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Category:    Home > Reviews > Drama > Biography > History > Crime > Murder > Law > Government > Elections > Oliver Stone’s Nixon (Blu-ray + DVD-Video/1995/Hollywood Pictures/Disney)

Oliver Stone’s Nixon (Blu-ray + DVD-Video/1995/Hollywood Pictures/Disney)


Picture: B/C+     Sound: B/B-     Extras: B+     Film: A-



Robert Philip Kolker recently added Oliver Stone to his Arthur Penn chapter in his great film book A Cinema Of Loneliness, now in its third volume.  The idea is that he had become (at the time at least) the U.S. filmmaker to capture the raw, dark side of the American Experience as Penn had with classics like The Chase, Night Moves, Little Big Man and Bonnie & Clyde.  Many tired to discredit Stone and others did not understand his multi-text approach in films like JFK, but before slipping into a creative coma that included films like Alexander and Any Given Sunday, he made his greatest film to this day with Nixon.


Anthony Hopkins gives one of his tour-de-force performances as the fallen commander-in-chief, in a brutal, dignified, honest, powerful, nuanced and highly palpable interpretation of the man in a way that pulls no punches.  The big surprise from Stone and co-writers Stephen J. Rivele and Christopher Wilkinson (later of Ali) is that they do not make Nixon the main villain or only focus of any crimes.  He is not just giving orders to everyone else to do his bidding and this is not an angry left-wing radical live-action cartoon.  Instead, it is a very deep, detailed tale of power and the dark side of the U.S. and shows Nixon as someone who has good sides and actually was smarter than he is often given credit for.


Instead, it is darker forces in motion that Nixon finds himself in the middle of and that Watergate is nothing as compared to what was really going on and what was (and still sadly is) to come.  If anything, the film has been prophetic and far ahead of its time as expected, but not just by chance, but because it tells of things too many ignored and the result is the mess the U.S. is in now because of character attacks on the filmmaker.


With few pieces of footage to go on, even people on the Far Right found Joan Allen’s portrayal of Patricia Nixon amazing and as powerful as Hopkins, but at the time, no one knew who Deep Throat was and the film does a great job of dealing with that aspect of the story.  Recently, when the man’s identity was revealed, it turns out it was a highly respected former U.S. government official who had been pardoned for any crimes known or unknown by Ronald Reagan himself!


But the film is also one of the most brilliant ensemble cast epics Hollywood ever made and despite public statements apologizing to The Nixons by children of Walt Disney for the now-corporate entity releasing “such a film”, it could have been far, far worse than they thought and remains one of the best liver-action films the company will ever have in their catalog.


The cast of this amazing character study also includes Paul Sorvino shocking good as Henry Kissinger, Powers Booth as a disturbing Alexander Haig, John Diehl underrated as the ever-aggressive G. Gordon Liddy, E.G. Marshall as John Mitchell, Madeline Kahn showing her dramatic capacities as Martha Mitchell, David Hyde Pierce as John Dean, Ed Harris as Howard Hunt, Mary Steenburgen as Hannah Nixon, J.T. Walsh as John Ehrlichman, Bob Hoskins as an explicitly gay and perverted J. Edgar Hoover, James Woods as a politically incorrect H.R. Haldeman, Edward Herrmann as Nelson Rockefeller and Larry Hagman as a dangerous head oil man named ‘Jack Jones” who makes J.R. look like a cartoon.


Once you start watching this masterwork, you just cannot stop, unless you are a close-minded reactionary who cannot stand truth to power of any sort in self-censorship overdrive and worse.  Stone may finally return to form with W., about George W. Bush, but he has been out of form for a while and only time will tell if he has lost his edge or not.  More than any other film he’ll ever make, Nixon shows his success was never a fluke and that he is a master filmmaker at his best.



The 1080p 2.35 X 1 digital High Definition image was mainly shot in anamorphic Panavision 35mm film by Robert Richardson, A.S.C., though other film and video formats were used to recreate certain kinds of archive footage or Hopkins was inserted into certain shots.  This is a little too soft for my tastes, yet you can still see how great this was shot in Blu-ray.  The anamorphically enhanced DVD looks much weaker, with depth issues, weak Video Black and a lack of detail that is very untrue to the film.


The Blu-ray has a PCM 16/48 5.1 mix that is pretty good, better than the often botched previous DTS and Dolby mixes and both have a Dolby Digital 5.1 that is underwhelming, but at least is not muddy like the last DTS and Dolby mixes.  The film was a Dolby Digital theatrical exclusive in its original release and has a fine soundmix overall which the PCM delivers for the most part, though it felt like something was missing at times, while John Williams delivered one of his better scores of late.


Extras are the same in both formats and include the Charlie Rose Interviews Oliver Stone featurette, deleted scenes introduced by Stone, the original theatrical trailer, new Beyond Nixon documentary and two fine audio commentary tracks by Stone.  These are all great, but I wanted even more.



-   Nicholas Sheffo


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