Since we started the website we've been dedicated to running an ongoing analysis of at least one director. I started it off with Krzystof Kieslowski's The Decalogue and the series has continued on with me, Danny, Ryan, and Kyle all participating and commenting. The most recent project I finished, going through Akira Kurosawa's movies, was excellent but while watching those films I realized that we haven't really been challenging ourselves with these directors.
What I mean is that the directors we've looked at so far are all very well liked by the people writing about them. Atom Egoyan, who has assuredly secured his place in film history with The Sweet Hereafter amongst many other films, is my favorite living director and I was excited to watch each one of his works again. But there are artists whose status in the pantheon of cinematic art is secure but who I've never quite grasped the appeal of. It's how I feel about Werner Herzog, for a music analogy Pink Floyd, and in literature David Foster Wallace. Love feels elusive around these artists, and I am filled with respect but little desire.
Then there is the even stranger case of artists whose work I believe I've convinced myself I am supposed to respect and enjoy just because of their status. This is the rarest kind of confusion conflated with enjoyment for me, and what I suspect I'm going to feel going through Oliver Stone's films again.
The genesis of this project arose from my experience watching Savages. It was not a pleasant one. Then I got to thinking about all of Oliver Stone's work. I remember watching Platoon about three years ago and trying desperately to find what everyone loved about it, but feeling bored. There was W., which amused me and seemed unusually fair given his reputation, but felt very slight- and I think I watched Natural Born Killers, but I don't remember if I really like it or because I was 10 and I hadn't seen that much flair in one film.
My purpose for watching Stone's films is a little more pointed than the previous directors as it's not born out of love. Stone has fallen off the radar since the height of his controversial films in the '90s but is still chugging along steadily. I'm wondering why this happened, what about Stone captured the American zeitgeist so well only to fall off, and why I've somehow formed these memories of liking his films when rediscovering them as an adult has filled me with so much boredom and dislike.
Kyle, to bring you into the conversation in a less third person light, I'm happy to be joining you in this next venture because I know you've been conflicted in a different way. Care to shed some insight as to why you want to get back to a point where we can watch Rodney Dangerfield yell against a canned sitcom laugh? We'll talk much about the Rodney Dangerfield moment when the time comes. I won't give anything away, but I don't have the same ambiguous memories of watching that movie for the first time (you mentioned flair — to use an Office Space analogy, if Michael Bay movies are Jennifer Aniston, then this movie is that dumb asshole Bryan with 37 pieces of flair, but if he was also an epilepsy-inducing anime character and was always yelling).
That said, Stone is always a director I have a spiteful, eye-rolling, knee-jerk reaction to, only to realize when I look at his roster that he has quite a few films I actually like. This may change in concentrated doses, but I think he may be someone who can make perfectly good movies when he gets out of his own way. The "Oliver Stoneness" that surrounds him carries with it a lot of expectations, and I think he may have wrapped himself up in these and embraced them to such an extent that he stopped really trying to push further. He's like someone who got a first glimpse of his actual potential through the eyes of others, got really psyched about that, and then just kept tackily playing to that image in the most shallow of ways — he's like Michael Moore.
I don't have a whole lot to say right now, mostly because I'm curious to see how this goes on its own. Looking through his filmography, I realize now that I've seen over 75% of his movies, and most of them were, "Oh, Oliver Stone did that?" I also realize that he has 3 Oscars, which seems absurd. I'm also glad we're starting on one of the "Oh, Oliver Stone did that?" movies, The Hand, though I am definitely going to find a way during this project to watch his first feature, Seizure!