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    Oliver Stone’s Controversial Film – JFK Essay

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    The Oliver Stone’s film JFK tries to recreate a period in history tragic and also inspiring to its public. Stone tried to demonstrate that the corruption is present in any governmental work, so that people can escape of being punished, including the Assassination of a president and pass it out. Scandals and conspiracy theories run rampant in this society, which sustained Jim Garrison to ask what the authorities told him about the murder of JFK.

    Predominantly based on truth, the movie suggests to the people to ask authorities and make them feel they need to modify what goes wrong in this world. This film is a social documentary in every right. It states the facts that happened at that time and even though amplifies in the dialogue; it is principally based on truth. It responds to the need to educate the public on the mass idea of political democracy. Garrison’s theories and speculations were never proven, and the person on trial was eventually acquitted, yet his argument was so strong that it caught the attention of many, so much that Oliver Stone felt he should direct this pseudo-documentary.

    Using an associative mode to reel the viewer in, it is possible to relate the situation to Judas and Jesus in the Bible. Human nature has an inherent lust for power and control, and certain times in history; people have abused their power to gain personally. JFK truly does this by showing the lives of Garrison’s family and the lives influenced directly by the shooting. It also follows the lines of a documentary of social protest.

    The viewer wants to know the truth about what they are being told and will do virtually anything to figure it out. The bigger the lie, the more people will believe it. ” – Joseph Goebbels This lie uncovered by Garrison, in fact, is virtually the biggest lie ever. The impact on democracy and our society is so great because, if true, the viewer will want to do something to right the wrongs so they can feel safe within the system again. 2.

    The Government Case The story pursues the possible case and the process which Jim Garrison generates across certain Government officials in killing JFK. He published the discoveries from the records of the assassination. He also noted that for Oswald was impossible to kill Kennedy and defined his theory on more than a single assassin. Then he thought that for everything to happen exactly it did, the person who provoked this tragedy must have a great power and also influence to camouflage everything so well. Actually, the media plays a neutral observer that is influenced by whatever is told. Firstly, the media sustains Garrison’s case, yet when influenced by the “higher powers” that he just tries to cause disorder, the media tries to deteriorate his reputation.

    Finally, one of the last and great images is the words written on the screen: “What is past is prologue”. What is interesting is the repeating history despite how many years ago an incident happened it has a huge impact on things that follows. The concept of molding the media and pulling off such a heinous act against America is quite terrifying. Garrison claimed Oswald innocent of his crimes and referred to him as a patsy or a scapegoat for the real murderers. How do we as a public know that something like that will not get framed on us?It is a mystery wrapped in an enigma left to chance; everything had to be carefully planned.

    Another picture from the movie said that “study the past”. How is it possible to repeat the same tragedy over and over again in history? Is there something we as a public can do to insure our safety’such questions are raised in this movie. JFK also uses certain techniques to relay the director’s impressions of the story. It is quite obvious what the director feels to be the truth, that there was a conspiracy to kill the president from extremely high government officials. By making some of the film actual footage and other parts a re-creation of events, Stone can definitely demonstrate that his ideas are placed on facts. Using a lot of different whistles and bells of the film industry, Oliver Stone truly brings a mind boggling memory of the murder of the President and the rumors regarding his assassination.

    By making a documentary, the full weight of the situation and the circumstances prove to be both enlightening and inspiring. The Warren Commission concluded that Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone in the killing of the President. After that Oswald was killed by Jack Ruby, a vigilante, also acting alone. This was the official conclusion in the case; it has been proposed that, “depending on whose poll you quote, between 55 and 75 percent of Americans today believe there was a conspiracy to kill Kennedy.

    ” The Americans didn’t believe that Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone for many reasons and came to their conclusion: he was part of a conspiracy. When Stone read Jim Garrison’s book “On the Trail of the Assassins”, he became absorbed in the conspiracy rumors of the JFK assassination. Garrison w’s the District Attorney of New Orle? ns ? t the time of Kennedy’s murder th? t, three ye? rs ? fter the murder ? ctu? lly took pl? ce, beg? n to h? ve suspicions th? t the W? rren commission h? d not found out the entire truth. This led to his becoming obsessed with the c’se ? nd eventu? lly bringing New Orle? ns businessm? n Cl? y Sh? w (Tommy Lee Jones) to tri? l on ch? rges of conspiring to kill Kennedy. This w’s the only tri? l th? t ever took pl? ce ? fter the W? rren Commission to ? ttempt to ch? rge someone in the conspir? cy.

    In the movie we ? re shown G? rrison’s growing disbelief ‘s we see him (Kevin Costner) poring over ? volume of the W? rren Commission report. ‘shot of ? clock shows us th? t it is three o’clock in the morning. ?s G? rrison re? ds on, ? quickly edited mont? ge is shown of recre? ted foot? ge of the W? rren he? rings in progress. 3 We ? re shown: “? m? n’s p? ir of gl’sses, ‘shot of ? m? n (Mr.

