I think I see your problem. You have this list. It’s a list of people you need/want to buy a Christmas gift for. The trouble is that they’re into home theatre, and you don’t know Star Trek from Star Wars. You couldn’t tell a Wolf Man from a Wolverine. And you always thought that Paranormal Activity was something too kinky to talk about. Fortunately, Upcomingdiscs has come to the rescue every Christmas with our Gift Guide Spotlights. Keep checking back to see more recommendations for your holiday shopping. These gift guides ARE NOT paid advertisements. We take no money to publish them. With conditions as they are, shopping won’t be easy this season. The nice thing about discs is that they’re so easy to get from places like Amazon that you can give a great gift and stay perfectly safe while you do it. Now you’re just about out of time. But we’ve got you covered. Just use the Amazon link on your right, and you’re in business. That leaves us with our final Gift Guide selection of the year: JFK: The Collector’s Edition, which includes that extended Director’s Cut on UHD Blu-ray in glorious 4K.
“The Warren Commission thought they had an open-and-shut case. Three bullets, one assassin. But two unpredictable things happened that day that made it virtually impossible. One, the eight-millimeter home movie taken by Abraham Zapruder while standing by the grassy knoll. Two, the third wounded man, James Tague, who was nicked by a fragment, standing near the triple underpass. The timeframe, five point six seconds, determined by the Zapruder film, left no possibility of a fourth shot.”
Make that three unpredictable things that happened to question the Warren Commission’s findings on the assassination of John F. Kennedy on November 22, 1963. That third thing was Oliver Stone’s film JFK. In the aftermath of the film, several things happened. Sources went public to reveal elements never brought to the surface before, the establishment of a Congressional Committee called the Assassination Records Review Board, and finally the early release of documents that would have been kept secluded for another generation. Seldom does a single film have this much power. Like the film or not. Believe the film or not. One thing is not arguable. The film changed the way the nation looked at the event and how our government has treated the event going forward. Again, few films ever wield that much power and clout.
JFK is based on two particular books. The first is On The Trail Of The Assassins by Jim Garrison, and the second Crossfire: The Plot That Killed Kennedy by Jim Mars.
“We’ve come to know it as the “Magic Bullet Theory.” This single-bullet explanation is the foundation of the Warren Commission’s claim of a lone assassin. Once you conclude the magic bullet could not create all seven of those wounds, you’d have to conclude that there was a fourth shot and a second rifle. And if there was a second rifleman, then by definition, there had to be a conspiracy.”
The film jumps around a bit in time but still pretty much starts with the assassination of John F. Kennedy in Dallas, Texas November 22, 1963. While we’ve already been given an introduction to several characters that will play into the future of the film, it is, of course the killing of the President that starts this whole thing a-rollin’. Enter Jim Garrison, a New Orleans D.A., played by Kevin Costner. Like most of the country he’s stunned by the assassination of Kennedy. When he hears that Lee Harvey Oswald, played by Gary Oldman, had a potential CIA connection to New Orleans, he considers it his duty to investigate that connection. He ends up coming across some pretty seamy characters, like male prostitute Willie O’Keefe, played by Kevin Bacon, and Dean Andrews, played by John Candy in a rare dramatic performance. These characters all appear to be leading to a local influential businessman, Clay Shaw, played by Tommy Lee Jones. Garrison attempts to investigate with an eye to prosecuting Shaw for participating in a conspiracy to kill the president. But he’s given resistance from every angle. His wife, Liz, played by Sissy Spacek, complains that the obsession is causing him to neglect his family. The media are accusing him of all kinds of investigatory misconduct, Washington won’t cooperate or even acknowledge his investigation, and his own bosses won’t support him, so that he begins to pay for it out of his own pocket and later with money sent as donations in the mail.
Through a large series of flashbacks, we begin to see the puzzle that Garrison has pieced together over years of investigation. We meet a large cast of characters played by a who’s who of Hollywood A-listers at the time. The cast includes Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau, who have appeared in a lot of films together. The friends do not share a scene for the first time in all of their films. The cast includes Joe Pesci, Donald Sutherland as the mysterious Mr. X, Wayne Knight, Ed Asner, Vincent D’ Onofrio, and even the real Jim Garrison himself as Earl Warren, head of the famous committee that held hearings on the assassination. The cast was so large that the film has become a major hub in the old game “7 Degrees Of Separation From Kevin Bacon”. The cast all agreed to work for much less than their usual fee to be part of the film.
The film ends with a summation by Costner’s Garrison that is stitched together from many of the speeches he’d given over the years. It’s one of those riveting monologues that I’m not sure a modern audience would have the patience for today, and that’s truly a shame. This was the kind of role Costner was best at. I hated his attempts at more dynamic characters. He had that G-Man style down pat, and it would come out just as well in The Untouchables.
This is a pretty impressive set, so it will be nice when it’s finally opened on Christmas morning. You get the director cut on both Blu-ray and UHD. There’s a Blu-ray version of the theatrical film and an additional Blu-ray with hours of extras which include brand new interviews with Oliver Stone, Editor Hank Corwin, Co-Producer Clayton Townsend, f/x Supervisor Gordon J. Smith, Cinematographer Robert Richardson, Location Manager Patty Doherty Hess, and a vintage collection of interviews with Fletcher Prouty, whose letters provided the information Garrison gets from Donald Sutherland’s Mr. X character. There is an hour of deleted scenes, a half-hour update on the changes brought about in light of the film, and there are the original audio commentaries from earlier releases of the film.
In the aftermath of the film, Stone came under heavy criticism even from Walter Cronkite, who openly said nothing in the film really happened. Cronkite loved Kennedy, and he saw the film as some kind of new assassination on the events of his death. Cronkite wasn’t the only one. In response Stone release an annotated copy of the script where he provides citation for everything depicted in the film. Stone became fascinated with the JFK assassination in 1988 at a film festival in Cuba. He met publisher Ellen Ray, who encouraged him to read Garrison’s book. He ended up buying the filming rights out of his own pocket. To say it was a personal journey for the director would be an understatement.
We all have those events in history where we always remember where we were and what we were doing when we first heard. For me it’s always been 9/11 and the day the Challenger exploded. Yes, we’ll all remember COVID, for certain, but it didn’t have that single-moment impact. For a much older generation, it was the bombing of Pearl Harbor. For the generation just before mine, it was the Kennedy assassination. Will we ever know the truth? “That’s the real question, isn’t it?”