Oliver Stone is a particularly interesting director to me. He garners much hate from some, and a whole lotta love from others. What’s your opinion and why?
Personally, I hate Stone. His visual style is non-existent and he preaches ridiculous political points, often convoluted in lies and liberal fabrications of the truth. He has a real talent for pissing off the people that his films are based on by making them into hybrid characters, or misquoting/completely lying about their actual lives knowing full-well that what he is doing is not the truth. Furthermore, I don’t think that he tells very interesting stories in general.
I used to like some of his films but then I grew up. The early ones are better than the later ones but not by much. He once said about Quentin Tarantino that “he makes movies, but I make films.” I would really like to know what he meant by that.
Personally, I do not understand the praise. But I thought his screenplay for Midnite Express was quite good; I did enjoy The Doors and thought Alexander was “B-Movie” enjoyable. Other than that I don’t get what all the fuss is about. I thought Natural Born Killers was absolute garbage.
Jack Falvey IV Opinions
I disagree with nearly everything you just said. “His visually style is non-existent”? Judging by some of the films on your profile, and I might be going out on a limb, but I don’t think you have much of an “eye”. “Ridiculous political points”? Hardly. The United States was founded upon questioning moral, royal and political authority. A very liberal thing to do, and it pissed a lot of people off. Hollywood tends to fabricate history. Look at The Aviator; and I love that movie. As for the stories and your interest in them. Well, that’s just personal taste, ain’t it?
But thanks for bringing him up. The man and, more importantly, his films warrant discussion.
Maybe he meant that Tarantino was garbage.
Alexander Revisited is a masterpiece, as is JFK.
I never liked Natural Born Killers, its a horrible pile of shit of a movie, but Tarantino wrote it, and Stone is immensely proud of it, so I don’t know why he would knock Tarantino.
He is not a truly great director but he has made some really great films. I love JFK, Natural Born Killers and even appreciate World Trade Center.
“Maybe he meant that Tarantino was garbage.”
I get that, but I think he was saying this around the time NBK was coming out. I was wondering if he was referring to QT’s understated visual style and somehow believed that all his flashy bullshit was more artistic than QT’s. Whatever my qualms with Pulp Fiction, at least it’s watchable, unlike NBK.
One can debate Stone’s political views and accuracy in historical films until the proverbial cows come home. There’s a long post on JFK from several weeks ago that goes over many of these objections, but it may not be readable because of all the blood on the site!
However, I DO see a distinctive visual style in many of Stone’s “movies.” JFK, for instance, is a masterwork of editing — including subliminal cutting — albeit in the service of a certain view of the Kennedy assassination. His mix of black-and-white and color footage is memorable. Likewise, the lighting and special effects in his films (the storm clouds over the White House in NIXON) are often beautifully evocative of the mood and meaning of his scenes.WALL STREET may be a convincing or fabricated indictment of 1980s capitalism (and a defense of earlier, more “ethical” versions of capitalism as exemplified by the Hal Holbrook character and Stone’s own stockbroker father), but I’d defend its visual style as terrific. The editing conveyed the absolute craziness of panicked buying and selling, and the beautifully lit scenes on Montauk Beach and Central Park contrasted with the interior scenes in Charlie Sheen’s condo and the Wall Street offices of Gekko and Sheen’s company.
One of the themes in WALL STREET, which is also seen in PLATOON, is the moral choice a young character has (in both cases played by Charlie Sheen) between a bad father figure and a good father figure. In PLATOON, it’s Elias vs. Barnes; in WALL STREET, it’s Gekko vs. the protagonist’s own father (played by Martin Sheen). To me, those personal character dynamics elevate these films beyond their somewhat simplistic condemnations of corporate “greed” and the Vietnam War.
I would agree that Stone’s recent films have lost some of that visual and narrative flair. (ALEXANDER, anyone?)
People just love to beat up on this guy. I think he’s made some brilliant films (JFK, Natural Born Killers), some very good ones (Born on the Fourth of July, Salvador, Nixon, Talk Radio, Wall Street) and some overrated ones (Platoon). Overall, I like the guy’s movies.
That is the exact problem for me. To me any art that can reduced to “vs.” based descriptions is juvenile, at best.
Absolutely Mike, that is your problem.
Thanks for repeating what i said. I hope you enjoy Oliver Stone’s JFK vs. Predator.
The Hand is awesome, and a gem of a Michael Caine performance.
“Thanks for repeating what i said. I hope you enjoy Oliver Stone’s JFK vs. Predator.”
Oh man. That got a big laugh out of me.
As for Stone, I think his films are moronic, immature, and manipulative. Compare the shallowness of World Trade Center with the sheer brilliance of something like United 93.
If you watch something like W and really think he made a profound political point, you simply don’t know a lot about politics. It was like a bad SNL sketch.
