And Then You Destroy Yourself: Nixon at the Movies

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Our Nixon is on CNN tomorrow night at 9:00.

clemenza, Wednesday, 31 July 2013 11:16 (seven years ago) link

two weeks pass...

For those of you that have seen it, how much knowledge about Nixon and Watergate does it assume on the part of the viewer? Considering showing it to an undergrad class, but am wondering how much context they would need.

Chantal Anchorman (admrl), Friday, 16 August 2013 20:43 (six years ago) link

"It" meaning Our Nixon? I don't think it requires a whole lot of background knowledge, but it's home movies plus narration (and some present-day interview footage), so it's not the first place I'd go to learn about Watergate.

clemenza, Friday, 16 August 2013 21:14 (six years ago) link

Thanks - it's a found footage filmmaking class, so I wouldn't be using the film to explain Watergate.

Chantal Anchorman (admrl), Friday, 16 August 2013 22:31 (six years ago) link

It'd be good for that--then you can move onto Nixon & Found Audio.

clemenza, Saturday, 17 August 2013 00:04 (six years ago) link

Court-Ordered Audio

Miss Arlington twirls for the Coal Heavers (Dr Morbius), Saturday, 17 August 2013 01:50 (six years ago) link

three weeks pass...

Another trailer...

Elvis Telecom, Tuesday, 10 September 2013 20:28 (six years ago) link

oh i saw this, it's interesting. more for the tapes, which i've never gotten into listening to, than the footage, really, which it uses pretty strangely. if the time hasn't past i think it would make for a pretty interesting source text for a class, because of the diversity of what's used (inc a lot of video, tv footage, &c), & the purposes it puts it all to, which were pretty often almost ambient, imo, like illustrative rather than a focus.

@twitizensforlemonlipbalm (schlump), Tuesday, 10 September 2013 20:32 (six years ago) link

yes, it would be great for a found-footage class.

(saw it yesterday in a theatre)

moves from a funny introduction by Nixon--no lie--to a fairly stunning moment that I don't recall ever reading about

sampled by The KLF in America No More!

(and some present-day interview footage)

the interviews are from 1979, 1982 and 2004 iirc - continuing the bricolage nature of the film.

The Raekwon "If" Singers (sic), Tuesday, 10 September 2013 21:14 (six years ago) link

four months pass...

I'm a couple of hours into Washington Behind Closed Doors. Not what I thought, which that it would be exclusively about Watergate. It starts in '67 or '68, even before "Dick Monckton" wins the presidency. It's fun matching character to person--most are obvious, some less so (probably some composites in there). Jason Robards (wisely) makes no attempt to sound like Nixon, instead giving glimpses here and there; he snarls some vintage Nixon to end the first episode, which I won't quote here (telling you something about what was still acceptable on network TV in 1977). Has a lot of CIA-connected stuff that I didn't realize was such public knowledge so close to Nixon's presidency...It's based on one of Erlichman's books (not a whitewash; he was clearly in revenge mode), so maybe this had a hand in getting that out, or maybe the big Senate hearing on the CIA had already happened--not sure of the timeline. Cliff Robertson fairly wooden, Andy Griffith a decent (though not really remotely similar) LBJ, Stefanie Powers quite gorgeous.

clemenza, Saturday, 11 January 2014 14:29 (six years ago) link

yes, the Church Senate hearings happened around '75 -- I watched WBCD when it aired in '77.

eclectic husbandry (Dr Morbius), Saturday, 11 January 2014 15:08 (six years ago) link

That explains it then. So far, an unreasonably benign Kissinger ("Carl Tessler").

clemenza, Saturday, 11 January 2014 15:34 (six years ago) link

also, not really a spoiler, but I believe the series ends with the start of Watergate. (Unless one takes the view that all the Plumbers shit is part of Watergate, which I think it is.)

