Article 6330 of alt.conspiracy Subject +quot;JFK+quot; - Punishing the Establishment Date

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Article 6330 of alt.conspiracy: From: Newsgroups: rec.arts.movies,alt.conspiracy Subject: "JFK" -- Punishing the Establishment Message-ID: <> Date: 23 Dec 91 16:07:30 GMT Sender: Organization: Naval Postgraduate School, Monterey CA Lines: 231 "JFK" is more than a movie. It's also a populist political event, the public airing of the Great Democracy's dirty laundry. In my mind, the movie as drama and the movie as event should be considered separately. The Drama --------- "JFK" is a brilliant and complex political thriller in which the plot overpowers the characters involved. When it's everyone's story--the murder of the popularly-elected president--it can't be any one's story. So Jim Garrison, the DA of New Orleans and the only person to try anyone for the assassination, is made to stand in for Everyman, a man who becomes so obsessed with discovering the truth that he forgets the rest of his life. Adequately played by Kevin Costner (though I found myself yearning for Jimmy Stewart's intensity of performance in "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington"), he's a homage to the "conspiracy nuts" without whom this film could not have been made. (I'm reminded of the scene in "Annie Hall" where Alvie free associates about the Warren Report while his wife is begging him to make love.) The drama is bracketed by two crucial scenes. An early sequence demonstrates the reaction of the public to the assassination, the utter shock felt by ordinary people at the death of a president who charmed his admirers like perhaps no other. This sequence is bound to resonate deeply with people who lived through the experience, but it's also important for a younger generation to understand the pain that gave birth to the search for truth in this case. I watched this scene and wondered why I had never seen it before. The film concludes with Garrison's closing arguments in the trial of Clay Shaw. The lengthy speech is an eloquent and occasionally emotional summation of the rights and responsibilities of free citizens in a democracy, and how they relate to the assassination. I wish I could remember more of this scene but I was by this time suffering massive sensory overload because... In between the two scenes is the story of Jim Garrison's investigation into the assassination of JFK and the subsequent trial of Clay Shaw, a three-hour tommy gun burst of information and ideas, a relentless montage of facts and speculation that astonishes by its breadth and virtuosity. Director Oliver Stone skillfully blends the contemporaneous action with still photos, news reels, flashbacks, the Zapruder film, alternate versions of events--the film probably has more seams than any film ever made, yet flows seamlessly and naturally toward its conclusion. It's a technical tour de force. The location work--Dealey Plaza, the Texas School Book Depository, New Orleans--is especially effective in establishing verisimilitude. I always felt like I was seeing the real events unfolding. And despite the constant blending of scenes from different times, the story was never confusing. Each category of shot seemed to have a visual style to set it apart. The flashbacks, for example, are in black and white, with the camera always moving, making the scene a little hazy, leaving only the remembered detail. Still, there's a lot there; it's the kind of film that will continue to reveal itself on repeated viewings. The story is a great one, really dozens of strange tales rolled into one. You have to wonder why Hollywood, ever hungry for new and relevant material, passed it by for so long. Is it simply that the time wasn't right until now? There are no dull moments. The film grabs hold of you and never lets loose, delivering one spine chill after another. Along the way are great characters and a number of fine performances, best of which may be Gary Oldman's uncanny portrayal of one of the most enigmatic figures in modern times, Lee Harvey Oswald. Joe Pesci is good as the bizarre David Ferrie, but not as intense as in his career-making role in "GoodFellas." John Candy plays hipster attorney Dean Andrews and I think I spotted him as Dallas cop Marrion Baker in one of the flashbacks. Tommy Lee Jones is excellent as Clay Shaw; ditto Kevin Bacon as a male prostitute. There are also a number of interesting cameos... Could I fault this movie (as a movie)? (That's obligatory, isn't it?) Costner's Garrison would make more sense as a character if he grew into his scepticism more. Growth is hinted at but, really, the graph is flat--there's never any doubt that convincing proof of a conspiracy will be found. Compare "JFK," in this respect, with "All the President's Men." In the latter, the effect of piling on the layers of a deepening mystery is better paced and maybe more exciting. Sissy Spacek is fine as Garrison's wife, but her character seems to exist only as an index of Garrison's emotional estrangement from his family. In the end, after Bobby Kennedy has been killed, she can admit that her husband was right all along but, still, it's not clear whether she thought the sacrifice of his attention worth it. I also didn't care for the extravagent homosexual romp scene, particularly since the real Clay Shaw was a bondage freak with a leather and chains lounge. The subterranean hostility inherent in Shaw's true predilictions makes a better fit dramatically, so why chuck it? Perhaps Stone made the mistake of relaxing himself with a Ken Russell picture the evening before he wrote that scene. But these are all secondary questions when, in fact, the plot is the real star of the movie, and it sings. I give "JFK" $5.50 on the $0 to $6.25 scale. The Event --------- While watching "JFK," it became immediately obvious why the political establishment has convulsed in reaction. The film is a ham-fisted belly blow to our conventional belief in how the power to rule America is established. Most people leaving the theater will feel at least some paranoia about the government; some people will feel a lot of paranoia. However, not all of the reaction has been negative, as shown by these excerpts from an editorial in the San Francisco Examiner: * First consider whether you believe the Warren Report. If you don't, consider seeing..."JFK," which depicts the assassination as a coup d'etat staged by a vast conspiracy. But if you do believe the Warren Report, there may be even more reason to see the movie--to challenge your assumptions about Nov. 22, 1963, and after. Writer-producer Stone's theories...may or may not hold water. But they make us consider the possibilities. There's plenty of evidence the Warren Commission's lone-gunman theory doesn't solve the case. If there isn't a national soul- searching over what really happened, why isn't there? We should want the truth.