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*** This review may contain spoilers ***
OSWALD'S GHOST got a brief theatrical release on it's way to an
American EXPERIENCE broadcast on PBS. There is little to recommend for
seeing it on the big screen as most of its footage is either archival
stock that was meant to be shown on TV in the first place, or typical
talking heads interviews from the present day.
The film goes over familiar territory for anyone even vaguely familiar with the JFK assassination. Some of the talking heads such as Mark Lane and Dan Rather trot out stories most have seen before. More interesting are individuals like former Presidential Candidate Gary Hart and Norman Mailer who, rightly or wrongly, give us their insights into the matter (more on Mailer later).
For the first hour or so, Director Robert Stone tries to portray a sort of kaleidescope (a word used in the documentary) of the Assassination, the official and conspiracy theories and a view of how it affected people of the immediate and subsequent generations. On that level, it sort of keeps one's interest. Some of the footage is less familiar than others, and it's edited together competently enough. Gary Lionelli's music itself is evocative, but, unfortunately, Stone mixes it too high and he drowns out some of the dialog in the process. Worse, much of the archival footage would be more effective without the intrusive music.
*** Possible SPOILER AREA ***
And, then, in the last 20 minutes, Stone completely flips the film on its end. Gone is the dispassionate, relatively even-handed approach and he gives the film over completely to one side of the argument. Norman Mailer and HIS theory of the assassination come to dominate the final section of the documentary. Mailer's conclusions become the film's conclusions. In light of Mailer's subsequent death, the film could just as easily been called, "Mailer's Ghost". And, then, it ends abruptly.
Without knowing more about Stone (his surname an irony in itself that even he can't avoid as he includes behind-the-scenes footage of OLIVER Stone directing his film JFK!), it's impossible to know if this method of seemingly pulling the rug out from the viewer was an intentional act of the old in-and-out sucker punch, or if it naturally evolved that way through the editing process. In either case, it considerably weakens the film - setting all prejudice one way or another about one's particular view of the JFK assassination aside. Not only does it come out of nowhere, but it tarnishes what was good about that first hour.
Oswald's Ghost is far from a critical expose on the assassination, as
Oliver Stone's JFK was. The very fact that Oswald's Ghost's director
has the same last name as Oliver to direct the film, says volumes about
the intelligence community's ( and the mainstream media's ) agenda to
confuse future generations.
The fact that classic dissemblers, like Priscilla Johnson McMillan, Dan Rather and J. Edward Epstein are given leading roles in the film, is the strongest indictment against the film. That Norman Mailer is given so much time in the film as well( and the last word ), makes me want to catalog the in the "Propaganda/Fiction Department Section, along with The Warren Report, and other books. The PBS and American Experience staff should all be ashamed of themselves for perpetuating the lies about the assassination.
The only honest criticism given in the film are given by Tom Hayden, Josiah Thompson and Todd Getlin, but neither three give any real facts from the critical literature to educate the viewer.
Hugh Aynesworth, a Dallas/Fortworth journalist who covered the assassination at the time and who comments on the Warren Report, spouts the official version, that Oswald acted alone. Aynesworth tells us a white lie when he says that he interviewed one witness who watched Oswald shoot from the sixth floor window of the Texas school depository Building. He may have interviewed witnesses that day, or sometime later, but no witnesses positively identified Lee Harvey Oswald in that window that day. Aynesworth's words, simply, can't be taken for granted.
Robert Dallek, who also given prime time in the film, was one of the historian researchers who worked for The Assassination records and Review Bord ( ARRB )in the nineties. That board was created and pushed through Congress by President Herbert Walker Bush in 1991 as a last ditch effort to foist, literally, tons of heavily redacted ( and forged ) declassified Secret CIA, FBI, ONI ( Naval Intelligence) documents into the American public's lap. So much for Dallek's hidden agenda, as well.
J. Edward Epstein, another spokesman in the film for the "we'll never know the truth about the assassination "theory, wrote some good books on the assassination, but he was Army Intelligence, so we can't trust him, either.
Mark Lane, who wrote one of the very first critiques on the Warren commission Report's findings, Rush to Judgment, the film's only honest critic of the warren Commission Report, but he is overrided by the film's general dishonesty.
Dan Rather, another journalist who speaks in the film is also dissembling. He was in Dallas that fateful day, as a cub reporter for CBS. Rather was one of the very first to see the Zapruder film, and he caved-in, changed his story, and sold his soul to the devil. Rather originally said that the President's head "fell backwards and to the left", which coincides with a shot from the front. Then he changed his tune to: "the President's head fell forwards and to the left", to go along with the warren Commission's magic bullet single lone nut theory. I have the two copies of Life magazine from January 1964, both printed on the same day. The first one, with Dan Rather's first line was pulled off of the press, and the second censored edition that was officially released, with Rather's changed tune is the one that the American Public got.
