Who Says I'm Not A Hopeless Romantic?
Some guys take their ladies out to dinner on Friday night, and gaze lovingly into their significant others' eyes while dropping $50 a jug on pinot noir.
Other men score tough tickets to hot plays or concerts to impress the women in their lives--others bone-up on the offerings of The Food Network and try dazzling wives or girlfriends with their skills in a hot kitchen on a cold January night.
Me? I curl up on the couch with my wife, and watch Kennedy assassination documentaries.
My long-time radio buddy and Hollywood connection, Gino Salomone, sent me a copy of "Oswald's Ghost" the other day, giving me the chance to watch it before it airs Monday on PBS (Channel 10 in Milwaukee, at eight p.m.).
If you dip into this blog at all, you know what a freak I am about this subject. I've been anxiously awaiting "Oswald's Ghost" for weeks, ever since it's world premiere at the Dallas Theater where he was arrested shortly after JFK's murder.
It got a mixed review in the Mueller household Friday night--my wife, thinking it was going to be more "x" and "o", didn't care for it much. I, on the other hand, loved it (if one can indeed love something about such a life-altering event as the Kennedy assassination).
"Oswald's Ghost" won't change any minds--if you're a conspiracy buff, you probably still will be when the two hours are over. If you think Oswald acted alone, chances are you'll feel reinforced. "Ghost" isn't about grassy knolls, magic bullets and "jet-effect" although all get their due. This documentary, unlike the late Peter Jennings one on the 40th anniversary of Kennedy's death, looks at JFK's assassination as the global event it was--what it meant to the nation, the world, and history. It delves into the investigation, the Warren Commission, and the motivation of Kennedy's successor, Lyndon Johnson, who wanted the case closed before the 1964 election. It lets you know that LBJ himself was among the biggest doubters, someone who never bought the lone-gunman theory and who lived in mortal fear that he would somehow be linked to Kennedy's death.
"Ghost" treats the conspiracy folks fairly--pointing out that their kind weren't just fueled by an internal skepticism but also by numbers: the seven-in-ten Americans who thought a cabal did Kennedy in. Noted Warren Commission critics get ample time to state their cases--even Oliver Stone, who is seen as either a visionary or a historical contortionist with his film "JFK". It also gives the Commission and it's adherents their props, without holding the Report up for ridicule. It leaves that to the others.
What "Ghost" does best is detail the thread of cynicism that was born in those post-assassination days, the lack of faith in government institutions that got a lot of it's initial fire from the Warren Commission report and that maintained a puluse through Vietnam, Watergate and even today.
And, it tells folks things about Oswald the probably didn't realize before. For all who defend him as a patsy, as an innocent man in the wrong place at the wrong time, "Ghost" describes in great detail the little man with huge delusions who thought he was something great when, in fact, he was what he was: a $1.25 an hour book clerk who lived a contrarian's existence, who did EVERYTHING in his life by himself, who had shown homicidal tendencies before he built his sniper's nest. And, it punctuates it's take on it's namesake with Norman Mailer's observation that, for all of the historical significance Oswald sought by killing Kennedy, it was his subsequent murder of Dallas police officer J.D. Tippit that rendered him, in Mailer's words, "a punk."
What "Oswald's Ghost" does best is put the events of that awful weekend in context, explaining with the participants own words and actions just how random those days were. For all who think Oswald was in the Texas School Book Depository by the design of evil-doers, the documentary tells you just how haphazard his plan to kill JFK was: he didn't know Kennedy would be passing beneath his window until just days before the motorcade. He had no escape plan, no way of explaining his actions, no alibi, no one to back him up. Even more startling is the spontaneity of his murder at the hands of Jack Ruby who brought a boatload of cash and his beloved dog with him as he went downtown that Sunday morning to send an employee a telegram, and ended up on the bottom of a pile of humanity, having fired a single shot into Oswald's abdomen that silenced the accused assassin forever. Totally random, impulsive events that changed history and who leave us the people we are today.
"Oswald's Ghost" is solid t-v and a fabulous look at history. If you're looking for frame-by-frame analysis of the Zapruder film, autopsy photos, computer re-creations, well, this isn't the documentary for you. That one's already been done.
I've never seen anything before like "Oswald's Ghost". And, I'll be watching again Monday night. I hope you will, too, and I'd love to hear what you think.