Only scene that really sticks with me 37 years later is Robards doing the visiting-the-demonstrators incident.

eclectic husbandry (Dr Morbius), Saturday, 11 January 2014 16:01 (six years ago) link

ne takes the view that all the Plumbers shit is part of Watergate, which I think it is

hack Beltway columnists (i.e. George Will two days ago) still concern troll over what "motivated" Nixon's men to try the Watergate burglary without connecting Watergate to Ellsburg, the Huston plan, Operation GEMSTONE, and so on.

the objections to Drake from non-REAL HIPHOP people (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Saturday, 11 January 2014 18:01 (six years ago) link

I just finished Nixon's Darkest Secrets, and the theory there is that Nixon was worried about how much Larry O'Brien knew about some of Nixon's dealings with Howard Hughes. Whatever the case, it's been pretty conclusively established that the break-in was the tip of a very long iceberg. Anyone who still wonders about motivation, or expresses a "But he had the election wrapped up..." puzzlement, hasn't looked into the matter very deeply (or, if Will's doing the same, is being very disingenuous).

clemenza, Saturday, 11 January 2014 18:09 (six years ago) link

Finished this tonight. It’s close to artless--there was one nice shot of Andy Griffith/LBJ and Cliff Robertson/Richard Helms outdoors as the camera drew back at a critical moment--and it lurches along from storyline to storyline, with occasionally pointless detours (the entire marital situation of Robertson). But then there’d be a really strong scene and it’d pick up for a while. Robards is as valid as any other Nixon I’ve seen. He emphasizes some things (Nixon’s persecution complex), minimizes or bypasses others (the social clumsiness), adds little flourishes the whole way through (his bizarre clowning around on Air Force One seemed especially Nixon-like). Robert Vaughn’s Haldeman is so robotically sycophantic and callous, he’s funny--his ongoing exasperation with Nicholas Pryor (most annoying character in the whole thing, not sure who exactly he was supposed to be) is great. Two people I knew from Save the Tiger: Thayer David as Hoover, also Lara Parker. Matches up well with All the President’s Men, ending at exactly the moment where the earlier film begins. Meg Foster’s eyes are weird beyond compare. She looks like a glassy-eyed Stepford wife.

clemenza, Friday, 17 January 2014 03:41 (six years ago) link

two months pass...

Looking through my VHSs, I found a copy of The Final Days. I bought when Sam the Record Man shut down their rental store--the sticker's still on there.

Very good, very odd. It aired in '89--not sure what prompted them at that particular moment to make a TV movie of a Nixon book that had been out for over a decade. I knew virtually nobody in the cast: Richard Kiley as Nixon's lawyer, David Ogden Stiers as Haig, and that was it. Lane Smith plays Nixon. I don't know that I've ever seen him in anything.

Smith's Nixon is the least histrionic, least mannered, most normal Nixon I've ever seen. You won't like it if you can't accept that a version of Nixon like that. (Two or three times he goes full Nixon, most notably when joking about his lawyer's reluctance to take a drink.) The film is mostly the familiar scenes of getting briefed by advisers, huddling in his office, weighing options, etc., but he rarely loses his temper and doesn't start ranting and spinning off wild schemes. It's all very slow and methodical, different from everything else I've seen. The direction seemed unusually good for an '80s TV film.

Most bizarre scene is where Brezhnev accepts the gift of a car from Nixon, then promptly takes him on a Bullitt-like joyride around Camp David.

clemenza, Thursday, 3 April 2014 00:52 (six years ago) link

I saw it. That car scene is faithfully reproduced from the book.

Quite disappointed in Our Nixon. They played some good tapes (when RN realizes Ehrlichman might rat him out), but the rest was an unwieldy mix of the arbitrary and trivial. (schlump otm)

images of war violence and historical smoking (Dr Morbius), Thursday, 3 April 2014 01:00 (six years ago) link

even better:

Bryan Fairy (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Thursday, 3 April 2014 01:01 (six years ago) link

Worth it for Warren Burger musing aloud about the limits of pornography's redeeming social value: next thing you know those kids will have orgies and it'll be okay if they mention the Vietnam War!

Bryan Fairy (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Thursday, 3 April 2014 01:07 (six years ago) link

five months pass...

I rewatched Dick this morning. The best line is still "They'll never lie to us again."

should've faded out w/ "You're So Vain" instead of Oval Office rollerdisco tho.

son of a lewd monk (Dr Morbius), Monday, 29 September 2014 21:31 (five years ago) link

I played a kind of Nixon movie for my class today: a short clip from the first Nixon-Kennedy debate (Friday was the anniversary).

