July 19, 2010

Watch out -- Oliver Stone's "Secret History of the United States" is coming

Blah blah blah ...

Two films, two ideological systems, and yet this pales in the face of his next project: a 10-part documentary series for HBO, Oliver Stone's Secret History of America.

He's right in the throes of it. "It's my big project. It's something I want to leave behind. And we're now in the third fucking year of it," he says. "It's a war. They're in that room next door working on it right now. It's an ongoing odyssey."

It's a truly massive project, a personal mission, the encapsulation seemingly of all that Oliver Stone has thought and read and felt in the 63 years of his life so far, and by the end of the interview I feel slightly anxious about it on his behalf.

Yeah, that's right -- writer Carole Cadwalladr's article is pretty kiss-assingly glowing; however, you'd think she could get some basic facts correct and avoid the silly hyperbole. For instance, she says about Stone "...with a reputation for women and drugs who won the Purple Heart for bravery in Vietnam ..." and then later, about the socialism movement in South America "...an overview of a massive popular movement on one of the largest continents of the world."

The Purple Heart isn't given for bravery; it's given for being wounded in combat. And South America ranks smack in the middle (#4) of the seven continents in terms of area; therefore, it's not "one of the largest." That honor goes to Asia (#1 by far) followed by Africa.

But I digress. I like a lot of what Oliver Stone has given us film-wise over the years; however, his best work is when he deals in non-ideological biographies ("Platoon," "Born on the Fourth of July") and/or tales about human nature with the inherent battle between basic good vs. evil ("Wall Street"). "Platoon" was Stone's autobiography, at least in terms of his war experiences, and it works because he doesn't laud the Communist North Vietnamese and Viet Cong ... instead focusing on ridiculous US policy at all levels (half-assed fighting measures, college exemptions for the draft, and why the f*** were we in 'Nam at all in the first place). "Born on the Fourth of July" is the bio of soldier Ron Kovic and essentially expands upon "Platoon" by showing what happened to too many soliders after their service in Vietnam.

In "Wall Street," Stone's tone isn't so much ideological as it is a study of human character. Who can forget Bud Fox's (Charlie Sheen) statement summary "Who am I?" on the balcony of his million dollar Manhattan condo -- after he's successfully won the affection of not only the gorgeous Daryl Hannah, but that (business-wise) of his target of many years, Gordon Gekko (Michael Douglas)? Sheen incredibly doesn't succumb to the ultimate lure of immeasurable sums of cash, choosing instead to "keep his own identity." "Wall Street" is one of my favorite all-time films.

Where Stone gets nutty is when he gets conspiratorial. Apparently his personal past has led him to conclude that the United States is one vast, evil cabal. (I can just imagine his "Secret History of the United States" being like comics legend Kurt Busiek's "Secret History of the Avengers" issue of Avengers Forever. In it, it's revealed that one omnipotent individual has "secretly" guided history all this time. See here for more on this thought.) "JFK" is probably his magnum opus in this regard. Stone is so fervent is his belief that the US government played a role in John F. Kennedy's assassination that he included a cameo of himself being proven "correct" in this regard in the equally conspiratorial TV mini-series "Wild Palms."

It is the same with Stone's glowing portraits of leftist (and other) dictators, "South of the Border" being the latest endeavor. "Comandate" (about Fidel Castro), "Looking for Fidel," and "Persona Non Grata" continue the trend. (And this doesn't even get into films like "Nixon" and "W.") What flies right over Stone's head is that he complains about the US media (especially with regard to "South of the Border") as "not giving the 'real' story" about guys like Hugo Chávez, but let's be painstakingly real: Given the innumerable media resources in our country it is impossible not to find the view [of people like Chávez] that Stone finds legitimate. It might not be as widely disseminated as Ollie would like; however, it is in stark contrast to Venezuela and Cuba where alternative points of view are actively suppressed and those who hold them are imprisoned.

Alas, such doesn't matter to leftists. Such control is necessary for the "greater good" -- as long as the "good" is what the leader(s) believe and want. Would Chávez and Castro allow Stone to ask the general public of their countries what they really think? Sure they would -- because said public would give Stone answers that were perfectly acceptable to them. For, if la gente did not answer "correctly," they know precisely where they'd end up.

Posted by Hube at July 19, 2010 11:50 AM | TrackBack

Comments  (We reserve the right to edit and/or delete any comments. If your comment is blocked or won't post, e-mail us and we'll post it for you.)

You aptly put into words what I've thought about Oliver Stone for a while.

He should hold Chavez and Castro to the same standard that he holds the United States.

I wonder if his-story of the US will be dedicated to howard zinn?

Posted by: BadIdeaGuy at July 19, 2010 04:24 PM