"Everything is as it should be."

                                                                                  - Benjamin Purcell Morris

 

 

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Celebriphilia Epidemic Sweeps US: We Look Now To The Stars For Guidance

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Estimated Reading Time: 3 minutes 37 seconds

CELEBRITY-OBSESSED AMERICANS LOOK TO THE STARS FOR GUIDANCE

Americans are blessed to have a plethora of benevolent celebrities who are willing to share their infinite knowledge and wisdom with them.

After a thorough examination by a team of top-notch doctors, I was recently given some very disturbing news…I was diagnosed with an acute case of stage 4 platonic celebriphilia. In case you don’t know, celebriphilia is a disease where the afflicted have an abnormal and overwhelming adoration of celebrity.

My medical team, which includes Dr. Phil, Dr. Drew and Dr. Oz, tells me that the symptoms of celebriphilia include feeling a false sense of familiarity and intimacy with celebrities which leads to the afflicted projecting an inordinate amount of inappropriate intelligence, wisdom and expertise upon celebrities.

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My celebriphilia first manifested itself a few years ago when Academy Award winning actress Gwyneth Paltrow created her “lifestyle brand” Goop. Through Goop, Gwyneth sold new age, alternative therapies and devices at exorbitant prices, including “vaginal eggs” that were meant to be inserted into the vagina in order to aid “hormonal balance, and feminine energy”.

After re-mortgaging my home in order to finance the purchase, I bought a dozen vaginal eggs from Gwyneth. Now if you are wondering why I would buy vaginal eggs whose miracle powers were debunked in a lawsuit, especially since I don’t have a vagina, then you obviously do not have celebriphilia.

The way I see it is this, if I had a vagina, I would trust my friend Gwyneth to tell me (and sell me) the right wonder egg to stick into it in order to cure whatever ails me. If I’m going to trust anyone regarding my non-existent vagina, you can bet your bottom dollar it would be the woman who played Pepper Potts in the Iron Man movies…that alone makes her an authority in vaginacology.

The same is true of anti-vaccination proponent Jenny McCarthy. Jenny is a TV host and former Playboy model, which is the celebrity equivalent of being a Phd in immunology, which is why I faithfully obey her when she orders me not to vaccinate my kids because they could get autism.

Suzanne Somers starred on Three’s Company forty years ago, which is equal to getting a Master’s Degree in Bio-Genetic Engineering, and so when, contrary to mainstream medical opinion, she claims that “bio-identical hormone therapy” is the fountain of youth…I trust in Suzanne’s knowledge and wisdom.

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You may think my Celebriphilia is so severe I need to take some medication to temper it…well…you’d be wrong. Kirstie Alley and her Scientology Lord and Savior, Tom Cruise, have informed me that psychiatry is a “quack” science and psychiatric drugs are dangerous. Kirstie was on Cheers, where everybody knows your name…and Tom Cruise is…well…TOM CRUISE!! So they definitely know what they’re talking about and I trust their expertise implicitly and will remain untreated, thank you very much.

My celebriphilia isn’t limited to just medical questions, the infection has spread to my thoughts on foreign policy and politics too. Thanks to celebriphilia I now blindly trust in Hollywood to tell me what to think. When Hollywood churns out star-studded, pro-war, pro-empire propaganda films and tv shows that have their scripts controlled by the Pentagon in exchange for military equipment, personnel, access and budgetary relief, I absorb the indoctrination unquestioningly.

We celebriphiliacs only get our news from rebellious comedians like John Oliver, Bill Maher and Stephen Colbert, and believe in every establishment talking point they sell us. I whole-heartedly put my faith in these second rate hack comedians desperate to stay in the good graces of their corporate overlords to tell me the unvarnished truth.

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As a celebriphiliac I get all my insights regarding Russia from Rob Reiner, who is an expert because he played Meathead on the 1970’s sitcom All in the Family. When Meathead tells me that we are at war with Russia because they stole our election in 2016, I treat his anti-Russian proclamations with all the respect it deserves.

To get my political opinions I go to all the top experts…Robert DeNiro, Matt Damon, Bruce Willis, Brie Larson, Alec Baldwin, Tim Allen, Angelina Jolie, James Woods, Chris Evans and George Clooney. Sometimes these experts have conflicting opinions on political matters, like maybe Bruce Willis and Alec Baldwin disagree on tax policy, or Tim Allen and Chris Evans have opposing thoughts on immigration. In order to resolve these deeply troubling quagmires, I do the logical thing and choose what I believe by siding with the celebrity who has the most Twitter followers.

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Luckily for me, I am not alone in being afflicted with celebriphilia, as it is a raging epidemic in America. Here in the U.S.A. we adore our celebrities so much we actually vote them into high office. In the last forty years alone we have elected a senile, bad B-movie actor, Ronald Reagan, and a silver-spooned, D-list reality tv con-man, Donald Trump, to the presidency.