It's perfect for media studies. Play the part from 1:25-1:45, and--whatever your feelings about each guy--everything of legend is right there. Kennedy looks straight at the camera, appears confident and the picture of health (anything but, of course); shifty-eyed Nixon couldn't look more guilty. (His famous five-o'clock shadow isn't quite as bad as reputed, though--or maybe the clip is forgiving.) It's a great clip for talking about how one set of people, the radio audience, could have thought Nixon won the debate, while TV viewers reached the opposite conclusion. Everything people hate about politics in 20 seconds. Unless you believe that television is a godsend here, revealing the real Nixon in a way that radio can't.

clemenza, Monday, 29 September 2014 23:55 (five years ago) link

four weeks pass...

haha this was made just for me wasn't it

Οὖτις, Tuesday, 28 October 2014 18:55 (five years ago) link

sorry, just way too "cute" for a feature film, even w/ Shannon.

things lose meaning over time (Dr Morbius), Thursday, 6 November 2014 15:53 (five years ago) link

this sounds... unnecessary

Οὖτις, Thursday, 6 November 2014 16:08 (five years ago) link

this was already a movie:

(The Other) J.D. (J.D.), Thursday, 6 November 2014 17:51 (five years ago) link

Elvis Presley: Well, gee, Mr. President, I kinda wish I had a tape of this meetin', so I could play it for muh wife and muh little daughter.
Richard M. Nixon: Tape-record meetings.
(suddenly intrigued)
Richard M. Nixon: Hmm...

(The Other) J.D. (J.D.), Thursday, 6 November 2014 17:52 (five years ago) link

Spacey as Nixon sure to be insufferable.

things lose meaning over time (Dr Morbius), Thursday, 6 November 2014 18:14 (five years ago) link

one year passes...

BAM here is showing the 33-minute Cockettes film Tricia's Wedding on Thursday! "The high jinks start when Eartha Kitt adds LSD to the punch bowl."

Sylvester (that one) plays Coretta Scott King.

we can be heroes just for about 3.6 seconds (Dr Morbius), Monday, 21 March 2016 15:35 (four years ago) link

three months pass...

excellent poster and tagline! anyone seen this?

piscesx, Tuesday, 21 June 2016 15:18 (four years ago) link

I missed the names at the top of the poster and read this to mean that Alex Pettier and Johnny Knoxville were playing Elvis and Nixon, which actually might have been interesting.

rhymes with "blondie blast" (cryptosicko), Tuesday, 21 June 2016 19:19 (four years ago) link


rhymes with "blondie blast" (cryptosicko), Tuesday, 21 June 2016 19:19 (four years ago) link

two years pass...

— Richard M. Nixon (@dick_nixon) November 28, 2018

a Mets fan who gave up on everything in the mid '80s (Dr Morbius), Wednesday, 28 November 2018 22:23 (one year ago) link

Amazing. I can't top that, but I like this picture a local rep theatre is using to promote the Roger Ailes documentary they're screening next week. That's kind of almost Nixon at the movies.

clemenza, Thursday, 29 November 2018 20:48 (one year ago) link

I wonder if Dick got to see it and then asked Julie why she loved a movie where he is referred to as "the Asshole"

a Mets fan who gave up on everything in the mid '80s (Dr Morbius), Thursday, 29 November 2018 20:53 (one year ago) link

Wouldn't be surprised if Nixon just heard about the film and is making up the Julie part of that letter. She was fiercely protective of her father--it's a real stretch to believe she liked the film (not sure I even believe she saw it).

I don't know who the Clinton-like guy on the left is in that Ailes picture.

clemenza, Thursday, 29 November 2018 20:58 (one year ago) link

two weeks pass...

Didn't much care for the Roger Ailes documentary. Not surprisingly, more of a Trump movie than a Nixon movie. It lost me right from the start: one of the very first interviewees is Glenn Beck, who is treated throughout (they go back to him a number of times) as serious and legitimate. Besides being a total fraud and a clown, I can't think of many people who were more disgusting during Obama's two terms.

clemenza, Thursday, 13 December 2018 23:52 (one year ago) link

three months pass...

Nixon on the television...The CNN series starts tonight.