@Mike Spence: Regarding your response to my analysis of PLATOON and WALL STREET, “In PLATOON, it’s Elias vs. Barnes; in WALL STREET, it’s Gekko vs. the protagonist’s own father,”
“That is the exact problem for me. To me any art that can reduced to “vs.” based descriptions is juvenile, at best.”
Well, I hate to tell you, but most of the world’s great novels, plays, and films are based on human conflict. Yes, someone VS. someone else; one group VS. its rival; one ideology VS. another way of life. It’s admittedly repetitive in its basics, although it has infinite variations, but I wouldn’t call it juvenile. Those of us who have not yet attained satori still struggle with conflicts every day, and we want to see that in our movies (although some films do it better — and in a more mature manner than others).
Now, maybe I misread your critique. Maybe you were criticizing ME for pointing out the common Oedipal dynamic in the two Stone films. I thought you were criticizing Stone for using simplistic, antagonistic character types. That’s a valid criticism. Criticizing ME is, of course, invalid. :-) :-) :-)
“Well, I hate to tell you, but most of the world’s great novels, plays, and films are based on human conflict. Yes, someone VS. someone else; one group VS. its rival; one ideology VS. another way of life. It’s admittedly repetitive in its basics, although it has infinite variations, but I wouldn’t call it juvenile. Those of us who have not yet attained satori still struggle with conflicts every day, and we want to see that in our movies (although some films do it better — and in a more mature manner than others).”
No, most people, even those deeply involved with a particular conflict, struggle with multiple conflicts each day. Internal, external, 1000’s sometimes 10s of 1000s in one day. Bad hollywood films and shitty novels reduce these conflicts to one because most audiences are simpleminded. Great works don’t reduce, but rather strive to show all the complexities.
Also, while all these conflicts are happening there are also connections, epiphanies and other non-conflict based things going on for us. I was definitely aiming at the films with my response. Too simple minded to be great.
@ Jason Torchstreet: Tarantino may have penned the “original” NBK screenplay, but Stone’s version was not even the same screenplay. Tarantino’s version was nothing more than a rewrite of “Badlands,” whereas Stone turned it into something much more significant: A brilliant satire on media manipulation of the masses and America’s obsession with true crime and serial killers. Stone’s Felliniesque stylistic renderings permeate the film. So no, I don’t think it was a “horrible pile of shit” movie. That argument can easily be made for World Trade Center, though.
I think NBK is one of the true works of cinematic art to come out of the 90s. Guess I’m in the minority here. Many can’t seem to get past the explicit violence and over-the-top satire, which was the whole point of the film.
And in fairness to the QT: It would be nice to get one’s hands on a copy of his original screenplay. I wouldn’t mind seeing it in its original conception, but I don’t think Quentin T. can outdo Malick.
personally,Stone has created some real interesting pictures,far fetched at one point yet quite powerful in their explosions,Salvador and JFK to name a few..
but Stone is uneven,the fact he has directed the worst propaganda post-9/11 for U.S. and A. (possibly even worse than a Home of the Brave) has lowered his ability and vision to the bottom of the A-list of Hollywood directors…
Alexander wasn’t a huge epic either,more like a huge blow-job (please don’t moderate me), and an insult to who Alexander really was: a bloodsucking tyrrant with bisexual frustrations,instead…he idolized him as something beyond reality!
even Nixon is totally incorrect in its “conspiracy” level but it’s not so bad as a U-Turn per se,because Stone is better when he deals with ego-maniac individuals,U-Turn was a semi-crap of a road movie/erotic thriller tale…
U-Turn is probably the worst. So many choices…
He should do a zombie movie.
@ DIMITRIS: You bring up some very good points. I think political accuracy is the last thing Stone is attempting in his films. The crux of what makes his films work for me is how Stone aggressively taps into the social conscience of the public, in the context of each “historical” event that serves as the backdrop to many of his films. JFK wasn’t a “who done it” on the Kennedy assassination, it was about how America reacted in the wake of it, and how all these sensational scenarios filtered in and out of America’s consciousness, as they still do today. Nixon was more a character sketch than it was a historical document of Nixon’s presidency, and for that, I think both Stone and Anthony Hopkins did a fantastic job of delivering it.
Back at Mike Spence: Thanks for clarifying your thoughts. You weren’t criticizing Stone for using DRAMATIC CONFLICT, per se, but for using simplistic X vs. Y conflict. That’s a valid argument; there’s not usually much “subtext” in an Oliver Stone movie.
And I certainly agree with those who mention his inconsistency. U-TURN is clearly one of the worst, but throw in ALEXANDER, most of NIXON (Sir Anthony was miscast); TWIN TOWERS, W, etc. In fact, maybe there IS some consistency there: everything after 1991 wasn’t very good!
