Sunday, May 29, 2005

Oliver Stoned

Okay, fine, the NY Post got to my pun first...but what the hell? You probably don't read the NY Post. (At least, I hope not).

As you can probably imagine, the entire video store was abuzz today with discussion of the Oliver Stone arrest. Stone's a great director, and even an occasional Laser Blazer customer, so I was sorry to hear of his trouble's with the law. Why is it that great filmmakers like Roman Polanski and Oliver Stone continually run into trouble with Johnny Law, while hacks like Paul W. S. Anderson and Joel Schumacher walk around as free men? Can't you see it's all a massive conspiracy?

Anyway, in case you haven't yet heard, Stone was arrested on Saturday in Beverly Hills:

Stone, 58, was arrested Friday night at a police checkpoint on Sunset Boulevard after showing signs of alcohol intoxication, police Sgt. John Edmundson said. A search of his Mercedes turned up drugs, Edmundson said. He did not specify what kind, but Lt. Micaela Garland said police confiscated pills that were being analyzed at a lab.

Laser Blazer was all abuzz today with discussion about Stone's drug problem and now his legal woes. What surprised me was the level of vitriol people seem to have towards the man. There were the usual jokes, the harmless sort of mockery that would occur after any famous person embarrassed themselves publicly. But added on to that was a kind of schadenfreude, a delight in seeing Oliver Stone taken down a few notches.

Now, I'll admit that Stone can be kind of a flawed filmmaker. His filmography has a ton of highlights, but there are a few bombs in there as well. Almost every filmmaker as daring and ambitious as Oliver Stone will have some missteps. And even his masterpieces, like JFK and Wall Street are by no means perfect films.

But he strikes me as an important voice in contemporary American filmmaking, and a guy whose body of work both as a screenwriter and director has earned him at least a modicum of respect. Yet there's something about him that causes some sort of negative reaction in people. More than one customer today picked up the Oliver Stone box set we have near the cash register to make a cruel joke about his unfortunate fate...What could cause this sort of animosity?

Now, I'm just theorizing here, but could it be that he's an outspoken left-winger, a bleeding heart liberal whose movies tell an alternate history of the last 40 years of American foreign policy? He's the sort of cultural figure the Right uses to demonize Hollywood. His politics don't jibe with their conservatism, and his films violate their Puritanical, sex-fearing moral agenda, so he's therefore "anti-American" and "out of touch."

And, yeah, I realize that he did have drugs in his car, and therefore did break the law. Although it is an unjust law. But I'm not saying that being a cool director means he doesn't deserve the same punishment as anyone else. In fact, more older rich white guys should be receiving the same punishment as anyone else when they commit a crime. I'm just saying that I felt some of the hatred being slung Ollie's way was puzzling to me.

I'm not even saying that his depictions of history, in movies like JFK and Nixon, present an accurate view of American history. Though I agree with Stone's perspective ideologically on a bunch of issues, I see his movies more impressionistically than representative of objective historical fact. When Donald Sutherland describes the backdoor plans leading to JFK's assassination by the United States intelligence community, I don't think we're seeing a docu-drama based on true events (neccessarily...) as much as we're seeing a visual reenactment of the internal paranoia that shook the country. The movie's a fever-dream, an allegory about an evil so massive and resolute, it's nearly impossible for an individual man to even comprehend its size and structure.

But still, it's an important movie, a valuable piece of art. I feel, along with many published film critics and other film fans, that it's among the best movies of the 90's. And besides, Oliver Stone didn't invent JFK conspiracies or liberal paranoia. He just made a fictional film based on some research about these issues. So why do people hate the messenger?

I think a lot of it has to do with the right-wing attack machine that goes after every outspoken liberal. Seriously, when I say "Michael Moore," what's the first thing you think of? His career as a documentary filmmaker? His trademark cap and beard? His connection to his hometown of Flint, Michigan? Or the fact that he's overweight?

And when I say, "Al Gore," what do you think of? His tenure as Vice-President? His commitment to the environment? His trademark suit and lack of a beard? Or maybe the fact that he's boring and he once claimed to have invented the Internet (which isn't even true)?

So I guess Oliver Stone is the same way. He's just a pinko commie crazy Hollywood junkie nut, so when he gets arrested for drug possession, it just confirms what everyone thought about him anyway. And that's how you go about discreding an entire system of thought, I guess. Maybe we should try it ourselves sometime. I'll start:

Sources inside Fox News have leaded to me that Sean Hannity likes to have sex with corpses.

Okay, now you all link to this story on your blogs, and we'll see how far this rumor gets. Ready? GO!

1 comment:

Cory said...

I think there's animosity towards Oliver for not having a good movie in 10 full years, yet continuing to bombard us with films such as Alexander, which is without a doubt one of the worst films by a major (and talented) director I've ever seen.

Seriously, if anyone out there hasn't watched Alexander and has even a passing fascination with bad films, do yourself a favor and watch all 3 hours of it. You'll be stunned.