257 Secret Honor

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skuhn8
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Re: 257 Secret Honor

#26 Post by skuhn8 » Tue Aug 24, 2010 9:32 am

Rather gauche query, but anyone else 'enhance' their viewing pleasure by drinking sizable quantities of scotch along with Dick while viewing? I have to confess that after a sordid week of corporate drudgery this combination never fails to lift my spirits. You laugh with Dick, you cry with Dick...you sink into delirium with Dick.

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aox
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Re: 257 Secret Honor

#27 Post by aox » Tue Aug 24, 2010 9:39 am

Coincidentally and with all seriousness, I never watch this film sober. And never before 2am.

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Re: 257 Secret Honor

#28 Post by Napier » Tue Aug 24, 2010 9:48 am

A loaded .38 adds a nice touch of authenticity too!

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skuhn8
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Re: 257 Secret Honor

#29 Post by skuhn8 » Tue Aug 24, 2010 10:42 am

aox wrote:Coincidentally and with all seriousness, I never watch this film sober. And never before 2am.
Your cinematic 'last call'

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Re: 257 Secret Honor

#30 Post by bamwc2 » Fri Aug 27, 2010 12:57 pm

To posted on my Beaver review:
Well folks, I goofed. Shortly after Gary posted my reviews for these five Criterions, I began receiving notification that the pictures were not representative of the video quality of the releases. Although I initially defended my captures, I recently realized that when I took the screen captures, the software that I use to do this was incorrectly configured. Fortunately these are the only reviews of mine that were affected. I will redo the captures as soon as possible, but since they are currently in storage roughly 300 miles away from me, it will likely take a week or two before I can get that done. I apologize for the difficulty and I assure you that I will take every step in the future to ensure that this won’t happen again. I’ll end by reiterating for those who are considering purchasing these discs, THE IMAGE ON THE DISCS LOOKS BETTER THAN WHAT IS CURRENTLY DISPLAYED.

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Re: 257 Secret Honor

#31 Post by bamwc2 » Wed Sep 01, 2010 2:10 pm

The pics have now all been fixed.

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Person
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Re: 257 Secret Honor

#32 Post by Person » Wed Sep 01, 2010 6:20 pm

Much better.

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HistoryProf
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Re: 257 Secret Honor

#33 Post by HistoryProf » Wed Sep 01, 2010 11:06 pm

skuhn8 wrote:Rather gauche query, but anyone else 'enhance' their viewing pleasure by drinking sizable quantities of scotch along with Dick while viewing? I have to confess that after a sordid week of corporate drudgery this combination never fails to lift my spirits. You laugh with Dick, you cry with Dick...you sink into delirium with Dick.
I've also been three sheets to the wind (though on bourbon) whenever i've watched this. Indeed, for some reason If i'm up there and want to watch something, this is what I often decide to put in...it all becomes so real in that state, and somehow vicariously cathartic.

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Re: 257 Secret Honor

#34 Post by Gary Gnu » Tue Jun 21, 2011 5:42 pm

I haven't seen anyone else comment on this, but I noticed that Conan O'Brien payed tribute to this film on last night's show. This movie's definitely in my Top 10, but I have mixed feelings about the subtle tribute. I'm glad that Conan's familiar with the film, but he did major in American History in college. It's just a shame that no one else noticed it. In fact, I almost didn't realize it.

Try to see if you can catch it. It's actually pretty clever! :D

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Re: 257 Secret Honor

#35 Post by MrGregoryArkadin » Sun Jul 24, 2011 3:49 pm

Gary Gnu wrote:I noticed that Conan O'Brien payed tribute to this film on last night's show. This movie's definitely in my Top 10, but I have mixed feelings about the subtle tribute. I'm glad that Conan's familiar with the film, but he did major in American History in college ...

Try to see if you can catch it. It's actually pretty clever!
I can't find a clip of this anywhere, do you have a link by chance?

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Gary Gnu
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Re: 257 Secret Honor

#36 Post by Gary Gnu » Tue Aug 30, 2011 11:11 am

MrGregoryArkadin wrote:I can't find a clip of this anywhere, do you have a link by chance?
Sorry. Super-delayed on my part. (I hadn't seen a response!) I'll look thru the episodes now. At the very least, I'll give you an episode title.

It's "Quoth the Hipster, 'Whatevermore.'" and features Neil Patrick Harris and Emily Mortimer as guests. I'll look for a link of the clip, or I'll post a link to the episode. I believe it's the portion following the monologue.