That Priscilla Johnson shamelessly shows her face again on the assassination subject doesn't surprise me at all. She was one of the very first intelligence assets to disseminate mis and disinformation, with lies to the Warren Commission and to the American public( with her book, Marina and Lee ).
I attended the ARRB's venued event when it came to Boston in the early nineties and convened at the State House on Beacon Hill. Priscilla Johnson McMillan, who is also given prime time in Oswald's Ghost was invited by the Review Board to testify. The first question that the Board asked Priscilla was whether she had ever been approached by the CIA. Priscilla never did answer that question, but instead,dissembled for a good twenty minutes or half hour and in so many words or less, basically told the panel and the audience that if anyone wanted to know who really killed John F. Kennedy, they should go to Russia and dig-up frozen KGB colonels, and ask the. In the film, Priscilla tells us that if Kennedy were alive today, that he'd be as puzzled as all of us are ( not me! ) as to who killed him and why. I have seen McMillan's CIA 201 file that has her checked-ff as a "witting asset". So much for her testimonial in the film.
Norman Mailer is given way too much time ( and the last word ) in the film. He says that he spent twenty-five years studying the assassination, and then he admits that he as an amateur. From what he tells us in the film, it is obvious that he didn't read enough of the critical literature. Of course, he was a friend of Priscilla Johnson McMillan's, which says a lot. In his book, Oswald's Tale, Mailer leads his readers by the nose and after eight hundred and something pages, tells them that Oswald killed Kennedy because Marina didn't give him ( Oswald, not Kennedy ) enough sex. Mailer should have titled his book, Oswald's Tail ( two puns intended ). puns intended ). Mailer can be thus dismissed as either an unwitting fool, or a witting stooge.
Basicaly, Oswald's Ghost is a total waste of time.
Oswald's Ghost (2007) is a disturbing documentary mainly because of the
important information it chooses to leave out.
The idea that "Oswald acted alone" has been surprising popular in recent documentaries. It seems that this appalling event in American history still has important resonances today that require the message of "Oswald acting alone" to be frequently regurgitated.
The wealth of misinformation concerning the assassination of John F. Kennedy continues unabated with documentaries like Peter Jennings' Beyond Conspiracy (2003), Oswald's Ghost (2007) and The Kennedy Assassination: 24 Hours After (2009) all of which promote the lone assassin theory as fact.
The problem with these documentaries is that the wealth of information pointing to a conspiracy is strictly ignored or derided. Information is cherry picked, manipulated and fabricated to lead the viewer to the conclusion that Oswald acted alone. Why it is still so important to promote this version of events in the face of other more disturbing evidence?
The Zapruder film is the "thorn in the side" for anyone promoting Oswald as the lone shooter. Some "documentary" films such as The Kennedy Assassination: 24 Hours After, simply ignore the fact that Kennedy's head is seen to jerk backwards as a bullet strikes, as if there is a general consensus that the official version of events is undisputed.
Peter Jennings' Beyond Conspiracy states that Kennedy's head jerking backward is no sign of where the bullet came from. Remember that before the Zapruder film was finally released to the public, the official story, confirmed by Dan Rather and others, was that Kennedy's head jerked violently forward so as to indicate a bullet hitting him from behind. This official description of the Zapruder film, tailored for public consumption, is the exact opposite of what is clearly seen in the Zapuder film.
Peter Jennings' Beyond Conspiracy almost reaches the hysterical in its attempt to prove conclusively that conspiracy theorists like Oliver Stone are wrong. What is clear, is that Peter Jennings' Beyond Conspiracy is poorly disguised propaganda. It is as objective as NBC's infamous hit piece made to discredit Jim Garrison and his investigation into the Kennedy assassination.
Documentaries that promote "Oswald as the lone assassin" seem to have greater budgets, audience exposure and production values when compared to the numerous "home-made" documentaries that support a conspiracy.
One of the most compelling documentaries that supports a massive conspiracy to have Kennedy assassinated is JFK II or Dark Legacy. While some of the suppositions contained in the documentary are theoretical, the filmmaker has without doubt presented a version of events, supported by available material, that points to high-level Government/Military/Covert involvement in the murder of John F. Kennedy.
Another piece of remarkable footage, too rarely seen, is the removal of Kennedy's secret service bodyguard from his open top limousine. The secret service officer is seen to be surprised at being ordered to "stand-down" by a superior officer and raises his arms in an unmistakable gesture of incomprehension. This telling piece of footage is not shown in any documentary supporting Oswald as the lone assassin.
It is public record that Oswald was an American Government asset. He had an FBI employment number S179. This information again is never sited in documentaries that promote Oswald as the lone shooter.
