Archive for Oliver Stone

Any Given Sunday (1999)

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , on December 14, 2012 by Parker Connell

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      Any Given Sunday is a god damn mess. Think of every sports movie cliche, now pump those with human growth hormone and mountain dew, if you make that take too much crank you’ve got Any Given Sunday. Oliver Stone’s attempt to tell the story of the wild world of pro-football is an over-the-top, badly edited, poorly written cluster-fuck of a film.
    Stone has never been known for making subtle films but Any Given Sunday is as unsubtle as film gets, at least Natural Born Killers has the semi-excuse of being an attack on subtlety. The movie starts in the middle of a game and in the opening 10 minutes alone we are assaulted with rapid-fire edits, cartoon sound effects, weird fades, pointless blur effects, also Matthew Modine being underutilized as usual. It was stressful and incredibly difficult to watch, it felt almost like having a panic attack except I’ve never had Pacino yell at me during a panic attack, and it never lets up for the rest of the movie.
    Speaking of Mr. Pacino I actually do like him in this. He is in full blown Shouting Pacino mode but Any Given Sunday is one of the few instances where this method of acting works because the rest of the film is in full on shouting overdrive, any kind of acting subtlety doesn’t even read which is probably why Cameron Diaz isn’t completely awful and why Aaron Eckhart is totally forgettable.
    Stone also continues his trend of giving James Woods one scene where he gets to just totally put everyone else to shame. Good for you Mr. Woods I hope you live forever.
    The closest thing to a theme this movie has is the always boring ‘old versus new’. Al Pacino is an old school coach, a thirty year veteran of the game and he’s being pushed around by the new school, Cameron Diaz is the owner of the team and she wants to run the team based on money and stats and all the other things that aren’t “Heart and Gumption and Wanting It The Most” and Jamie Foxx is the hot shot new guy who has his own ideas about football, and also racial issues but those speeches are badly written. Part of me thinks Stone is siding with Pacino in this regard, in ’99 Stone had already been making movies for almost 30 years and he probably had a lot to say about young guys edging in on his territory. However, Any Given Sunday is like a bad interpretation of what young people want, maybe that’s the point and Stone purposefully made a bad movie to prove that what young people is shitty… but I doubt it.

    Schizophrenic editing that is akin to a panic attack, blunt, boring, cliche writing (probably the worst writing Stone has done since Scarface), it features the only recurring puke gag in film history that I don’t like, oh and it’s two and a half hours long, there is very little to like about Any Given Sunday.

Savages (2012)

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , on December 5, 2012 by Parker Connell

Savages Poster

    Oliver Stone is a creepy pervert and I love every minute of it. His latest film Savages is a bloody pulp action flick rife with leery close up shots of young tan coeds having sex, wearing bikinis, and doing drugs. Blake Lively is the main subject of Stone’s eery pornographic eye and she does a pretty okay job of being appealing in a totally unappealing way.
     Savages is full on U-Turn pulp Oliver Stone, none of the grandeur of Alexander or the political high-mindedness of Nixon and W. This is Natural Born Killers-lite (meaning it’s actually watchable if you are older than 16). The film is about the Best Weed Growers in the World and the hippy chick they both love. It’s also about a female cartel boss who is losing her grip on her business as well as her sanity.
    Salma Hayek plays the aging cartel boss and she wants in on the Best Fucking Weed in the World so she kidnaps Blake Lively and forces Ben and Chon (Aaron Johnson and Taylor Kitsch) to grow their magical pot for her.
What follows in terms of story is a lot of guns, and torture, and mexicans getting killed, and Benicio Del Toro being a scary bad ass with an ugly mullet. In terms of film however what follows is creepy scenes involving spit, Benicio Del Toro doing horrid gross things to Blake Lively, weird shots of young women in bikinis that have no bearing on the plot (including a girl on roller skates who falls and then some sound tech actually took the time to add in the sound of her screaming, the only reason I can think of for this is that Oliver Stone has really grown into being an old creepy perv.)
    John Travolta actually gives a pretty good performance in this, despite the fact that with each passing year he looks more and more like his character in Hairspray. He’s funny, douchey, and probably the only character who comes close to being likable.
    Yeah there is some sub-Funny Games bullshit at the end and the soundtrack is kind of like a group of old men discussed what the kids like these days, complete with an old man’s understanding of modern pop-culture ‘irony’. The narration is unnecessary and sometimes a little to cute for it’s own good, but god dammit I can’t dislike this film as much as it begs to be disliked, it’s fun, it’s perverse, and I like Taylor Kitsch, not enough to watch Battleship, but enough to give Savages a pass.