FOUND IT!!

...So not worth the wait just for the reference, but the skit is pretty damn funny. :lol:

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Re: 257 Secret Honor

#37 Post by MrGregoryArkadin » Sun Sep 11, 2011 9:56 pm

Gary Gnu wrote:
MrGregoryArkadin wrote:I can't find a clip of this anywhere, do you have a link by chance?
FOUND IT!!

...So not worth the wait just for the reference, but the skit is pretty damn funny.
It wasn't really an out an out reference was it? Just having Baker Hall Framed in the background. It was pretty funny I guess, Conan can be hit or miss for me- I dug him alot after his abscence but now I'd rather do other things than watch TBS- plus Lopez Tonight was just pure shit. Really awful.

Thanks for the link though! (Secret Honor is one of my favorite Altman's, I did a piece of the film for an acting final when i was a freshman at SVA)

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Mr Sausage
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Secret Honor (Robert Altman, 1984)

#38 Post by Mr Sausage » Mon Mar 03, 2014 6:35 am

DISCUSSION ENDS MONDAY, MARCH 31st AT 6:30 AM.

Members have a two week period in which to discuss the film before it's moved to its dedicated thread in The Criterion Collection subforum. Please read the Rules and Procedures.

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

I encourage members to submit questions, either those designed to elicit discussion and point out interesting things to keep an eye on, or just something you want answered. This will be extremely helpful in getting discussion started. Starting is always the hardest part, all the more so if it's unguided. Questions can be submitted to me via PM.

-Do you think that the Nixon of the film is meant to be a literal representation of the actual Richard M Nixon?
-Do you think we are literally meant to believe in the conspiracy that the film's Nixon presents?
-Do you think the film's Nixon believes it?
-What purpose does the conspiracy theory serve if it is not plausible?


***PM me if you have any suggestions for additions or just general concerns and questions.***

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Re: Secret Honor (Robert Altman, 1984)

#39 Post by matrixschmatrix » Mon Mar 17, 2014 11:54 am

This movie starts with a disclaimer that it's a political myth, and the idea of a political mythology- featuring real people rewritten to better fit the role they need to fit into that mythology- is fascinating to me. It's certainly not unique to this movie though, and I think up through at least Reagan most presidents have already been changed into gods and monsters- though who is which of course depends on what side of history you prefer to be on. Nixon here is almost Shakespearean, a combination of Richard III, Lear, and the Hamlet he describes himself as being- the most melancholy Dane the world has ever seen, wild with regrets and self hatred, yet still plotting and scheming no matter how many ghosts arrive to tear him down. One wonders how many political figures could bear such a work; FDR maybe, and Lincoln unquestionably, but it's hard to imagine a Truman or a Bush senior's dark night of the soul being as effective.

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Re: Secret Honor (Robert Altman, 1984)

#40 Post by warren oates » Mon Mar 17, 2014 12:39 pm

Well, Bush Jr. got the comedy of errors he deserved in Oliver Stone's underrated W. Speaking of Stone, his take on Nixon is pretty interesting too, and maybe the last really great film he's made. Stone and Hopkins clearly have also been influenced by the tragic (or is pathetic a better way to put it?) view of Nixon's personal psychology presented in Secret Honor. The thing that's always most difficult for me to keep in mind when I'm thinking about a leader I disagree with politically is that, in many cases, it's not that there's some elaborate, cynically calculated or nefarious scheme, it's that they honestly believe they're doing the right thing for the country.

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Re: Secret Honor (Robert Altman, 1984)

#41 Post by Lemmy Caution » Mon Mar 17, 2014 1:07 pm

warren oates wrote:The thing that's always most difficult for me to keep in mind when I'm thinking about a leader I disagree with politically is that, in many cases, it's not that there's some elaborate, cynically calculated or nefarious scheme, it's that they honestly believe they're doing the right thing for the country.
The cynically calculated and nefarious campaign tactics (Wilie Horton, et. al), including racist dog whistles (welfare queens, etc), might be responsible.

