Our Nixon

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Amongst all the star cameos in Lee Daniels’s late-summer hit The Butler, one performance stands out as a particularly curious bit of stunt casting. John Cusack, with nary any make-up, a slight gruff in his voice, carrying that aura of meandering disinterest and slight condescension he’s fine-tuned for nearly a decade struts onto the screen as none other than Richard Milhous Nixon. Cusack’s turn as Nixon is both ingenuously lazy and charmingly surreal – no effort is made to convince the audience that the man onscreen is anybody but John Cusack (in contrast to Liev Schreiber’s Norbit-esque turn as LBJ), yet the continued reference toward Cusack as one of modern history’s most readily recognizable and continually invoked Commanders in Chief has a certain Dadaist charm to it, as if Daniels and Cusack were admitting playfully that this was simply yet another star turn and that Nixon was too large and imposing a historical figure to channel with any serious effort for a film not about Nixon. Nixon himself, of course, probably wouldn’t stand for a film not about Nixon. Nixon is a figure that refuses to leave public consciousness. The central subject of more narrative films than any modern President, Nixon’s endless contradictions, standalone history, and almost inscrutable public appeal has provided a subject of endless fascination for storytellers of all stripes, from John Adams to Robert Altman. Here’s an overview of the 37th President’s cinematic highlights.

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megalodon whale

Just as with box office figures, you can’t always gauge actual popularity from TV ratings. For example, on Sunday night Discovery Channel earned its greatest Shark Week ratings ever in the event’s 26 years. But a whole lot of longtime fans of the annual programming stunt aren’t happy with what they watched: a feature-length “documentary” about how prehistoric megalodons are still around, millions of years after they’ve been believed to be extinct. This special, titled Megalodon: The Monster Shark Lives, was all fake, fairly obviously so, yet there was hardly a disclaimer stating such. Some were fooled, others felt like they were meant to be fooled and many simply found it completely counter to what they expect from both the channel and the event. Viewers angrily took to the network’s Facebook page to complain. Wil Wheaton called for an apology. Science writers criticized the content choice for further harming the very sort of conservation efforts Shark Week originally intended to support. But hey, Discovery got what they wanted.

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published: 12.19.2014
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published: 12.18.2014
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published: 12.17.2014
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