In my state of California, the epicenter of the celebriphilia epidemic, we have elected a sex-abusing, steroid-injecting, son-of-a-Nazi, movie star, Arnold Schwarzenegger, to two terms in the Governor’s mansion, and the city of Carmel-by-the-Sea elected Dirty Harry himself, Clint Eastwood, to be mayor twenty-five years before he berated an empty chair at the RNC convention in 2012.

We American celebriphiliacs not only forgave these men for their shortcomings, we also imbued them with a wisdom, competency and expertise they did not possess, all because of their status as celebrity.

You may think that because I suffer from celebriphilia and treat celebrities like experts on things well outside their skill set, that I am insane. If the definition of insanity is “doing the same thing over and over again but expecting different results”, then considering the level of corruption, incompetence and malevolence on display by “real” establishment experts in government, Wall Street, Big Pharma and the media over the years, be it in regards to 9-11, WMD’s and the Iraq war, the housing bubble and ensuing 2008 economic collapse, the 2016 election, Russiagate and the opioid epidemic, then listening to, believing in, or trusting in these “official” experts is equally as insane as buying vaginal wonder eggs from Iron Man’s wife, Pepper Potts.

The bottom line is this, I am not a doctor, nor do I play one on tv, but I have seen other people play them on tv, and I am a certified celebriphiliac, which I think qualifies me to make a formal diagnosis of what ails celebrity obsessed, and expert-addled America. After careful study and deep thought I have come to this conclusion…contrary to popular opinion, America is not losing its mind…just like me, it has already lost it.

This article was originally published at RT.com.

 

©2019

Burt Reynolds and the End of the Movie Star

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Estimated Reading Time: 4 minutes 38 seconds

Burt Reynolds died on Thursday at the age of 82. A review of his career reveals a great deal about not only the man, but the current state of Hollywood.

Burt Reynolds was once the king of Hollywood. For a period of time in the late 70's and early 80's, Burt Reynolds was the biggest movie star on the planet. From 1978 to 1982 Burt was the top box office draw for every single year, a five year run that in the history of cinema is only matched by Bing Crosby's 5 year run in the late 1940's.

What makes Burt Reynolds magnificent box office run all the more a monument to his star power and charm is that the movies Burt churned out during this stretch were absolutely abysmal. Here are the films that Burt Reynolds sold to the public to become box office champ for a record five years straight.

1978 - The End, Hooper. 1979 - Starting Over. 1980 - Rough Cut, Smokey and the Bandit II. 1981 - The Cannonball Run, Paternity, Sharkey's Machine. 1982 - Best Little Whorehouse in Texas, Best Friends.

That is a Murderer's Row of completely forgettable, horrendously awful movies. But the cinematic atrocities that are those films only act as incontrovertible evidence of the tremendous mega-movie star Burt Reynolds really was. Audiences didn't show up at movie theaters to see these films for any other reason than to get to hang out with Burt for two hours.

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Burt's formula for success was simple...just be Burt, the fun lovin', handsome, good ole boy that he was, who guys wanted to be and women wanted to be with. Didn't matter the story or the character, as long as Burt was on camera people would pay money to see it. Burt was...well...Burt...sort of a one man Rat Pack, with Bacchanal Burt as the Pope of the Church of Shits and Giggles, which is why he was such a sought after guest on The Tonight Show or any other talk show.

Burt's films, particularly the mind-numbingly awful Cannonball Run movies, are reminiscent of Steven Soderbergh's Ocean's Eleven franchise, in that audiences are basically paying to watch famous, good-looking rich people have fun with each other. Ocean's Eleven, Twelve and Thirteen are a way for regular folks to get to hang out with George Clooney, Brad Pitt and Matt Damon for two hours and feel like part of the crew. Audiences get to watch these "stars" dress up, be witty and outsmart everyone and get to be in on the joke.

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Burt Reynolds film's are the same formula as Ocean's Eleven except Burt didn't need a bunch of other stars, he was big enough and bright enough to carry a movie all on his own. Sure, he'd have Mel Tillis or Dom DeLuise caddy for him, but Burt didn't need them, he was doing them a favor and kept them around because they made HIM laugh.

Burt was so big from '78 to '82 that if you melded George Clooney, Brad Pitt and Matt Damon at the height of their careers into one, you'd still have to add in Matthew McConnaghey in order to have it all add up to be even remotely close to peak Burt Reynolds. That is stunning for a variety of reasons, the least of which is that it shows how staggeringly magnetic Burt Reynolds was back in the day, but also the shocking dearth of movie stars walking the planet now.

Could any actor working today draw audiences with the cavalcade of crap that Burt Reynolds was churning out during his heyday?  Not a chance. Tom Cruise is the closest actor since Burt to capture the public's imagination in the same way, he has been a box office champ 7 times over three decades (80's, 90's, 00's), but Cruise never accomplished it in consecutive years never mind five years running. 

