Tags: 50th anniversary, Dealey Plaza, JFK, John F. Kennedy, Kennedy Assassination, Lee Harvey Oswald, mauser, november 22nd
I’m proud to announce the release of a new documentary “Orphans of Camelot”.
Unlike all the Kennedy documentaries that have come before, Orphans of Camelot isn’t about who killed President Kennedy. It’s about the impact this event has had on media, popular culture and the national consciousness. For a new generation of viewers this film will serve as a great introduction to an important historical moment. To those who lived through this tragic event, it will function as opportunity to reframe the conversation for the next fifty years.
Orphans of Camelot isn’t a murder mystery, it’s a coming of age story.
We live in the era of the 24 hour news cycle. An era where one person with a cell phone camera can have as much power and impact as any television or film studio. An era where senseless public violence is something we see on the screen every day. We also live in the era of the conspiracy theory, a time in which we do not trust the government, the media or each other.
Orphans of Camelot rewinds 50 years of film and television to the moment President Kennedy was assassinated and reveals that this was when it all began.
The film is currently a 15 minute short. If you’d like to see this as a full length film, click on the link below to donate and become part of the team!
Tags: Abraham Zapruder, bill o'reilly, Billy Bob Thorton, colin hanks, Conspiracy, FBI, forrest sorrels, james dale badge, James Hosty, jeremy strong, JFK, Kennedy Assassination, killing kennedy, Lee Harvey Oswald, lone gunman, marcia gay harden, marguerite oswald, parkland, parkland movie, paul giamatti, President Kennedy, reclaiming history, rob lowe, robert oswald, Ron Livingston, roy kellerman, Secret Service, tom hanks, Tom Welling, vincent bugliosi, zac efron, Zapruder Film
Tom Hanks and Gary Goetzman’s film Parkland, which commemorates the 50th anniversary of President Kennedy’s assassination is out on Blu-Ray, DVD and VOD this week and even if you don’t agree with its lone gunman perspective, it’s a well-acted and moving portrayal of this tragic event. Parkland is named after the hospital in which President Kennedy and his alleged assassin Lee Harvey Oswald were treated for their fatal wounds and the location serves as the framing device to bookend the plot of the film. Rather than focusing on President Kennedy and Oswald themselves, the film centers around the oft-overlooked individuals on the sidelines.The filmmakers seem to understand that the melodrama of Kennedy and Oswald themselves has been well documented in the endless slog of TV movies on the subject and have decided to expose us to some of the other key figures in the case.
Most notably, this is the first drama to to adequately tell the story of Abraham Zapruder, an ordinary Dallas dressmaker who was catapulted into the history books by filming the assassination on his 8mm Bell and Howell camera. As played by the eminently recognizable but ultimately versatile Paul Giamatti, Parkland is clearly Zapruder’s film. The plot also spends considerable time with some of the law enforcement officers who dropped the ball that day, including Forrest Sorrels and Roy Kellerman of the Secret Service and James Hosty of the FBI. As portrayed Billy Bob Thorton, Tom Welling and Ron Livingston respectively, the characters evoke genuine pathos as they come to the heartbreaking realization that they should have been able to stop the assassination. The film is also the first “Oswald did it” pictures that unabashedly admits that the FBI covered up the nature of their relationship with the President’s alleged assassin. Hanks and Goetzman seem to understand that while there may not have been a conspiracy to kill Kennedy, there sure as hell was a conspiracy to cover up the circumstances of the crime.
Parkland approaches the conspiracy debate through the characters of Oswald’s brother Robert and his mother Marguerite. Marguerite clearly represents the conspiracy theorists, claiming that her son was a government agent framed for the assassination. Robert on the other hand, represents those who believe Lee Oswald acted alone. The portrayal is hardly even-handed however, as Marguerite comes off as completely crazy and Robert is shown as extremely lucid and sober. This is not an unfair representation of the individuals themselves as Marguerite was a rather unhinged woman but conspiracy theorists should take umbrage with being unilaterally categorized as insane. James Badge Dale’s steady performance as Robert Oswald serves as an emotional bedrock for the film, demonstrating that the Kennedy family was not the only victim of this crime.
Although he has less screen time than Dale, Jeremy Strong as Lee Oswald looks eerily like his historical counterpart, going against the trend of portraying the alleged assassin as a handsome hipster. If this were any other film, the producers probably would have cast Zac Efron as Oswald instead of Strong.
Speaking of Efron, the cast is rounded out with a solid ensemble at the hospital including the aforementioned heartthrob as Dr. Carrico, the physician who had the thankless task of attempting to resuscitate the fatally wounded President. He is joined by Macia Gay Harden as Nurse Doris Nelson and Colin Hanks as presiding physician Dr. Malcom Perry, who aren’t given very much to do but do it well nonetheless.
