Monday, October 13, 2014

Oliver Stone - In Person - Chicago International Film Festival

(Photo ©Tom Hyland)

Oliver Stone was in Chicago on Sunday to talk about two of his films - Natural Born Killers (1994) and Alexander (2004) - that were bring shown in their director's cut to audiences. 

Stone spoke after the first film and before the second, commenting on questions primarily about Natural Born Killers. He commented on how much he had to trim to please the film board ("155 cuts, 155 f****g cuts!"). He also noted that Warners Brothers, his distributor, was not thrilled with the film, so instead of waiting until the fall for its premiere, they "dumped it" (Stone's words), opening the film on a traditionally slow weekend in August. "We broke box office records for that weekend," Stone noted.

He mentioned how that film was eerily prophetic in its depiction of media coverage of violence in America and that set him off on a typical Oliver Stone rant about the media and how they treat stories in our country. "They (the media) create the bad guy, they simplify everything." 

Natural Born Killers is an extremely violent film and the director had his say about media coverage of murders and other atrocities. "We instill violence (in this country)." 

He also talked about the insistence of the media covering violent stories and the qualities that these broadcasts instill in some people. Commenting on the mass murders in Columbine and other cities over the past decade, Stone said, "I think if I grew up in a suburb with a mall, I'd shoot somebody."

I laughed as did many of the audience; Stone emphasized he was not serious, realizing of course, how anyone who has a twitter account can take someone's words out of context.

Over the past few years, Stone has been working on a lengthy documentary for television called The Untold History of the United States. "I'm very proud of it," he said. He recommended this series to the audience as a way of realizing for ourselves how screwed up our country is and how often our government has lied to us. "We have problems exercising the democratic rights we're supposed to have."

Agree or not with his take on these issues, you've got to admit that Oliver Stone is honest and fearless in his comments. To my way of thinking, there are too many individuals who are ready to criticize others, yet have little to offer. Stone volunteered to serve in Vietnam, so he was a first-hand witness to that sad time in our country's history. He had the courage to make Salvador and JFK and also make a brilliant film Nixon that was both a Shakespearean look at the downfall of a leader as well as an introspective look at the political crises that have defined Washington, D.C. for the past several decades.

I don't always concur with him, but thank goodness for a breath of fresh air such as Oliver Stone.

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