Unlike Burt, Cruise has benefited by starring in the big budget Mission Impossible franchise and in a few Spielberg extravaganzas. Even Cruise's earlier, more critically acclaimed work, was a result of his being secondary to his directors. Born on the Fourth of July is not a Tom Cruise film, it is an Oliver Stone film, and the same could be said of Eyes Wide Shut (Kubrick) or The Color of Money (Scorsese).

Burt Reynolds didn't work with big name directors, in fact, remarkably enough, Burt actually directed two of the film's in which he starred during his box office championship run, 1978's The End and 1982's Sharkey's Machine...that is absolutely insane.

When it comes to the "movie stars" of the current era the proof is in the pudding, and today's pudding shows us a paucity of stars so stunning that the cupboard is basically completely bare.

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Tom Cruise has a big box office hit this year with his latest Mission Impossible monstrosity, but without that franchise or a big name director, Cruise's ability to attract audiences on his own has diminished in striking ways over the last twenty years. Since 1996's Jerry Maguire, Cruise has been under performed on his own without the friendly confines of a big budget franchise or the assistance of name directors, like Spielberg and Kubrick, who overshadow him.

Many thought George Clooney was the heir apparent to the movie star throne, but he isn't ready for the crown as shown by the recent poor box office results of Tomorrowland and Monuments Men, and as the Ocean's Eleven films show, he needs not just one other star to help him over the finish line, but a cornucopia of stars.

Brad Pitt had his moment in the sun but was always more of a second rate Robert Redford than an imitation of Burt Reynolds, and has never had the box office impact of either man.

Matthew McConnaghey has churned out similarly awful films to Burt's sub-par canon, but he has never even remotely approached the star wattage or box office prowess of Burt.

Leonardo DiCaprio is often considered a movie star, but Leo is much more of an actor than a movie star, and his inability to open films on his own without the benefit of a big name director like Scorsese, Spielberg or Christopher Nolan is testament to that fact.

Studios have figured out that nowadays it is about teaming auteurs like Scorsese, PT Anderson, Inarritu or Tarantino, with name actors in order to generate profits. The auteurs alone, or the stars alone, just don't cut it anymore, so the studios combine them together.

The film industry has changed dramatically in other ways since Burt Reynolds ruled the roost, as studios have discovered it isn't the stars that make a movie, but the characters, and so studios have slowly transitioned from building movie star brands to creating big budget franchises. Boiled down to its essence, this approach is basically, It doesn't matter who plays Batman, people will see a Batman movie.

As a result, actors try and attach themselves to these franchises in order to become "movie stars"...but the truth is the actors are, like sports stars for people's favorite teams, just wearing the jersey. These sports stars could be traded to another team and wear another jersey next year, so the fans aren't really rooting for the players, they are rooting for the laundry.

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For example, Chris Pratt is a "big movie star" right now, and to his credit he can carry a movie, but no one is dropping $14 to go see Chris Pratt, but they will pay to see Chris Pratt in Jurassic World or Guardians of the Galaxy. Same is true of the other Chris's...Chris Helmsworth, Chris Pine and Chris Evans...otherwise known as Thor, Captain Kirk and Captain America. Those guys are decent enough actors, but no one rushes out to see them in anything unless they are playing their signature franchise roles.

What is staggering to consider is that Burt Reynolds could have been an even bigger star than he was. Burt notoriously turned down the role of Han Solo in the Star Wars franchise and John McClane in the Die Hard franchise, which if he had starred in those films only would have extended and expanded his box office dominance to such exorbitant heights as to be ridiculous, adding at least $4 billion more to his overall box office tally.

Besides making poor movie business decisions, Burt also made bad artistic decisions which hurt him in his attempt to score prestige points. For instance, besides turning down Han Solo and John McClane, Burt also turned down the role of Garrett Breedlove in Terms of Endearment, which won Jack Nicholson an Oscar and may have done the same for Burt.

Burt Reynolds as an actor, was, to be frank, pretty dreadful, mostly because he just didn't give a shit. Burt was more interested in having fun and feeling safe rather than pushing himself as an artist. Burt the actor liked to take the easy road, and for the artist, that road ultimately leads to nowhere.

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That said, Burt he did rise to the occasion twice in his career, in the two best films he ever made. In the 1972 classic Deliverance, Burt embodied archetypal masculinity to a tee and elevated the film to great artistic heights. Burt's performance as Lewis Medlock, the bow wielding alpha male on a river adventure in the backwoods of Georgia, gave audiences a glimpse of his acting potential. Sadly, it would take another 25 years before Burt ever even approached the same level of artistic achievement in PT Anderson's 1997 masterpiece, Boogie Nights, as porn impresario Jack Horner.

Burt's Jack Horner is an extension of Lewis Medlock, he is like Zeus, a great father to the panoply of gods and goddesses atop the Mount Olympus of porn. Horner is Medlock grown old, still the dominant alpha male but using his brain more and his phallus less.