It’s worth noting some of the controversy surrounding the film. When it was announced that Tom Hanks was producing a project based on the works of famed prosecutor/writer Vincent Bugliosi, there was considerable uproar amount assassination researchers. For those who believe in a conspiracy to kill President Kennedy, Bugliosi has emerged as the most prominent poster child of the opposition. Even a self-professed “agnostic” such as myself has to admit that Bugliosi’s dismissive and condescending tone as a writer and public speaker is so insufferable that it is hard to take his work seriously. Bugliosi’s immense tome Reclaiming History should have been the definitive textbook for JFK conspiracy debunkers but despite painstaking research, the author seems more interested in besmirching those who oppose his views than actually opposing their views. So it’s no wonder that when Hanks’ company Playtone Pictures announced they were producing a sprawling miniseries based on the book, a lot of people were not excited about Bugliosi’s views reaching an audience beyond the unfortunate few such as myself who picked up the 1,500+ page monstrosity.
Somewhere along the line, Hanks wisely chose to shift gears to the 90 minute Parkland, which is based on Bugliosi’s condensed paperback Four Days in November. Four Days is a relatively straightforward retelling of the fatal days leading up to and following the assassination. Still, the book isn’t any more popular than it’s heftier big brother. I remember I had a copy sticking out of my back pocket while talking chatting with Robert Groden on the grassy knoll and needless to say, he wasn’t happy to see it. I explained to Bob that the only reason I had it was because I needed Bugliosi’s diagram of the location of all the photographers at the time of the shooting so I could recreate their shots. Groden, who served as the photographic expert for the House Select Committee on Assassinations and was the man who first showed the Zapruder film to the public, seemed to grant a tacit approval of my endeavours and we had a fruitful conversation about the photographic evidence among other things. I would be curious to see what Bob and some of the other prominent conspiracy authors think of Parkland if they have seen it.
For the general viewing public, Parkland serves as a useful counterpoint to Oliver Stone’s JFK and a more tasteful alternative to the far flashier-looking Killing Kennedy, the TV movie based on Bill O’Reilly’s book of the same name. Because as insufferable as Bugliosi may be, I can at least hold down my lunch when hearing him speak. This certainly cannot be said of O’Reilly, who has the unique ability to be as intellectually ill-equipped as he is ideologically nauseating. While Killing Kennedy seems content to continue the lurid TV movie tradition of romanticizing the assassination with gratuitous slow motion shots and sexy stunt casting, Parkland is one of the most straightforward films we are likely to see on the Kennedy assassination for a long time to come.
The intersection between comedy and politics is a street corner of America where some of our darkest fears are wrestled with and subdued. From Mort Saul’s trademark newspaper under the arm to John Stewart’s hilarious brand of flustered indignation, comedy has toppled tyrants and aided in the ascent of kings. Our freedom to poke fun at our politicians, a democratic tradition stretching back to the theatre festivals of ancient Greece is a right we all enjoy and often take for granted. While most political jokes lie squarely in the realm of bad impersonations and late-night Monica Lewinsky jabs, some comedians have dared to take on some of the most controversial political crises of their age. For some, it has been their demise.
To commemorate the 49th anniversary of the Kennedy Assassination, Assassination Agnostic is taking the opportunity to discuss the legacy of those who have dared to laugh through tears and help heal the national wounds inflicted on November 22nd 1963 with the power of laughter. Also, JFK007 founder Lee Sanger Goldin stops in as a guest on the comedy podcast “Gene’s Jobs” for a special assassination episode dubbed “Gene’s Inside Jobs” and takes some of the most infamous assassination theories and looks at the lighter side. Think it’s hilarious or in horrible taste? Leave your comments and let the discussion begin.
Tags: assassination anniversary, book depository, Conspiracy, dallas texas, Dealey Plaza, Grassy Knoll, Kennedy anniversary, Kennedy Assassination, Lee Harvey Oswald, lone gunman, november 22nd, picket fence, second gunman
The 48th Anniversary of the Assassination of President John Fitzgerald Kennedy has arrived, meaning that the semi-centennial is only two years away. For those who have been studying the case for almost half century, they must feel as though they are approaching a significant milestone, and a good time to reflect on all the discoveries and debates they have made over the years. For younger researchers like myself, this is a time to look ahead. We must carefully plan how to teach the next generation about one of the most important and misunderstood events in world history as it slowly slips from living memory and into the static realm of recorded history.
