Tuesday, February 17


I have now seen almost all the films nominated for Best Picture at the Oscars this year. I have yet to see 'The Reader', but among the other four I think 'Milk' and 'Frost/Nixon' are the real contenders. While I loved 'Slumdog Millionaire' and thought that 'Benjamin Button' could have been shorter, 'Milk' and 'Frost/Nixon' were simply amazing movies. Like my husband said, it is probably because we are more interested in and enjoy political subjects. Maybe.

Since the time I heard about the film when the real David Frost appeared on the Daily Show I had been waiting to see it. Initially I wanted to check out the real interviews, considering that it is based on real life and would have enabled comparison. But now I think it was good that I did not. I went there with an open mind and was completely taken by the film. The performances are amazing, especially Frank Langella. He is a very convincing Nixon, an Oscar worthy performance indeed. Someone pointed out that he did not get the Nixon grin right. But even without it he sent a chill down my spine. While Langella humanized Nixon , neither he nor the film went so far as to generate sympathy for what Nixon did. In spite of having heard and read enough about Watergate before this, I had never fully grasped why he did it. The film brought some perspective. Nixon was apparently a rather petty man. And that again made him human. Even at the peak of power he could not let go of his pettiness.

As for Frost, it was a surprise. I saw him old and imagined him to be either geeky or somber. But he turned out to be a frivolous, at times irritating character. He worked hard on the interviews, but I was left with the impression that he could not imagine or understand the immense significance of the interviews until quite late into the process. And the "confession" seemed more due to Nixon's failing than Frost's strategic victory. But then I guess it must have been rather intimidating to interview that man. Frost was after all an interviewer not an interrogator.

The film's documentary style also works for the story. I don't think a greatly dramatized film version would have been as effective or appealing. The director establishes the main characters very well through the first half of the film, which helps us put the interview in perspective; understand why both of them reacted or did not react as they did. It ends as soon as it has served its purpose, told the story of Frost/Nixon. And you leave amazed and relieved that men in power can have a conscience.


Ashutosh said...

There was an article in an issue of "The Atlantic" by Jim Reston, one of the main protagonists in the movie. He complains that while he did like the movie, it depicted the interviews as some great moment in American history, while it was really a fine and neat journalistic coup and nothing more than that. I agreed with him. The movie of course is extremely well-made.

Manasi said...

Ashutosh: That is true too. It is what I was thinking about when I said that it seems more due to Nixon's failing than Frost's strategic victory. The Atlantic piece was right in pointing that out, though I also think that it was an important moment, particularly at that time.