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In one of the great displays of foolhardy hubris, Burt, who admitted that over his career he only took roles he thought were fun, hated the greatest film in which he ever appeared, Boogie Nights. Burt ranted that he didn't like the movie or the director, Paul Thomas Anderson. Burt's public distancing from the film no doubt led to his losing his only chance to win an Oscar, as he was nominated but refused to campaign and ended up losing to Robin Williams (Good Will Hunting), and ended up scuttling what could have been his acting renaissance.

If Burt didn't have such a pedestrian taste in film, such a voracious appetite for the inconsequential and such a artistically myopic outlook, he could have been not just the George Clooney + Brad Pitt + Matt Damon + Matthew McConnaghey of his day, but also the Harrison Ford and Bruce Willis of the 80's/90's and a multiple Oscar winner to boot...which would have made Burt Reynolds the biggest movie star of all-time. Instead what we got was bacchanalian Burt, boozing with buddies, chasing skirts and ultimately chasing his own tail.

In conclusion, even though Burt Reynolds was a mega-movie star for a period, the likes of which the film business has rarely ever seen, it is difficult not to lament Burt's career with a quote from the American Quaker poet John Greenleaf Whittier, "For all the sad words of tongue and pen, The Saddest are these, 'It might have been'."

©2018

 

 

 

Mission Impossible - Fallout: A Review

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***THIS IS A SPOILER FREE REVIEW!! THIS REVIEW CONTAINS ZERO SPOILERS!!****

My Rating: 1.5 out of 5 stars              

Popcorn Rating: 2 out of 5 stars

My Recommendation: SKIP IT. This is a rather absurd and relentlessly inane take on the tired old action movie formula.

Mission Impossible - Fallout, written and directed by Christopher McQuarrie, is the sixth film of the franchise and like all the others tells the story of Ethan Hunt of the Impossible Missions Force as he fights to save the world. The film stars Tom Cruise as Hunt with supporting turns from Henry Cavill, Ving Rhames, Simon Pegg and Rebecca Ferguson.

I have seen some of the previous five Mission Impossible films, I do not actually remember how many of them I have seen as they all blend into one gigantic ball of action, but I know for sure I saw the first (which was decent) and second (which was dreadful), and then the one where Tom Cruise interminably runs along canals in China. I would have skipped this newest member of the franchise except for two things....one - I have MoviePass so I could basically see it for free...and two - I had a conversation the other day with a friend and he said that he heard that it was a really good movie and was the "Dark Knight" of the series. This was high praise indeed, for Dark Knight is the Everest of superhero movies. So...for those reasons I ventured out to the cineplex to see Tom Cruise ply his trade.

Mission Impossible - Fallout is a weird movie and that is evident from the get go. During the opening credits they play the highlights of the movie that they are about to show you...this strikes me as incredibly, incredibly strange. I mean, why in the hell are the filmmakers basically showing us a commercial for the film we already bought a ticket to? Also...why are they showing us everything that happens in the entirety of the movie during the first five minutes?

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These weren't the only questions raised by Mission Impossible - Fallout. Other questions I had were...what the hell is Tom Cruise doing and why the hell is he doing it? Cruise isn't so much an actor anymore as a professional athlete/stunt man at this point in his career. The plot of Fallout is nothing more than just an excuse for Tom Cruise to run, jump, fall, fly, drive, crash and fight with his usual over-the-top aplomb and as he is the first one to tell the world over and over again...Cruise does his own stunts...each more insane than the next. The marketing campaign for M.I.-Fallout is basically Tom Cruise doing interviews talking about all the stunts he does...which is all he has to talk about because the movie is so stupid that actually talking about it with a straight face is...ironically...an impossible mission.

Some of Cruise's stunts (did I tell you that Cruise does his own stunts?) are certainly daring...like Cruise doing his own skydiving and hanging from a helicopter, but the problem is, as challenging as those stunts were for Cruise to perform, they simply aren't very visually or cinematically interesting or satisfying. It is cool for Cruise to be able to say "hey I did this!" but it seems more important to me for those feats of derring-do to be filmed in a way to maximize their cinematic impact.

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Cruise used to be the biggest move star in the world but now the world is sans movie stars and Cruise is reduced to jumping out of planes or zipping around Paris on a motorcycle or hanging off of a cliff or helicopter or whatever is in reach for him to grip. But if you are Tom Cruise...why the hell do this junk? It isn't like he needs the money or help getting women (or men or whatever he is into). It isn't like MI-Fallout will garner him respect from his peers or awards. So why do this soulless, mindless crap?

Of course the answer to that might just be that Tom Cruise is not an actual person but a business entity, and the flesh and blood Tom Cruise is subservient to Tom Cruise Inc. which is as soulless and mindless a venture imaginable and which leaves the person Tom Cruise less a human being and more an automaton...which is why Cruise fits right in as the Christ of Scientology.

