Saturday, August 21, 2010

Director Retrospectives: Oliver Stone

On September 24th Oliver Stone will release his sequel to the campy 80's drama, Wall Street. Yes, Wall Street 2: Money Never Sleeps (what a horrible subtitle) seems hardly an event to trumpeted, but I have to be honest: for maybe only the third or fourth time this year I'm actually kind of excited to go out and see a movie on the day of its release. So, prior to the release of Stone's latest film I thought it would be interesting to go back and look at his most revered period of filmmaking. From 1986 - 1995 just about every film he released was nominated for numerous Academy Awards. Now, I know that Oscar's aren't the be-all-end-all barometers of how good a movie is, but I do find it interesting for that nine year period Stone was somewhat of a golden boy in Hollywood. After the release of Nixon it seems that he his films started to become too self-indulgent and smug and he lost favor with his audiences (the tipping point was probably his overly long failure Any Given Sunday).  So what I'm interested in doing (and I'll be doing this for some other filmmakers who have films coming out this year...Peter Weir being one of them) is going  back through Stone's early oeuvre and revisiting his films to see if I can accomplish two things: a.) to see if they're as good as I remember them being (all I remember about films like Platoon and Born on the Fourth of July is that I really like them, but it's been at least 10 years since I've seen them) and b.) whether or not Stone is really as good a filmmaker as I remember him being (I still love the rather polarizing JFK and Natural Born Killers), or if he's nothing more than a faux-documentarian who loves to stir the pot with his controversial films.  Look for the first set of reviews (Salvador and Platoon) on Monday.

Other filmmakers I plan on doing these retrospectives on: William Friedkin (he had quite the interesting fall in Hollywood, going from making influential crime and horror films to making straight to video movies) and Peter Weir (who, finally, has a new movie being released this year). Any other suggestions on filmmakers you would like to see me cover? Leave your suggestions in the comment section.


  1. Two good suggestions, Tony. Roeg was actually on my short list to do as his version of Martin Amis' Night Train is in production at the moment (hopefully a 2011 release is on its way); as for Russell, you'll have to help me that one...where do I begin? I see on IMDB the man has done a TON of television...I'm not sure I can do a full body-of-work retrospective like I'll be doing with Friedkin and Weir...perhaps I can pick an era of his, like I'm doing with Stone, and go from there. Seeing as how I'm a Russell neophyte (haven't seen a single film from him) where do I begin? I like this suggestion the most because it will give me a chance to become acquainted with his work.

  2. Yeah, consider me there on opening day. I still think the movie should have been called simply Wall Street 2, though; this business with subtitles is getting ridiculous.

    The last decade was pretty lukewarm for him (I thought World Trade Center and W. were just, "Meh" and didn't even see Alexander), but god knows I've pledged allegiance to Oliver Stone. I love the guy. Born on the Fourth of July is one of my personal favorites. And though Tony and Bill disagree with me, I hold JFK in very high esteem, too.

    A Friedkin retrospective would be nice indeed. Be sure to talk about how he filmed the best car chase in American cinema--and yes, I mean the one in To Live and Die in L.A.. It gave me nightmares seeing William Petersen drive up a freeway THE WRONG WAY straight into oncoming traffic. I'm so afraid that'll happen to me someday.

  3. Russell's most interesting period starts with WOMEN IN LOVE (1969). Where it ends is a matter of contention. I'd go all the way through 1991's WHORE.

    NYC's Film Society of Lincoln Center just did a retrospective on him last month (and I think it's LA's Egyptian currently running one), so that may be another place to get guidance.

    And just ignore the TV stuff or you'll bust a synapse.

  4. Adam:

    I'm with ya on JFK. I still think it's a great film and just an amazing display of editing. I've personally never understood the dislike for the film, but I would love to hear someone like Tony or Bill argue their case against the film. I think it's a magnificent display of editing and creating tension out of people talking and relaying stories/conspiracy theories. It's one of my favorite procedural films.

    I haven't seen one of his films post-ANY GIVEN SUNDAY. That one just totally turned me off to anything he would subsequently release.

    Friedkin is an interesting case; much like Stone he was lauded very early in his career. Once SORCERER bombed he seemed to lose all faith in the "system" and resorted to making movies that were mediocre at best. I love TO LIVE AND DIE IN LA, and I'm actually interested in watching his progression through his ouevre because he had his highs (FRENCH CONNECTION, THE EXORCIST, TO LIVE AND DIE IN LA) and some incredibly low lows (JADE, DEAL OF THE CENTURY, CRUISING); some of that was his fault (JADE) and some was the studios (CRUISING). I just find him a fascinating figure for some reason. I loved his return to the action film with the underrated FUGITIVE/RAMBO hybrid THE HUNTED and the creepy horror flick BUG.

  5. Tony:

    Gotcha. I will begin with WOMEN IN LOVE and end with WHORE. I was reading about his FALL OF THE LOUSE OF USHER, and boy did that sound interesting! Hehe. But yeah, I'll stay away from all that TV.

    Roeg looks to have made some interesting films, too, after his successes in the 70's. Lot's of stuff that seems to be misconstrued as softcore porn, but looks to be something more. Should be interesting...

    Thanks for the advice.

  6. I too am excited about seeing this new WALL STREET film and I really hope it is a return to form for Stone. I actually liked ANY GIVEN SUNDAY. I find the more times I watch it, the more it grows on me.

    I am really looking forward to reading your reviews on various Stone films as he is one of my all-time fave filmmakers.

    I am also stoked that you're going to be looking at Peter Weir's films as well. I love his stuff too and actually finally got around to watching THE MOSQUITO COAST for the first time and really loved it. I think it's one his most underrated films and features an incredible performance by Harrison Ford!

  7. For some reason it's making me laugh to see you guys putting Whore in caps; I keep thinking I'm in the middle of a shouting match!