    Bowers) we? ring gl’sses th? t reflect ‘strong gl? re, ? close up of ? D? ll’s police officer we? ring ? D? ll’s Police Dep? rtment insigni? on his l? pel (? he moves slightly the gold initi? ls throw ? blinding white gl? re),. . . ? nother shot of Mr.

    Bowers with light reflecting off his gl’sses, shots of the emb? nkment ? t De? ley Pl? z? , ‘shot of ‘sh? ttered c? r windshield with Mr. Bowers slumped over the wheel,. . . ? nd ? close up of one lens of ? p? ir of eyegl’sses. ” Sus? n M? cKey-K? llis points out in her ? n? lysis of this sequence th? t the extensive use of reflections ? nd gl? res off of gl’ss ? nd eyegl’sses in p? rticul? r is me? nt to represent blindness tow? rds the truth on the p? t of not only the W? rren Commission, but the people of ? meric? in gener? l.

    5The eyegl’sses themselves ? re used ‘s ‘symbol th? t implies ? desire ? nd ? n ? ttempt to see things more cle? rly. As we see the harsh glare reflected off of them we find deception and an apparent unwillingness to be exposed to facts that shouldn’t be too hard to find. The fact that the glasses reflecting the glare are on the body of a dead witness further solidify this imagery. Mr. Bower’s death was of a sort (car crash) that could be suicide, accident or murder. This image or the glasses implies the fact that many chose to remain blind to the fact that many witnesses to the murder and people who were involved in the conspiracy were ‘coincidentally’ killed before or after they had a chance to contribute their evidence to the investigation.

    ” 3. Evidences of Conspiracies As this “blindness” ends the next shot is of Garrison waking up in his bed, apparently having just dreamt what the film has just shown. “His wife Liz (Sissy Spacek) tries to get him to go back to sleep. Unwilling to do so, Garrison exclaims, ‘Do I have to spell it out for you? Lee Oswald was no ordinary soldier. He was probably in military intelligence. That’s why he was trained in Russian.

    ‘ Trying to quiet him, Liz replies ‘Go back to sleep. ‘ Garrison, sharing off her encouragement to close his eyes to the truth, rebuts, ‘There’s no accident he’s is Russia. Goddamnit! I’ve been sleeping for three years! ”6 This awakening from the dream is a representation of Stone’s interpretation that when Garrison woke up to the truth he was ‘reborn’ as someone different. As someone who wasn’t going to accept whatever was fed to him.

    He is reborn as one who no longer believes the Warren Commission or accepts their version of the truth. Already, within the first 20 minutes of the film, Stone has established the character of Garrison as someone who was once a blind believer of what he was told but is now a new person that seeks to get through the glare and find out for himself exactly what happened. MacKey-Kallis also points out the use of smoking and cigarettes as a representational element in this film. She says in her JFK analysis: “Numerous characters, for example, smoke throughout the film, ‘blowing smoke’ and putting up ‘smoke screens’ to hide behind.

    The truth, in other words, is not only hidden by blinding glare off glass, but it is often shrouded in a haze of smoke. Even the judge at Clay Shaw’s trial smoke heavily throughout the proceedings, leading us to conclude even before the trail begins. . .

    that justice will not be served. ” Once the character of Garrison is established, Stone introduces the audience to a host of players in the conspiracy as Garrison sees it. There are more than 200 speaking roles in this film and Stone cast a lot of already famous actors in an effort to help people follow the action. Stone felt that the average viewer would recognize an actor and therefore be able to follow that actor’s character throughout the story. Some of the characters are supposed to be as true to real life as possible. Stone introduces Guy Bannister (Ed Asner), a former CIA agent who allegedly knew and worked with Oswald, as he sits drunkenly in a bar watching the assassination unfolds on the television.

    Bannister was believed by Garrison to be a key player in the assassination based partly upon evidence provided by Bannister’s private eye assistant (Jack Lemmon) who told Garrison that he was beaten and threatened by Bannister after he told Bannister that he had seen “enough to write a book” in Bannister’s office in the time leading up to the assassination. Lemmon’s character is seen once early in the film and once later on when he tells Garrison his information. Had this role been played by an unknown actor, one might have not realized who the character was in the later scene with Garrison and therefore would have missed some of the relevance of the information given. Another true-to-life character in the film is Brian Ferrie (Joe Pesci). Ferrie was a former airline pilot who also allegedly conspired with Bannister and Shaw.