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What makes Cruise's absorption into the dead-eyed entity that is Tom Cruise Inc. is that there was a time in his career where he was a decent actor who strove to be better at the craft of acting. Cruise sought out great directors like Coppola, Scorsese, Oliver Stone, Kurbick and PT Anderson in order to try and become a great actor. These directors took Cruise out of his comfort and control zone and forced him to get better in films like Born on the Fourth of July, The Color of Money, Magnolia and even Eyes Wide Shut. It seems that Cruise threw in the acting towel after having not won an Oscar and now just churns out the worst sort of second rate action junk he can get made. This is a bad career decision as Cruise's time as an athletic action star are diminishing with every passing day...as any athlete will tell you, the older you get the harder it gets...and Cruise ain't getting younger. I think Cruise would be wiser to pursue the Magnolia approach, meaning he works with superior directors in smaller roles or smaller films in order to try and regain some artistic mojo before the lights go out on his career when he can't take the pounding of doing his own stunts.

Regardless of the Tom Cruise questions...the bottom line is this...Mission Impossible - Fallout is a terrible movie. I guess all things are relative, but calling this the "Dark Knight" of the franchise is sort of like telling a guy who stands three foot high that he is extremely tall for a midget. The Mission Impossible franchise has devolved into a parody of itself and the ever expanding absurdity of the films were highlighted by the resounding guffaws by audience members at my screening.

Fallout follows the tried and true formula of the other films in the series as there are a series of double and triple-crosses usually involving masks that are also accompanied by cheap fake out dream sequences, flash forwards and flashbacks and of course, to top it all off, Ving Rhames wears a hat.  

Two things stood out to me in Fallout...the first is that there is a climactic sequence that I have titled "The Longest Fifteen Minutes in Human History" that is so inane that the audience in my screening laughed out loud multiple times during the endless, allegedly fifteen minute sequence. Secondly, Alec Baldwin does one scene in which he does the worst acting of his entire career and maybe in the history of the artform. I found it incredulous that Baldwin didn't burst out laughing as he was saying his eye-rollingly awful dialogue and look to the camera and wink to let us know he was in on the joke that was this script.

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There were some brights spots for me regarding Fallout...but I had to look very hard to find them. The first was Vanessa Kirby as the White Widow. I liked Kirby on Netflix's The Crown where she played the Queen's party-girl sister. I was pleased to see she is able to adequately fill the big screen...something television actors can at times struggle with...in Fallout. The other thing is actor Sean Harris who plays the bad guy Solomon Lane. Harris isn't particularly great in the movie but I just like him as an actor and was happy to see him getting a paycheck.

In conclusion, I found Mission Impossible - Fallout, to be repetitive, boring and entirely forgettable. Even though Tom Cruise puts himself through the ringer for this movie...have I mentioned that he does his own stunts?...the whole endeavor is for naught. Mission Impossible - Fallout will no doubt make a tsunami of dollars, but my recommendation is that you withhold your money from that green tidal wave.

ADDENDUM: WARNING - THE FOLLOWING SECTION HAS SPOILERS

And finally, another thing I found interesting about the movie is that in some ways it plays into my Isaiah/McCaffrey Wave Theory. Tom Cruise/Ethan Hunt, symbolic of the neo-liberal world order, with his puffy, bloated cheeks, a result of his narcissism in the form of bad plastic surgery to, just like that tired old political philosophy, try and look young and vibrant again, is literally hanging by his fingers to stay alive and maintain the current world order. The bad guys...Solomon Lane and company...are fighting to take down that world order and only preposterous movie magic can stop them. Add in the fact that Cruise's character, Ethan Hunt, works for the IMF, which is supposed to be the Impossible Missions Force, but is also the International Monetary Fund (IMF), which is the flagship of the neo-liberal world order, and you have a perfect storm for my wave theory.

The neo-liberal world order of the IMF (both the real one and the movie one) is hanging by a thread, and the likelihood of it surviving gets more and more unlikely with every passing second. Solomon Lane, the red headed anarchist...sound familiar (Donald Trump)?... has his heart set on destruction as the first act of creation "the greater the suffering, the greater the peace"...which sounds a lot like the best case scenario for the current resident of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

Henry Cavill, who plays August Walker (is he a cross between August Wilson and Walker Percy...symbolic of the outcast modern man?), a CIA assassin. Cavill also famously plays Superman, and here he also represents the Nietzschean Superman. Walker (he is a White Walker...sort of like the villainous army in Game of Thrones) is the White Working class seduced by the red headed Solomon Lane/Trump...and does his bidding to destroy the world order.

I assume Fallout will be in the top ten in terms of box office this year, so its narrative/sub-text about a charismatic anarchist leader using his minions to destroy the world order is something that resonates in the collective unconscious right now and will continue to do so in the near future.

©2018

 

 

 

Oliver Stone : Top Five Films

Today, September 15, 2015 is director Oliver Stone's 69th birthday. The ever opinionated, and often controversial Stone has been both lauded and loathed, celebrated and denigrated during his thirty plus year career as a writer and director. After nearly two decades of artistic and box-office mis-steps, it is easy to forget that at one point in time, from 1986 to 1995, Oliver Stone was arguably the most powerful force creatively, politically and financially in both Hollywood and the culture. It is also easy to forget that Oliver Stone is one of the most important filmmakers in the history of American cinema.