No problem Frank. I haven’t been able to get through Alexander. I only tried once but it just didn’t seem worth it. Except for Brad Erickson’s ""B-movie" enjoyable" comment, I have never heard anyone say it had any redeeming qualities.
If a B-movie producer gave a Vietnam vet, with post-traumatic stress disorder and psychotic tendencies a camera and 10 million dollars, and told him to make a film. You would get Oliver Stone.
count me among those who think “natural born killers” is a great film. its got a special something that grabs me. not the least of which is the beautiful love affair in the film. the visual density and wit. robert downey jr, etc.
“Hollywood tends to fabricate history. Look at The Aviator; and I love that movie. As for the stories and your interest in them. Well, that’s just personal taste, ain’t it?”
OK, let’s start at the beginning here.
“Hollywood tends to fabricate history.”
Hollywood absolutely does fabricate history, and every single director that has ever made a film or documentary that is based/inspired by/“A” true story is lying from the get go. I understand that. But the specific way in which Stone handles this is juvenile and self serving. For instance, as I stated before, he created a character in The Doors, named Patricia Kennealy, that was Morrison’s witchcraft-practicing wife. On the second disc for The Doors DVD, the real Patricia Kennealy is on explaining that Stone took her name and likeness and made her into a hybrid of herself and many of Morrison’s other girlfriends at the time, much to her detest and dismay. This, to me, is a direct act of disrespect on Stone’s part, as well as a display of severe arrogance to many women that Morrison was with. It’s just a rude oversight and arrogant mish-mash of a character to serve Stone’s purpose rather than a reflection of the real woman. It just strikes me as lazy and disrespectful to the source material.
“As for the stories and your interest in them. Well, that’s just personal taste, ain’t it?”
Yes, it is my interest in them, and that is what this thread was created for, people’s interest/opinion of Oliver Stone, and mine is he sucks.
Oliver Stone is a poopy head.
Jack, there’s a long history of using composite characters in film. Stone also uses them in JFK but many historical biopics or epics use them. It’s an established convention so I don’t see how harping on Stone for that is a serious criticism. That said, I can’t stand Stone either. I do however like Nixon. It’s his best film that I’ve seen by a long shot. By the way, what exactly are “liberal falsifications of the truth”? This sounds like a Bill O’Reilly-ism to me. And when someone asked you about this, you cited something that had nothing to do with politics. I’m sure you’d point to JFK but it clearly doesn’t pretend to be history but a conspiratorial counter-history so calling it a falsification seems silly to me. That said, I can’t stand JFK either.
Stone is an artist not a documentarian.
Do you guys go through Hollished’s Chronicles trying to pick out where Shakespeare invented characters?
Well, it depends on the movie. I also think Natural Born Killers is a great movie. I like how it shows how media shapes society or culture. Eventhough, the serial killers are not good, society is far worse for glorifying them and not having a set of values to judge them by. I liked Platoon. It was a good coming of age movie and I think it has a sort of a mythological sort of feel to it with the contrast between the good father figure, Elias and the bad father figure, Barnes ( that’s his name, right? ) and how the Charlie Sheen character through his experience in Vietnam changes into a less niave man. Wall Street has one of the most interesting characters in cinema, being Gordon Gekko who shows how money can destroy the dignity of a man’s personality by using it in an immoral fashion. U-Turn for me, may not be a great film, but it is a fairly enjoyable film. Perhaps, with things like the Jesus Saves billboard and the blind Indian guy, Stone may be laying on the symbolism a bit thick, but I don’t mind it too much. Nixon I absolutely hated. I thought it was one of Anthony Hopkins’ worst performances, perhaps overplaying the role of Nixon. When I saw JFK, I had a hard time following it. Maybe, if I watched it now, I might change my mind. Who knows. Alexander for me was sort of a guilty pleasure. I thought the making of featurettes on the second disc show how determined and persistent Stone is in getting a film done when the odds are against you like when you are having problems with the film cameras and I admire him for that. I guess W. had a well thought out story, but it just seemed mediocre, at best for me. It seemed rather stiff or staged. And the Doors movie I have mixed feelings about. I bought the film, because I am a fan of the Doors. I thought Val Kilmer, for the most part, did a good performance. I thought the time period was well captured, but it just seemed to be just a bunch of quotes and incidents from Jim Morrison’s life that didn’t seem to tie up together in the end nicely. Yes, we see how he feels alive living out on the edge, confronting death, but where is that supposed to lead us to? Last, Born on the Fourth of July I thought was good and showed pretty well how a veteran, especially a disabled veteran, coming back from a war, deals with adjusting with who he is and what he will make of his situation. So, I guess I have mixed feelings about his films, but I admire his tenacity and resolve into getting his films made.