    He was played admirably by Pesci as a nervous, scatterbrained and flamboyant individual. He was killed during the Garrison investigation and his death is one of the many questionable deaths surrounding the case/conspiracy. Other characters in the film were less true-to-life and were made up of composites of more than one person involved in the real-life conspiracy. The inclusion of these composites was one of the factors in the attacks upon Stone by critics who suggested that he was “fictionalizing” the actual events.

    The character of Willie O’Keefe (Kevin Bacon) is and incarcerated male prostitute who gives Garrison information on the relationship between Shaw and Ferrie. In reality the O’Keefe character did not exist. He was made up by Stone in order to compress many characters into one to simplify an already complicated film. Another character that got Stone in trouble with critics was the character of Mr. X (Donald Sutherland dives an excellent performance as X). Mr.

    X, who worked in the Pentagon at the time of the assassination as a ‘Black Operative’ shows up and gives Garrison information in the film. They meet up in Washington D. C. nd, in a park with the Washington monument in the background, X gives Garrison some ‘inside’ information and tells Garrison that he is on the right track and “Closer than he thinks”.

    Stone was accused of fictionalizing this character too. Mr. X was real however but in reality him and Garrison never actually met during the investigation but only corresponded by mail after the fact. They only met years later and the meeting was arranged by Stone. A further blurring of reality and fiction in this film is the use of real historical footage as well as footage recreated by Stone to look real. The real footage consists of newsreel footage such as the footage of Walter Cronkite reporting the assassination on television right after it happened as well as the infamous Zapruder film, which is the well-known 8mm footage taken by a bystander of the actual shooting.

    The Zapruder footage is fairly graphic and shows the actual shooting in progress. It was used as evidence by the Warren Commission but, like many other pieces of evidence, was not available to be seen by the public for years later. The inclusion of this real footage helps to maintain that this film is meant shed light on the actual reality of the event not to just dramatize it and say ‘this is what happened when Garrison started his investigation. “The inclusion of this footage also helps to blur the classification of the film itself. It is not purely documentary nor is it purely drama.

    The newly coined tag of ‘docu-drama’ seems to fit and if this is a ‘docu-drama’ then it is certainly one of the first of its kind. ”Stone recreated a lot of footage that was either lost or didn’t exist in the first place. He painstakingly took the time to makeover Dealey Plaza into what it had looked like at the time. He used photographs of the event as reference to place people exactly where they had actually been and make them look exactly as they had.

    “A four-square block area of downtown Dallas was restored to a 1960’s look for an exact re-staging of events occurring on 22 November 1963 at the Texas School Book Depository, Dealey Plaza, and the now-historic “grassy knoll” area. Every known detail of the day and the assassination was authentically recreated, including placing vintage, mud-spattered automobiles in the Dealey Plaza area because it had rained in Texas during the morning of 22 November. “Hairstyles and clothing (short raincoats, narrow ties) worn by extras precisely matched those of old photographic images in history books,” this obsession with detail is also carried out in the film when we are shown the assassination second-by-second, from countless perspectives, over and over again. This attention to the tiniest detail is much like the attention the event receives by the countless conspiracy theorists who have written many books on the subject covering all aspects of the event and the conspiracy buffs who read all these books to get every little detail possible. His recreated footage is sometimes in color and sometimes in black and white.

    It seems to follow the formula that what is a flashback is in black and white and what Stone sees as truth is in color. The Zapruder footage is in color so perhaps this is why Stone chose to portray what he thought to be truth in color. Scenes which are flashbacks and only alleged to happen are in black and white such as the scene where Guy Bannister pistol-whips his assistant. It is still confusing at best though, trying to determine what is real and what has been fabricated by Stone in this picture. Stone received so much flack from critics for this blurring of reality that he said “I’d have avoided all this bullshit if I had said that this was fiction from the get-go.

    4. Conclusion In conclusion, this film is one that creates a rich tapestry of characters, players, plots, scenarios and events that are both real and fictional. Stone creates for the audience a piece of Americana that will interest and enthrall audiences for a long time. This film brought issues to the big screen that were new and fresh and dealt with them in ways that were also new and fresh.

    Stone’s work is often controversial but always done with quality and integrity.


    Can Hollywood Solve JFK’s Murder?http://www. texasmonthly. com/story/can-hollywood-solve-jfk’s-murder/page/0/6 , accessed on 11/02/2014Dr. Grover B.

    Proctor, Jr., The JFK Assassination, Oliver Stone’s JFK: A Historical Analysis,, accessed on 10/02/2014Frank Eugene Beaver, Oliver Stone: wakeup cinema, Twayne Publishers, February 1994On the Trail of the Assassins,, accessed on 11/02/2014Susan Mackey-Kallis, Oliver Stone’s America: “dreaming the myth outward”, Westview Press, May 22nd 1996, accessed on 10/02/2014

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