There's so much out there already, you never know if it's going to be little more than a rehash, but the promos they've been running the past month have been really good.

clemenza, Sunday, 17 March 2019 15:15 (one year ago) link

oooh. would watch.

my future think tank (stevie), Sunday, 17 March 2019 20:15 (one year ago) link

One of my favorite books AND movies ever is All the President's Men (I love them about equally) so I was over the moon to find this documentary on YouTube and found it just amazing:

The Colour of Spring (deethelurker), Sunday, 17 March 2019 20:54 (one year ago) link

Also, if you were born after the fact and wanted to know how the "Saturday Night Massacre" played out on the news, this valuable upload from the Obscure Video channel is a must-watch:

The Colour of Spring (deethelurker), Sunday, 17 March 2019 20:57 (one year ago) link

I may have seen the first, can't remember, but definitely not the second--thanks.

clemenza, Monday, 18 March 2019 00:33 (one year ago) link

Good start (although they kind of wrote Whittaker Chambers out of the story--you see him, but he's only referred to as a "former Communist"). To paraphrase Hannibal Lecter, loved the blue suit.

clemenza, Monday, 18 March 2019 02:04 (one year ago) link

there's a three-part BBC documentary on watergate that you can find on youtube that's really excellent.

even though i've read and watched lots of stuff about nixon (did a report on him in eighth grade and have been fascinated ever since), the exact details of the watergate scandal are so convoluted that i still somehow find myself being surprised by a lot of the story every time i see/read something about it.

(The Other) J.D. (J.D.), Monday, 18 March 2019 02:16 (one year ago) link

It took a while, but I think I have a pretty good handle on Watergate by now; the various Trump scandals I find more impenetrable, but that's maybe a function of the world today, with the details scattered over a million internet pages, instead of one central narrative like All the President's Men. Maybe the Muller Report will end up serving the same function. Probably not.

clemenza, Monday, 18 March 2019 02:26 (one year ago) link

I may have seen the first, can't remember, but definitely not the second--thanks.

You're welcome; the channel, which is actually named OBSOLETE Video (I keep getting that wrong even though I'm subscribed to it) is fantastic for watching Watergate-era news broadcasts recorded using early home TV recording technology. It's fascinating seeing news broadcasts dated from 1972 that seem very innocent and almost naïve compared to the news broadcasts from 1974. BTW, we don't see a narrative to current events because we're too busy living through them, but with the distance of time we'll be able to "have a pretty good handle on" what's going on right now with the corrupt orange bastard.

The Colour of Spring (deethelurker), Tuesday, 19 March 2019 18:41 (one year ago) link

The Pentagon Papers has always been the Aleph to Watergate.

recriminations from the nitpicking woke (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Tuesday, 19 March 2019 19:11 (one year ago) link

if the BBC documentary aired in the '90s and has interviews with most of the living players (including a flanneled Haldeman), then I've seen it and it's excellent.

recriminations from the nitpicking woke (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Tuesday, 19 March 2019 19:16 (one year ago) link

Some elaboration on my blue-suit aside, the most interesting new thing I learned watching part 1. Everyone knows the standard story about the first Nixon-Kennedy debate: Nixon won post-debate polls among radio listeners but lost with TV viewers because he came across as shifty-eyed, had a bad case of five-o-clock shadow, and was sick with the flu besides. But Nixon (in voice-over) also suggested that his gray suit looked really terrible against the neutral backdrop, whereas Kennedy's dark suit stood out. Except his suit was gray only if you were watching in black-and-white; he had a rather youthful-looking powder-blue suit on, which actually looked kind of sporty next to Kennedy's dark-blue suit. The accompanying visual supported what seemed like a pretty astute reading, I thought.

(Yes, they also talked about the world during that debate.)

clemenza, Tuesday, 19 March 2019 22:13 (one year ago) link

The CNN thing made the valid point that Nixon had to be mindful of his reputation--Hiss, Helen Gahagan Douglas--and downplay the already entrenched perception that he was ruthless. So his supporters thought he wasn't aggressive enough and came across as almost deferential to Kennedy (which he actually was anyway).

(xpost) True--but I bet Nixon would tell you that Kennedy's "Harvard boys" owned all the colour TVs. (Sure sign I've seen Oliver Stone's film too many times: I hear "Harvard boys" in Anthony Hopkins' voice.)

clemenza, Wednesday, 20 March 2019 00:27 (one year ago) link

Part 2 tonight. Or at least I hope it doesn't get cancelled for an extra hour of nocollusionnocollusion talk.

clemenza, Sunday, 24 March 2019 21:08 (one year ago) link

Which is exactly what they've done--not happy at all.

clemenza, Monday, 25 March 2019 01:09 (one year ago) link

ha, I interrupted Animal Crackers to turn on CNN for the first time since December.

recriminations from the nitpicking woke (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Monday, 25 March 2019 01:23 (one year ago) link

three weeks pass...

