Any Given Sunday: Left to right, Dennis Quaid, Jamie Foxx, and Al Pacino
Throughout his career, Oliver Stone has taken the biggest events of post-war America — JFK’s assassination and Vietnam in the ’60s, Nixon in the ’70s, greed in the ’80s, tabloid culture in the ’90s, and 9/11 in this decade — and translated them into film. While he refers to himself as a “dramatist” rather than a historian, Stone has positioned himself as Hollywood’s gatekeeper to America’s post-war past.
Crackpot theory: The assassination of JFK was the result of a coup d’état led by Lyndon Johnson (and pulled off by the gay underworld) to prevent the United States from pulling out of the Vietnam War.
Key scene: The “back and to the left” refrain in the courtroom while watching a loop of the Zapruder film.
Key quote: “Who did the president? Who killed Kennedy? Fuck man! It’s a mystery! It’s a mystery wrapped in a riddle inside an enigma!”
What the critics said: “The movie will continue to infuriate people who possibly know as much about the assassination as Mr. Stone does.” — Vincent Canby
What Stone said: “I still maintain that the Warren Report is a myth, and that my movie, for want of having all the facts available, is a counter-myth to it.”
US box-office gross: $70.4 million
Read The Phoenix's original review by Peter Keough (December 20, 1991)
Watch a clip from JFK (YouTube)
Crackpot theory: The Vietnam War came down to a culture war between hippies led by Christlike Willem Dafoe and rednecks led by evil Tom Berenger.
Key scene: Elias dying (though Dafoe ‘shotgunning’ Sheen is a classic)
Key quote: “We’ve been kicking other people’s asses for so long I figured it’s time we got ours kicked.”
What the critics said: “It was Francois Truffaut who said that it’s not possible to make an anti-war movie, because all war movies, with their energy and sense of adventure, end up making combat look like fun. If Truffaut had lived to see Platoon, the best film of 1986, he might have wanted to modify his opinion.” — Roger Ebert
What Stone Said: “I did Platoon the way I lived it. I did a white infantry boy’s view of the war.”
US box-office gross: $137.9 million
Read The Phoenix's original review by Peter Keough (January 13, 1987)
Watch a clip from Platoon (YouTube)
The life and downfall of President Richard Nixon
Crackpot theory: Nixon’s faults ultimately brought disgrace to his country, but the imperialist nature of the US was the catalyst — and if you thought JFK was nuts, just wait until H. Howard Hunt starts talking.
Key scene: Nixon meeting with protesters at the Washington Monument and talking about football.
Key quote: Nixon looks at a portrait of Kennedy and says “When they look at you, they see what they want to be. When they look at me, they see what they are.”
What the critics said: “The problem here isn’t accuracy. It’s absurdity.” — Mick LaSalle (San Francisco Chronicle)
What Stone said: “Nixon and men like him were fighting Russians in their minds and may have overreacted to the Cold War. I think they did irreparable damage to our country, personally. But as a filmmaker, I’m trying to keep away from my own personal feelings and be objective.”
US box-office gross: $13.5 million
Read The Phoenix's original review by Peter Keough (December 22, 1995)
Watch a clip from Nixon (YouTube)
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