Movie Review: ‘JFK Remembered: 50 Years Later’

 

By Stacey Longo

JFK Remembered 50 Years Later

JFK Remembered: 50 Years Later, directed by Robert Kline, is one of a trilogy of documentaries that Warner Brothers Home Entertainment released on November 12, 2013 to commemorate the 50th anniversary of President John F. Kennedy’s assassination.

The documentary opens by asking why JFK’s presidency is still so memorable. The narrator offers a few answers: President Kennedy was vibrant, charismatic, and full of hope and idealism; however, these are just words. A better response would be “Here. Let’s just show you.”

For show us the documentarians do.  The footage begins with a young John Kennedy announcing his candidacy for the presidency. The viewer is treated to rare footage from the campaign trail, and includes a memorable snippet in which the candidate addresses the issue of his Catholicism. “It matters not what kind of church I believe in . . . but what kind of America I believe in.” If you have no idea what kind of man President Kennedy was, you will soon come to realize that he was infinitely, undeniably, deliciously quotable.

The highlight of this section is not the 1960 televised debates in which Kennedy famously comes off as cool and polished while his opponent, then-Vice President Richard Nixon, seems shifty-eyed and nervous. It is instead the audio of one of Kennedy’s campaign ads, a catchy jingle proclaiming “It’s Kennedy, Kennedy, Kenn-e-dy for me!” It is a reminder of what an innocent time 1960 was, a contrast to the slander campaigns of today.

For a man who was only president for 1037 days (in comparison, by next September President Obama will have served for twice Kennedy’s term length) a lot happened during his tenure. After the election night coverage in Times Square, the documentary features footage from many of Kennedy’s presidential highlights: the formation of the Peace Corps, the Bay of Pigs invasion, granting the largest tax break in history, the desegregation of southern schools and the civil rights movement, the March on Washington, John Glenn’s space mission, Kennedy’s much-admired and still studied speech on peace and nuclear disarmament at American University, and more. Scenes from his visit to Berlin in June of 1963 are amazing. If you had any doubt that Kennedy wasn’t a phenomenon not only in his country but also around the world, this visit alone will convince you otherwise. The crowds of Germans cheering for him are in the hundreds of thousands—putting the Boston crowds after the Red Sox won the World Series to shame.

The film highlights the Cuban Missile Crisis, and JFK’s press conference announcing the missile activity and the evidence that the Soviet Union had lied is still riveting to this day. Thirteen days later, when the President announces that the crisis has passed, the stress and wear on his face is evident.

Sadly, we all know how this story ends. The documentary doesn’t delve into conspiracy theories, stating only that shots rang out in Dealey Plaza on November 22, 1963. The film ends with footage of the funeral, the grieving family, and reflections from two other charismatic presidents—Bill Clinton and Ronald Reagan—remembering the vigorous, vibrant President of an earlier, more innocent time.

I would absolutely recommend JFK Remembered: 50 Years Later not only to those who want to recollect the captivating and engaging president of their youth, but to new generations who just don’t understand what all the fuss was about. John F. Kennedy was a communicator and a leader.

But these are just words. Let me just show you.

JFK Remembered: 50 Years Later is available through Warner Home Video individually or as part of the JFK 50th Commemorative Ultimate Collector’s Edition.

An Outing to Boston Comic Con

An Outing to Boston Comic Con

By David Price

I had no intention to attend Boston Comic Con this year. My son’s girlfriend, Amy, had brought it up a few weeks ago, but no plans were made to go. On Friday night, however, she was over visiting and brought it up again. My son, Devon, had no desire to go either, so she was doing her best to convince him. Now, I haven’t been to a comic con in many years, but the prospect of going piqued my interest. I pulled up the website and checked out the details. There was going to be 74 featured guest artists there. 74! Wow, these things have gotten much bigger since the last time I went.

I use to collect comics. I stopped pretty much cold turkey back in the nineties, when all those endless crossovers became big. They drove me nuts, interrupting the ongoing story lines of your favorite series and also forcing you to buy books you didn’t want, just to keep up. It was a sales gimmick that I quickly grew to despise and drove me away from comics completely. I’m still a fan, of sorts. I see every comic book based movie that hits the screen and I’ve been pretty happy with Hollywood’s attempts to bring some of my old favorites to life. I still have probably thirty boxes of comics in storage. It’s like the fan in me is in hibernation, I guess, like my collection.

