Tag Archives: Oliver Stone

XL Popcorn – Wall Street

List Item: Watch all of the “1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die”
Progress: 854/1009Title: Wall Street
Director: Oliver Stone
Year: 1987
Country: USA

I guess that with nearly 150 films left to go it was likely that I was going to be closing off some interesting years and directors at a faster rate. Didn’t quite expect that, with this and The Reckless MomentI would be doing both twice in a row. Then again, it feels like I have been speeding through the Oliver Stone films quite recently so it shouldn’t be too surprising that I am already at this point.

Going into this film, I had two things that I was looking out for. Firstly, the infamous line that has since been truncated down to just “greed is good”. I expected that it wasn’t strictly the line as uttered in the film, but boy isn’t it pretty much how you would summarize the goings on. I also knew that the ‘Future Stock’ episode of Futurama borrowed heavily from this – but didn’t quite realize just how much they had in common.

Wall Street is one of those films that you need to show people when trying to sum up the greed spree that was the 1980s… but also to show just we as a culture never learn. Change out the technology and the references – then you have something that could have been made about modern investment practices, like The Big Short. Goes a long way to explain how a equal could be made some 20 years later.

Michael Douglas as the villain in this film is extraordinary. Especially as he is essentially the human embodiment of capitalism allowed to reach one of it’s many end points and managed to actually inspire people to become stockbrokers. The idea that such a well played villain could inspire people to try and become like them is pretty chilling and shows just how strong the lure of penthouse suites with questionable art (seriously some of those art pieces are worth serious laughs) can be.

XL Popcorn – JFK

So the big hope was that, with the Covid-19 lockdown, I would be able to get a bunch of things crossed off at hyper speed. Unfortunately the opposite has happened and psychologically I’ve just been going down and quickly. I’ve tried maintaining this blog, but when I have no energy to read, listen to new albums or to write… things have become very difficult. So these next posts are going to be briefer than usual.

List Item: Watch all of the “1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die”
Progress: 827/1007Title: JFK
Director: Oliver Stone
Year: 1991
Country: USA

It was the husband’s pick today, so today we watched a three hour Oliver Stone film about the investigation into the conspiracy behind JFK’s death. Going into this, I knew that this was going to very much be watching a conspiracy theorist’s wet dream and that Stone would be presenting this as fact. Given some of the more damaging theories going around at the moment (i.e. anti-vaxx and the 5G-Covig-19 link) I had to make a conscious effort to try and enjoy the film for what it is.

I tried. Problem is that this film has a major problem around its screenplay. So much of it could be solved with the old maxim of ‘show, don’t tell’. Of the three hours, about two of them were exposition based and some of the accompanying dialogue was clunky as all hell. There are times where it worked, like most scenes with Kevin Bacon, Laurie Metcalf and Tommy Lee Jones, but so much of the remaining would have worked as effectively as a podcast.

Watching this, it was also a bit difficult to get beyond the blatant homophobia. Stone makes sure that we hear the idea that the character’s gayness has nothing to do with the accusations – before pivoting towards the opposite. In the end, the conclusion of the jury matches pretty my own feeling about the assassination – that there was some sort of conspiracy around the death.

However, JFK leaves me unconvinced of Stone’s own narrative of the events. A number of things make sense – yet at the back of my mind I have the 2017 Las Vegas shooting. This showed us not only that these insane lone terrorists exist, but how they can achieve something that feels impossible.

XL Popcorn – Salvador

List Item: Watch all of the “1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die”
Progress: 818/1007Title: Salvador
Director: Oliver Stone
Year: 1986
Country: USA

Now that I have fewer than 200 films left on this list, I really need to start whittling down any director that have two or more that I’ve yet to see. Turns out that Oliver Stone has three films remaining, which is how I ended up seeing Salvador today – as well as my second James Woods film in less than a month.

Seeing this made me think how weird it is that certain directors go in and out of acclaim. In the late 1980s to early 1990s, Oliver Stone had a string of hit films (ergo his many entries in the 1001 list) only to become pretty irrelevant in recent years. Other than the biopic and a very soon after the fact film around the attack on the World Trade Center, I’m not entirely sure what he’s done recently.