To celebrate Oliver Stone's birthday, let's take a look at his meteoric, tumultuous and often-times brilliant career. Here are what I consider his top five films of all time.

OLIVER STONE'S TOP 5 FILMS

. THE DOORS (1991) 

Oliver Stone, like many of his fellow baby boomers,  excavated some of his most glorious inspirational treasures by going back to his formative years in the turbulent 1960's. In 1991 Stone went back to his, and my, favorite rock band, The Doors, and their iconic lead singer Jim Morrison.

Years ago I watched the dvd extras for The Doors which had a series of interviews with Stone and the actors talking about the process of making the film. It was pretty standard dvd-extra fare, until the very end of an interview with Stone. In it he talks about what Jim Morrison meant to him, both as a young man and as an artist, and Stone speaks eloquently about what Morrison represented, what he symbolized, and then he says, rather poignantly, with his voice breaking, "I miss him". It was a strangely moving, oddly touching and intimate glimpse into Stone, who is often portrayed in the media as a hyper-masculine, misogynistic boor. What that interview reveals is that The Doors was not just a bio-pic of Morrison, but also a deeply personal film for Oliver Stone and his artistic soul. That is what makes it both very good to some people (Me and John Densmore) and very bad to others (Ray Manzarek and Robby Kreiger). 

The Doors is a remarkably hypnotic film with Val Kilmer's magnetic performance as its center. The concert scenes are among the most vibrant and realistic ever captured on film. While the film is less a bio-pic of the band and Morrison than it is an exercise in cultural myth making and personal/psychological exploration, it still has a seductive and fascinating dark energy to it…not unlike its main character and its director.

4. NIXON (1995)

In 1995 Oliver Stone once again went back to the 1960's well and made a sprawling and peculiarly sentimental bio-pic about disgraced former president Richard Nixon. Shakespearean in its scope and execution, Nixon is a testament to Stone's skill as both writer and director. As a writer Stone is able to coherently and dramatically weave countless historical events amid intimate personal motivations all the while spanning multiple decades. As director, Stone coaxes a uniquely powerful and fantastically courageous performance from Anthony Hopkins in the lead, and Joan Allen as Pat Nixon. The supporting cast is terrific across the board, with James Woods and Paul Sorvino doing especially great work.

Nixon is a staggeringly ambitious film that only Oliver Stone would have made, could have made, or should have made. Nixon may be the last great film Oliver Stone ever makes, but even if it is, it is a worthy testament to his artistry and skill.

3. PLATOON (1986)/ BORN ON THE FOURTH OF JULY (1989)

When Platoon came out in 1986, I went and saw it and like most everyone else, I was blown away by it. The four time Oscar winning film, including Best Picture and Best Director, was an original and unique perspective on the daily grind of the regular soldier toiling away in the morass of the Vietnam war.  Ten years later I caught the film again when it was on tv somewhere and was terribly underwhelmed by it, the film simply did not hold up to the test of time at all. The main problem was that visually, the film looked flat and washed out. I came away thinking the film was, like another Stone film from that period, Wall Street, a superb script, but unlike his early 90's films , JFK, The Doors, Nixon and Natural Born Killers, a rather cinematically sluggish film. I was more than happy to share my self declared brilliance with anyone who would be foolish enough to listen to my insufferable ravings on the visual failings of Platoon versus Father Time. Now of course, I am unable to rave too loudly as my throat is stuffed with crow. Why the change of heart you ask? Well, I recently saw a restored version of the film, and boy oh boy, it looks really magnificent. Stone's longtime cinematographer, the brilliant Robert Richardson, creates a subtly vibrant and layered look to the film that shows an incredibly deft and masterful hand on his part.

The film also boasts powerful performances from a wide array of actors, including Charlie Sheen, of all people, in the lead. Stone is such a great director that he makes Charlie Sheen seem like he could be the next big thing in acting. Sheen would have been wise to keep his wagon hitched to the Oliver Stone band wagon rather than venturer off into the land of Young Guns, ahhh…what could have been. Willem Dafoe and Tom Beringer also give standout performances as the ying and yang of the American psyche in regards to the Vietnam conflict and the conflict over Vietnam.

The one thing that does hurt Platoon in retrospect is that it is compared to other films of the same Vietnam War genre. In 1987, one year after Platoon came out, Stanley Kubrick's vastly superior Full Metal Jacket hit theaters. Oliver Stone joins a long list of other great directors, in fact, every other director, who has failed in comparison to the singular genius of Stanley Kubrick. Platoon is, without a doubt, a truly great film, probably the third greatest Vietnam War film ever made, behind Full Metal Jacket and  Francis Ford Coppola's iconic masterpiece Apocalypse Now.

