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A view from the Blu (-ray) on DVDBeaver by Leonard Norwitz


A Little Background     Openers     


    Modus Operandi     The Scorecard:     

Emotive Connection      Audio     Operations    Extras     The Movie     Equipment




Nixon - Election Year Edition [Blu-ray]


(Oliver Stone, 1995)






Review by Leonard Norwitz



Theatrical: Hollywood Pictures & Cinergi
Video: Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment



Region FREE

Feature Runtime: 3:32:14

Chapters: 24

Size: 44.8 Gig

One 50 GB, more supplements on a single-layered second Blu-ray

Case: Locking Blu-ray case

Release date: August 19th, 2008



Aspect ratio: 2.35:1

Resolution: 1080p

Video codec: AVC


English 5.1 Uncompressed PCM (48 kHz/16-bit)
English DD 5.1 Surround

Feature: English SDH, French, Spanish
Extras: English SDH



Disc 1

• Two audio commentaries by Oliver Stone

Trailers: Blu-ray advert trailer (1:43) HD, trailer Blindness (1:33) HD, trailer Nightmare before Christmas (2:00)

Disc 2

• Documentary: Beyond Nixon (35:18)

• Deleted Scenes with intro by Oliver Stone

Charlie Rose interview of Stone (55:09)

• Original Theatrical Trailer




The Film:

Oliver Stone's JFK wasn't so much about the 35th U.S. president as it was about his assassination – and, in particular the investigation of a possible conspiracy by New Orleans District Attorney, Jim Garrison. Stone's Nixon, made four years later, is much broader in scope. Kennedy himself, didn't figure as a character in the earlier movie, except in documentary and newsreel clips. Same for the later film, where Nixon sees Kennedy as a kind of haunting nemesis, and where the 37th president manifests no less a presence than Anthony Hopkins (who, coincidentally I am sure, played Hannibal Lecter the same year as Stone's JFK.) The generally undervalued Joan Allen is Pat Nixon (undervalued by the public anyway); Paul Sorvino is Henry Kissinger; Powers Boothe, Alexander Haig; Ed Harris, E. Howard Hunt; and James Woods is H.R. Haldeman; plus an exaltation of the usual suspects. You can see that "Nixon" has the potential of being both more intimate and more familiar. And it is.

Nixon is also an Oliver Stone take on history that, in some ways, picks up the American Tragedy after "JFK" left off. Roger Ebert saw in it a film that would have been able to stand on its own even if there had been no actual Nixon:

Oliver Stone's "Nixon" gives us a brooding, brilliant, tortured man, sinking into the gloom of a White House under siege, haunted by the ghosts of his past. Thoughts of Hamlet, Macbeth and King Lear come to mind; here, again, is a ruler destroyed by his fatal flaws.
There's something almost majestic about the process: As Nixon goes down in this film, there is no gloating, but a watery sigh, as of a great ship sinking.

Excerpt from Roger Ebert's review located HERE

The new Blu-ray from Buena Vista, like their SD "Nixon Collector's Edition," is spread over two discs, with the feature film taking almost 50 GB. As hoped and expected, the new release offers, in addition to an uncompressed audio track, one new extra feature: a new 35-minute documentary feature directed by Oliver Stone's son, Sean, (so new, it's not yet listed on the IMDB). Otherwise, the Blu-ray has the same content: the Extended Cut of the movie, with about twenty-five minutes of additional footage over the theatrical release, the two commentaries mostly by Stone. The full 55-minute Charlie Rose interview, some deleted scenes and the original theatrical trailer (in 480p).

The Movie : 7

Image : 7/8.5

NOTE: The below Blu-ray captures were ripped directly from the Blu-ray disc.

The first number indicates a relative level of excellence compared to other Blu-ray DVDs on a ten-point scale. The second number places this image along the full range of DVDs, including SD 480i.

For better or worse, but certainly making the job of a video reviewer very difficult, Stone moves from film stock to film stock, color and black & white, natural and saturated color, shadowless blacks and open lighting, and where grain is deliberately chosen for narrative intent. It all may seem arbitrary to the uninitiated, but whatever the reason, the question of fidelity to that intent is the matter at hand. Since I don't have a copy of the actual film, I could only check to see if Digital Noise Reduction is used to "compensate" and thus violate that intention. I thought not. (Well, that was quick.) There is a considerable amount of digital enhancement done for the television footage of Nixon and Kennedy and other like moments in the movie to make them more visually palatable and less jarring. I didn't mind, since this is not a documentary, and fidelity to the source is not required. All in all, I thought the image to be better than satisfactory in keeping with constantly changing locations and time frames. For all its variation, the blu-ray was able to demonstrate what it's good at to an extent worth the price: resolution, sharpness, dimensionality.

















Audio & Music: 7/7
Did you know that the music for this movie was written by John Williams? An interesting choice, don't you think. The moment the menu appeared and Williams' unmistakable signature makes its presence felt, I realized what I had long forgotten: that the music is, in its own way, as passionate a commentator as Stone himself. Still, the movie doesn't demand from Williams the sort of stage we usually think of him on. That stage is reserved for the dialogue – and this is where the Uncompressed PCM track shines. Without exaggerating or enhancing speeches, whispers, taped and live conversations, grunts and advice from every character with an opinion – which is every character, after all - we hear content and nuance of expression so much more easily that the film's 3.5 hours becomes no longer a task to sit through. This is no small accomplishment.


Operations: 8
Walt Disney Studios Blu-ray DVDs continue their chapter-skipable previews and promos before the loading of the feature film begins. As in many other recent Blu-ray DVDs, I found the menu operations to be sensible, listing the length of the various segments along with a brief description.


Extras: 7
The one new extra feature is Sean Stone's new documentary, Beyond Nixon – which, by the way is in 1080i high definition. The title does not so much refer to American history since 1975 as it does a new look at Richard Nixon and how his father's movie sees him. The 35-minute documentary features extended comments by a host of historians of all stripes, among them: Gore Vidal and Howard Zinn, Robert Novak (syndicated columnist), Richard Whalen (Nixon's speechwriter) and Peter Kuznick (Professor of American History), Elizabeth Holtzman (Congresswoman, House Judiciary Committee for the Impeachment of Richard Nixon) and two White House Counsels under Nixon: Leonard Garment and the very pivotal John Dean. While most of these commentators are not what we would think of as Nixon apologists, the documentary did come across to me as reasonably balanced, especially insofar as it always came back to the movie and how it did or did not see things the way they were.



Bottom line: 8
Oliver Stone is our country's most visible political director. Coming as it did some twenty years after Nixon's resignation, the movie permitted a certain degree of perspective, even given Stone's personal prejudices. But since the theatrical release of the movie, we have seen an unsuccessful impeachment of one president and clamorings of abuse of power regarding another. Sean Stone's new documentary places all this in fresh perspective. For these reasons alone, the movie deserves a fresh look, especially with Sean's documentary as a preface – and what better way to see and hear it again than on this new Blu-ray edition.

Leonard Norwitz
August 9th, 2008









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