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Now and Then – W. and JFK

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          Now: W. (2008)
             Then: JFK (1991)
    A Life Misunderestimated
           The Story That Won’t Go Away

They’re both titled with initials but Oliver Stone’s two biopics W. (2008) and JFK (1991) couldn’t be more different. W. is a chronicle of the life and times of America’s current president, George W. Bush; JFK is a political procedural about the death of John F. Kennedy. Which one should get your vote?

Style and Substance
The biggest difference between the two movies is how W. presents its presidential subject as a colorful character, while JFK attributes its namesake iconic status while focusing on a D.A (Kevin Costner). trying to re-open the investigation about the assassination. W. plays it straight, with little of the hyper editing and baroque bizarreness of Natural Born Killers  or Any Given Sunday ; JFK is swiftly-sliced stylishness loaded with hyperkinetic flashbacks.

Facts and Feelings
W.‘s approach (and Stanley Weiser’s screenplay) concentrates on emotions, not history. There are a fistful of scenes dealing with George W.’s relationship with his father, but the highly-charged milestones of the 2000 election recount and 9/11 are strangely absent. JFK, on the other hand, is loaded with factual information as it reconstructs the assassination and argues for conspiracy. W. tells the stories of a life; JFK conveys the bricks and mortar of a theory.

The Verdict
W. is being released in theaters right before the election that will choose this president’s successor. Marketing-wise, this speaks to a magnificent lunacy but can you close the book on an administration while the book is still being written? W.‘s a strong film — the final ten minutes alone build to a brilliant closing scene — yet it feels doubtful that it will have the lasting power of JFK, a film that may not have changed the public’s mind about Kennedy’s death but which remains an exciting if weirdly brilliant piece of storytelling.

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