Despite his well-documented personality flaws, I have been quite partial to Oliver Stone films since I was a pre-teen. I found The Doors (1991) to be absolutely thrilling to watch, there’s so much exciting partying in that movie and frenetic artistic and self-destructive energy, I thought (whenever I watched it, which was A LOT): “I want to be like Jim Morrison when I grow up!” That’s sort of a joke, but truly, I thought his character was very well-developed, and the occasional ‘trippy’ camera work wasn’t overdone and it was just an engrossing, thrilling film.
As a side note, I was too young to see any of the movies that I’m writing about, but that’s beside the point. In my underdeveloped way, I was able to appreciate them.
Less fun to watch but also a really engrossing film, where you’ll feel strong, strong empathy for the protagonist, even though he’s been turned into a self-defeating, powerless asshole because of the war, is Born on the Fourth of July, made 2 years earlier. I can’t stand Tom Cruise as the cult-leading, ex-wife controlling closet case that he is, of course, but when people criticize his acting, I have to disagree, because he was amazing in this movie (and Vanilla Sky).
Some Oliver Stone movies were definitely too boring to me, since I was pretty young at the time they were out: Wall Street (1987), JFK (1991), Nixon (1995) – total yawn-fests. I think one of those movies (JFK) is literally 7 hours long, right? And then there were the movies that came out when I was all growed up, World Trade Center and Alexander, but they both looked horrible.
But oh man, Platoon (1986), Talk Radio (1988) and Natural Born Killers (1994), are all terrifying and riveting movies that I would strongly recommend to anyone who has been desensitized to violence and appreciates good dialogue (Talk Radio is actually not that violent, per se – it is very talk-y – I think it’s from a one-man play by Eric Bogosian but it was a little unclear on IMDB, but all the talk has an edge to it so while there’s not much physical violence, it is definitely unsettling to watch). Platoon and Natural Born Killers are two of the grossest non-horror movies I’ve seen.
Then there’s his new(-ish) movie, Savages (2012), and there’s something sort of pointless about this film. It’s about a love triangle of successful pot growers and their girlfriend whose lives all get thrown way off balance and violently ruined when the major Mexican drug cartel wants to force them to become business partners. I like the love triangle part: it’s this hippie girl who comes from money (Blake Lively), being willingly shared by a messed up veteran and a hippie who grow this amazing strain of pot; the three of them live in a semi-utopia for awhile. The tenderness between these 3 feels authentic, and Lively’s character, O., who is the film’s narrator, is surprisingly likable, and her sometimes-eloquence never sounds forced.
The rest of the movies is sort of horseshit though. I don’t know if you go in for violence, like realistic portrayals of people’s brains being blown out when you least expect it etcetra, but even if that’s your bag, I still feel that you won’t care for the parts of this movie where there’s a bunch of well-done and shocking violence, because this part of the film is really weak, plot-wise. Perhaps there really are cartel bosses like the one Selma Hayek plays, but the whole character felt very unreal. And the real bad guy of the movie, Lado, played by Benecio del Toro, it’s like …. He’s evil as can be, but somehow, who cares? It’s just sort of a pointless movie. Spoiler Alert – there is a fake-out ending that I really liked that made me cry real tears and redeemed the movie for me, but then it’s revealed to just be a possible outcome, and not the actual one, and the real true end of the movie left me generally indifferent.