Audiences Of All Types Will Appreciate PBS’ Latest Video Bio

Courtesy:  PBS

Courtesy: PBS

Next Friday, November 22nd marks the fiftieth anniversary of President John F. Kennedy’s assassination.  Everybody knows the story of how Kennedy was gunned down while riding through the streets of Dallas, Texas.  Countless conspiracy theories have been crafted about his death in the years since his murder.  Just as many people know the associated conspiracy theories.  But just how many people know what Kennedy was doing in Dallas to begin with?  PBS answers that question and more in the new episode of its hit series, American Experience: JFK follows the life and career of John F. Kennedy from his birth to his rise to the Presidency to his untimely death in 1963.  Along the way, viewers are given a look not only at his own life, but how his own family roots led to his career in politics as well as much more.  This is one part of what makes this documentary an impressive addition to any history buff’s home library.  Those same history and political science junkies will appreciate the addition of some familiar footage from Kennedy’s career, and some more rare footage from his personal life as well as his career.  JFK is made even more impressive thanks to the manner in which the story was assembled.  The four-hour, two-part documentary is split up into a way that doesn’t require viewers to be afraid of missing anything.  That aspect of the overall presentation works with the previously mentioned factors to make it one that anyone with even the slightest interest in history and/or political science will appreciate.

Most audiences that watch JFK are sure to come into the presentation with at least a general knowledge of Kennedy’s time in office.  After watching this presentation, audiences will come out of it having learned more about Kennedy than they ever thought they would learn about him.  That is thanks to the bounty of information provided about his life and that of his family.  While more seasoned viewers might already know, others will be interested to find out that John and his brother Bobby weren’t the only politicians in the Kennedy clan.  Their father was also a well-known politician.  And their brother died serving America.  Just as noteworthy are the revelations about the secrets of the Cuban missile crisis.  According to the program, narrated by veteran actor Oliver Platt, Kennedy negotiated a secret deal with Nikita Khrushchev in order to get Khrushchev to remove his missiles from Cuba.  Platt goes on to explain that even after the crisis, this part of the story had not been revealed to Americans.  It wasn’t until years later that this information was made public.  There is much more information provided with JFK.  And viewers will find that it collectively makes this program another enjoyable addition to PBS’ American Experience.

The story presented by writer Mark Zwonitzer and his cohorts behind the documentary is one that is certain to interest anyone with even a fleeting interest in JFK’s life.  The story alone isn’t all that makes this edition of American Experience work so well.  Audiences will be just as impressed by the inclusion of so much vintage footage throughout the feature.  Some of the footage is relatively similar.  A prime example is that of Kennedy riding through the streets of Dallas, TX.  Less familiar but just as interesting is footage of Kennedy talking to his cabinet throughout the Cuban missile crisis.  There are also still photos of Kennedy in the Oval Office used to illustrate his state of mind through his ups and downs.  They and the video footage together make the overall presentation of this episode of American Experience even richer.

The video footage, still photos, and historical information together are key elements that make JFK another successful episode from PBS’ American Experience.  The overall makeup of the presentation puts it over the top.  That’s because of the “episode’s” four-hour run time.  Four hours over two discs seems like a lot.  Those four hours are split into much shorter and distinct segments.  Viewers aren’t forced to take in large amounts of information at one time.  This plays perfectly to the attention span of the average viewer.  And in turn, it makes this feature even more of a win for PBS because that means it could potentially bring in an audience group that they otherwise might not have had if only for that reason.  That aspect of the feature mixed with everything already mentioned will not only bring in more casual viewers, but those that are more inclined to watch regardless.  It will be available next Tuesday, November 19th, on DVD and Blu-ray and can be ordered direct from PBS’ online store at http://www.shoppbs.org/product/index.jsp?productId=24514266&cp=1378003.29088156&ab=Aspot_JFK&parentPage=family.  More information on this and other programs from PBS’ American Experience is available online at http://www.facebook.com/AmericanExperience and http://www.pbs.org/americanexperience.  To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it.  Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog at http://philspicks.wordpress.com.