It seems that much has been learnt by American covert agencies in regard to "cover-stories" put out in the aftermath of the Kennedy assassination. It certainly helps to have a compliant and malleable Corporate Media to preach your message. Even if truthful information is unintentionally made available it can be easily undermined with misinformation, lies and propaganda. As is the case with the attacks on 9/11, any relevant information can be withheld, subverted, altered or swamped in a sea of misinformation.
It's impossible to review this film without having a bias. I do believe
a conspiracy was responsible for the assassination of John F. Kennedy
but, as always when dealing with these matters, I do keep an open mind.
While the film ostensibly is not on the whodunit but that question has
done to us, Oswald's Ghost has a definite bias in it. And that bias is
what kills the film.
Director Robert Stone seems to have done his homework. His interviews cover many proponents of both sides of the argument. He also goes a step further to present unseen or rarely seen / heard materials including news clips and the actual Dallas police recordings. Stone also chooses to employ some interesting visual techniques in the film as well. For example there is the whirlpool of Oswald and Warren Commission images at the start of the film, the (apparent) black hole of conspiracy books, and the positive / negative effect on stock footage during the playing of the recording of Perry Russo's sodium pentothal questioning. These are all well done, but their use in Stone's context is questionable.
Thus the film's fault lies in its bias. Stone seems convinced that the mystery is solved and has been for nearly forty-five years. The film then proceeds to essentially say that independent researchers (that is to say conspiracy theorists) have led the public on a wild goose chase of truly epic proportions. Stone seems to use the film and virtually every frame to saying this. Stone's film is not just, as he claims, a study of the effect of a mystery on the public. For the most part the film feels like an indictment of those who dare not agree with his point of view.
Would the film have been better without this bias? That's hard to say, really. I suspect that one's own opinion on the topic determines how one interprets the film. While one can argue over the factuality of the film, it is visually striking in its presentation as if to shock and awe. Does it succeed in that aim? I'll leave you to be the judge
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I has hyped up in seeing this documentary, only to find disappointment
after rushing across Dallas during rush hour traffic to see a special
viewing at the Texas movie theater.
Even though Robert Stone said that he tried to present both sides in his documentary, the end suggested that Oswald acted alone. Stone did not convince me of this, instead he only angered me into thinking that I wasted my time in watching his film.
Stone only showed the members of the Warren Commission and never mentioned them by name. These Commission members would have been happy to know that their deception is still being presented today. Gerald Ford, the only man to ever hold the position of President that was never elected by the people, and Robert Dulles, the ex-director of the CIA who was fired by JFK, are two of the men in American history that helped cover-up the true events that happened that dark day in Dallas.
Stone points to Oswald as being the man who shot at General Walker in Dallas before the assassination of JFK. This was never confirmed. If this was true, it only proves that Oswald was not a very good shot or marksman. In the cover of night, Oswald misses Walker, but yet at high noon and in broad daylight, Oswald hits President Kennedy three times in six seconds. No sniper in our special forces could pull off this feat. Not with a single bolt action rifle. Oswald has no Davy Crockett nor Daniel Boone. This film brought up none of Oswald's military training or rifle skills.
How did the Warren Commission get away with thinking that the American people are stupid enough to believe that Oswald acted alone ? It seems that the director of this documentary thinks the same. I was very disappointed to find out that Norman Mailer believed in this deception too.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
"Oswald's Ghost" just demonstrates how Kennedy's death is still being
white-washed. The writer, director Robert Stone gives the viewer a
series of repeating, talking heads with differing opinions about what
happened in those days. Mark Lane is given a goodly amount of screen
time. But Norman Mailer gets to put the final nail in Lee Oswald's
coffin and if he was still with us should be ashamed for his part in
the cherry-picking Mr. Stone does in the continuing obfuscation of what
happened in Dallas.
I believe you can get a much better sense of the Kennedy and Oswald assassinations by seeing "JFK: 3 Shots That Changed America." You'll be able to see for yourself what was going on in Dallas those few days, without talking heads trying to make up your mind for you. The Police work in Dallas that day was so amazing in how they found their man and all the evidence they needed to convict "their man" with certainty within hours while at the same time the President and his "assassin" were murdered in their jurisdiction. I wasn't aware the "powers that be" are still trying to make sure we end up believing the official version.
I saw this today and I was impressed with some of the archival footage and some of the interviews given. It's worth checking out if you're interested and/or have some knowledge on the case. I guess I would have liked to have heard more from Mailer and more on Oswald. I do think they gave some good information on a few details JFK missed. This is an informative and sometimes stylish documentary, worth checking out, the only reason I won't give more details on some of the plot points is for the fact that they had a lot to do with the conspiracy and a lot of them were red herrings. What this documentary does is put a few things into perspective, i.e. Oswalds motive, Dan Rathers comment saying the presidents head went forward, etc. My reason for giving this a ten was simply because the rating's too low, it deserves a 7 out of 10. Recommended.
