Screening Room

Screening Room

Inside Out: Frost/Nixon and Milk Hold a Mirror to Our Fears

By Frank Pittman

March/April 2009

We've all been outsiders at some time or other in our lives. (Remember first grade?) Back when I was growing up in the swamps of Alabama, all the boys knew that our little town wasn't the real world, but, try as we did, we couldn't imagine a workable idea of what was on the other side of the swamp. So like kids everywhere, we wove our fantasies of what the world might be like from the fantasy images we brought back from the movie theater two blocks away.

What we saw up on the big screen were heroes and tough guys and romantic lovers, the likes of Jimmy Stewart, John Wayne, and Humphrey Bogart. Still, it was hard to bridge the gap. Real men on screen always seemed to know things we'd never been taught. We outsiders in the audience couldn't imagine a time when we'd know what insiders knew. After all, we couldn't rely on ourselves: we'd never been anywhere.

So how could we ever discover a way to navigate a world that seemed to lie far beyond our grasp? To step across the alligators and begin to tread confidently in the terra incognita of the great wide world, we knew we needed guides who could show us the way. In the darkness of the local movie theater, we tried to see life through the eyes of characters who, one way or another, we felt had been able to enter the charmed circle of real experience that seemed so far, far away from us.

Of course, we all come from a swamp of one kind or another, and ever since the invention of moving pictures,…

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