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LGM Film Club, Part 179: Secret Honor

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While I’m not sure that Robert Altman’s 1984 adaptation of the Donald Freed and Arnold Stone play where a drunk Richard Nixon rants into a tape recorder is a great film, but it certainly is an enjoyable one. Philip Baker Hall, little known before this role, is great as Nixon, just channeling that paranoia and anger. Listening to him scream at Kissinger’s portrait is especially enjoyable. Hall was just a bit actor up to the point, even though he was in his 50s and plugging away. He was never a bit actor after this, moving into the solid character actor of his later days, especially in Paul Thomas Anderson films. It’s one of the better representation of Nixon on film, even if it takes some liberties with the history (and I mean, who cares, it’s a movie that’s a character portrait of a flawed and terrible man, not a biography). And if Hall doesn’t look like Nixon, great. This is so much better than a boring biopic where imitation is more important than character. I’ll take this any day over Nick Nolte playing Thomas Jefferson or even Daniel Day-Lewis playing Lincoln under Spielberg’s ham-fisted and obvious direction. Luckily, it’s available in it’s entirety on the internet, so have fun.

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