Nixon: 3 and a Half hours of Great also I talk about W.

Posted in movies with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on April 12, 2010 by Parker Connell

I’m not a very political person. I’ll talk politics if I can’t talk about movies, music, books, comics, stand up comedy, graffiti, zoos Beck, The Mighty Boosh, Grant Morrison, different movies, babies, dragons, T.v. shows I’ve watched, t.v. shows I’ve never watched, t.v. shows I pretend I’ve watched but actually never have but people never call me on, or Andy Kaufman.

When I do discuss politics I try to stick to current stuff and if its old school politics I’m forced to discuss I can only really sort of talk about McCarthy and like the HUAC stuff because a few good movies have been made either about that or include stuff about that. What I’m trying to say is I can’t really discuss the politics of Oliver Stone’s Nixon because I wasn’t even alive when it is set, hell my parents were barely even cognizant humans when the movie’s ending takes place, so I don’t have any first hand information, and all my other info comes from anti-Nixon and hyper stylized accounts of his presidency from people like Hunter S. Thompson and movies, and t.v. shows and shit that make Nixon out to be this ridiculously evil caricature non human beast, which cannot possibly be 100% truthful.

These things being considered Oliver Stone’s version and story of Nixon is exceptionally even-handed. Anthony Hopkins plays Nixon in a sort of way that he doesn’t really look like Nixon at first but then as the film goes on you forget what the real Nixon looked like and Tony Hops becomes the one and only. It’s like Jeffrey Wright’s Colin Powell in Oliver Stone’s W where They don’t even try to make him look like Powell, they just throw a black guy into the white house next to Bush and because Wright is such a great actor you forget that Colin Powell looks nothing like Jeffrey Wright.

I could draw a lot of comparisons between Nixon and W. So I will.

Both movies tell the life story of a very controversial republican president. Both have every reason to be over the top farces mocking these easily, and often, mocked men but instead Stone does the harder thing and makes a relatively honest, if not honest than you can agree these movies aren’t “cheap”. When I first heart that W was being made I thought it would suck, I thought it was going to be an hour and a half long episode of the Daily SHow, which would be cool but I mean Bush jokes have been done, and done, and repeated, and then done again, the same jokes over and over, then I saw W and it wasn’t like that at all.

In a similar turn Nixon could have been an over the top farce, instead it’s a three and a half hour epic, that is in terms of the writing and performances subtle and subdued, I’ll talk about the less than subdued film techniques in a minute. First I’d like to bring up one problem I have with Stone’s way of telling the stories of both Nixon and Bush.

Stone’s problem, in my opinion and the opinions of a few people I have spoken with, is that he narrows down all of their issues, problems, and obstacles to one cliché idea. For Bush it was his daddy issues and in Nixon it’s the fact that “no one ever really loved him”. Now I’m sure Bush had, has, or will have issues with his father, every man does, it’s kind of the whole point of boys having dads, so they can rebel against and later try to be better than their fathers, it’s probably part of what keeps the “American Dream” going, but I highly doubt the only reason Bush worked on an oil rig, went to college, married the chick who played Miri, became governor, ran for president, became president, invaded Iraq, and didn’t just manage a baseball team was Big Poppa Bush, just saying people are more complex than that.

