogue is always clear and firmly anchored to the center. While this new 5.1 mix certainly won't give the best soundtracks a run for their money, it is a fair improvement over the previous release and is very well done.
Now we come to that facet of DVD that truly defines a special edition -- the extras. Seeing as how the film itself is quite long, Warner has taken the step of making "JFK" into a two-disc release in order to accommodate the plentiful bonus features.
Disc One features the movie itself and provides a very engaging commentary track by Oliver Stone. I've listened to a number of his commentaries and they are always informative, entertaining, and full of great personal and professional recollections. "JFK" is no exception as the director delves into every facet of this remarkable film. His tone is always conversational which makes the three plus hours spent listening to him more enjoyable than one might expect. Rounding out the extras on Disc One are cast and crew bios and filmographies as well as a list of the awards that "JFK" has garnered.
Disc Two is where the real strength of this special edition resides. First up is a 15 minute interview entitled "Meet Mr. X: The Personality and Thoughts of Fletcher Prouty" in which the real-life Mr. X discusses his particular take on the assassination. Played by Donald Sutherland in the movie, Mr. X was to Jim Garrison as Deep Throat was to Bob Woodward -- a shadowy source who provides the hints needed to further the investigation. Next up is "Assassination Update: The New Documents," a 30 minute multimedia essay hosted by noted conspiracy theorist James DiEugenio. Combining text, photographs, and video clips, Mr. DiEugenio delivers a very riveting, if not a bit overwhelming and scattershot, look at the facts of the case that have come to light in recent years.
Are we done yet? Not even close. Also included on Disc Two is 50 minutes of additional footage that can be viewed individually or as a complete set and with or without Oliver Stone's accompanying commentary. Combine this with the 17 minutes previously added back into the film and you have well over an hour of footage that wasn't in the original theatrical release. As is the case with some of the scenes that were added to the director's cut, much of this bonus material is redundant. Nevertheless, there are some real gems here and it's great that this abundance of cutting room casualties are included on the DVD.
Rounding out the extras on Disc Two is the DVD-ROM content that features links to a number of websites, a series of theatrical trailers for this and other Oliver Stone films, print reviews of "JFK," and a link for a future online chat with Oliver Stone. Whew!
Now we turn to an aspect of this DVD that I rarely mention in a review -- the packaging. "JFK" is presented in Warner's preferred snapper case, which should come as no surprise. But, in order to accommodate the two discs, a pocket has been added to the cover flap and Disc Two resides there in a flimsy little envelope. It really is a screwy method that may be a bit rough on that second disc over the long haul so it's best that the buyer be forewarned. But, on the plus side, Warner has taken the negative comments about this packaging to heart and have promised to come up with a better alternative for any future two disc sets.
"JFK" is a thought-provoking film that remains almost as big a conundrum as the subject upon which it is based. Many viewers and critics see it as nothing more than another political rant by that crazy Ollie Stone. Others have had their eyes opened wide upon seeing it and no longer view the world in quite the same rosy light as they once did. Skillfully filmed, well-acted, and at its very core quite unsettling, "JFK" stands as one of Oliver Stone's finest films.
And what better way to treat a great film than with a brand new two disc special edition DVD? Featuring vastly improved video and audio, the new release presents "JFK" in fine fashion. The wealth of bonus features that examine the film itself, and the real-life events it revolves around, add some much needed depth to the understanding of this pivotal moment in American history. Throw in the fact that Warner is offering this two disc special edition for much less than some studios sell their bare-bones DVDs for and you have a sure-fire winner. The film and the DVD both come very highly recommended.
on December 1, 2003
I'm surprised, after 40 years, that so much effort is still made to discredit Jim Garrison's investigation of the assassination of President Kennedy and Oliver Stone's telling movie "JFK".
Peter Jennings and ABC made a "heroic" effort to convince viewers that Oswald was a "lone nut" assassin. Even PBS sold out with their "Frontline" program, and a couple of others, about the JFK assassination.
As someone who has studied the JFK assassination, as an avocation, since 1968, I highly recommend Oliver Stone's "JFK" as an excellent starting point to understanding why Kennedy was assassinated.