The CNN series finished tonight. When Nixon resigned, his approval was 29%, the Supreme Court had just ruled against him 8-0, and his party was starting to line up against him. I've read a thousand variations on this story, but the distance from there to here is still astounding.

clemenza, Monday, 15 April 2019 02:22 (one year ago) link

Was it good? I've been skeptical of CNN series after their decades ones. I did watch this 2018 Watergate documentary over the weekend, and found it fairly gripping. They had actors re-enacting the transcripts, which was a bit cheesy at first but often worked for me — it drove the point home a bit more to see "Nixon" ranting about "liberal Jews" or hush money as part of regular conversation rather than a tinny recording or words on paper. Wish it had touched a bit more on the public reaction to the transcripts, though; Perlstein's Invisible Bridge has a great bit on all the moral conservatives clutching their pearls on discovering Nixon's vulgarity. (IIRC, Nixon once scolded Truman for un-presidential language by using "damn" in a public statement.)

blatherskite, Monday, 15 April 2019 18:59 (one year ago) link

I actually enjoy those decade shows...The Nixon series was 97% contemporaneous audio and video, which was great. I'd seen a lot of it already, but there was stuff I'd never seen or heard. Definitely caught Nixon at his worst: besides the racial epithets, you hear him saying that the opening of China was exactly the sort of thing that "the grey middle America" ate up because they were suckers. Definite allusions to Trump throughout, especially the ending.

clemenza, Monday, 15 April 2019 22:38 (one year ago) link

three weeks pass...

Watched black dynamite on mubi, pretty good

milkshake chuk (wins), Sunday, 12 May 2019 18:29 (one year ago) link

one month passes...

When the first explanatory title of Charles Ferguson's Watergate - Or, How We Learned to Stop an Out-of-Control President had to do with re-enactments and 100% true, my heart sank--was I really sitting down to four-plus hours of re-enactments? (I read as little as possible ahead of seeing a film, and I'd read nothing on this one.) Happily, no. They appear somewhat regularly in Part 1, almost not at all in Part 2; in total, there's maybe 20 minutes' worth. They're all inside the Oval Office, most prefaced by a real audio clip from the tapes. They're kind of awful, and I'm not sure why they're there.

The rest is quite good, especially all the footage from the hearings, where you usually just get Dean, Butterfield, and maybe Mitchell; there's much more here. (Why doesn't someone release the entire hearings on DVD? I know TV networks were pretty bad at archiving stuff then, but the footage must exist somewhere.) Two biggest revelations: one, Elizabeth Holtzman, the AOC of her day every which way; two, how badly compromised Howard Baker's "What does the President know..." question was. It wasn't heroic--he was a mole for the administration, and the question was meant to get Dean to perjure himself. In all that I've read and seen on Watergate, I don't think I ever knew that.

clemenza, Monday, 17 June 2019 04:30 (one year ago) link

By the way--today is the anniversary of the break-in.

clemenza, Monday, 17 June 2019 18:15 (one year ago) link

nine months pass...

Surprise, surprise, I liked Our Nixon. It basically follows the standard timeline, from inauguration through to the resignation of Haldeman and Enrlichman, but it moves along casually, and it never feels like events are being ticked off a checklist. Nixon doesn't fulminate much--there are phone calls with Haldeman where he sounds bemused by events, and even one, after a Vietnam television address, where he sounds stoical. (And another, right after Haldeman's resignation, where he's almost certainly been drinking.) The one time he really gets going, on All in the Family and Greek philosophers, is something. There's a bit with the Ray Conniff Singers that moves from a funny introduction by Nixon--no lie--to a fairly stunning moment that I don't recall ever reading about. The highlight for me was a brilliant choice for the opening-credit music. It's not just a great song (not period music), it lays out the entire film in a way that makes perfect sense.

― clemenza, Monday, May 6, 2013 9:26 AM (six years ago)

Our Nixon has been made free on Vimeo for pandemic quarantine.

Dollarmite Is My Name (sic), Wednesday, 18 March 2020 18:28 (four months ago) link

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