The basic conceit of the movie Nixon is even harder to swallow because you don’t know how much Stone made up or got from actually books or interviews. We could assume that Stone is trying to say that Nixon was incapable of being loved because of some mental block that wouldn’t let him accept love, if it weren’t for Oliver Stone’s Patented “One or Two Really Obvious and Ham-Fisted Lines or Images Per Film” system. In Nixon the O.T.R.O.H.F.L.I. comes toward the end as Nixon is giving the famous “I am not a crook” t.v. speech, one of Nixon’s closest dudes says something along the lines of “Imagine what this man could have accomplished if anyone had ever loved him.” Ugh, come on Oliver that wasn’t really necessary it was like the rat at the end of The Departed, it’s really obvious, desperate, and wholly unnecessary in an otherwise subtle film (or in the case of The Departed a little less subtle than the rat thing but still not really all that subtle film.)

Okay so a minor problem some might find with Nixon can be explained as the “Oliver Stone was still getting over Natural Born Killers” defense.

So as I said earlier Nixon’s performances right down the line are subtle, subdued, and breathtaking in their brilliance. The way Stone shot and edited the movie on the other hand was anything but subdued. He uses at least three different levels of grain for both color and black and white film. Then he cuts between them, really grainy color to clear black and white to grainier black and white to clear color to grainy color to really grainy black and white to grainy color all in the span of like 2 minutes. It’s a bit jarring if you don’t like that stuff. Personally I like that stuff, and when you like it you are able to see that it gets more twitch and quick as the character of Nixon gets more twitchy and paranoid. Just putting it out there for those of you planning on seeing it, it’s three and a half hours of switching film stocks. However, it’s no where near as bad as Natural Born Killers, there are no ridiculous moronic, and pretentious animated interludes, and the changes more often than not actually make sense within the film.

The best part of both Nixon and W are the performances. both films are incredible ensembles and both have incredible lead performances that form the foundation. Incredible.

Anthony Hopkins is great as Richard Milhous Nixon, you’d think spending over three hours with this guy in pretty much every scene you’d get sick of him, well forget that, you don’t. Same with Josh Brolin as George W. Bush although if that movie were an hour or two longer his performance probably would have slipped into parody and wouldn’t have held up as well as Hopkins’. the supporting cast in both films really shine especially Joan all (who won a bunch of awards for it) and James Woods in Nixon and Thandie Newton and Jeffery Wright in W.

Joan Allen is great as Nixon’s wife Pat. She spends most of the flick in the background, supporting her sweaty husband, then she’ll come in and kick the shit out of us and Nixon with her words. Thandie Newton plays Condoleeza Rice, her performance is astounding, have you seen Thandie Newton, she is gorgeous and british, have you seen Condoleeza , with all due respect to her he is neither. While watching Nixon Paul Sorvino’s performance as Henry Kissinger reminded me a lot of Newton’s performance in W because both take people who look almost nothing like the person they are portraying, and through make-up and sheer physical acting pretty much become these people, it’s kind of what movies are all about, that and Chow Yun Fat sliding down those stairs in Hard Boiled. Sorvino’s and Newton’s performances look especially great when held against the only problem I have with W, Richard Dreyfuss’ Mad TV level impersonation of Dick Cheney.

James Woods is one of those actors, like Willem Dafoe, Mickey Rourke, Giovanni Ribisi, Peter Sarsgaard, and Willem Dafoe that if they are in a movie I’ll probably watch it and if I didn’t know they were in a movie and they surprise me while watching I’m more inclined to like it. I call it the Willem Dafoe Bias.

It's been a while since I mentioned Dafoe

Any way both James Woods and Jeffrey Wright appear throughout their respective films giving advice to their respective president, then in the last part of their respective movies they get a scene all their own that is so good, well acted, written, and filmed that I had to tell my self to breathe again. These scenes alone are worth seeing these flicks, luckily the rest of the movies are great.

So if you have three and a half hours to spare see Nixon. If you don’t make time because I don’t think you’ll be disappointed. W is a normal length so you have no god damned reason to not see it.