* (It's ironic that a paper that refused to run ads for "Citizen Kane" in 1941, a paper that runs a weekly editorial by William Randolph Hearst Jr. that could not be any more laudatory of Washington's conservative rulers, would "get" a film like "JFK.") The disease, of which "JFK" is a symptom, is deeply-rooted. The establishment botched the investigation so badly, and have continued to pigheadedly defend their preposterous conclusions (as embodied in the Warren Report), that private citizens, with the liability of inadequate resources and official apathy, have had to step in to fill the void. It's no wonder that this haphazard volunteer investigative force has produced its share of hokum. It's the nature of the beast. But they've also turned up a lot of solid evidence, evidence that the Warren Commission never considered. They've turned the Warren Report over and over, and what you're left with is that a whole lot of extremely unlikely events had to have occurred in quick succession for the Report to be correct. One or maybe two of these things, we could accept. But when so many aspects of the Report require a suspension of disbelief, reasonable people cry foul. At the same time, we have a long record of missing evidence, altered evidence, planted evidence, destroyed evidence, forged evidence, secret evidence, censored evidence, witnesses threatened, witnesses killed. At some point, it can't all be explained away by coincidence and human error. There's more going on than the government admits. But while it's easy to discredit the citizen investigators by highlighting their errors or their occasionally silly conclusions, it's very hard to consider the totality of evidence that challenges the Warren Report and dismiss it all with a shrug. It's too compelling. But you will not find the Warren principals--Commissioner and ex-President Gerald Ford, staff attorneys David Benin or Senator Arlen Spector, or others--rebutting the evidence that contradicts their conclusions. They're beyond defending the truth; they're defending their reputations. No one of them wants to be party to a process that finds them culpable in such an abject failure. Their appeal anymore is to people who are looking for any excuse to believe that the government never lies. Still, "JFK" needs to be put into perspective. Though it may extend beyond the film world in importance, it is not a documentary and must succeed as a film first and a proposed historical revision second. It has to have a plot, characters, and a dramatic structure. The main character is Jim Garrison, and his investigation/trial becomes the plot on which a wild array of fact and speculation hangs. Much artistic license is taken to weave the mass of material into a coherent whole. One character is a composite of real characters and speculation--Kevin Bacon's Willie O'Keefe. Donald Sutherland's X was invented to provide eyewitness confirmation of what is, in fact, only Garrison's opinion. Garrison's point of view is fleshed out and affirmed by having him know things that weren't discovered until after the story's time frame. In general, the drama is fleshed out with extrapolated conversations and scenes, e.g. no one has confessed faking the photos of Oswald, but the faking is shown. Does all this license matter? Purists will be bothered because the film allows people to believe things that aren't necessarily true. But, on the whole, moving people from a position of knowing too little to knowing too much is probably a net gain. Because the center of the story has never been discovered, the fringes are not that far from the middle ground. The main point of the film is not to tell Garrison's story; it's to present a unified theory of the assassination. Garrison's only real purpose is as a spokesman for those who want to learn the truth. There is an important difference between Garrison, the film's icon, and Garrison, the real person, though. The real Garrison rejected the possibility that organized crime played any role in the assassination. But at the same time, Garrison appears to have been on New Orleans' petty graft gravy train, courtesy of Carlos Marcello, the formerly powerful Mafia boss of Louisiana, a notoriously corrupt state. This caused Garrison to overlook, perhaps intentionally, the strong possibility that Marcello played a role in the assassination. Critics of Garrison have even suggested that the entire trial was a sham invented to deflect attention away from the mob; though bringing the nation's attention to bear on New Orleans would be a dangerous way of trying to divert attention from Marcello, particularly since the government's lethargy (in wanting more answers than the Warren Commission provided) demanded no counteraction. And since David Ferrie had admitted (to the FBI) ties to Marcello, putting the spotlight on Ferrie could not have caused Marcello any comfort, regardless of his guilt or innocence. Stone shores up Garrison's blind spot a little by inserting references to lower-level mob involvement. They become part of the film's complex mosaic of detail. But Stone probably made the right move in pointing the finger at government conspiracy, if the film is to be a means and not an end. For there's no doubt that the government is hiding something, though perhaps not government complicity in the assassination. But as long as they continue to deny the obvious and bury the truth, citizens have every right to fear the worst. It's a just punishment for the establishment's crime of letting the president's killers go free. Stone is really trying to force the government's hand with this film. He could have picked another plausible scenario--the assassination as a Mafia hit, for instance, or an act of vengeance by anti-Castro Cubans, or a balanced blend of CIA/Mafia complicity--but that would not have exerted the maximum pressure on the government to tell what they know. If the establishment doesn't like the film's message, that's fine. They have the power to change perception. If they want to prove Stone or anyone else wrong they are welcome to expose their secret documents to the light of day. As Stone writes in a New York Times article: The issue of our times--as the media keep repeating--is democracy. The real issue is trusting the people with their real history. The real issue is opening all the files of the House Select Committee on Assassinations, embargoed until 2029, today. The real issue is opening all CIA, FBI and military intelligence files, held for all eternity, on Oswald, Ruby, Kennedy and Dallas 1963. All of them--without the crucial parts blacked out. Only then can we start to have a real democracy. "JFK" strikes a blow for that open debate. John


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