The Onanistic Oeuvre of Oliver Stone
Even in the vast annals of Hollywood sycophantic suckuppery, the recent UK Guardian profile of Oliver Stone by Carol Cadwalladr is in a class by itself. It is a fawning treatise hailing everything about Ollie, from his unique artistic vision to his unique attitude toward self-love – and, unfortunately, I’m not referring here to his narcissism. Yet this hagiography still provides some intriguing clues about a question that arises every year or so when Stone puts out a movie: Why does this pretentious clown still get taken seriously?
I think it’s because entertainment journalists seem to think he’s hot.
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I mean, after all, Stone “is a man's man… a sort of latter-day Ernest Hemingway, an action man with a reputation for women and drugs who won the Purple Heart for bravery in Vietnam “
Wow, a Purple Heart “for bravery” – glad we have the MSM’s famous layers of fact-checkers and editors hard at work making sure reporters don’t make basic, embarrassing errors. But I digress.
The overriding theme of the profile – and Stone’s own personal narrative – is simply how hunky the auteur is. Whether he’s palling around with Castro and Chavez or simply talking about his Daddy issues – which, trust me, are nowhere near as terrifying as his Mommy issues – we learn that Ollie is all-man, all the time.
“There seems an almost hyper-masculinity to Stone's oeuvre,” coos the correspondent. She continues:
On paper, he's so much the alpha male that, as one interviewer put it: "One expects to find antler stubs under his thatch of suspiciously too-black hair." As well as his war record, there are his various arrests for possession of drugs, as well as his well-rehearsed views on monogamy ("unnatural").
Cadwalladr spends a lot of time on his monogamy issues – “He is a self-confessed womaniser” – but she allows her subject to provide the reader with the cheery news that he has now found, after several marriages derailed by his rampant philandering, the perfect woman. Apparently, he imported her from Asia, where they apparently put up with his kind of crap: “She's cool. She's Korean. Different mentality. Mutual respect… she laughs and trills and she sings when she speaks. I love the sound of her voice.”
No stereotypes there. Maybe next he’ll remake Teahouse of the August Moon.
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And then there’s his art. “[O]ne of the most appealing aspects of Stone is the sheer depth and breadth of his interests and ambition,” she announces. Recently, he’s made forays into pro-Chavez propaganda, pro-Castro propaganda, and anti-capitalist propaganda, but now he’s ready for a startling new direction with some anti-American propaganda.
We’ve all heard how his new series, Oliver Stone’s Secret History of America, promises to put Hitler into context. Well, apparently his brave vision is in danger. As Cadwalladr breathlessly writes:
I fear for Oliver Stone's Secret History of America. Oliver Stone will do it Oliver Stone's way, whatever the critics think. He exhibits an artist's singlemindedness, an ideologue's obduracy. If his ambition occasionally exceeds his talent, it's not because his talent is small, but that his ambition is so very, very large. The Alexander comparison is really not as far-fetched as it might seem: he really is trying to remould the world according to his vision. Watch out, world.
Oh my. I can only hope she was wearing latex gloves when she made that paragraph happen. And her article explores literal masturbation as well:
So, I ask him straight out: "Did your mother teach you how to masturbate?"
"Well, I can't live with denial – sure."
"She physically showed you?"
"It was no big deal. It's not English. It's French. It was no big deal.”
Look, I’m the last to stand up for the Frogs, but I’m not sure even they need to be tarred with that particular brush. But I do think we’ve found a plausible explanation for why Stone is such a freak.
There’s also this: “You have to understand that I grew up a Republican conservative,” Stone notes. It’s unclear if he meant a Larry Craig Republican.
The point of all this is not that Oliver Stone is a dictator-hugging, drug-addled degenerate with an ego orders of magnitude larger than his talents. It’s that the celebrity press refuses to call him on it. Hollywood journalism is all Hollywood and no journalism. Instead of challenging, probing inquirers, we get an uncritical cheering section that whitewashes the contemptible, narcissistic has-beens they profile.
The important issue is not that Ollie Stone is a creep – he is. The problem is that he is insulated from his artistic failures by the hallelujah chorus just as he is protected from his personal ones.
Stone used to have a modicum of talent – Platoon is dreadfully overrated, but there are those who like Wall Street and JFK, for all its idiocy, was compulsively watchable. Even Natural Born Killers, as contemptible, confounding and constantly violent as it was, showed some imagination. But years of people telling Stone just how awesome he is have taken their toll.
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In the off chance you can even remember an Oliver Stone film of the last 15 years, it is likely as a punchline. Alexander managed to make one of history’s most intriguing figures into one of the goofiest – what drug did he gobble that made him cast then-29 year old Angelina Jolie as then-28 year old Colin Ferrel’s mom? Yet the closest the crusading Cadwalladr can get to criticism is the tepid, painfully diplomatic observation that “Stone's passion projects haven't always ended well.” Ya think?
The Hollywood journalism circle jerk is a disaster, morally and artistically. It enables awful behavior and it retards artistic growth. A soft cushion of acceptance and excuses might soothe the ego of a guy like Stone, but it also ensures that he will never develop, never mature and never improve as an artist. It is masturbatory in the truest sense of the word – a transitory amusement that tries to compensate for the lack of something real and meaningful.
Stone doesn’t need gentle caress from a Carol Cadwalladr; he needs a butt-kicking by a Simon Cowell.