Last night I re-watched Roger Donaldson‘s Thirteen Days, a generally absorbing drama about the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis. I hadn’t seen this New Line release since it opened in 2000. By any fair standard it’s well done, fairly gripping, decently acted, tightly edited. I didn’t miss a line or a plot turn.
Based on “The Kennedy Tapes” and told from the perspective of President John F. Kennedy (Bruce Greenwood), Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy (Steven Culp) and appointments secretary Kenny O’Donnell (Kevin Costner), David Self‘s screenplay covers all of the particulars, and there are many scenes that I found riveting.
My favorite episode follows a low-altitude photo reconnaissance mission over Cuba by Navy pilot William Ecker (Christopher Lawford) and another fighter jock. Prior to leaving Ecker is ordered by O’Donnell to not get shot down, as such an event would force JFK to respond militarily, which would lead to war. Ecker understands what O’Donnell is saying and agrees to play the game.
He flies and snaps photos over Cuba and is strafed all to hell by Russian and Cuban bullets. Back at a U.S. air base, Ecker insists that the holes in the wings were caused by flying sparrows. When questioned by Air Force General Curtis LeMay (Kevin Conway) about whether he was fired upon, Ecker says “it was a cakewalk, sir.”
Costner was a senior producer, and he used that leverage to amplify O’Donnell’s insignificant role during this complex political drama into that of a senior player, so he’d have a meatier role to play. (Or something like that.)
After seeing the film, Kennedy’s Defense Secretary Robert McNamara (very well played, incidentally, by Dylan Baker) said that O’Donnell “didn’t have any role whatsoever in the missile crisis…he was a political appointments secretary to the President…that’s absurd.”
The duties performed by O’Donnell in the film, McNamara said, were closer to the role Kennedy speechwriter Ted Sorensen played during the actual crisis. McNamara: “It was not O’Donnell who pulled us all together…it was Sorensen.”
The only thing that really doesn’t work are the knowing or haunted or alarmed “looks” that the principal sympathetic players give each other. (And which are performed to help the chumps in the audience understand the concerns that these characters had at various junctures.) In actuality nobody gave anyone a “look” about anything during this crisis, trust me, because that would have conveyed emotional distress or vulnerability to any antagonist or disloyal participant in the room who happened to notice.
Greenwood is a particular problem in this regard because all he does for the most part is roll his eyes and glare daggers and sweat bullets when the notion of military conflict of any kind is discussed. You’re watching him go through the paces and you can’t help but think “this isn’t working…Greenwood just can’t bring it.”
The poor guy does a reasonably good job of handling JFK’s dialogue, so to speak, but he’s doomed by the fact that he’s unable to exude even a fraction of Kennedy’s preternatural cool and charisma — Greenwood is a good Canadian actor as far as it goes but JFK was a glam political superstar, and Greenwood just doesn’t have it.
Plus his JFK wig is way out of whack. How the makeup and hair people blew it this badly is astonishing. We all know what Kennedy’s thick auburn hair looked like with the brushed upsweep, and the Greenwood thatch doesn’t even resemble it. It’s like “what were they thinking?”
I somehow hadn’t paid attention to a radical new trailer that first appeared five or six weeks ago. I’ve only just watched it. The visual scheme is nothing if not eccentric (Invaders From Mars on mescaline, and then re-imagined by Peter Fonda‘s character in The Trip), but I can’t help wondering why the haunting Invaders From Mars score, credited for decades to Raoul Kraushar but actually composed by Mort Glickman, wasn’t used.
The new trailer is fine, or certainly harmless. I happen to be a bigger fan of the old ’53 trailer, which has also been restored.
There doesn’t seem any way around dying. Well, actually there is. Like Kevin McCarthy‘s Walter Jameson, I could get lucky by meeting an alchemist who could give me immortality with a special mixture of something or other, and I could become a kind of mummy figure, like Boris Karloff‘s Kharis. (Or Imhotep…whatever.)
The idea of being online for centuries to come seems like heaven to me, and not just that but eternally travelling around on and sampling great foods and inhaling all of that magnificence, year in and year out. Not to mention all those great Italian shoes I could wear.
I never dwell upon death (it’ll happen when it happens…big deal). I’m not overjoyed about this, but moving on is darkly comforting in one respect at least. It will at least spare me the anguish of having to share the earth and particularly Twitter with certain odious life forms whose names I won’t mention. Everything in the universe is perfect in this respect — the worst people in the world (Millennials included!) will eventually transform into mulch. Yes, boys and girls — we will all one day be “equal”, in the William Makepeace Thackeray sense of that term.
I guess I’ve been touched by what happened to that poor older couple in Lafayette Park yesterday, I suppose. Tagged by lightning, over and out. Now that I think of it there’s probably something to be said for an absence of warning. JFK in Dallas, John Lennon at the Dakota.
“I don’t want to achieve immortality through my work — I want to achieve immortality by not dying.” — Woody Allen.
Suddenly, or since the Kansas abortion vote, the projected midterm wipeout of Democrats isn’t quite as assured. Dems are still going to take it in the neck, I’m presuming, because of DEI and attempts by progressive nutter teachers and the trans community to instruct soft-clay students (10 qnd under) about the alleged oppressions of the cis heirarchy, but average voter outrage over Supreme Court’s killing of Roe v. Wade has injected fresh energy and seemingly levelled the playing field.
N.Y. Times‘ Nate Cohn, posted on 8.4: “Tuesday’s resounding victory for abortion rights supporters in Kansas offered some of the most concrete evidence yet that the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade has shifted the political landscape. The victory, by a 59-41 margin in a Republican stronghold, suggests Democrats will be the energized party on an issue where Republicans have usually had an enthusiasm advantage.”
I don’t see what the big deal was about the Kansas abortion vote. Even in Kansas there are very few Average Joes & Janes who aren’t in favor of allowing women to choose abortion during the first 12 to 15 weeks. I was never personally comfortable with abortions happening towards the end of the second trimester (22 to 24 weeks, which is what Roe v. Wade allowed), but who cares what I think? Women’s right to choose is paramount.