Suddenly Re-Issue Another Welcome Remnant Of Hollywood’s Golden Age

Courtesy:  Image Entertainment

Courtesy: Image Entertainment/United Artists

Almost half a century ago, the United States suffered one of the worst tragedies of the twentieth century.  That tragedy was the assassination of then President John F. Kennedy.  Conspiracy theories aside, what many people might not know is that according to author Kitty Kelley, it was Sinatra’s 1954 movie, Suddenly that was the alleged influence behind Lee Harvey Oswald’s assassination of then President John F. Kennedy.  According to her bio on the singer, His Way: The Unauthorized Biography of Frank Sinatra, Oswald allegedly watched the movie the day before he changed history.  As a result of this accusation, the movie was pulled for years before it was finally allowed back into the public realm.  And now audiences can see how Suddenly may have played a role in that dark day for themselves as it has been re-issued on Blu-ray by Image Entertainment.

Suddenly is hardly the longest movie ever made.  But that’s not a bad thing, either.  In a time when it seems like so many movie studios seem to be competing with one another to see who can make the longest possible story, this movie comes in at a little less than ninety minutes.  Throughout the course of its hour and fifteen minute run time, audiences are kept engaged thanks to the growing tension between Sinatra’s psychopathic ex-military officer John Baron and Sterling Hayden’s clean cut fellow ex-military officer Sheriff Tod Shaw.  Much like 12 Angry Men which wouldn’t see the light of day for another three years, what really heightens the story’s tension is that the majority of the story takes place in a limited set.  This is a minor factor to some audiences.  But in viewing the movie from a more analytical vantage point, it’s a factor that plays a much larger factor.  Understanding this makes the movie that much more interesting and worth the watch.  Add in the understanding of the controversy surrounding the movie, and audiences get a movie that is that much more intriguing, underappreciated, and worth the watch.

A single viewing of Suddenly shows how Lee Harvey Oswald could easily have been influenced to commit a copy-cat act.  But it’s not necessarily the attempted act in question that will have audiences talking after watching.  If anything it’s Baron’s (Sinatra) comment late in the movie that he wasn’t the one committing the act.  Rather he was doing it for someone else, purely for the money.  Baron told Sheriff Shaw that he didn’t know for whom he was working and didn’t care to know, either.  If anything this brief moment will surely re-ignite the discussions between conspiracy theorists about whether or not Oswald worked alone.  On another level, it serves as one more example of the possible power of media to influence real life.  Should there be any credence to the influence of Suddenly on Oswald’s actions, it can be just as strongly used as another warning to the media in regards to taking responsibility for the potential impact of what is written for TV shows and movies.

Getting back to the story behind Suddenly as art.  Writer Richard Sale accomplished quite the feat with this movie.  It wastes no time establishing the story’s plot and its cast.  As a result of this quickness, the rest of the story is spent in just a few rooms of a house.  For most film makers and script writers today, limiting a story to so few sets would prove a mind twist, so to speak.  That’s because so many of today’s movies rely more on flash-boom-bang special effects and overt sexuality to drive their stories.  But for Sale, his writing was solely story based.  It allowed for more tension between Sinatra and Hayden.  And that tension is what keeps audiences so engaged.  There was obviously some chemistry between the two as they expertly played off of one another throughout the story making it increasingly emotional.  The chemistry between the two men made for a movie that was entirely enthralling; so much so that it’s ironic that it wasn’t Hayden whose character was ultimately responsible for the movie’s final outcome.  That outcome won’t be ruined for those who haven’t yet seen it.  But it is an ending that has quite the twist in and of itself.  It’s a twist that will leave audiences completely breathless after everything that had happened through the course of this underrated thriller.  That twist ending is the icing on the cake for Sale’s writing here.  And combined with the equally expert acting of both Hayden and Sinatra (and their supporting cast), it all comes together for a movie that is at the same time underrated and underappreciated.  And now that it’s available once more on Blu-ray, it’s a movie that every movie lover should see at least once.

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