Saturday, December 27, 2008

Frost/Nixon...Oscar-winning history?

It has been many years since a play that's won the Tony Award for Best Play also won Best Picture as a film. After a little checking, I found out Amadeus was the last to pull off this trick in 1984.

Frost/Nixon didn't get Best Play at the Tonys, but it has a chance to take top honors when the movie honors are given out. It has been a big hit on Broadway and London, thanks to its two stars, Michael Sheen and Frank Langella. It's a recreation of the history-making interviews of Richard Nixon by David Frost. The movie shows this event as a David vs. Goliath struggle, even though at least one person says it wasn't quite like that. Art may imitate life, but not perfectly for the stage or screen. That being said, the story certains on Frost and Nixon, and how they are both hoping this event will revive their careers. Nixon, after resigning the presidency in 1974, is hoping he'll clear his name, or at least clean it up enough to be important in Washington again. Frost, meanwhile, is portrayed as more of a playboy than a serious interviewer. He's hoping this will help his career, too, but he's portrayed as maybe too much like Ryan Seacrest. However, it also shows how much Frost is putting into the project, even trying to sell air time himself after the networks turn him down. I can recall some of the commercials he made when it was syndicated.

The movie is framed with interviews of some of the characters who were behind the scenes, from researcher James Reston Jr (Sam Rockwell), who wanted Nixon humbled for what he had done, to Jack Brennan (Kevin Bacon), one of Nixon's aides.

Over the years, Frank Langella has made the role of Nixon his own. This is certainly true in this movie. He has the voice and mannerisms down cold, only because he's been doing this for so long. However, let's also hear it for Michael Sheen, who also does an incredible job bringing back Frost, the jet-set version. His researchers may not think Frost is taking it seriously, but we see that he does. It's really too bad Sheen isn't getting as much praise as Langella is in this movie, since both were in the original play. It looks like Sheen will be eclipsed again, this time by a president instead of a Queen. Make no mistake, Sheen is great here.

I'm taking advantage of what's left of my Christmas/Boxing Day weekend to take in as many movies as I can. I plan to see Benjamin Button with Brad Pitt, who has proven he is a real actor, and The Reader, which hopefully will finally help Kate Winslet strike Oscar gold in February. What really frustrates me is that The Wrestler, with Mickey Rourke, still hasn't reached Sacramento. It is expected to get here in three weeks or so. Until then, I'm not making my choice for Best Actor yet. I may be influenced by the Golden Globes, because they'll be shown before The Wrestler gets here. Still, it looks like Langella may have an edge over Rourke for Best Actor, only because I really doubt members of the Academy would reward a wrestling picture. I may have a better idea when the SAG Awards arrive at the end of January.

For the record, there is a movie that's a possible Oscar contender that started out as a winner of Best Play at the Tonys. It's Doubt.

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