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A stylized shot of Nixon with his Cabinet from Oliver Stone's "Nixon" (1995)

Better Than Sincere: On Oliver Stone’s “Nixon” (1995)

The America in me belongs to no exterior reality, a foggy beast that sleeps in a global mind. This piecemeal country I have never known, merely seen, is loud, brash, decadent, and is beautiful as wildernesses are beautiful. I cannot trace where this country began: perhaps in flickers of television, western cartoons imported to local channels. It germinated in the sort of juvenile fuzz that would background the onscreen spectacle of superheroes and caricatures. Soon, the internet would broaden it, and books deepen its avenues. But it is not real, cannot be real. The buildings forever deny trespass; the inhabitants wear shadow faces.

Safe to say, I am not the intended audience for Oliver Stone’s film, “Nixon”. Though I knew brief details of Watergate, bits and pieces of the president’s trajectory into villain of the American political mythos, he amounted to little more than an encyclopaedia entry to me. Stone’s film deals with much of that historical detritus. Nixon sits in conference with talking heads. They spew out names and schemes that whizz by, ephemeralia of the moment. What concerns me is the undercurrent: the way actor Anthony Hopkins poses in his power, fidgety, immersed. It is clearly what Stone’s Nixon lives for, despite the paranoia, the humiliation and gradual distancing of all that holds him close. Oceans away, I recognize that intensity, man’s love for his own show. I see that love within the personages of my own environs. In art, it turns out, the unintended audience is more important. […]