So when I looked over that list of 74 artists, I didn’t recognize quite a few of them. I’m guessing there are many who have entered the business since my comic collecting days. But still, there were a few that really caught my eye, like Bernie Wrightson, for instance. Wrightson is an artist I have admired since I started reading and collecting comic books. You see, what first drew me into comics were horror comics. I was reading them for a couple years before I even noticed the super hero books. Maybe it was growing up watching Creature Feature on Channel 56, but I’ve always had this fascination with monsters. Wrightson was of course, an illustrator on many of the horror comics that I grew up loving. These had titles like, House of Mystery, House of Secrets, Tales of the Unexpected, and Vampirella. Did I mention he was the co-creator of Swamp Thing? Yeah, that too.

Wrightson didn’t stop with comic books, though. He did an illustrated version of Frankenstein, which is absolutely beautiful. Later in his career, he went on to do some illustration for my favorite author, Stephen King. Mr. Wrightson illustrated The Cycle of the Werewolf, The Stand, and even did some work on the Dark Tower series. Needless to say, I was excited at the chance to meet him.

Also on the list of artists, I noticed the name Bill Sienkiewicz. Wow! There was another guy who had impressed the hell out of me with his art. You see, Sienkiewicz brought a style unlike any other I had ever seen when he entered the comic book industry. In 1984, Sienkiewicz took over as the artist for the X-Men spinoff, New Mutants and brought an expressionistic style that was mind-blowing. I’m not sure it was for everyone, but I know he gained quite a bit of recognition and managed to work with some of comicbook greats at that time like Frank Miller and Alan Moore.

There were a couple other names that stood out to me like Bob Layton of Iron Man, Kevin Eastman of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and Simon Bisley whose work I remember from Judge Dredd and Lobo. It was enough for me to want to go. To top it all off, my twelve-year-old daughter, who to my knowledge has never read a comic book, begged to go. Between my son’s girlfriend and my daughter, they managed to convince Devon to give it a try. I was happy to drive, so the plans were made. My daughter invited her cousin, Roberta, so she would have someone the same age to tag along with her.

Saturday morning, I picked up Amy and brought her back to the house. She was carrying this trash bag full of costumes because apparently the three girls were determined to dress up. They had the idea that people went in costume to these cons and they wanted to participate. I certainly wasn’t going to put a costume on, but I didn’t mind if they did. There wasn’t a lot of planning involved here, so my daughter Kay ended up as Alice in Wonderland, Roberta was a sort of Victorian age vampire, and Amy wore a Pink Floyd shirt and flag as a cape. With the girls dressed up and ready to go, we headed off to the Hynes Convention Center in Boston.

The first problem encountered is that the Hynes is near Fenway Park, and the Yankees were playing the Red Sox that day. Finding parking was an adventure. As we passed the Convention center looking for a parking garage, we saw this ridiculously long line outside of the building. That couldn’t be the line to get in, we said. Spotting several people in line dressed as comic book characters confirmed our worst fears, though.

The line moved quickly, however, and we probably only waited thirty to forty minutes to get in the building. None of us were prepared for what we found inside. It was wall to wall with people. You really couldn’t get anywhere without fighting your way through the zombie-like horde of comic book fans. At first, this really bothered my daughter. She complained to me quite a bit. I reminded her that she begged me to bring them. After a while, we all just got used to it.

Devon and his girlfriend went right over to the Newbury Comics table to check out The Walking Dead books. My family is a fan of the show, but none of us have read the books. He grabbed the first few, which was okay with me, since I wanted to read them, too. Amy grabbed a few things that she was really excited about, including a Doctor Who book as a thank you present to me. We stopped at an artist who did a portrait of my daughter and niece in anime style. This put them both in happier moods. When we hit the back row, I saw the line for Bernie Wrightson. I stepped up and he asked if I had anything to sign. I knew I had forgotten something. Oh well, he had some prints from his work on Frankenstein, so I bought one of those. More importantly, I got a picture with him.

Bernie Wrightson and David Price at Boston Comic Con.

We fought our way through the mob and did our best to take in the whole thing. I had just about given up on finding Bill Sienkiewicz when we finally stumbled upon him. I got another cool picture and my daughter got an autographed Cat Woman print. We tried to find another vendor called Madknits, who had these handmade stuffed little monsters, on the way out, but after bumping our way up and down a bunch of aisles, we gave up and decided to call it a day. The kids were hot, tired, and feeling a bit claustrophobic.

All in all, Boston Comic Con was very cool, but it definitely needs to find a bigger venue. The Boston Convention and Exhibition center on the waterfront is much bigger and more suited to something that attracts as many people as comic con does. They should probably consider upgrading, even though I heard that this was an upgrade from previous years. We all had fun, which was the most important thing. Well done, Boston Comic Con.