JayDee's Movie Musings

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Miss Vicky's Loyal and Willing Slave
Well as it turns out I've been inspired to write a couple of reviews over the last day or two so I can continue my 90s catch-up season. Though as Gunslinger said, right now it's just films I'm really liking/loving that I'm finding easy to write about. Films I don't like, think are just pretty good or that did nothing for me either way I'm struggling with just now. And I'm guessing HK should be pretty happy with this one.


mirror
mirror

Year of release
1991

Directed by
Oliver Stone

Written by
Zachary Sklar
Oliver Stone

Starring
Kevin Costner
Tommy Lee Jones
Gary Oldman
Kevin Bacon
Joe Pesci
Sissy Spacek


JFK


Plot - November 22nd 1963. United States president John F. Kennedy is shot and killed in Dallas, Texas. Shortly thereafter Lee Harvey Oswald is caught and arrested for his murder. While in police custody however Oswald is himself shot and killed by Jack Ruby. With JFK's killer dead the case is closed. Except that it wasn't. Questions about the assassination lingered and were not even put to rest with the release of the Warren report into the incident. This film details the efforts of New Orleans district attorney Jim Garrison to uncover the true story behind Kennedy's death.

Man I love me a good conspiracy theory! Aliens at Roswell. The moon landing being faked. 9/11. Pearl Harbour. Elvis is still alive etc. I love a mystery and the various theories that get spouted out in their wake. Even when I don't believe whatsoever in the theories being put forward I still find them to be very interesting and a lot of fun. And of all the conspiracy theories out there, arguably none is larger than the assassination of John F. Kennedy. It's a doozy. It's been 50 years since it happened and still huge questions hang over it. Was Lee Harvey Oswald really the man responsible? And if not was it the mob? The CIA? The FBI? Castro? Sadly we don't know for sure. And about the only thing that most people agree on is that they don't believe the story of a lone gunman that their own government has put out as gospel. This film explores the inconsistencies in the story and focuses on some of the theories about what really did happen.

As a film JFK is actually quite a strange, unique exercise in terms of its structure, its story and its characters. It doesn't follow the established template for a movie whatsoever. It doesn't really have a classic three-act structure. There's little to no characterisation or character arcs to be found, and hardly anything in the way of relationships between characters. And we know going in that at the end of the film Garrison is doomed to failure with his cause. And it's whole set-up doesn't sound like it should be all that interesting. The film is almost continuous dialogue for its entire running time. What you basically have is 180 minutes of exposition. And yet with all of this going against it, I still found it to be one of the most engaging and engrossing films I've watched in a long time. While the story and the theories that provide the film's foundation obviously help a lot, great credit must also be paid to both Oliver Stone and the fantastic ensemble that he assembled.

Film Trivia - Unsurprisingly the film generated quite a lot of controversy upon its release. Even before its release actually. After George Lardner, national security correspondent for the Washington Post, showed up during shooting he wrote a scathing article attacking the film. He did so after reading the first draft of the script. Many other major newspapers followed his example when the movie did hit cinemas, attacking Stone for playing fast and loose with the facts. Even those who were just fans of the film had a tough time. Pat Dowell, veteran movie critic for The Washingtonian, had her 34 word capsule review rejected by its editor, John Limpert. Limpert was a known opponent of the film, which he considered treacherous. Dowell resigned in protest. Even a legend like Roger Ebert wasn't safe. After his rave review and four star rating for the film, Walter Cronkie berated Ebert for praising it, with Cronkite adamant that there was not a shred of truth to the whole film. In response to the many attacks about him fabricating the facts, Stone published an annotated version of the script, in which he justified every claim made in the film.
It really does have to be one of the most impressive ensemble casts ever put together. I mean even in the most minor roles you've got guys like Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau; absolute f*cking legends! Now I know he may not exactly be a darling of many movie fans, but I have to say that I've always really liked Kevin Costner. I've loved a lot of his films (Field of Dreams, No Way Out, Dances With Wolves, Bull Durham etc) and really hope he makes a huge comeback someday. He may not have the talent or range of Tom Hanks but I'd say he's pretty close in terms of embodying that all-American everyman character that harkens back to the 30s and 40s. And I think he does a great job here of leading the sizeable and impressive cast. His Garrison is a stately but passionate seeker of the truth. He proves to be particularly impressive down the film's closing stretch as the pressure begins to get to him and cracks begin to appear both in his personal and professional life. And then I felt he did a great job in the trial scenes which close out the film, delivering the lengthy monologues about magic bullets and how JFK went “back and to the left, back and to the left...” in a thrilling fashion.

