MATTHEW JL EHRET —One little known film stands out quite a bit however, and since so little is known of this small masterpiece, a word must be said now. Ten years after Kennedy’s murder, Trumbo, Edward Lewis, David Miller, Mark Lane and Garry Horrowitz created a film which could be called “Trumbo’s last stand”. This film was called Executive Action (1973) and starred Kirk Douglas’ long-time collaborator Burt Lancaster as a leading coordinator of the plot to assassinate President John F. Kennedy.
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Interview with film historian Joseph McBride: For Kirk Douglas, life was “like a war—you have to fight all the time”
JOSEPH MCBRIDE—Douglas liked to play outrageously tough, even neurotic, explosive guys. He was unafraid to be dislikeable on screen. A lot of stars today have this obsession about being likeable, which is terrible. The best tradition in Hollywood, represented by Humphrey Bogart, Douglas, Lancaster and others, was one of anti-heroes. Intriguing, flawed people. Today leading actors are afraid to do that, so the studios smooth away the edges. They make characters so bland. Douglas was the opposite of that.
ROGER EBERT—If the singing of “La Marseillaise” in a bar in “Casablanca” was a call to patriotism, this scene is an argument against it. It creates a moment of quiet and tenderness in the daily horror these soldiers occupy — a world in which generals casually estimated that 55 percent of these very men might be killed in a stupid attack and found that acceptable.
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JOANNE LAURIER—Mendes’ movie never asks who was responsible for one of the most barbaric episodes in world history, a calamity that resulted in some 40 million civilian and military casualties, including an estimated 22 million dead. The claims that the film’s depiction of numerous atrocities makes it an anti-war work are spurious, as is the case in regard to various contemporary movies on the subjects of the Iraq and Afghanistan invasions (The Hurt Locker, Zero Dark Thirty, Lions for Lambs, Mendes’ own Jarhead, etc.). It is entirely possible to picture the awfulness of such conflicts—particularly as they affect one’s “own” side—and still insist, or imply, that such conflicts are necessary, inevitable, or, once begun, have to be “carried through to the end” in the national interest. The uncritical, narrowly focused treatment of the immediate “facts” of the war in 1917 helps plant it firmly in the pro-British establishment camp.
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Ricky Gervais may be kissing his big time career good-bye with this monologue (which clearly made many VIPs uncomfortable), but I guess the man had to get it off his chest, and he did. Seeking truth to a roomful of egotists accustomed to sycophants is risky business.