Stone had to abbreviate the story. How could any film cover everything that happened from before Kennedy took the oath of office in January of 1961 until the trial of Clay Shaw in 1969 in a couple of hours? It isn't possible unless some artistic license is taken. An example is "X", the mysterious military colonel, who was based on more than one person but primarily on Col. L. Fletcher Prouty (who wrote the excellent book "JFK: The CIA, Vietnam and the Plot to Assassinate John F. Kennedy". The conversation, in the film "JFK", between "X" and District Attorney Jim Garrison, never took place. But it precisely summed up events which happened over a long period of time in the planning and execution of the assassination. If not for these kinds of artistic license a movie spanning nearly nine years would have to be several years long to include all details exactly as they happened.
The jury in the Clay Shaw trial believed there was a conspiracy, they just didn't have the proof they needed to convict Shaw. And it was no wonder they couldn't. The FBI, CIA and many other government entities did everything they could to thwart Garrison's investigation. His offices were bugged, "volunteers" removed stacks of documents, The FBI threatened his investigators, witnesses were murdered, Governors refused to extradite key witnesses, the judge wouldn't allow the police officer who booked Clay Shaw to testify that Shaw said he used the alias Clay Bertrand when being booked ... no D.A. could win a case under those circumstances. Even Johnny Carson, on NBC's "The Tonight Show", attacked Garrison over national television.
Garrison did a remarkable job, under the circumstances, of coming close to solving the assassination. Garrison's book "On The Trail of the Assassins: My Investigation and Prosecution of the Murder of President Kennedy" illustrates exactly what he was up against in bringing Clay Shaw to trial. If you can find this book buy it.
Why is the Kennedy assassination of any importance 40 years later? You have to understand what happened then to understand what has happened since. Why would the government, the media, authors, television program producers and others want to make you belive a lone nut assassin killed our President? Why did so many witnesses die so quickly? Why was evidence destroyed and modified? Why was Oswald silenced by Jack Ruby? Why was Oswald given Russian language training while in the Marines, sent to work at the largest CIA military base in Asia, then allowed to "defect" to Russia? Why would our government stand by and do nothing when Oswald tells the U.S. Embassy that he wants to give up his U.S. citizenship and says he is going to give Russia secrets about our U2 flights? Why would he be allowed to do that? Why, when he wanted to come back to the U.S., was he promptly given his passport, never debriefed, and even given travel money by a CIA cover group? Why wouldn't he be charged with treason? Why did Oswald pretend to be pro-Castro working out of the office of Guy Banister, a private investigator who was former ONI (Office of Naval Intelligence) and former head of the Chicago office of the F.B.I.? Why would Oswald hang out in a place within a couple of blocks of the Secret Service, the F.B.I., the C.I.A. and the O.N.I. offices in New Orleans if he had truly defected to Russia? Was Oswald being set up to be the "patsy" for the assassination? Why didn't the Warren Commission take Jack Ruby to Washington, D.C. where he said he could tell the truth? Why did Ruby suddenly contract a virulent form of colon cancer in his lungs just after being told he would get a re-trial? He claimed he was being injected with cancer and he died within a couple of months. Why would JFK's brain disapper from the National Archives along with autopsy photos? Why did LBJ have the limousine flown to Ford Motor Company and the windshield with a bullet hole removed and destroyed, as well as the carpet and parts of the interior replaced destroying that evidence. These, and hundreds of other questions, will come up as you watch "JFK" and do some searching on the internet.
on April 26, 2003
This Oliver Stone epic blows me away every single time that I sit down to watch it. The direction is brilliant, the acting is stellar and the script is so well researched (I know, I own the documented script), so sharp, so thoughtful and so intriguing. Every aspect of the movie comes together perfectly, keeping you hooked throughout the entire film.
The movie takes on the hefty approach of an inner-governmental conspiracy brought to light by the unpopular new Orleans DA Jim garrison. Many people thought he was a flake, a radical, and completely insane for pursuing what seemed to be an unanswerable mystery surrounding the assassination of Presidnet Kennedy. In the film, Stone has used documents, historical facts and leads from Garrison and co.'s investigation. According to the film, Oswald was most likely exactly what he had claimed...a patsy.