Garrison's team are made up of a series of very talented character actors including Michael Rooker, Wayne Knight and Jay O. Sanders. Most of whom all get a moment or two to shine and prove capable of grabbing it. Outside of these more straight-laced characters, there are a series of supporting characters who provide a great deal of colour and life to the film, mostly in the form of potential witnesses. Joe Pesci as the ridiculously eyebrowed David Ferrie, Kevin Bacon as male prostitute Willie O'Keefe, John Candy as an eccentric lawyer and Donald Sutherland as Mr. X, a Washington insider who tantalises Garrison with a slew of information, all make an impact. I thought that Kevin Bacon in particular was pretty damn great. The absolute stand-out however amongst these supporting characters would have to be Tommy Lee Jones as Clay Shaw, aka Clay Bertrand. He is terrifically sleezy as the shadowy Clay, extremely haughty and condescending; well worth his Academy Award nomination for best supporting actor.

For a film where at least 90% of its running time is dedicated to characters either standing or sitting around just talking, you would imagine that Oliver Stone may not have much opportunity to really make a mark on the film in a visual sense. And for that 90% you may be right. However when it comes to presenting recreations of the events that happened in the lead up to and on that fateful day, Stone certainly does put his stamp on the film. Presented in black and white and frequently edited in a maniacally frenetic fashion they are vivid and invigorating flashes that integrate archival footage, recreated sequences and hypothetical scenes. Stone also makes great use of the genuine, shocking video footage and photos that exist of the actual incident and its aftermath.

Film Trivia Snippets - In Bull Durham, released three years earlier, Kevin Costner's character has a large monologue about what he believes in, and actually states that “I believe Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone”; the exact opposite stance taken by his character in JFK. /// Originally Mel Gibson and Harrison Ford were Oliver Stone's first two choices for the role of Jim Garrison. Jeff Bridges and Nick Nolte also came into consideration but were rejected; Bridges for not being a major draw at the box-office, and Nolte for being deemed too old. While Don Johnson petitioned very hard for the role, but was turned down by Stone and the producers as they felt Johnson's own public image would make him a hard sell as Garrison. /// To alter Dealey Plaza so that it mirrored how it looked in 1963 took $4 million to accomplish.
JFK is a wonderfully crafted film. The editing throughout the film is fantastic, but so is its writing, use of music and its cinematography; all of which are top notch. Together they create an excellent piece of storytelling that is somehow able to coral a wealth of information and a massive assembly of characters into not only a coherent but a thrilling narrative. A narrative which achieves its aim triumphantly. Oliver Stone doesn't set out to provide an answer to what happened on the 22nd November in 1963, he couldn't possibly. What he does do however is help to breed the anger and indignity that many people have over Kennedy's assassination, showing how unlikely, or hell impossible, the 'official' story is. He presents a film that makes you want to get up at the end and do something about it. To find out the truth. And beyond that its just a cracking story, one that would seem highly contrived and cliched where it not based on actual events given all of the shadowy characters involved, witnesses who fall one after the other like flies, the number of 'coincidences' that enabled the event to occur etc. Yes Stone may take some liberties with historical facts, using creative licence here and there, but to paint a plausible theory of what may have happened it's an exhilarating experience.

The only problem with a great conspiracy theory or mystery is how desperate I become for answers. I want to know what happened to Amelia Earhart. I want to know where Jimmy Hoffa is. I want to know if the Royal Family are really lizards. And I want to know what really happened to JFK. I always hope for some answers to be found, with deathbed confessions and truths outed by ill health always being a prime source, as in the cast of Deep Throat, whose identity was finally revealed a few years back. So perhaps one day we will find out the truth about the assassination of John Fitzgerald Kennedy; until then we have this terrific film which presents a counter argument to the Warren report; an argument that is both enticing and worryingly believable.

Conclusion - Whatever you think of Stone and the fashion in which he tackled the story of Kennedy's assassination I don't think there's any denying that he assembled a fantastic jigsaw puzzle of a film with JFK. It's a great technical showpiece of editing, writing, photography etc which is splendidly played by its enormous cast. Even if you don't buy into what Stone is selling, or any of the conspiracy talk whatsoever, this can still be enjoyed as an intelligent, high class thriller. As someone who does believe that something fishy went on that day however, JFK acts as a great call to arms to search out the truth.