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Re: Secret Honor (Robert Altman, 1984)

#42 Post by warren oates » Mon Mar 17, 2014 1:21 pm

Sure, you can point to so many examples of that kind of campaigning. And it's really nothing new under the sun. Are you saying that, for instance, Bush Sr. didn't think the Willie Horton stuff -- or whatever else he had to do to win -- was justified precisely because he felt he was the better leader? (Or that most candidates in the heat of tough races don't start to think that way a little? See Hilliary's 2008 attacks on Obama, for instance) How would that be any different from the way that Nixon is portrayed here? Isn't what's most interesting about a film like Secret Honor that we get a glimpse behind that veil of messaging and political tactics and see something of the individual motives driving it all?

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matrixschmatrix
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Re: Secret Honor (Robert Altman, 1984)

#43 Post by matrixschmatrix » Mon Mar 17, 2014 1:37 pm

To answer my own discussion question above, I don't think the character we see in this movie is anything like the Real Nixon, nor is he necessarily intended to be- I think he's the pitiable diseased puppy who's been kicked around one too many times that political mythology turned him into, whereas I can only assume that the actual Nixon was an infinitely more together and self-aware person. I don't really think one can achieve the presidency without being tremendously aware of the effect of one's messaging and how one's politicking affects one's ability to achieve the things one wanted to become president for in the first place and so on, and I don't really believe anyone runs horrible racist dogwhistle ads out of an underlying belief that it's really better for everyone- I think it happens because a.) there's a machine in place that makes it really easy to do and b.) at some point campaigning becomes an end unto itself.

I think Nixon, both here and in Stone's movie, is a counterpart to the legends of Camelot, a flipside to the eternally romantic and beautiful Jack Kennedy- a troll and and ogre whom we elected in a landslide, and whom we want to think well of because he's so pitiable.

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Re: Secret Honor (Robert Altman, 1984)

#44 Post by warren oates » Mon Mar 17, 2014 1:53 pm

What's the point of Secret Honor's counter myth-making, then? I mean, if it isn't an attempt to imagine how it is that Nixon's personality, his ambitions, insecurities, fears, and even paranoia may have had consequences like his not really that "together" total misreading of the constituency and views of his so-called silent majority, his decisions about the Vietnam War and Watergate. Is it all just some kind of badass counterintuitive anti-hero exercise from the writer and from Altman, an ahead of it's time portrait of the kind of proto d-bag protagonist we see all over cable dramas nowadays (Tony Soprano, Don Draper et al.)? In your view how would a more measured portrait of the Real Nixon explain his biggest failings more credibly?

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Drucker
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Re: Secret Honor (Robert Altman, 1984)

#45 Post by Drucker » Sat Mar 22, 2014 10:56 am

So does nobody else have anything to add? Quite frankly, I'm at a loss. Warren Oates your post kind of hits on my thoughts on the film, and the anti-hero nature of the film did strike me. But more than anything, I guess I didn't really see the point of the film.

I don't mean to be condescending, and maybe I just don't get it, but it felt almost like more of an exercise in re-hashing the names and terms associated with Nixon. As a millennial, I was familiar with most of the names and things the film's Nixon talks about, but there just didn't seem to be any coherent rhyme or reason to it. The film starts strong, I felt. Early on, he talks about his mother and he talks about getting into politics with his trip to California after serving in the war. I kind of expected the film to explain the Nixon trajectory in a more linear fashion. I know it might be lazy of me to say "this film didn't do what I wanted it to do" but I still think that would have been the most coherent way to get at the heart of our protagonist. Something like: "Fucking Ike treating me like shit in the 50s! Couldn't even remember my name." (Why does that matter in the big picture?)

I think that the rambling, drunken Nixon we see just makes no sense at all. He's just yelling at his tape-recorder, name-dropping all those from Kissinger on down, but not really saying much cohesive, just saying "FUCKING KISSINGER, FUCKING KENNEDY, FUCKING FORD, IT WASN'T EVEN A REAL PARDON! THEY STILL BLAME ME". He's just rambling, rambling, rambling.

Maybe that's the point. Maybe Altman is trying to show us the pathetic man he imagines Nixon to be, who can't even form a coherent defense of his actions in the privacy of his own state while trying only to convince himself that he's not the villain he's made out to be. But if that's the case, watching a man do that for an hour and a half really wasn't very compelling to me.