I was in the Toronto Globe and Mail newspaper's library when I heard
the news of Kennedy's assassination. Thus began a great mystery in the
U.S. and around the world that continues to this day. Trillions of
words and thousands of books have been written about the assassination,
and that alone tells us that there is no one satisfactory theory about
why or how Kennedy was murdered.
Robert Stone's documentary is both odd and disjointed. As someone else on this board has already noted, director Stone starts off with a reasonably balanced view of the assassination, leads us through various conspiracy theories and talking heads, and then, boom, just like that, in the final 10 minutes, allows noted author Norman Mailer to wrap it up for us: Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone.
Mailer offers his 'evidence' more from a novelist's point of view than from one of evidence. Mailer's 'proof': Oswald was living in desperate straits, he was frustrated but bright and articulate, he had delusions of grandeur, he wanted a permanent place in American history, he worked in a building on the parade route, and voila: it all came together.
Director Stone ends his movie focused on Mailer's fanciful artistic interpretation of events (Oswald's ghost knows the answers, but a ghost will not tell us). It's quizzical to say the least.
Mailer (and ultimately filmmaker Stone himself) leaves out a glaring contradiction that still stares at conspiracy theorists today. It's a glaring contradiction not wrapped in Maileresque language: the famous Zapruder film (now digitalized for even more vivid inspection), which clearly shows that Kennedy had the top of his head blown off by a shot from the FRONT, not from the Texas Schoolbook Depository in the rear, where Lee Harvey Oswald was purportedly firing three shots in six seconds.
It is peculiar that Mailer, Stone, Elliott Jay Epstein (author of a book on the murder), former student radical-activist Todd Gatlin, and disgraced former Senator Gary Hart have all attached themselves to the 'single gunman' theory. Oswald may well have been involved up to his skinny little neck, but it still doesn't explain Zapruder's remarkable film, which has nothing to do with Oswald the Man, but merely frightening evidence that something else was happening on that fateful day in November 1963. That 'something else' has never been explained, and this film basically ignores it.
This film ultimately leaves the viewer with more questions than answers. Exactly what we needed: even more questions about the Kennedy assassination.
'Oswald's Ghost' left me with this uncomfortable feeling that too many people are desperate to put this whole messy business behind us. It is, after all, much easier, and much neater, to blame it all on a single shooter who also happened to be crazy.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
There is no film of Oswald himself actually in the act of firing a gun
at anything. There is no film of Oswald even carrying a gun that day.
There is neither film nor any photograph of Oswald in or around Dealy Plaza at all, shooting or otherwise.
There were no witnesses who saw Oswald himself shoot at the car (one witness saw someone shoot- but couldn't ID who).
No witness put Oswald on the sixth floor of the building at the time of the shooting. Someone was there, but who?
Oswald appeared in 3 or 4 separate police lineups after the shooting but nobody at these face-to-face viewings identified him as shooting anything in Dealy Plaza.
Oswald was never tried in a court of law for any crimes committed on November 22, 1963.
Oswald himself was murdered. He was assassinated.
The Warren Commission postulated that there were two Lone Nuts- Oswald and Ruby. Even if you think they were nuts, there is little or no evidence that they were "Lone" nuts. They were both very talented at covering their shady associations (and they had many).
Thousands of CIA documents were released in the 90's but with huge blacked-out spaces. No less than Tom Brokaw of NBC said (I believe in 1999) that there may be "a million" documents still secret, not to be released until as late as 2050.
No film or witnesses against Oswald. No trial of Oswald. Still-secret documents. It always amazes me that Peter Jennings or anyone can be so certain that there WASN'T a conspiracy, or that so-called "buffs" can be so certain that there WAS one.
This film has great production values and footage, but all it does is
gloss up another lame attempt to paint conspiracy buffs as paranoid
losers blind to the evil machinations of one Lee Harvey Oswald. We all
know we'll never know the truth, but the flawed logic applied in these
'documentaries' always baffles me. A second shooter means a
controversy, right? Isn't the second shooter Jack Ruby? He was stalking
the Dallas Police station all weekend, but Stone wants us to believe
his shooting of Oswald was spontaneous and proves it by showing how
close he cut his appointment with destiny at the Western Union? Give me
a break. Nuts who claim JFK was shot by his driver or that Tippett was
the shooter on the Grassy Knoll don't help...but in the end people just
need to rely on what can be seen, and that's that there is no way
Oswald pulled this off alone on any level. End of story.
Of course this is better than the reenactment of a few years back that 'proved' the magic bullet theory and then concluded that it eliminated discussion of a conspiracy. You know, without ever addressing the head shot(s). Ever.
Wake me up when someone without an agenda produces something new.
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