That's a great review of a film you know I love dearly.

Have you seen 13 Days, JD? Very different film, obviously, but it has a similar feel and works in a similar way.
__________________
5-time MoFo Award winner.



Great review. Really the only reason I didn't love this movie was because the beginning was very dull and uninteresting. Their was no real point in there being characters, and I didn't see any reason why it couldn't just be a documentary. However, once the Donald Sutherland scene came around, every scene after that was pretty great.



Excellent review! Now I admit I have never actually seen this movie. I am just not that big a fan of Oliver Stone (I hated Natural Born Killers). But your review does make me curious to see the movie.

Fun fact, I have been to the Texas School Book Depository in Dallas, and the building has been turned into a JFK museum. Worth a trip to see if you visit the area. There is even a great big sign that says grassy knoll on it.



We've gone on holiday by mistake
George H.W.Bush was rumoured to be either running or part of the assassination team in Dallas that day.

Amazingly he claims he "doesn't remember" where he was when he heard JFK was shot".

Just think about that for a minute, how do you not remember where you were on one of the most important days of the century?

Film Trivia - Unsurprisingly the film generated quite a lot of controversy upon its release. Even before its release actually. After George Lardner, national security correspondent for the Washington Post, showed up during shooting he wrote a scathing article attacking the film. He did so after reading the first draft of the script. Many other major newspapers followed his example when the movie did hit cinemas, attacking Stone for playing fast and loose with the facts. Even those who were just fans of the film had a tough time. Pat Dowell, veteran movie critic for The Washingtonian, had her 34 word capsule review rejected by its editor, John Limpert. Limpert was a known opponent of the film, which he considered treacherous. Dowell resigned in protest. Even a legend like Roger Ebert wasn't safe. After his rave review and four star rating for the film, Walter Cronkie berated Ebert for praising it, with Cronkite adamant that there was not a shred of truth to the whole film. In response to the many attacks about him fabricating the facts, Stone published an annotated version of the script, in which he justified every claim made in the film.
“We are grateful to the Washington Post, the New York Times, Time Magazine and other great publications whose directors have attended our meetings and respected their promises of discretion for almost 40 years......It would have been impossible for us to develop our plan for the world if we had been subjected to the lights of publicity during those years. But, the world is more sophisticated and prepared to march towards a world government. The supernational sovereignty of an intellectual elite and world bankers is surely preferable to the national autodetermination practiced in past centuries.”
David Rockefeller



George H.W.Bush was rumoured to be either running or part of the assassination team in Dallas that day.

Amazingly he claims he "doesn't remember" where he was when he heard JFK was shot".

Just think about that for a minute, how do you not remember where you were on one of the most important days of the century?

Oh come now, we all know LBJ and Jackie did it! Then they sent JFK to a old folks home in East Texas after they dyed him.



We've gone on holiday by mistake
Yea and don't forget he made best friends with Elvis.



Miss Vicky's Loyal and Willing Slave
Thanks to Gunslinger and Inmate for the compliments. And I had actually included a reference to Bubba Ho-Tep but for some reason removed it.

Have you seen 13 Days, JD? Very different film, obviously, but it has a similar feel and works in a similar way.
No I haven't but I've been interested in it for a long while. Got it taped somewhere and have been meaning to look it out since watching JFK.



Miss Vicky's Loyal and Willing Slave
mirror
mirror


Year of release
1990

Directed by
Rob Reiner

Written by
William Goldman
Stephen King (novel)

Starring
Kathy Bates
James Caan
Richard Farnsworth
Frances Sternhagen
Lauren Bacall


Misery


Plot - Paul Sheldon (Caan) is a hugely popular and successful writer, with much of his success arising as a result of his series of books featuring the character of Misery Chastain. Despite the wealth and fame they have brought him, Sheldon has no real passion or pride for them. Setting out to write something more serious and substantial he makes the decision to kill the character off and instead writes a new unrelated novel. He always writes his novels in a secluded lodge in Colorado before heading back to the city to give the finished manuscript to his editor (Bacall). Except that this time when he attempts to leave after completing the novel, he does so in a wild blizzard and crashes his car. He is critically injured and would surely have died there and then but is instead rescued by Annie Wilkes (Bates), a former nurse and as it turns out Paul's number one fan. She takes Paul back to her remote house to recuperate from his numerous broken bones. Except that she doesn't inform anyone of this. As it turns out Annie is also just a little bit unstable. When she discovers that Paul has killed off her beloved Misery, Annie becomes furious, holding Paul captive and forcing him to write a new Misery story which brings her back to life.