In keeping with the Vietnam War genre, Stone's second foray into that most personal of wars (he was a Veteran of the war and Bronze Star and Purple Heart recipient), was 1989's Born on the Fourth of July. The film is the story of Ron Kovics, a Long Island born and raised, flag waving patriotic son of America, who enthusiastically enlists in the Marine Corps to go fight in Vietnam.  

Born on the Fourth of July won Stone his second Best Director Oscar, and for good reason. The film is a remarkable piece of work for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is that it is easily the best performance of Tom Cruise's long career. As good as Cruise is in the film, and he is in nearly every scene, it is an indication of Oliver Stone's power as an artist that you never feel like you are watching a Tom Cruise picture, but rather an Oliver Stone picture.

Like many of Stone's films, Born on the Fourth of July covers a staggeringly vast amount of history, and it is also able to personalize that historical struggle by poignantly showing the gut wrenchingly emotional struggle of its main character Kovics. 

The film is really a love story, with the love being between a man and his country. The man, Kovics, discovers that his lifelong love, America, has betrayed him by not living up to it's values, the war in Vietnam. This is wonderfully portrayed in a secondary narrative of unrequited love between Cruise's Kovics and his high school sweetheart played by the luminous Kyra Sedgwick. The film is at once heartbreaking and invigorating, and only Oliver Stone, with his deeply intimate relationship with Vietnam and America could have made the it. 

2. NATURAL BORN KILLERS

Yes, I know, Natural Born Killers at number two? Many people, maybe even most people, would more consider Natural Born Killers AS a number two rather than AT number two. I realize I am in the minority, but I don't mind. I think Stone's frantic, ultra-violent assault on the media and the culture is a genuine and daring masterpiece prescient in it's foresight.

The film precedes and perfectly captures the vile cable news era and the odious reality tv era. Remarkably the film came out a mere month after O.J. Simpson's wife was murdered and well before the sickening media and cultural circus of his trial. (As an aside, I hope you join me in praying that they find  the real killers!!).

Critics thought the film was a bombastic and vacant orgy of  sex and violence. Of course, what makes the film so genius is that it is a satire of American culture, which is a bombastic and vacant orgy of sex and violence. If you don't believe me, turn on any cable news channel at any time of the day, a reality show or a prime time network sitcom. In fact, one of the most inspired parts of the film is when it wonderfully eviscerates the vapid and insipid sitcom which had become the staple of the American tv diet at the time.  

What Stone did with Natural Born Killers was show how hyper, frenzied and frenetic our culture had become and how toxic that was to our collective and personal psyche. Of course, since 1994 our culture has only become more frenetic and frenzied. Our thirst for violence and our hunger for the salacious has increased infinitely since Stone showed us our true and more base impulses gyrating up on silver screens in cineplexes across America in the fall of 1994.

Once again the brilliant Robert Richardson does masterful work with the camera and gives the film a muscularly vivid visual style. There are also some great performances from some surprising places, most notably Rodney Dangerfield, (who you may remember previously "got no respect")  who deserved not only respect for his performance, but a Best Supporting Actor trophy for his work as a disgustingly repugnant sitcom dad, sadly he didn't get nominated. Woody Harrelson, Juliette Lewis, Tom Sizemore and Robert Downey Jr. all give inspired and memorable performances as well.

You may hate Natural Born Killers, and you wouldn't be alone, but the reality is that Stone accurately depicted the rot at the heart of the American culture, and that rot has only grown more aggressive and malignant as the decades have passed.

1. JFK (1991)

JFK is Oliver Stone's masterpiece. It is also the film that garnered him the most criticism and made him a marked man of both the Washington and media establishment. With JFK, Stone did the near impossible, he made a uniquely original, intensely captivating, coherent, heart pounding suspenseful drama of President Kennedy's assassination, all the while challenging the establishment narrative in the form of the Warren Commission and it's lapdogs in the media with his own self described "counter-myth". He also forced the movie going public to actually sit down and watch the Zapruder film, over, and over, and over again, making sure there was no doubt there now dead President's head snapped "back and to the left". 

Stone wasn't saying that JFK was the absolute truth about what happened on November 22, 1963 in Dallas, what he was saying was that his film, an acknowledged piece of fiction, is as close to the truth as the Warren Commission, a supposed work of investigative non-fiction.

The best way to know that Oliver Stone was on to something with JFK, was in seeing the reaction of the establishment to it's release. The Washington and New York chattering classes went absolutely apeshit. Stone was attacked across the board, from those on the left, the right and the center. "Serious" people from "serious" news organizations told us that Stone was a mere "conspiracy theorist", so anyone who wanted to be taken seriously on any other subject, had to show their bona fides by knocking Stone as an unserious person and attacking the the film. This sort of thing has become old hat for the establishment. It is also a sure fire sign that the person they are attacking is cutting them close to the bone. If Stone were such an unserious kook, then ignoring him would have sufficed, but he wasn't and isn't, so the knives had to come out.  

