J. Edgar

Obviously I haven't seen all the films that will be up for Academy Awards this year, but I predict Leonardo DiCaprio will be a major contender for Best Actor. He is astonishing; his makeup and his physical characteristics age so realistically, they make other actors look weak by comparison (except Naomi Watts).

This film explores the life of J. Edgar Hoover, the iconic powerhouse of the FBI as we know it today; he was a respected (and feared) law enforcement officer but also a closeted gay man. Director Clint Eastwood ("Gran Torino") takes on the issues of patriotism, homosexuality and duplicity in this lengthy but engrossing study of a complex man, (cross-dressing) warts and all.

This is a small part of a HUGE cast:
  • Leonardo DiCaprio ("Inception") is J. Edgar, obsessed with secrets: uncovering other people's while concealing his own. He served his country through eight presidents and three wars.
  • Armey Hammer (the Winklevoss twins in "The Social Network") is Clyde Tolson, Hoover's long-time companion. We watch them age together, but Hammer's makeup could be better.
  • Naomi Watts ("Eastern Promises") is Helen Gandy, Hoover's personal secretary, loyal from the beginning of his storied career to the bitter, paper-shredding end.
  • Judi Dench ("Jane Eyre") is J. Edgar's mother, Annie, who would rather see her son dead than a homosexual (or as she put it, "a daffodil").
  • Jeffrey Donovan ("Burn Notice") is Robert Kennedy, Hoover's boss when Kennedy was Attorney General. Donovan doesn't LOOK much like him but he certainly sounds right!
  • Josh Lucas ("The Lincoln Lawyer") is Charles Lindberg, father of that little kidnapped boy, grieving, self-contained and furious.
Director Eastwood gives credit where credit is due. Hoover was an innovator: he initiated the Lindberg law that makes kidnapping a federal offense; he made forensics a science to be used in law enforcement; and he established a central file for fingerprints. But we also see Hoover's need for fame, e.g., falsely taking credit for arrests, sponsoring comic books that extol his heroism, and grabbing headlines for his beloved FBI.

It's fun to recognize many famous names from the almost five decades of Hoover's public service: Ginger Rogers, Shirley Temple, Richard Nixon, Emma Goldman, Bruno Hauptmann, I could go on and on.

Expect a few gunshots, one R-rated kiss, no car chases and one bombing. Most of the profanity comes from Richard Nixon!
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Here is a 2.5 minute preview:
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