This is the third November 22nd to pass since I started this website, and I find myself reflecting on the various people I have met and corresponded with over the past 2 and half years. I’ve discussed the events of Dealey Plaza with the wildest conspiracy theorists and the most determined conspiracy debunkers. In my quest for agnosticism, I have been accused of dilettantism but also lauded for my objectivity. I’ve consulted with “both sides of the aisle,” asking for feedback from the various authors who I’ve read over the years. I’ve received searing criticism from the heads of conspiracy groups like the Citizens for Truth in the Kennedy Assassination’s Jim DiEugenio or the Coalition on Political Assassinations’ John Judge, but also praise from some of the most hardcore conspiracy authors, such as David Lifton and Douglas Horne. I’ve corresponded with perhaps the most despised conspiracy debunkers, Gerald Posner, John McAdams and David Von Pien. I’ve visited the notorious Dealey Plaza, and recreated the famous assassination films and photographs with the helpful consultation of House Select Committee photographic expert Robert Groden, who spends his weekends camped out on the grassy knoll.
Then there’s the ordinary folks I’ve spoken with. There was the angry housewife behind the picket fence who was convinced that this was the location of the second gunman. Then there was the friendly old retiree holding vigil alone in the book depository who was convinced that Oswald could have made the shot. There was the teenage kid who believes the notorious umbrella man killed the president, and the forensic pathologist who explained to me why the magic bullet wasn’t magic at all. There was the lawyer who told me that the truth of the Kennedy assassination would be revealed in our lifetime, and the history teacher who told me that the truth was there all along.
What have I discovered? That Oswald could have done it, but that doesn’t mean he did. And that there is no proof of a massive conspiracy, but that doesn’t mean there wasn’t. As for the majority of people who are convinced one way or the other, I’ve come to regard their opinions in the same way I do people who claim to know conclusively whether there is or is not a God. Who are you to know? If anyone knew for sure who pulled the trigger, they’re probably dead. Everyone else from Earl Warren to Oliver Stone has just been an educated guesser—some more educated than others.
So what am I planning on doing this November 22nd? Going to the chiropractor. Of all the people I’ve discussed the Kennedy Assassination with, I think she understands it the best. She doesn’t look at the event from the perspective of “who shot from where when.” She looks at it in terms of the pain it caused, and how we can alleviate it. Pain is, after all, her business. And relieving it is her best skill. At our first session, we took a detailed discovery trip down memory lane to document every possible event that might be causing me pain. We discussed bailing off bikes, getting in car accidents, fighting with friends, theatrical stunts gone wrong, and jumping off rooftops. Battle scars from a quarter-century of living on the edge. She told me I was too young to feel this pain. Then she cracked her knuckles and leaned into me, working through the pain slowly and methodically, just as America has done with the pain of the Kennedy assassination for the past half a century. When the session was finished, we set a date for the next appointment. November 22nd was the date she picked. I asked her if she understood the significance. She nodded and launched into her memories of that whole weekend so long ago. She told me of her brother watching the murder of Oswald on live TV. I told her I run a website on the Kennedy assassination. Again, she told me I was too young to feel that pain. We talked about how it was a collective pain that America has still not gotten over. I gave her a link to my website, she gave me a hug when I tried to shake her hand.
That night I got a comment on the website that was eerily familiar to the story my chiropractor told me about her brother. It was a man describing the horror of being a young boy watching murder tear his country apart on live television. I wondered if perhaps my chiropractor had given the link to her brother. Or perhaps it was just a coincidence. But as we all know, when it comes to the Kennedy Assassination, no coincidence is EVER overlooked or robbed of potential significance. But if it WAS a coincidence, then all the better: It proves the point that the pain we feel from the loss of Kennedy is shared, and that the experience most Americans felt was so uniform as to be almost interchangeable. If it wasn’t my chiropractors’ brother telling the tale, it was another man with the same tale. I’ve heard it before. From my father, from my professors, from the authors I’ve read, and even the owner of the second-hand book store who introduced me to those authors. So what do we need as Americans to recover from this collective tragedy and excise this universal pain? We need an adjustment. Many people who study the assassination come from the perspective that they have discovered the final truth and that all who disagree with them are horribly misguided. This attitude needs adjustment. We need to work together to find the truth as a Lincolnian “team of rivals” determined to find what really happened, whether it proves our personal theories or not, instead of working to find the bits of circumstantial evidence and hearsay that reinforce those theories. The history books taught in schools cite Oswald as the lone gunman with such certainty as to imply that this fact has never been seriously debated. And when the debate is presented on television or in movies it is so lopsided as to indicate that the debate has already been won. This too needs adjustment. Only then can we discover the truth, and finally excise our national pain.