I won't, under good conscience, ruin any more of the plot for any potential first-time viewers, but I will say this: this is a landmark film for american cinema. Oliver Stone has given us a film that is daring, shocking and completely convincing. Lone gunman my rear-end!...
on June 16, 2004
I am a student of film, and scriptwriting. I've learned about lighting, budget cost, directing, and scriptwriting. I've even written scripts that are set in history. Ya go in cocky thinkin', yeah, I'll make this movie so historically accurate, everthing will be precise down to the very minute! But after printing out eight pounds of paper on every small detail, you start to realise that nobody, and I mean nobody can make a decent historically accurate film without losing your mind!
I've very carefully researched the assasination and I came across a very professional web site. Other web sites are very passonate, but this one was very by-the-book: something like "I believe this, but not that, and here's twelve pages of info showing why," kind of thing. I E-mailed him and asked what he thought of Oliver Stone's JFK; he said he'd give it a C+. Based on my troubles, that's really good!
I have to make this clear: JFK is ENTERTAINMENT based on fact. Making a good story is hard enough, but researching facts to back it up is going to tear apart your brain!
Do we have to spell it out for you people! The film encourages you to YOUR OWN RESEARCH. Donald Sutherland even says it in the film: "But don't trust me; do your own work, your own thinking." Their are people out their that think they're so smart saying, "oh look, that didn't happen in real life; I guess the movie is garbage, then." I've seen it with "JFK", with "The Passion of the Christ", and even the fictional, "Lord of the Rings."
"Oh, the bullet that hit Kennedy was a tumbling bullet and that's why the bullet looks so perfect," they say. Let me ask you something: have you ever seen a tumbling bullet? They're flat, flat as a pancake. As if a steam roller went over it. And this bullet supposedly went through several bones. For all we know the bullet was squished AFTER it was collected (just a little, so no one will notice. Shhhh). I bet you skeptics don't know what frame of the Z-film the "magic bullet" hit the president? What's the name of the document stating the withdrawl of ALL U.S. troops from Vietnam by 1965? What mafia kingfish did Johnny Roselli have conections with? Do you even know who Johnny Roselli is? What about Beverly Oliver? Jim Marrs? James Tague? Perry Russo? What velocity was Oswald's rifle? WHAT WAS Oswald's rifle? Where did he buy it? Who's James Files?
This film is about judging for yourself. Check it out on the internet, buy a book, then buy the other guy's book and compair.
The more I think of the supression of this subject by the media today, the more I realise that this is not a 40 year old subject. It's here, it's now! It's in the TV! It's in the walls! It's on the radio! It's out the window! It's in the newspapers! It's just a question of who's willing to see it. Keven Costner said it best "Don't you think THIS, has something to do with THAT! CAN'T YOU SEE!"
Who cares that there were no women on Jim Garrison's legal team (unlike in the movie). Who cares that Garrison never called Clay Shaw a liar right to his face(dramatic licence). Who cares that Garrison's closing statement was a composite of the speech he DID GIVE, lines in his book, and Stone's own additions(proper pacing of a story). That little stuff doesn't matter!
The Warren Commision is a myth, and Oliver Stone's JFK is anti-myth.
It has been said that JFK is Oliver Stone's favorite of his films, and I can understand why. In many ways, it is his best. It is certainly his most ambitious. Even if taken only in terms of its visuals and editing, this was an ambitious undertaking. And he's taken it a step further. He has taken the dry minutiae (whether you can give a label of "hard facts" is debatable) and not only kept it from being boring, but has also made it compelling, gripping cinema. Three hours go by without a yawn.
Culled from two major sources--On the Trail of the Assassins by Jim Garrison (who is the lead character played by Kevin Costner) and Crossfire by Jim Marrs--as well as other governmental records and his own interviews, JFK is an almost complete picture of what information was available at the time.
