"...I think his [Stone's] integrity is at least highly suspect in that he has a point of view and then goes out and constructs events in his films to match that point of view. An honest scholar or artist who purports to search for the "truth" goes wherever the evidence takes him. Oliver Stone's movies lack subtlety and make a mockery of complex and ambivalent people and events by twisting them to shape his point of view."
Sender: Lai (email@example.com)      Dear Lai,
At 06:24 PM 6/2/97 +0000, you wrote:
Hello. I was at your website and noticed that you don't like Oliver Stone. I'm doing a paper on his 'Vietnam Trilogy', and I would really value your input as to why you dislike him. Your opinion would really help.
Feel free to write as much as you want (the more the better!) :) :)
P.S. Great website. Have you ever heard Bach's Air on the G String?
I dislike Oliver Stone because I think he lacks integrity. He is embittered about what happened in government during the 1960s (Vietnam War, Nixon, Kennedy assassination, etc.) and has waged his only little low-intensity campaign to discredit the U.S. government. I think he has allowed his passionate political feeling to taint his work.
I think Stone's integrity is at least highly suspect in that he has a point of view and then goes out and constructs events in his films to match that point of view regardless of what really happened. An honest scholar or artist who purports to search for the "truth" goes wherever the evidence takes him. Oliver Stone's movies lack subtlety and make a mockery of complex and ambivalent people and events by twisting them to shape his point of view.
For example, my father went to see the movie "Platoon" and felt it was the most dishonest film about Vietnam he had even seen. My father was an army officer in that country during the war and felt personally maligned by the movie. My father used to say that if that was the kind of soldier Stone and his compatriots were in Vietnam that is one thing, but to try and generalize and discredit everyone who served in that war....
In my experience, Stone's "in-your-face" film making insults the intelligence of complex and sophisticating thinking persons everywhere. They are dishonest in that they adhere to the orthodoxy of his political worldview and remain so even in the face of facts to the contrary. For example, if someone thinks that they see the movie "Nixon" and emerge from the theater with a fair and balanced portrait of that man, they are badly mistaken. Even when the movie came out, historians of all shapes and sizes had serious problems with the accuracy of the portrayal. Stone never has seemed to bothered by inconvenient obstacles like facts when constructing his take on events and historical figures.
I remember reading somewhere that after one of his movies Stone received some death threats. In front of an interviewer, he went into his room and while claiming that he was ready for anyone who came after him and pulled out and loaded a .357 revolver. That is the spirit of Oliver Stone and that is why I don't like him. In my opinion, he is the antithesis of an reasoned and educated man who thinks in a complex and sophisticated manner. He is an ideologue and a polemicist who has a political ax to grind.
I have heard him try to portray himself as a "dissenter" who is simply trying to encourage debate and raise questions. That is not the nature of his films which I have seen. They are emotionally high-strung vehicles for creating roaring controversy and not reasoned and honest attempts to portray the truth. In my opinion, Stone's movies are sensationalistic and shallow - like too much of American culture. It is fiction masquerading as non-fiction. There is nothing wrong with fiction - least of all political fiction! - and it has historically been a great way to attack ideas or political philosophies. But don't dress it up as reality!
This is what I mean when I say I do not like Oliver Stone and think him dishonest.
Hope it helps you with your papers, Lai.
Very Truly Yours,
Date: Thu, 07 May 1998 00:19:43 -0500
From: Dawson (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Organization: Southwestern Bell Internet Services
To: Richard Geib (email@example.com)
"...I think his [Stone's] integrity is at least highly suspect in that he has a point of view and then goes out and constructs events in his films to match that point of view. An honest scholar or artist who purports to search for the "truth" goes wherever the evidence takes him. Oliver Stone's movies lack subtlety and make a mockery of complex and ambivalent people and events by twisting them to shape his point of view."Well, you are certainly free to that opinion, but I believe that it's somewhat misguided. Oliver Stone is not a scholar nor a historian, and has never claimed to be one. He is an artist, and as an artist, he has the right to create films that express his ideas.
His movies, from 'Salvador' on through 'Nixon', are not documentaries and are not intended to present an accurate portrait of American history. If that were his goal, he wouldn't go to the trouble of hiring big-named Hollywood stars and photographing his stories in a postmodernist style that deliberately confuses 'reality.'. The point of 'JFK' is not how many gunmen were in Dealey Plaza or from which direction the fatal bullets were fired. Rather, the theme of that movie is one of vigilance--to urge people to get involved and ask questions.