There's no doubt that the prime reason Misery is so much fun to watch is down to Kathy Bates' terrific performance as the unhinged Annie Wilkes. It almost feels like Bates should have been given dual credits for the film as she pretty much portrays two completely different characters. For much of the film's first act she appears to be the nicest, sweetest person you could ever wish to meet, full of homespun expressions and rustic, country girl wisdom. She may come across as a little odd and eccentric perhaps, but it would be easy to just put that down to the isolated state from society which she has created for herself. However we eventually begin to see the other side of Annie Wilkes, the terrifying and monstrous side of this deranged super-fan. And Bates is absolutely captivating in these scenes of transformation. The contrast that her cheery, sunny disposition flags up playing against the sadistic monster proves to be very humorous. Though she isn't quite the despicable monster I had expected with Bates giving the character a sense of depth and empathy. In the scene where she acknowledges how Sheldon will be wanting to leave soon I felt genuine sympathy for the character.

While it is Bates that really makes this film it would be unfair however to overlook James Caan's contribution to the film. Despite the fact that he is restricted either to a bed or a wheelchair for the large majority of the film, Caan does not allow that to detract from his performance. His Sheldon is quite an interesting creation, not acting in the typical way you might expect. He doesn't appear as terrified or defeated as would be normal, giving Sheldon a dry wit and a penchant for caustic remarks. It's fun watching their cat and mouse relationship unfold as Paul tries to outwit Annie by playing along with and even sympathising with her. Though in a way it doesn't seem like a completely negative experience for him, he seems to find it rather interesting and even motivational in regards to his writing. Perhaps he even thinks this is him getting his just desserts for the meagre work he has put out into the world. Caan also does a fine job portraying the levels of excruciating pain he is in. And while Misery is basically a two-hander between Bates and Caan the film also provides some fun little departures in the form of back and forths between the local sheriff and his wife/deputy. Played winningly by Richard Farnsworth and Frances Sternhagen, they share a very entertainingly cranky rapport and provide a few good laughs.

Prior to Misery, Rob Reiner's previous three films as a director had been When Harry Met Sally, The Princess Bride and Stand by Me. When you take into consideration just how large a departure Misery is from the light-hearted, romantic and nostalgic nature of those films I think Reiner deserves a good deal of credit for how he handles this drastic change of pace. You could say that the structure of the film may not require a great deal of work on his behalf but I feel he does an effective job of directing events throughout, particularly the moments of extreme suspense. With Caan confined to his bed for large stretches Reiner really makes the most of the occasions where Sheldon is able to escape from his one-room prison, ratcheting up the tension. I loved the sequence which depicts Sheldon's first foray out of his dungeon like existence. As he drags himself out of bed we can really feel the immense discomfort and pain the character is suffering, and Reiner than cross cuts back and forth between Sheldon exploring the house and Annie returning to the house. It may be a pretty typical 'race against time' scene, nothing particularly innovative, but it is nicely done. Reiner frequently films much of the movie from a low camera angle to give us Sheldon's point of view, placing us in his position. Such an approach also allows Reiner to frame Bates in an imposing and formidable light, mimicking the way in she towers over Caan's prone body. It's a very effective move at covering up for Bates' rather slight frame; she is actually only 5'3” but as she looms over us she appears to be giant.

Film Trivia Snippets - It might seem quite amazing when you take into account the likes of Stand by Me, The Shawshank Redemption and The Green Mile, but Misery is actually the only Stephen King adaptation to receive an Academy Award; Kathy Bates' Best Actress win. /// The role of Paul Sheldon took a long time to find its way down to James Caan. Before he got it the role had been offered to and turned down by William Hurt, Kevin Kline, Michael Douglas, Harrison Ford, Dustin Hoffman, Robert De Niro, Al Pacino, Richard Dreyfuss, Gene Hackman, Robert Redford and Warren Beatty. /// While the role of Annie Wilkes was initially offered to Anjelic Huston. Despite being interested Huston had to turn it down due to her commitment to The Grifters. Bette Midler also declined the role before it went to Bates. /// A scene that was left on the cutting room floor saw Annie kill a young police officer by repeatedly rolling over him with a lawnmower. Bates was reported to be very disappointed at its omission, but Rob Reiner took the decision as he was concerned the audience would find it funny.
Misery has some interesting issues at its heart as it tackles obsession, celebrity worship and an artist's love/hate relationship with thier own work. Annie Wilkes has become so infatuated with Sheldon and his series of books concerning the character of Misery Chastain that they are no longer just something she enjoys, her whole existence has become tied to them. So when she discovers that Sheldon has killed off her beloved Misery it pushes her over the edge. It also highlights that fascinating and unique thing about celebrities; that it's the people who really love and worship them that sometimes need to be most feared. Even though it's the celebrity giving entertainment to the public, by supporting them and making them a success some people seem to believe that the celebrity in turn owes them something. And that if they try to do something different they see it as a betrayal. Misery makes sure that the phrase, “I'm your no. 1 fan”, has never been so chilling. The source inspiration for the film of course comes from Stephen King's original novel, and I just wonder how many letters and confrontations he has had with such fans that may have inspired such a story.

