Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Oliver Stone & the message of Gaining the World

"Be careful what you wish for, cause you just might get it all." - Home by Chris Daughtry (the real winner of American Idol Season 5, not Taylor Hicks)

I've had my own personal little film festival this past month watching Oliver Stone films, namely, Platoon, Wall Street, Born on the Forth of July, JFK, Nixon and Scarface (for which he wrote the screenplay too, but was directed by Brian De Palma).

If there was one thing I noticed, besides Oliver Stone's attention to history, especially relating to the sixties and early 70s, was he attention to the rise and fall of powerful men.

The stories of Scarface & Wall Street are practical identical stories, except the story of Wall Street dealing with business ethics and insider trading, ends were Scarface really takes off. Wall Street's Bud Fox (Charlie Sheen) and Scarface's Tony Montana (Al Pacino) both have their own levels of familial defiance, unique rules of morality, and an unyielding desire to be at the top. And when given the opportunity to brought into the fold of their respective industries (finance, drugs), through their industries leaders (in one, played by Michael Douglas and in the other by Robert Loggia). Through this leader they meet beautiful women (Daryl Hannah, Michelle Pfieffer) whom they steal away as they try to take over their respective industries by taking out the one the brought in. Bud Fox's story line ends about here with a reality check and a jail sentence, while Tony Montana's downward spiral has yet to begin.

I realized that this message that getting what you want, might not in reality be what you want at all, is a large message of many of Oliver Stone's films. In the best picture winning film Platoon, Charlie Sheen (as long as other Vietnam soldiers) experiences a unique discontentment about where they are, what they're doing, and how it's being accomplished. In the end Sheen ends up killing another soldier, an event that the young private certainly never imagined he'd do. He went to be a hero and be a champion for justice, but in the end, justice had to be administered by killing someone on his own side.

This story of a frustrated Vietnam Vet is not too far off from the story of Ron Kovic (Tom Cruise) in Born on the Forth of July. In this film, the one thing that Cruise's character wants is to be a hero, like the WWII paraders he saw as a child, and in the end going off to war and being injured ruins all of Kovic's initial hopes and dreams. What he wanted more than anything ended up being his downfall.

This message cares over in it's unique ways in other Stone pictures as well.

But the surprisingly favorite film of all these that I wanted was Oliver Stone's presidential picture Nixon. I expected that this film would be boring, and overly bio-pictical (if bio-pictical were a word), but in reality, I found it very interesting, especially from a psychological angle. Obviously some liberties were surely taken with the story telling, but after seeing this film, I wish Oliver Stone would do more political story telling, even if the directors cut has to be over three hours to be 'complete.' Anthony Hopkins, of course, is also amazing.

In the end of the film Nixon film displays the verse from the bible (Matthew 16:26/Mark 8:36), "What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his soul?"

In essence, this epitaph could be one that falls after the majority of Stone's pictures, and I think is a remarkable and interesting film theme that Stone develops.

1 comment:

Fox said...

I've always been curious about *Nixon*. With your endorsement I will check it out.

By what you laid out in your post, it seems that Stone's *Talk Radio* & *Alexander* would follow that same theme.

Good post!