As a result of the success of JFK and of Stone's tireless public work on the subject, Congress was persuaded to release some of the files relating to the JFK assassination. At the time it seemed like things might be changing, that all of the files might be released. That was over twenty years ago and still nothing has changed. The JFK assassination was over fifty years ago, yet we have barely gotten a glimpse of the vast seas of paperwork that remains classified on the subject.

As far as the film goes, Stone's script was, once again, Shakespearean in it's epic scope. His brilliant use of newsreel footage mixed with dramatic footage created an intense immediacy that brought the viewer ever closer to the edge of their seat. JFK was also cinematographer Robert Richardson's masterpiece as well. His use of multiple film stock was as vital a reason for JFK's dramatic edge as anything else, as was his impeccable camera work and framing. Editor Pietro Scalia also was a key figure in bringing this dramatic beast under control. Both Richardson and Scalia won Oscars for their work.

The acting was stellar across the board. Gary Oldman as Lee Harvey Oswald was particularly brilliant. Tommy Lee Jones was nominated for a Best Supporting Actor Oscar for his work as one of the alleged conspirators Clay Shaw. 

In many ways, all of Oliver Stone's other films, including his Oscar winning pictures, pale in comparison to JFK. JFK was a cinematic, artistic and cultural bellwether. It is one of the greatest cinematic achievements of all-time, and it is a towering monument to the legacy of Oliver Stone.

(For more on the JFK assassination, the media and Oliver Stone, check out this article from my archiveJFK AND THE BIG LIE  )

FINAL THOUGHTS

In many ways, Oliver Stone reminds me of Francis Ford Coppola. Both men won Oscars for screenplays, Coppola for Patton, Stone for Midnight Express, before they had tremendous runs of artistic and financial success as Oscar winning directors. Then both men, for reasons that I can't quite explain, fell off a cliff creatively and never recovered. Coppola of course, had his incredible run in the seventies with both Godfather films, Apocalypse Now and The Conversation, while Stone had his from '86 to '95 with the films listed above (among others).

I think it is a great loss for filmmaking that Oliver Stone has lost his cultural relevance. Cinema, and the culture, were much more interesting when he was at the top of his game and relevant. His willingness to stand for what he believes and to challenge the culture that bred him, are traits sorely lacking in todays Hollywood. My birthday wish for Oliver Stone, is that his next film, Snowden, lives up to his stellar previous work, and is as worthy a film as the subject at its center.

I tip my cap to you Oliver for your brilliance!! Happy Birthday!!

ADDENDUM:

I received a few emails regarding this post. One from a reader named "Captain Big Guy" and another from a reader named "Johnny Steamroller".

Capt. Big Guy wrote " In each of the 4 movies leading up to the 5th (#1), you described your thoughts on the lead actor - which I really enjoyed - BUT WHY NO MENTION OF COSTNER IN JFK?" In keeping with that thought Johnny Steamroller wrote, " Dude, you got me sooooooo interested in what you were going to say about Costner in JFK, your #1 movie!! Seriously, I kept reading. You do mention Gary Oldman and Tommy Lee Jones by name but zero mention of the lead actor in "Oliver Stone's masterpiece"?? Arggggghhhhhh!!!"

Both the good Captain and the esteemed Mr. Steamroller make an excellent point. In my haste to post this piece I overlooked Kevin Costner's performance in JFK . It was an egregious oversight. Maybe not as egregious as Waterworld, but egregious none the less. 

So without further adieu…my thoughts on Costner in  JFK .

Let's be clear, Costner isn't Marlon Brando. With that said, he didn't need to be Marlon Brando in JFK. What makes Costner effective in JFK is the fact that he was maybe the biggest movie star  in the world at the time of the films release. In addition his persona was that of an all-American, squeaky clean guy. His image and persona were a key part of why he works in JFK and why he was cast. Casting Costner accomplished two things for Oliver Stone in his most ambitious film. 1. In terms of the business, it got the movie made. I am sure the studio was much more at ease making this rather challenging film with the biggest movie star in the world, at the height of his fame and popularity, on top of the marquee. 2. In terms of creatively, casting Costner made Stone's challenging the establishment, and the public, much more effective with the persona of the all-American good guy making the case to the public for Stone. It was a very wise move on Stone's part to use Costner and all of the good will he had accrued with the public through his earlier work.

Remember, just two years before JFK, Costner had starred in Field of Dreams, which is as mythically and archetypal an American film as has ever been made.  And the year before JFK was released, Costner had won Best Picture and Best Director Oscars for Dances With Wolves. In many ways, not the least of which was symbolically, by the time JFK came out Costner had become the modern day Jimmy Stewart.

Costner's acting in the film is pretty paint-by-numbers, leading man stuff. As in all of Costner's work, he doesn't have too much range or depth. But because of the intangible traits and very particular image Costner the movie star (as opposed to Costner the actor) brought to the film, I believe he ends up being very much a net positive for the film, and a very wise and shrewd casting choice by Oliver Stone.

So thanks to Captain Big Guy and Johnny Steamroller for the emails!! Hope my answer was satisfactory.

 ©2015