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Frost/Nixon Never Resigns from Entertaining its Audience


Frost/Nixon

FROST/NIXON

Directed by: Ron Howard

Starring: Frank Langella, Michael Sheen

Richard Nixon is so hot right now.  Between “Watchmen” (which  takes place in a dystopic version of the 1980s where Nixon is a dictator) and “Frost/Nixon” (which  recounts the Nixon interviews conducted by British journalist David Frost shortly after Watergate), the Korean box office is currently saturated with representations of the notorious 37th President of the United States. And here’s a heads up: the latter is by far the better movie.

While “Frost/Nixon” isn’t very ambitious, it has few flaws. The seamless plot and arched character development make for effective storytelling, and the sprinkle of humor here and there prevents the tone from becoming self-important. Moreover, director Ron Howard and screenwriter Peter Morgan deserve praise for taking a potentially boring premise and turning it into a satisfying and even engaging film. Just don’t expect to be shocked or surprised at any point.

Framed like a historical drama, it’s actually more of a character study than anything else - a close-up of the shamed former president’s bruised ego after being chased out of the White House. At first, Tricky Dick doesn’t appear to have learned anything from his disgraceful downfall. Still very much the obstinate politician, he initially sees the interviews as an opportunity to redeem his tarnished reputation. To him, the criminal abuses of power he committed in office are a minor blemish on an otherwise successful presidency full of noteworthy achievements. However, as Nixon crawls back into the spotlight after years in hiding, he slowly begins to accept that he not only dissapointed his country, but himself.

“Frost/Nixon”  works in large part thanks to Frank Langella, who manages to bring his character to life without recurring to impersonation (no small feat). He exudes the former president’s egotistic and self-serving nature, while also capturing his grandfatherly charm. But what’s most remarkable about Langella’s performance is that it gives a widely disliked man an undeniably human face, one that consistently registers a swollen pride tormented by guilt and personal affliction.

The screenwriter also merits his share of the credit. It seems as though Morgan has a talent for writing about the treacherous world of politics (he penned the intelligent script of “The Queen” about Queen Elizabeth II’s callous reaction to Princess Diana’s tragic death). The back and forth dialogue between the two antagonists is always top-notch, but if there’s a highlight, it’s definitely the drunken monologue Nixon delivers over the phone to Frost a few days before their session covering Watergate. The speech is raw and revealing - the former president’s buried anguish laid bare.

Of course, a lot of the most memorable lines - such as “when the president does it, that means that it is not illegal” - are actual quotes from the real interviews. If I have one major criticism, it’s that the film is basically a rehashing of yesterday’s infotainment. Still, Howard’s version is a nicely condensed package that makes this story more accessible and attractive to the wider movie-going audience.

Rating: 60/100

I Believe This Belongs to You?

I cleaned the bathroom drain today. It appears that the occupants from 1987 left some hair behind. I have nothing further to add. Possibly ever.

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Great section in the USA Today today (that was awkward) devoted to the decline in religion across America --with the greatest drop taking place in the infidel Northeastern U.S.The South --as to be expected-- experienced little change in their views on the big daddy upstairs. This can't make Him proud, since The South continues to have the highest crime rates, teen pregnancy, drug abuse, lowest

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Update. Won-Dollar Exchange Rate: From Bad to Worse.

Update: If you want the nuts and bolts of how this all works check out today's New York Times leader: "Rising Dollar Lifts the US but Leads to Crisis Abroad"

I wrote about this a while back (see "If") but the situation has become so much worse that I thought it would be beneficial to comment on it again. As of this writing the rate sits at 1/1555, which means that if you need to send home $500 a month it will cost you over W800,000 depending on how you do it. This is not good. I have friends who have to send a lot more than that home and things for them are getting desperate. The rate has now collapsed to the point where one wonders where it will bottom out, or if it will.

There is some indication that the rate change is beginning to affect recruitment and, as a result, salary levels here. Posted salaries were increased for the last EPIK hiring cycle but they are no where near replacing the lost income through exchange rate deflation. It will be interesting to see if the salary schedule for the current hiring cycle will reflect any acknowledgment of the current rate dive. I am not sure the Education Ministry understands the degree to which this could affect the willingness of new teachers to come to Korea. Of course, with the unemployment rate in the United States now topping 8% there will be more push from the backside but the debt load of the average college graduate ($19000 as reported by the SeattlePI or see a complete breakdown here at the AMSA site) may cause many of them to look elsewhere to teach abroad.

The problem is the uncertainty: Even if you look at the rate now and feel you can deal with it you still have to ask yourself: if the won/dollar trade has declined over 55% in one year where will it be a year from now? Most economists think that the economic downturn in the United States is going to get much worse before it improves.

There may be some hope. The good people at forcasts.org (who BTW predicted a much smaller downturn in this quarter) have the Won rebounding by September. Since they last updated in early February the rate has collapsed completely so it will be interesting to see how they adjust the comeback levels. I would be ecstatic if the rate got back into the 1/1250 range again. I hope they are right.

The Week We View - Mar 8th

>Economy got you down? Money a little tight? Worry not dear readers. The trip to hell in a hand basket is free --but seating is tight.>Unemployment rose to 8.1% this week, a 25-year high, with 651,000 jobs being lost in February alone. Experts expect the economy to shed a total of 2.4 million jobs this year exceeding 9% in overall unemployment. The good news? Spring is here --enjoy the time off.>

Jon Stewart rips CNBC

CNBC analyst Rick Santelli --who called American homeowners that have fallen behind on their mortgage, "losers"-- was given his just desserts by John Stewart on The Daily Show. He then goes after blowhard supreme, Jim Cramer.

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