Anyway, that’s nothing to do with Salvador – which he released in the same year as Platoon, which would win him the Oscar for Best Director and is also the better film. Given how recently I saw El Norte it is hard to not see Salvador as being somewhat of a companion piece when telling a story of what was happening in El Salvador in the early 1980s.

Where El Norte leaned into being stylised in order to highlight the brutality whilst not going too graphic – Stone takes the opposite approach and seemingly tries to film some scenes in a documentarian style. In some cases this works, but for others it ends up making certain scenes being played more for the shock value. It also gives the whole film a somewhat frenetic and un-focused feel, which somewhat damages some of the political points he was trying to make.

In the end, it’s a great performance by James Woods that keeps this film chugging along. He is able to make you like this flawed and, at many a time, unlikable character and make you really root for them. Especially as you watch his world view blow to pieces when he realizes not only are the Americans funding terror in the region, but the opposite side is resorting to the same death squad tactics.

This was a film that was ballsy to make for the time and has a strong political message behind it. Oliver Stone, however, isn’t one known for subtlety and a bit of a light touch here with fewer pies could have made for something truly great.

XL Popcorn – My Night At Maud’s / Natural Born Killers

One month in and it is spreading up into my neck from my right arm. Dictated reviews will be continuing until I know more about what I am dealing with.

List Item: Watch all of the “1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die”
Title: My Night At Maud’s (Ma nuit chez Maud)
Director: Éric Rohmer
Year: 1969
Country: France

As I was watching My Night At Maud’s I knew that I recognised the rather attractive lead actor (Jean-Louis Trintignant). Turns out he was in Amour some 45 years later; a film that I adored and caused me to cry my heart out.

So, this film is the third in a series of six morality films by Éric Rohmer – the fourth to be filmed due to the need to film this around Christmas. The concept of morality is never far from the lips of Jean-Louis, the lead character who is also a somewhat-devout Catholic.

In the beginning narration he immediately states how he will marry a blonde girl at his church. He does not know her name, but his attraction is so strong that he makes a personal vow almost immediately. In his head he is morally already married.

The moral conflict comes in from the titular night at Maud’s. Jean-Louis and Maud meet through their mutual friend Vidal. It is clear from the off that there is chemistry between the two of them and they both feel it in spades. Nothing happens on that night, but it could have. They could have been perfect for each other and despite the fact that they separately have happy endings there is something melancholic about the ending. It’s a poignant film.

Title: Natural Born Killers
Director: Oliver Stone
Year: 1994
Country: USA

After watching Natural Born Killers I have come to understand how we have become a bit de-sensitized to violence. That is what Quentin Tarantino does so well with his films: yes there is a lot of violence, but he takes breaks between killing sprees. This whole film, however, just feels like one long crazy mass murder.

Then again that’s what it is. We follow the murder spree of the rather amorous Mickey and Mallory Knox (Woody Harrelson and Juliette Lewis) as they drive across the country and kill for the hell of it. We get some explanation of their backstories along the way to try and explain their behaviour… but they’re really just stone cold killers to be honest.

In order to bring across the frenzy there are a large number of cuts in made per scene, which can be between colour film and black and white. Sometimes cartoons are used, sometimes subliminal images or really anything to try and demonstrate the speed. The thing is, the director pretty much uses up all of his tricks in the first 20 minutes. As such this film started to feel incredibly repetitive very early on. What saves it somewhat are the performances from Harrilson, Lewis and Robert Downey Jr (who plays a television journalist that is following their story).

The film as a whole is meant to showcase how the media sells these sorts of tragedies for ratings. It also is meant to put the looking glass up to the audience who will devour such things. The problem is that this is not a new idea. Network took a very similar idea two decades earlier and did it amazingly well. Similarly, two years before Natural Born Killers was release there was the documentary Aileen Wuornos: The Selling of a Serial Killer which looked at a real case far more eloquently.

The real shame about this film goes back to how much I enjoyed the first 20-30 minutes. For the rest of the film it just felt like more of the same. Senseless violence, frenzied edits, flashing lights and shifting between black and white and colour. It just feels like if a Quentin Tarantino fan tried to mash-up Bonnie and Clyde with Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. Interesting concept, good performances, bad overall execution.

Progress: 528/1007