Furthermore, why single out Stone for this type of criticism--that he distorts history in making a film? Are you implying, then, that he is the first director to do so? What about 'Schindler's List'--the movie paints him as a saint, but there is a historical record pointing to his record as a fascist. Why not set up an anti-Spielberg page and accuse him of "making a mockery of complex and ambivalent people and events by twisting them to shape his point of view."?
Any film that casts an actor in the role of a historical figure is already 'distorting history.' Any film that puts words in the mouths of historical figures is already 'distorting history.' The fact is, this type of thinking which you broadcast on your web site makes the mistake of categorizing movies instead of judging them by their individual merits.
In addition, your statement that an artist will go 'where the evidence takes him' is particularly limiting and requires some clarification. Did Shakespeare 'go where the evidence took him' in writing his historical plays, which most experts agree are wildly inaccurate with the facts? Oliver Stone is a dramatist. He tells complex stories about people involved in life-or-death situations--something only a handful of people do in Hollywood.
And the audiences who pay tickets to see his movies understand this. They didn't fork over the money to see 'JFK' because they thought Stone knew who killed Kennedy. They saw the movie because they wanted to be told a story. How well the movie lingers in the mind's eye will determine the quality of the movie. For the same reason, mild-mannered people who watch 'Natural Born Killers' are not suddenly going to morph into serial killers, no matter how impressive or persuasive the movie's imagery may be. People can watch these movies, accept them as art and entertainment, and if it persuades them to look further into something, then that's wonderful.
But to suggest that Stone is distorting history and is subsequently a bad artist is an unfounded charge.
Stone is a passionate and accomplished popular artist, no doubt about that. But he is a rather nihilistic one, and his movies are often just another species of cultural junk introduced to the detriment of American culture, in my opinion. A movie like "JFK" or "Nixon" - born out of the murkier regions of Stone's bizarre philosophy - muddies the water and confuses many people who will get their information about that tragedy only from that movie. But you misunderstand me in that I dislike his "ideas" as much as I dislike his misrepresentation of history. I will try to clarify my position.
Steven Spielberg mostly makes hugely popular movies for children - a trend, in my opinion, which has helped contribute to the juvenile state of much of American culture today. "Americans love junk," George Santyana tells us, "but it's not the junk that bothers me, it's the love." But at his best in historical movies like "Schindler's List" or "Amistad" Spielberg remains true to the spirit of what really happened and does not consciously make movies based on paranoia and lies. The man has both his feet firmly rooted in reality, unlike Stone. There is a huge difference both in style and feel. I am no big fan of Spielberg and do not see most of his movies. But I don't consider Spielberg a sophister like Stone and don't feel moved to publicly denounce him. I do with Stone.
It is true Shakespeare crafted his dramas with liberal interpretations of the historical record. But he did so to fashion a morality tale or highlight some other aspect of the world which enriches the understanding. Too many artists today of the "postmodern style" like Stone don't respect their audiences enough to do that. With a humanistic bent Shakespeare had an incredibly nuanced worldview based on a moral center nearly as complex as the nature of mankind itself. Stone is all too often just another out of control baby-boomer on a drug trip directing polemical movies designed primarily to shock rather than to enlighten. Even at his most violent in "Hamlet", "Othello", or "King Lear", one leaves the theater feeling as if their two hours time spent in the universe of William Shakespeare was well worth the carnage. To leave an Oliver Stone movie at its worst is akin to emerging from a bad acid trip by proxy.
I read Shakespeare constantly and quotidian life moves me to contemplate some nugget of his wisdom nearly everyday. I have also seen "Natural Born Killers." And Oliver Stone is no Shakespeare. And when I read about some frustrated pre-teenager shooting up his middle school, I think of Oliver Stone and believe a species of cultural pollution like "Natural Born Killers" has a lot to do with why that happened.
We obviously disagree.
P.S. It is true that mild-mannered people who watch "Natural Born Killers" are not suddenly going to morph into serial killers, no matter how impressive or persuasive the movie's imagery may be. But they very well might leave the theater having decided never again to waste two hours of their life in another Oliver Stone movie.