Sunday, February 25, 2007

A pale shadow of his former self

At the time I began watching Hollywood movies critically, Oliver Stone used to be a favourite. I consider JFK to be one of the best political thrillers of all time. Likewise, Platoon too is undoubtedly one of the best Vietnam films ever made.

Also consider some of his other movies: Salvador, Wall Street, Nixon, U Turn, The Doors and Any Given Sunday. Take a minute and think of the cast he commanded for any of those films. With such an impressive list of films starting from the mid 1980s, Stone must take his rightful place in any list of top American directors working before Quentin Tarantino.

Stone was the quintessential American director. You may have heard the ‘Greed is Good’ speech made by Michael Douglas in Wall Street. It wasn’t as if Stone was only technically perfect. He could make actors deliver too. James Wood in Salvador was nothing short of electric.

For the ordinary viewer, The Doors may seem ordinary. But consider the possibilities for the potter. Even without any artificial stimulants, I was quite tripped by the time The Doors ended. Also Val Kilmer delivers a stellar performance, even singing all the songs of Jim Morrison’s.

Also, consider the genres Stone straddled: the rock movie (The Doors), the political thriller (JFK, Salvador), the war movie (Platoon) and the sports movie (Any Given Sunday).

And yet Stone has now slipped. His last two films Alexander and World Trade Centre has not only failed at the box office, they have also been panned by critics.

I saw Alexander on a very bad DVD. But one shot of those chameleons and that soaring eagle was enough to turn me off. I recently saw WTC. It is a reasonably good film, but does not live up to the huge expectations of any movie made on 9/11. I haven’t seen United ’93, but going by the Academy nominations, it seems that ’93 is altogether the better 9/11 film.

Why do directors slip so badly? Why do they from their rarefied heights fall so pathetically? Will Stone regain his lost glory? I am plainly worried for him. I hope and pray that he, one day, makes a comeback as superb as his critically acclaimed movie, Platoon.

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