Frost/Nixon (Ron Howard) 2008

I am a fan of Ron Howard when all is said and done.  Sure, at times he is too schmaltzy and can have some MAJOR missteps (Grinch, EdTV, The Missing to name a few), but he is a skilled craftsman.  Apollo 13 could have been a forgettable docudrama much like Valkyrie (not meaning to bash it but it was the first thing that came to mind).  Apollo 13 was incredibly thrilling despite the fact we already knew the ending and is the standard when you make a movie about the American space program.  There has been a big backlash against Ron Howard and in some circles could be more hated than say an Uwe Boll.  He has become the poster child for Oscar bait with Academy Award winner A Beautiful Mind and it has hurt his success with Cinderella Man (which I really liked).  True, his movies have a tendency of being overrated (and it could be argued he is an Oscar Bait director) but then again I don’t understand the opposite end of the pendulum where he is called one of the worst directors.

I guess the point of all this rambling is that Frost/Nixon will be in the middle of the same debate.  It is also another reason I think Slumdog is winning it all.  There will be many singing this movie’s praises and on the other side it will further cement Howard’s reputation as a studio puppet and an Oscar Bait director.

Frost/Nixon is about the television interview after President Nixon’s resignation with an Australian talk show host David Frost.  It had expectations of being a puff piece but ended up being the landmark political interview in American history.  As with Apollo 13, Howard does an excellent job of bringing tension to an event we know about.  For one, Frost had a hell of a time selling this to studios and the whole thing almost never came into being.  Another problem was Richard Nixon absolutely crushing Frost in much of the interview.  It really is a “no holds barred” debate (as Nixon put it) where Nixon uses all his skills to put a positive spin on his Presidency.  I do have to give major props to Frank Langella who deserves his nomination for this performance.  At first, I wasn’t sure the physically large actor could pull off the hunched over droopy faced Richard Nixon, but he really is the power that drives this movie.  Michael Sheen does an okay job with his smarmy persona but there really isn’t a whole lot for him to work with.  That really is one minor issue I had with the movie.  This is more driven by Nixon’s character and he steals every scene he is in.  We keep hearing from many of the characters about the similarities between Frost and Nixon but we don’t really go in depth into it.  We are kept at arms length with Frost as we only see him schmoozing with studio big wigs and doing his usual wheeling dealing with executives.  When we get to the final third, we do get very powerful scenes and it is a reason to see this movie.

Frost/Nixon is a great movie.  I don’t think I would put it in the pantheon of Best Picture nominees (although I would keep it over Benjamin Button).  There are other more deserving movies which I think got the shaft in getting any kind of recognition.  However, I realize that the Oscars are not the final statement on good movies.  Despite what the Oscars say (and all the endless pages of bitching over the fact Titanic and Shakespeare in Love won) really great movies stand the test of time.  I recommend Frost/Nixon.  You will not be disappointed and leave whatever Oscar gripes at the door.

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