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Re: Secret Honor (Robert Altman, 1984)

#46 Post by Shrew » Sat Mar 22, 2014 2:58 pm

What's the point? It's a character study, an attempt to reconcile Nixon's vast political ambitions with a man who seemed incredibly ill-suited to politics. If it's a political myth, it's one that draws attention the the gulf between the role Nixon played (president ascendant, then monster) and a pathetic human being hiding behind it. I don't think the film really believes that Nixon was just a scapegoat to protect a far grander conspiracy, or at least it doesn't make it a point to present that case (to its benefit, or else it would have become a liberal Spare Change). Instead, it uses that narrative to explore how Nixon could become president despite himself, how the role of politician eclipsed his true self, and when that is taken away, he is left a shell of a man. It's not far removed from stories of old actors cracking after they can no longer maintain the same personae as their younger selves. "Nixon" was a myth that a man had to embody, one that suddenly changed from good to monstrous and destroyed the man beneath it.

I agree with Matrix that the 'real Nixon' was probably much more aware of himself and responsible for his "image," and this is an exaggeration of the split between political role and self in order to highlight the role of the political system and people around Nixon in shaping the man. But the film also works well as a study of the possible man beneath, angry at the world for betraying him, and unable to realize the extent of his own wrong-doing.

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Re: Secret Honor (Robert Altman, 1984)

#47 Post by warren oates » Thu Mar 27, 2014 12:29 pm

So twelve people voted for this film, felt the need to watch and discuss it above all the other choices. And the best most optimistic projection of how many of those have so far commented on it is three. Isn't there a kind of Colin Powell-esque Pottery Barn Rule implied here ("you voted for it, you discuss it!")? This is a pretty straightforward 90 minute one man show, not a deliberately obscure historical epic like Marketa Lazarova. Where are the voices of all the other voters?

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Re: Secret Honor (Robert Altman, 1984)

#48 Post by Gregory » Thu Mar 27, 2014 12:35 pm

Sometimes monologues consist of things that someone wouldn't actually speak out loud alone. I think Secret Honor is an example of the kind of monologue that is closer to someone's internal thought process, but performed out loud. So to me that explains why what we're seeing isn't the Nixon we know from how he actually spoke and acted. It's a way of suggesting what it might be like inside his head at a time when he was at his most frantic and angry, with some fiction mixed in.
Shrew wrote:I agree with Matrix that the 'real Nixon' was probably much more aware of himself and responsible for his "image," and this is an exaggeration of the split between political role and self in order to highlight the role of the political system and people around Nixon in shaping the man.
Sure, in public he was far more self-aware and usually able to put up a good front in the eyes of most voters before Watergate at least. But considering how secretive, ruthless, paranoid, and vindictive he was known to have been, and some of the things he seemed to sincerely believe both politically and personally, it's not hard for me to imagine that his mind would sometimes become like this at times when he was alone and his career had reached its lowest ebb. It's a fantasy, but a mostly believable one, at least for me.

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Re: Secret Honor (Robert Altman, 1984)

#49 Post by Red Screamer » Thu Mar 27, 2014 12:44 pm

Altman's direction here is somewhat confusing to me. For the most part he doesn't do anything beyond passively watching Nixon, which works due to Hall's compulsively watchable performance. The times when Altman uses close ups or slow zooms of television screens, however, are distracting and don't add much. Any time spent away from directly looking at Nixon takes away from the intimacy we feel, ever so slightly.

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Re: Secret Honor (Robert Altman, 1984)

#50 Post by warren oates » Thu Mar 27, 2014 1:09 pm

I like what Gregory says about Nixon's interior monologue, which is really a Beckett-informed (Krapp's Last Tape) soliloquy. That image of Nixon drunk and alone with his tape recorder is so strong and resonant that it became a key device for Oliver Stone too, even if his film style managed to also incorporate some of Nixon's scattershot paranoia into the montage itself.

It's also interesting to me that both the man himself (or at least his character's worldview in the film) and his most infamous deeds are inextricable from the so-called Paranoid Style in American Politics. The Nixon who imagined myriad nefarious plots out to undo him ended up masterminding the one that did himself.

For me the TV monitors are part and parcel of the paranoia and defensiveness of someone who once controlled (and also felt deeply he had to control) the mass surveillance state. I thought they were appropriate thematically and served as fine visual rests/transitions.

Though there's lots in the play that's strictly fictionalized and exaggerated, I guess I'm still not quite getting what it is that matrix finds so untrue about the play's/film's basic assessment of Nixon's character. It does seem like, with each passing year, the more tapes that get released from the National Archives, the more memoirs and historians' accounts that come out, the more we see a picture of a president who was about as angry and paranoid as the one in Secret Honor, if not perhaps in those precise details.

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