Welcome to my movie blog, containing reviews and articles. I've been writing since 2004 - with a short break during 2009.


Hello, reader. I want to play a game...

Last night I watched what can only be one of the most brilliantly exciting films ever made, and I want you to guess what it is.

What dya come up with? The Matrix? Die Hard? Run Lola Run? Something with explosions. Probably not three hours of exposition in smoky rooms, and a murder mystery without a real conclusion.

I'll give you another clue. I voted it best film two years ago on the strength of the first three quarters alone - we had neglected to video further than Donald Sutherland's appearance - and have been hanging on tenterhooks since. Ironically enough, the DVD cut out about ten minutes before this point, just as Joe Pesci shouts “I’ll tell you who shot the president!”. But we gave it a wipe, and glared at the player, and after that it worked just dandy.

I don’t think I can rate JFK highly enough. Forget the politics, I’ve got no opinion there: just look at the skill with which it is told.

Stand up editing team. A lot of films don't make it obvious what an editor does - the Coens edit their own films, under pseudonyms, thus making it an extension of the writing/directing process. The same goes for M. Night, who meticulously storyboards everything. Well, folks, watch this film to learn.

Take the opening sequence, presented as a series of genuine pieces of footage. It allows us to suspend our disbelief when, a few minutes later, we get the montage of what happened on The Day Itself, presented as real. The editing comes so fast, we can hardly identify what is real and what has been reshot for the movie. Throughout the film, they play constantly with the images on screen in this way. What of the dinner conversation inexplicably, brilliantly intercut with the faking process of a key photo.

Part of the brilliance is surely also down to Gary Oldman, and his great talent for invisibility. He vanishes into his role, creating the seamless illusion that genuine footage is being used.

The same goes for sound. Listen out for geese in the background during Joe Pesci’s first interrogation, as he lies about the supposed hunting exposition. Even John William’s music is exactly where it belongs in this one – supporting, and only really breaking out for the court room brilliente at the end.

In fact, the only weak part of the movie was Sissy Spacek, playing Default Movie Wife #4 - but that's hardly her fault, because there's not much new you can do with "honey, I just don't understand your genius, so why not come back to me and the kids". It would be wrong to overlook the human cost of his quest entirely, but putting in a character who is trying to prevent our hero (and thus the audience) from reaching his goal is normally known as a villain. You wouldn't be watching if you didn't want to know, and thus her role is frustrating.

So what of the evidence? Well, there’s no denying it’s very well presented. For all its layers, this is not a hard film to follow. As for its accuracy, Oliver Stone has released an annotated edition 0f the script with all his claims backed up.

I’ve always thought there was something fishy, and it’s not so much Kennedy’s death as everyone else. We know they were planning to scrub Castro. In that period, Martin Luther King, Marilyn Monroe and Robert Kennedy also died under odd circumstances. This cumulative heap of connected and influential assassinations is the thing that’s always made me suspicious, and I was happy to see this touched on in the film. It’s particularly the Sirhan Sirhan affair, where the lone assassin gets off 18 rounds without reloading, supposedly in a gun only holding 8.

Did you ever read fanfiction? Seriously don’t, it erodes your mind and makes your brain trickle out of your ears. Occasionally there’s a good piece, but it’s mostly tripe. Did you ever meet the concept of slash fiction? It always comes to mind when people start “proving” conspiracies, because if you want something to be true, chances are you’ll find some evidence for it. I call it “slash logic”, going from 1 to 3 without going via 2 in the middle, or even considering 4. “I think Butch Cassidy is in love with the Sundance Kid, here’s a scene that features a little possible evidence, thus they are in love, no other explanation.” Or, did you ever take a class in English literature? Point, Evidence, Explanation. I’ve got a quote from Dracula, I can make it mean whatever I like. Give it a feminist spin, and we can read Mina as the strong woman trapped with a weak, impotent Johnathan. Or alternately, it’s all about men subduing the fairer sex, which is why they are so keen for the freedom Dracula represents. Is he the threat of syphilis, or of hidden desires, or of breaking away from society, or covert homosexuality (in which case, through close reading, it can be proved our Bram was both pro- and anti-); or is he, like a Marxist article I sat through once, “The capital which, after lying “buried” for twenty long years of recession, rises again to set out on the irreversible road of concentration and monopoly… his ambition is to subjugate the last vestigies of the liberal era and destroy all forms of economic independence”. Or is it just a damn monster book?

For me, this little story about AIDS defines the conspiracy theory. Supposedly, it’s a manmade virus engineered to wipe out blacks and gays – it was distributed with vaccinations using the World Health Organisation as a front. Someone has found their evidence, matching the start of the spread of AIDS with the cities in which this vaccination was given out (think the end of 12 Monkeys). Like all the best theories, it relies on an unsubstantiated coincidence – indeed, an unsubstantiatable coincidence, which can never be proved, nor wholly disproved – and an idea that is just mad enough to be true. And like all the best, if it is true, the world is suddenly a far scarier place to live.

Anyone here see Loose Change? It’s the American-Government-Caused-9/11 movie, a sort of 20 minute JFK-style analysis of evidence, proving among other things the Pentagon was not hit, and Flight 93 did not crash. I haven’t seen it; my sister has, and at the time she was very convinced. The word proving is used lightly here. As the Dracula example, “prove” is a relative term. The truth is not out there. There’s no such thing as truth at all.

This is where conspiracy theories fall down for me personally. Kevin Costner tells his movie kids “the truth is a scary thing” and he’s damn right. On the one hand, sure we have a duty towards the dead, and to Justice. On the other, I don’t want to live in or know about a world where a government would actually do that to its people, be capable of covering it up, and all in the name of profit. Because like the AIDS thing, slash-logic means you can take whatever evidence you like, and make it mean whatever you like.

What were we discussing? Ah, JFK. Thankfully, it doesn’t fall into the realms of speculation so obviously. By making the bullet-thing the focus of the case, he escapes vague coincidence and sticks to what can be proved. At the same time, it doesn’t allow the film to forget that Garrison might be a paranoid nut after all. His tragedy is being able to deconstruct the lone-assassin theory with such skill, and prove something fishy was going on, while not coming up with a plausible alternative to blame. As soon as the film has to tackle who is responsible, it’s back to Dracula again, vaguely intoning the FBI-CIA-Mafia-Martian coalition had something to do with it. And the Cubans.

But sod all that – despite what it says about 2029 being the year the files will be released (aren’t you just itching for them to come out…), it’s highly unlikely we’ll ever get to the bottom of the facts. Instead, sit back, disengage your brain and politics, and enjoy a brilliant piece of filmmaking, be it fiction or fact. And it’s still the best film from two years ago.

Incidentally, with a cast including Donald Sutherland, Jack Lemmon, Tommy Lee Jones, Sissy Spacek, Kevin Costner, Joe Pesci, Gary Oldman, Martin Sheen (as voiceover) AND Kevin Bacon, this can only be the greatest six-degrees movie of all time.


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