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DVD Review: Oswald’s Ghost

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Written by Fumo Verde

JFK was assassinated over forty years ago and still the conspiracy stirs like a watered-down vodka tonic. In late November of 1963 the question on everybody’s lips was “How could someone as inconsequential as Oswald kill someone as consequential as John F. Kennedy?” This DVD doesn’t answer that question nor does it bring to light any new evidence or give us any deeper clues then what we have had over the decades. Director Robert Stone doesn’t uncover anything revealing about Oswald and he isn’t trying to; what he is trying to do is follow the fallout that still breeds with in the American psyche today.

He isn’t trying to side with either camp, though for the first thirty minutes I was little pissed, “Great, another fracking conspiracy flick” I thought, but as the documentary rolled on I got the sense that Stone was showing what happened and how it became what it is now. He interviews people who were there at the time like young news reporter Dan Rather and attorney Mark Lane, who represented Oswald’s mother. Others, who lived through those “dark times” when leaders were being picked off one by one, were authors Edward J. Epstein and Norman Mailer who both first believed conspiracy but have come full circle and know that Oswald was the lone shooter. It was Epstein’s book that asked if the Warren Commission had moved too quickly through the evidence to come up with the lone-shooter verdict. Lane opened up the Pandora’s box of conspiracies with his own book concerning the JFK assassination and gave way to the floodgate of books, well over two thousand have been written telling the real story of who shot the President.

Some of the things that I liked about this film were the way Stone laid down a great background of what the fears, hopes, and aspirations or our nation were at the time before the death of the President. Fears of the Soviets and Red China along with Castro’s Cuba less than ninety miles away, it was the age of the atom and the atom bomb and we were scared shitless. Mailer and Epstein are the voices of reason throughout the film and Mailer, who knew a lot about covert actions, explains one of the many reasons he finally concluded that Oswald acted alone, and I have to agree: after forty years not one person has come forward, not a single shred of new evidence has ever panned out. Computer simulations recounting the direction of the bullets along with scientific forensics have prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that the kill shot exited out the front of the president’s head. And yes, a former Marine can get off three shots with a bolt-action riffle within the period of less than five seconds.

We get taken again on the ride that our country is obsessed with and yet while watching this we still don’t know why. Maybe it’s because we want to believe the leaders we elect to speak for we the people are good and honest and as a nation we stand for truth and justice. Even today the conspiracies about 9/11 circulate like bad air in a DC-10. You either believe Oswald did it alone or you don’t, but this isn’t the question. The question should be why don’t we believe our leaders anymore? Oswald’s action has repercussions that reverberate today, and if anything, it’s Oswald’s Ghost that have us asking the questions we ask today.

UPDATE

The film is premiering on PBS' American Experience before it goes to DVD. It airs  Monday, Jan 14., 2008, at 9pm on most PBS stations.

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About Gordon S. Miller

Gordon S. Miller is the artist formerly known as El Bicho, the nom de plume he used when he first began reviewing movies online for The Masked Movie Snobs in 2003. Before the year was out, he became that site's publisher. Over the years, he has also contributed to a number of other sites as a writer and editor, such as FilmRadar, Film School Rejects, High Def Digest, and Blogcritics. He is the Publisher of Cinema Sentries. Some of his random thoughts can be found at twitter.com/ElBicho_CS