Category Archives: Arts & Entertainment

‘Frost/Nixon’ a Worthy Contender

One of the most significant historical events that I never learned enough about in high school was the Watergate scandal and the fallout left upon Richard Nixon.

Ron Howard’s Oscar-nominated film Frost/Nixon, a film adaptation of the stage play, delves into the now famous interviews between talk show host David Frost and the former president Richard Nixon. This dramatization of a series of interviews granted to British talk show host David Frost in 1977, three years after Nixon resigned from his presidency, plays like a back and forth cat and mouse thriller and a boxing match rich with suspense.

The bizarre thing is that with any knowledge of the subject beforehand, the outcome of this bout is already known. While this is true with all history-based films there’s something special about this one in particular.

This isn’t a retelling of a violent war. It is merely a series of interviews. What allows the viewer the ability to fall right into the film, whether they know the outcome or not, are the outstanding performances by the ensemble cast.

Frank Langella gives a seemingly uncanny portrayal of Richard Nixon. Langella does something unique with Nixon. He, much like the real Nixon, gave the audience a chance to feel sympathy for him during the interviews. In the end everyone, including himself, is able to see right through this facade of coverups. Langella’s performance is an award-deserving three dimensional take on Nixon. From the flawlessly replicated mannerisms to the sulking body posture to the profoundly deep and brooding voice, Langella’s portrayal of the former president will be considered come Oscar night.

To applaud only Langella would be to applaud only part of the team. Michael Sheen seamlessly loses himself within this out-of-place character of a talk show host. Frost was a man that at the time lived for the limelight. He was a man seen as more of an entertainer rather than as an investigative journalist. Sheen portrays both sides of this before and after transformation very well by effortlessly slipping into character.

Supporting performances such as Kevin Bacon’s stern performance as Jack Brennan, one of Nixon’s protective advisors, and Sam Rockwell as the determined James Reston Jr., one of Frost’s main researchers, complete a cast worthy of praise all around.

Frost/Nixon is a film that flew right past me. Once the film reached the second half, and more importantly the fourth interview, I was locked in my seated position and rarely looked away from the screen.

With the aforementioned brilliant and realistic performances, coupled with the stark reality of the dialogue, the film is as suspenseful as can be. Howard’s directing only adds to the mix as his up close and personal approach during the interviews locks the combatants down right in front of you never letting go until it’s all over. Every emotional portion of dialogue and facial gesture is perfectly captured.

For me to speak on the historical aspects of this riveting film would be for me to go over my head. I prefer to leave the history to those who know it best.

What I do know is that Frost/Nixon is one of the more compelling and entertaining films of its kind this year. The script plays like a stage play with its limited locations and focus on dialogue but none of that does harm to the film.

Frost/Nixon will undoubtedly get its shot when the Academy Awards are announced on February 22. Frank Langella, who led a strong overall group of actors, will no doubt be considered to win best actor with his powerful and moving performance that almost made me feel a drop of sympathy for the lonely Richard Nixon.

-Michael Walsh, Asst. Entertainment Editor

‘Frozen River’ Led by Leo

Some films need that extra jolt -that extra something that keeps everything together.

For the 2008 independent film Frozen River, Melissa Leo was just that. Frozen River details the struggles that two single moms face in northern New York State on a Mohawk reservation when the lure of fast money from smuggling illegal immigrants across borders is presented in front of them.

At the core of Frozen River, the directorial debut of Courtney Hunt, is a simple noir-inspired story about a single mom striving to provide for her two sons leading her to venture into the world of smuggling. It’s noir-inspired for its everyday person gets wrapped up in crime that’s far over their head for the lure of money and simple for its straightforward narrative and minimalistic feel.

In no way of denying Hunt for her tremendous debut in film, this film wouldn’t be what it was without the under-appreciated Leo. She makes the character of Ray Eddy her own the same way Mickey Rourke made Randy “The Ram” Robinson his own in 2008’s The Wrestler. Both actors took control of their respective characters and let the grief pour out of the screen.

What comes of Leo’s performance is the driving force of a thought-provoking character study centered on ethical decisions. Leo gives a certain life to Ray Eddy. So stricken with grief, it’s absolutely painful watching her strive so hard to provide a simple double-wide house for her two boys; something most of us might cringe at if told to live in.

With only one other performance sticking out (Misty Upham’s performance as the second single mom, Lila), Leo is absolutely essential to keep the emotion in the film alive. A lackluster performance in her role might have spelled disaster for a film of such nature. Again, with no discredit to Hunt, Frozen River hinges on Leo’s performance.

Frozen River is a beautifully heartbreaking film and there’s no other way for me to describe it.

While the film runs at less than two hours it is a rather slow moving film. It’s a stark character study of two single moms absolutely struggling to keep their lives afloat. Each has her problems and each is dealt with.

While Milk might be a frontrunner for best screenplay written directly for the screen at this year’s Oscars, Hunt certainly deserves all the consideration in the world for her gripping tale of despair, struggle and ethical decisions.

This film is a keeper if only for the performances of both Leo and Upham.

Leo is a dark horse candidate for best actress at the Oscars. Hunt’s minimalist cinematography is calming and keeps a close eye on the things that matter.

The story is simple but absolutely engaging and involving. Frozen River is one of the independent hits of 2008.

-Michael Walsh, Asst. Entertainment Editor