Dear sir or madam:
Demagoguery is a dangerous thing, whether in politics or art. How refreshing that at least one Chicago film critic--Jonathan Rosenbaum--still has the guts to challenge it (re: his December 22 piece on Oliver Stone's Nixon).
The reviews of Nixon in Chicago's major dailies read less like intelligent essays than packaged press releases. Rosenbaum correctly points out that Stone's pretentious visuals are, once again, the cinematic equivalent of smoke and mirrors; they provide the illusion of ideas. When it comes to film technique, Stone is an undeniable pro; when it comes to art, however, he is a professional hack. Or as Goethe once remarked of Lord Byron: "Sobald er reflektiert ist er ein kind"--"The moment he reflects, he is a child."
Incidentally, Nixon's family has every right to protest Stone's "defamatory" portrayal of him. But "defamation" is a relative term (no pun intended--honestly). The same put-upon Nixon referred to the Chicago Seven as "those Jews" and complains on the Watergate tapes that Italian Americans "smell different" and that "you can't find one who's honest." Unluckily for Nixon, he ran into two honest ones--Congressman Peter Rodino and Judge John Sirica--who reminded him that presidential privilege does not extend to urinating on the Constitution.
Thank you, Mr. Rosenbaum, for reminding us readers what good film criticism is supposed to be--thoughtful analysis, not an extension of advertising hype. Is it possible that the American film industry has its own political slush fund also called CREEP: i.e., Critical Ravers Earn Extensive Paychecks? Oh what a tangled web they weave, when American critics practice to perceive.
Bill Dal Cerro