Saturday, November 27, 2010

Movies! JFK

JFK is Oliver Stone's 1991 examination of the Kennedy assassination in 1963 in Dallas. It stars Kevin Costner as New Orleans District Attorney Jim Garrison, the only person ever to bring someone to trial for the murder. Stone described the film as a "counter-myth" presented in the face of the accepted "fictional myth" put forth by the Warren Commission--that is, that Lee Harvey Oswald was the lone assassin.
Just to be up front here, I really don't care for Kevin Costner, and his performance in JFK is not good. A New Orleans accent is a tricky thing, and Costner's slips in, out, and all over this movie like a. . . penguin on an ice slide.
Yet, this remains one of my favorite movies of all time for two reasons: the supporting actors and the way it's shot and edited. With a cast including the amazing shapeshifter Gary Oldman as the possibly misunderstood Oswald, the over the top Joe Pesci as conspirator David Ferrie with glue on caterpillar eyebrows, and the always soigne Tommy Lee Jones as defendant Clay Shaw. In even tinier roles that matter are John Candy as a fast talking slimeball attorney in Ray Bans and the delicious Kevin Bacon as a fascist convict with a story to tell. Heck, even Jack Lemmon, Walter Matthau and Ed Asner are in there. No wonder Kevin Costner looks less than effective.
As for the way this movie is filmed and put together--it won its only two Oscars for cinematography and editing. JFK is a crazy quilt of old footage, new film, little visual secrets and Easter eggs, and plain, old fashioned beautiful photography. I can't imagine how many miles of film were shot to put this together in such a gorgeous way. The way Stone plays with light, shadow, smoke and staging fascinates me. Every time I watch JFK, I see something new.
Is it historically accurate? Who cares! The movie is not filed under documentary. It's a fiction, a myth, a celebration of the paranoia of conspiracy theories, and a beautiful showcase for some damn fine character actors.

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