Having watched almost all the films in the lead running (except Button which I’m catching later today) I’m fairly surprised at one of them being considered.
I have a big issue with the Academy nominating “Frost/Nixon” for Best Picture. My problem is not just that this is a really aggressively mediocre film as far as acting and directing. It isn’t just the psuedo-documentary style they use to explain character motivations. The film quite frankly is a lie made out of an event that happened within most of the Academy voter’s lifetimes. How on earth the Academy is considering this as “Best Picture” of the year is beyond me.
I’m going to be discussing spoilers here, if that’s even possible for a film based on such a well known historical event, but here we go.
“Frost/Nixon” is history that doesn’t even meet the standards of Made-for-HBO flicks like “John Adams,” “Band of Brothers,” and “Recount.” This certainly doesn’t have any of the accuracy of other Presidential historical dramas like “Thirteen Days” or even this year’s “W.” The film is a dishonest and misleading take on an event that was actually filmed and broadcast on television. Let’s start with the premise. Frost/Nixon portrays David Frost as the plucky underdog who must overcome the odds and win the big game at the last minute. In their version of the story, we end with Nixon confessing to the Watergate cover-up on television. Anyone who’s ever watched the actual tapes knows that he actually said the exact opposite. Further, Nixon was getting a hefty percentage of the project’s profits, so the admissions he did make were completely controlled by him to generate ratings.
This movie even has Nixon drunk-dialing David Frost late at night in his hotel room and confessing his sins while blaming it all on popular kids being mean to him in high school. Does anyone actually believe that really happened? In the final scene of the movie Nixon’s character actually turns to Frost and goes “did I really do that.” Frost looks with seriousness and replies solemnly “yes.” Sorry… nope.
Others have noticed this garbage and rightly called out the film for this nonsense. Elizabeth Drew’s article calling the film a “Dishonest Distortion of History” is definitely worth reading if you’re considering watching this flick:
But it’s because of the enormously historical importance of that period that the film raises serious questions of its legitimacy. The film’s plot is a contrivance; its telling is so riddled with departures from what actually happened as to be fundamentally dishonest; and its climactic moment is purely and simply a lie.
I definitely recommend reading the rest of her article here. What’s sad however is that usually Ron Howard’s truth-distorting Oscar bait film tricks work on Academy voters. Anyone remember “Beautiful Mind” (from the same writer who gave us “Batman & Robin.” Seriously). Well read the real life story of John Forbes Nash and see how much resemblance it bears to the corny and safe PG-13 flick Howard turned out.
The latest pundit comments however predict that Frost/Nixon remains a lock for a nomination. EW’s Dave Karger makes this rather probable analysis in the current state of the Oscar nomination race:
Oscars ‘09: Dave Karger Predicts…
At this point, you can put money on The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Slumdog Millionaire, Milk, and Frost/Nixon to make the cut. The fifth slot, leaving out dark horses like Revolutionary Road (too depressing), The Reader (too controversial), and WALL-E (too…cartoony), is looking like a race between two very different contenders: Doubt and The Dark Knight. The intimate, powerful Doubt racked up the most Screen Actors Guild nominations — but then again, so did Oscar also-ran Into the Wild last year. If Doubt fails to excite the non-acting majority of the Academy, a certain commercial and critical smash might just end up with a Best Picture nod to add to its half-billion dollar gross.
It is disappointing and I hope some Academy voters take a good long hard look at “Frost/Nixon” before just handing it an honor it most definitely does not deserve.