It's also easy to see the events of Misery as a metaphor for conflicted artists all over the world. The Misery Chastaine novels that Sheldon writes are utter hokum but they find a wide audience and as a result are a great cash-in opportunity for him. But it doesn't make him happy. When he tries to write something actually worthwhile for once however, something of substance and close to his heart, he finds his work being censored by Annie in the form of her burning his work. She is the embodiment of the completely evil editor who will not allow you to showcase your talents, but wants you to keep churning out the same old stuff because its a dependable money-maker. I'm sure it's the life story of many a writer, film-maker, singer etc.

While Misery may most likely be placed in the horror genre it is never a particularly scary film; it seems a lot more concerned with being darkly funny and luridly entertaining. It may become a classic game of cat and mouse between the two individuals but the film never really throws any twists or shock surprises our way. Instead it provides its kicks of adrenaline as a result of sudden bursts of startling violence, the most obvious of course being the famous sledgehammer scene which really did elicit quite the wince and audible reaction from me. Great scene. Great film.

Conclusion - I went into this one expecting something rather dark and grim. Instead I was delighted to find that Misery was an extremely entertaining flick, full of dark humour and a fantastic turn from Kathy Bates. It takes the subject of an everyday horror and proves to be just a lot of fun.



Maybe I'll have to take another look at Misery, as I remember it as a really good film I didn't want to see again, as I found it quite unnerving.



Maybe I'll have to take another look at Misery, as I remember it as a really good film I didn't want to see again, as I found it quite unnerving.
One of my favourites - I'm easily unnerved but know where those moments are now.



We've gone on holiday by mistake
Nice review JD. I've heard people say the book is way better than the film. Kathy Bates is awesome.



Miss Vicky's Loyal and Willing Slave
Hey it only took me 4 years to get you to see it, hk. Maybe I can get JD to do it in 3 or fewer.
Well seeing as it took you 2+ years just to find my thread, I'd say at least 3 years for Quills sounds about right!

I actually liked the first half of From Dusk Till Dawn better; it went a little downhill for me the second Hayek's fangs came out. Planet Terror was cool.
Wow really? I thought the vampires were the whole point/appeal of From Dusk Till Dawn.

Maybe I'll have to take another look at Misery, as I remember it as a really good film I didn't want to see again, as I found it quite unnerving.
Wow really? So often I've seen you talk about how you didn't find a film scary, disturbing, shocking etc when other people did, that it's a surprise to hear you found Misery rather unnerving.

Nice review JD. I've heard people say the book is way better than the film. Kathy Bates is awesome.
Thanks gandy. And yeah she kind of is. I actually need to look out my 3rd Rock from the Sun DVDs as I seem to remember her appearing in that in a role that very much parodied her Annie Wilkes character.



Leben findet einen weg...
I didn't see you'd reviewed Misery until now...

Excellent film, Bates made into my Top 40 Villains list, definitely her best role too.

Great review
__________________
Originally Posted by doubledenim
Garbage bag people fighting hippy love babies.




Wow really? So often I've seen you talk about how you didn't find a film scary, disturbing, shocking etc when other people did, that it's a surprise to hear you found Misery rather unnerving.
That's how I remember Misery. Along with that, Jack The Bear made me so angry that I cried, Pinocchio scared me and I turned it off and haven't watched it since, while The Entity was the only film I can think of which actually scared me long after I'd seen it and worried me. I think that's the lot. I was a bit spooked on the walk home from watching A Nightmare On Elm Street and, for some reason, The Curse of the Werewolf, starring Oliver Reed.



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