Also involved in the film's riveting status is the all-star cast Stone has hired to portray important characters. A listing of actors in this film includes: Tommy Lee Jones, Joe Pesci, Sissy Spacek, Kevin Bacon, Jack Lemmon, Walter Matthau, John Candy, and Gary Oldman. Donald Sutherland (playing "X," a character based on Fletcher Prouty) gives a ten-minute monologue that should have been dull as dishwater, but it is so chock-full of information combined with intercut dramatizations and John Williams stunning score, that it is a pivotal (and my favorite) scene in the movie.
There is so much information involved here that it could have easily become confusing or overwhelming but Stone and co-screenwriter Zachary Sklar have assembled the pieces in a narrative form--often having the information come out in the form of character interviews--and doesn't talk down to its audience. Also, the mix of film types--grainy documentary-like footage, differences in lighting and colored filters mixed with footage from the Zapruder film--was surely a step toward the making of Natural Born Killers a scant few years later.
My only question lies in Kevin Costner's performance as New Orleans District Attorney Jim Garrison. He gives his normal measured performance, but, apart from a workable Louisiana accent, never really delves into the character. Perhaps this is deliberate. After all, Garrison is only the means Stone uses to tell his story (putting other people's theories in the character's mouth along the way), so why wouldn't the actor playing him be just as much of a conduit? A familiar face that we have come to trust through his relationships with other quality films playing a man who we need to trust for the film to work. If this is so, it also explains the stunt casting of the key personalities: give us familiar faces so we don't have to learn new identities, we can just take what we know of their past performances and subconsciously layer that over the new ones.
I could keep going on but suffice to say that JFK is one of my favorite films and I recommend it highly as entertainment--regardless of what you think about the cause of the assassination.
(Other good reading on the subject is Don DeLillo's novel Libra, which suggests that Lee Harvey Oswald was hired to pull off an unsuccessful attempt on the president in order to blame it on Cuba and warn Kennedy to change his administration's relationship with that country.)
on January 1, 2003
Of course..JFK is an amazing movie but the best thing about buying it on DVD is the director's commentary. Oliver Stone practically offers us a complete 2nd screenplay and talks enough facts to fill a class's worth of material. If I was a teacher, I would play the director's commentary to my students. It's THAT informative. Fascinating.
JFK on DVD is truly rare in that this is one of the FEW movies out there that really offers something substantive on DVD...you know...truly exploits what DVD is all about. There still is some useless stuff in the DVD such as "interactive menus" (useless), "multimedia essays" (haven't seen them), "deleted/extended scenes" (kind of interesting, but useless because they are worth watching once and not worth paying extra for).
There indeed is "filler" in this DVD but the director's commentary is absolutely worth the listen. If you are at all interested in the movie JFK, I cannot help but believe that you will be absolutely riveted by Stone's comments.
on January 24, 2002
Yes, Who grieves the name Lee Harvey Oswald. He was set up from the go and the remarkable film JFK explores this deeply and other things in the wrongful death of JFK. JFK was a man wh wanted to change things for the better. He wanted to make a world with peace and cooperation. Sadly this dream was shattered by men who only knew war and knew no peace. Kevin Costner gives the best performance of 1991 as New Orleans District Attorney Jim Garrison who searches for the truth in the assassination. GAry Oldman is remarkable as Oswald. You are bound to cry at the end when Kevin Costner gives his final statement because you know that the assasination was a conspiracy and our own country killed what was going to be the greatest president ever and was killed because he wanted peace instead of war. He thought life was too precious and was murdered by the CIA, tyhe FBI, the Dallas Police Department,and sadly LBJ
on November 28, 2013
With the 50th anniversary of the murder of JFK, this film does not get lost in time. It is as relevant today as ever. While you may not be a conspiracy buff, the fact is that in a recent poll almost 3/4 of all Americans believe that Oswald did not act alone in the killing of President John Kennedy. This is a dramatization of course, but it is closely linked to the real case and reflects the kind of research, legal and political, that has been driven by this case. Costner is outstanding as Jim Garrison; great acting all around. If you remember where you were on that Friday, November 22, 1963 or you want to know what happened to our country and our president on that day, this is a must see.